Every Day Essential
Shields are designed to protect. As the crab and lobster need a hard outer-shell to deter strong jawed fish, and the snail retreats into its shell, so human beings have developed all kinds of protective shields for physical protection. Today's police riot shields imitate the Roman military 'scutum' (shield) although using different materials. The scutum was about 120cm high, made from curving thin layers of wood to form a semi-cylindrical shape 5-6mm thick (an early kind of laminated ply). The wood was covered with leather and edged with a bronze strip. A central metal boss was riveted through the shield to form a handle on the inside and an offensive knob on the outside. Weighing only 6-8kg, it was light enough to be carried on long marches, as part of the 50kg kit load. The leather cover of the scutum could be soaked with water to extinguish flaming pitch-tipped arrows. The shield would interlock with others to form a defensive wall. Also, when a group of soldiers needed to advance against a barrage of arrows, the shields could surround the group, and cover over the top as they were held horizontally over the soldiers' heads, creating a slow moving impenetrable tortoise - a sort of early tank!
Paul uses the scutum, which would have been an everyday sight, as an illustration of how faith protects against evil's attack. But not any old faith. Today, 'faith' has become a generic word for all belief systems. Politicians tend to think that they are variations on the same theme: ways to keep people contented. But faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is different. It is to wholly trust ourselves to the mercy of God as we confess our sins and believe that the death of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, purifies us from every sin (1 John 1:7).
By faith in Jesus we become children of God (John 1:12) and qualified to receive an eternal inheritance (Acts 26:18). Trusting ourselves to Him is not just about feeling better, but being born again - into God's family (1 Peter 1:23). Faith also accepts that Satan, who is God's enemy, will become ours too (John 15:20). Faith places confidence in God, as a small boy looks to his father - the one who can do anything and with whom there is total safety.
Although substantial, faith is intended to be portable ... not to be left in the barracks, or officers' mess. Although faith is often formed in the church (which has workshops for ‘bending the layers of wood and tacking on the leather’), it must not be left there! Because faith is designed to work under attack, it needs to be taken anywhere that is not 'spiritually safe' (and few working environments are). We exercise faith when we refuse to run away in the face of opposition - because Jesus is in control. Faith cuts in when our ideas run out, trusting in the Lord for the solution. Faith helps us to say "No" when the tempter stops by, and helps us say, "Jesus loves you", when our colleagues or clients are overwhelmed. We may hold the handle of the scutum, but Jesus is the boss on the outside to face the enemy and to disarm him.
© Dr Paul Adams