Beth Moore - The Shield of Faith, Part 1
You may be seated. You should be open to Ephesians chapter 6. We are going after a phrase in the Scriptures that is going to lead us where we want to go in a couple of different places in the pages of the Word. But I want you to hear the context of it. And for many of you, it will be a very familiar context because it's the whole armor of God. It's going to be Ephesians 6. I'm going to start reading at verse 10, and I'm going to read through verse 20. So, 6, verse 10, "Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength". And I want to say this again because we've heard this many times, but I want you to understand with me that he is saying that there is a vast strength, a divine strength that is available to human beings who are in Christ.
Be strong in that kind of strength, not just in your own human strength, in this kind of strength. "Be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason," verse 13, "take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.
In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints". And Paul says, "Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray That I might be bold enough to speak about it as I should". You and I are gonna camp on that phrase, "the shield of faith," in this lesson. The shield of faith.
And one reason why it stands out to me, God enabled me to memorize this portion of Scripture, so I say it in order to keep every word of it in place. I have to say it often. So, any of my memory work has to be recited on a regular basis, or I'll lose some of it. So, I go through these words over and over again. And every single time, I come to verse 16, I think the same thing. Listen to the promise that goes with it. "In every circumstance, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one". All of them. Now it's a promise. He said, "If you will take up the shield of faith, you will be able to". That no matter what the enemy throws at you, no matter what kind of fiery darts come your way, if you will hold up that shield of faith, you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. I just love the word "all". Anybody else?
I love something that speaks like a bold promise, and that is what you have in the Scriptures, and that is certainly what you have in verse 16. Now, in the Word of God, there are all sorts of shields. There are small round shields. There are oval shields that are a little bit larger than that. But this was a very specific kind of shield, and he's making a reference to something that would've been a common sight among Roman soldiers, and it would've been a much larger shield. It would have been a shield that would've been about four feet in length. So, I'm right at 5'4 1/2" so about four feet in length, and then several feet wide, about two and a half feet wide, and it would be able to protect that whole body, especially the part of us that would be the most vulnerable.
Now, we've got on the helmet, but then here's the armor, and then here is the shield of faith. And so, it's large, rectangular, and it is normally wooden. It is covered in leather, and then in order to extinguish the flaming darts, it would have to be soaked in water before the battle, so that when the darts hit it they would be extinguished by the water. So, I want you to try to even imagine how heavy that thing would be. Think with me what an exercise faith is. I kept thinking about this, that what muscle it takes to continue to walk in faith. Anybody know what I'm talking about? It's muscle that has to be built up over time, so that we can keep holding it. Because man, it can get heavy, can't it? And if we're not used to walking in faith, then I mean sometimes we have to be really, really, really deliberate about just like holding that thing up off the ground, figuratively speaking, and holding it in front of us. But he said, "If you do, if you do, if you will take up the shield of faith, you will be able to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one".
I thought about what it would be like to be hit by those flaming arrows, and I wonder if it's like it is on the movies, like on Braveheart, when you can hear those arrows going through the air. I wonder what it's like then when you feel, if you're holding the shield, what it feels like when it hits the shield and you're trying to keep hold of yourself with the mental awareness that you are this far from a flaming arrow that has just hit your shield. I keep thinking about it because we would be able to feel both the hit and the heat. Sometimes we feel the hit of warfare, that God says it's extremely real, and you can see that throughout both testaments of Scripture. Sometimes we can feel the hit, but to also be able to feel the heat of it and hold that thing up and not flinch when that fire is at arms' length until it extinguishes that flame.
So, here's what I thought we'd do. I decided to do, this is my very, very favorite thing to do on earth. And if we've ever studied together, chances are we have done this together. I love to look at a particular theme and then go back and see if we can search out the history of it, just the first mention of it. What's the first time the word "shield" because we're looking into this whole idea of shield. Okay, what's the first time it appears in Scripture? And is there anything significant about it that would make it noteworthy to us by the time we get to Ephesians 6:16. Well, indeed there is. Would you turn with me now? Leave something here because we'll be coming back to it. Go with me to Genesis chapter 15 and verse 1, Genesis chapter 15, verse 1. I just never saw the day coming when my mask would be my bookmark. Anybody?
These are the strangest days we're living in. Chapter 15 of Genesis, we're going to hear the word "shield" for the first time. Not only are we going to hear it for the first time, but God himself is going to say it. Now, it's very noteworthy that the Scripture that God is inspiring is quoting God himself saying it. And so, 15:1 says this. "After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; and your reward will be very great". "I am your shield". I love the New King James Version of this verse so much. And I looked it up. I've honestly just gotten myself forehead deep in research of this verse because I love this other rendering so much, and it can be rendered either way, which is why you have it one way in one translation and another way in another. It could be either one. But listen to the way the New King James Version says it, and this is what I learned this verse in. "After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Abram. 'I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.'"
I tried to read very, very carefully every single time God is quoted as saying something. Now he's inspiring, all Scripture is God-breathed, but there are times, and, of course, the narrative of Genesis, that God himself is speaking. And God said, and God said, and God said. So, I try to read carefully. So, I'm not positive. I may have missed something. But if I didn't miss it, I think that I'm right in saying to you that this is the first description in the Bible quoting God describing himself. So, this is God talking about who he is to Abram. And I love that he's going to use it in a possessive way with Abram. I am your something. I am your something. And he says to him, and so, this is the first. You might think of it this way. And I'm not thinking of it in the same way as we think of the Gospel of John and the "I am" statements, but this is God saying, "I am" to Abram, and the first time he says it in description of himself.
He says, "I am your shield. I am your shield. Do not be afraid". He's going to say later in that same chapter, "I am the Lord". A couple of chapters later, he's going to say, "I am God Almighty". And then we know he follows suit throughout the Scriptures, all the way through Revelation. He is telling us again and again who he is. "I am the Alpha and the Omega. I'm the one who is and was and is to come, the Almighty". Tell us all through the Scriptures who he is. And he begins right here. "Abram, I am your shield". Later to Isaac, he'll call himself, "I'm the God of Abraham". And then to Jacob, he'll say, "I am the God of Abraham and Isaac". And then later on, to Moses he'll say, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I am your God. I am your God". And beautifully here, "I am your shield".
I don't know if you're like me, but because this chapter, chapter 15 is such a significant chapter in Genesis because it is where God is going to ratify the covenant with Abram. He's literally gonna cut covenant with Abram and put him into a deep sleep. And so, what's about to happen could not be more remarkable and have more impact throughout the entire Scriptures to us, as the sons, as the daughters, as the children of Abraham coming from that same covenant through Christ Jesus, who kept the promise that through him all nations would be blessed. So, it just could not be more significant, chapter 15. And so, I'll often turn to chapter 15, especially if I'm teaching on covenants, without going back to 14. But it starts out with "After these things," so what's important for you and me is to figure out what are the things that this was after. Because what you and I are going to find is that they do indeed have bearing on what he's saying, as he opens up in 15.
So, let's take just a little glance. We don't have a lot of time to spend on 14, but I want to give you a little bit of an overview of it, and I'll tell you what's happening here. Genesis chapter 14 puts forth an extremely interesting juxtaposition. It has nine different kings at war and their armies. There are four kings against five kings, and their armies are all going against one another. The four kings are allied, the five kings are allied, and they're going against one another. Now, the four kings, it begins by describing the four kings at the very beginning. The four kings are kings from the east. The five kings are kings in the Jordan Valley, so this is getting close to the Dead Sea, and it is bordering right on. I mean, it is now crossing over, overlapping into what is within the perimeter of the place of promise that God has given Abraham.
So, it's very significant battles, but the juxtaposition is this: They're warring over here because these four kings, particularly under one, under the rule of one, these four kings have come together against some nations or peoples that have decided they're sick of being subject to them. They rebelled, they'd come against them, and they had subjected them to some 12 years, I believe it is 12 years. Yes, verse four, 12 years that they were subject to them. And then they rebelled again. And when they rebelled again, they went to war, the four allied kings and the five allied kings from the Jordanian Valley. They went at one another. Meanwhile, it just picks up out of nowhere, basically, and says then that Abram was living there in the oaks of Mamre and just like there enjoying peace and waiting for the promise of God. It just has him among the oak trees, and then here's all this war going on, and it's about to all come together.
Now, how is it when Abram seems completely set apart from it, that he becomes involved in the battle? Well, he gets word that they have captured his nephew Lot, who is settled in Sodom, because he chose that area when he and his Uncle Abram went their separate ways because they both accumulated so many possessions and so many flocks and herds that they had to separate them. Now, I want to pick up in Genesis 14. I'm going to pick up, let's see, I'm going to pick up at verse 10. So, keep in mind that you've got this little, in this microcosm here, this little international skirmish. Can you keep that in your mind? Because it's gonna become important. Because remember, through Abram, all nations will be blessed.
So, what business does he have in it? 'Cause he's gonna have a lot of business in the things of the nations, ultimately in a time through his line that he will never even see. So, keeping that in mind, I want to pick up at verse 10 in Genesis 14. And it says, and you'll see, in the verse before it, you'll see the four kings against five. "Now the Siddim Valley contained many asphalt pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them", so, they've fallen into the asphalt pits, "but the rest fled to the mountains. The four kings took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food and went on. They also took Abrams's nephew Lot and his possessions, for he was living in Sodom, and they went on. One of the survivors came", I'm in verse 13, "and told Abram the Hebrew, who lived near the oaks belonging to Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eshcol and the brother of Aner. They were bound by a treaty with Abram".
Verse 14. "When Abram heard that his relative had been taken prisoner, he assembled his 318 trained men, born in his household, and they went in pursuit as far as Dan".
Verse 15. "And he and his servants deployed against them by night, defeated them, pursued them as far as Hobah to the north of Damascus. He brought back all the goods and also his relative Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the other people".
Verse 17. "After Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer, the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom who went out to meet him in the Shaveh Valley (that is, in the King's Valley). Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High. And he blessed him and said: Abram is blessed by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High who has handed over your enemies to you. And Abram gave him a tenth of everything".
Such a mysterious scene, and we don't have the time that we wish we could take to really delve into it and try to figure out some of the mystery behind it, as much as we're able to. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament brings up this mysterious figure. Where he's so important here is that he comes in as a priest and king figure. He is the king of Salem, which it corresponds with Jerusalem, and he's bringing him, it says, he brings then out the bread and the wine. You can already see some of those priestly activities there, and you can see some, just the tie with the New Testament and that new covenant. He was a priest to God Most High, and he blessed Abram and says, "It is the God Most High who has given you this victory". And Abram gives him a tithe.
Now, verse 21, this gets really important. "Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, 'Give me the people, but take the possessions for yourself.' But Abram said to the king of Sodom, 'I have raised my hand in an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will not a thread or sandal strap or anything that belongs to you, so that you can never say, 'I made Abram rich.' I will take nothing except what the servants have eaten. But as for the share of these men who came with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, they can take their share. After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward shall be very great".
In other words, Abram is saying to the king of Sodom, "I have loyalty to one alone, and that is God Most High. I will not be paid off. I will not be brought into an alliance with you because of my one loyalty is to God Most High. That is where I have raised my hand. That is where my oath is. I do not want anything from the kings of this world". So, camp with me for just a moment until we look into why on earth he might be afraid, and let's look at the wording in Genesis 15, because what's the difference between "The Lord said to Abram" and "The word of the Lord came to Abram"? First time in all of Scripture it happens. God has spoken, God has spoken, God has spoken. Suddenly, "The word of the Lord comes to Abram". Why, why? Almost every single time you find it in Scripture, it is because there is a prophetic revelation virtually across the board. And you check me on that.
There may be a time or two that that's not true. But virtually across the board, it will be in the context of a prophetic revelation. And we know because later in the book of Genesis, Abram is actually called by that time he's been renamed Abraham, and he is called a prophet, but he is being spoken to, this is coming, a prophetic word is coming to him, and the word of the Lord came to Abram, "Do not be afraid. I am your shield. I am your exceeding reward". Now, we know there's a tie with Genesis chapter 14 in the reward because the king of Sodom tried to reward him. "Listen, take all of this. Take all of this plunder". Now, this is after they had run from the army that was opposing them, and they'd fallen into the asphalt pits, and he's going, like, "This is my stuff. You can have any of it you want". Abram's going, "You keep it. Just let me have these people. Let me have Lot. Let me have my family. You keep all your goods because whatever I have, whatever my provision is, it is not going to come from you. It is going to come from my faithful God".
And so God is coming to him and saying, "I am your reward. I am. Because you trust in me, I will make sure, I will make sure that you are rewarded". And for us, this corresponds so perfectly to Hebrews 11, verse 6, so perfectly because it says, and so, this is us now under the new covenant. "Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him". He rewards those who seek him. God is not afraid to be attributed as a rewarder. He tells us he is. He told him he was, all the way from the very beginning. Now, what he's telling us is, you know, "Your reward may be here, and it may be there. You may not see it in this lifetime, but I'm gonna tell you this. I will reward your faithfulness to me", he says, "I will reward it".