Robbie sat up straight in his chair, a huge grin on his face. Who were these strange men standing at attention across the room? He couldn’t see their faces, but he just knew they were here to visit him. They loomed silently over Daddy and Mommy. Cool! But wait! What was Daddy doing? Before either of the men could walk across the room and shake his hand, Daddy picked them up, one by one, folding the wooden frames behind them and carried them away. Robbie’s lower lip stuck out as he pouted, showing his displeasure. Aww, man!
The six-foot-tall men of steel Robbie was so thrilled about weren’t really made of steel at all, and they weren’t actually men, either, for that matter. They were life-size cardboard cutouts of knights that we plan to use for the medieval banquet I’ve been working on for our church. I have to admit—they look awesome and very lifelike now that they are standing upright on the frames Bob made for them.
I studied their armor carefully as we worked on them. How on earth could anyone even walk in all that, let alone fight in it? Seeing how awkward and uncomfortable it looked, how long was it before wearing suits of armor fell out of favor? How heavy was it, really? My curiosity caused me to turn to the internet, of course.
Armor has been around for thousands of years, of course. Early armor began as hardened leather, covering different “important” body parts—torso, head, legs—and backed up by a shield. Remember when King Saul tried to get young David to wear his armor into battle with Goliath? By then brass and iron had replaced leather.
Progress eventually saw these materials replaced by partial plates of steel and chain mail, covering those different areas of the body. Over the centuries, however, armor gradually became perfected until by the fifteenth century AD knights had become essentially walking fortresses with their full steel plate armor. Weighing up to fifty pounds, these suits of armor were custom-fitted and very expensive, thus they were available only to the wealthy who rode on horseback, so perhaps the weight and maneuverability was not as much an issue as I had imagined. The full steel armor protected medieval knights from most weapons of that time for it was virtually impenetrable unless fired upon by a crossbow or musket at very close range. As firearms became more developed, the full suit of armor was less effective and it gradually fell out of use during the 1700’s. Hmm, that was longer than I imagined, but I suppose if it came to choosing full protection over comfort, I’d choose protection, too.
The suits of armor also had me thinking about what the Bible calls “the armor of God.” Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us a description of that armor. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…”
Remember, the steels suits of armor would not come along for many centuries after Paul wrote these words to the Ephesians. They would have pictured in their minds the type of armor of the day—which was still very similar to what King Saul had offered David. David knew, however that no earthly armor could protect him from the wrath and power of the heavily-armored giant, Goliath. David went forward to battle clad only in the armor of God. “And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him… And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him. And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine… Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.” (I Samuel: 4-7, 38-40, 45)
What was this armor that David wore? First of all, he had his loins girt about with truth. Goliath screamed his curses at God and his taunts at the army of Israel, but David knew the truth—his God was far mightier than this giant of the Philistines. He had no need to fear him. Neither do we, when we remember this truth, “…Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4)
David wore the breastplate of righteousness, as well. God called him “a man after mine own heart.” (Acts 13:22) The breastplate guards the heart and God calls us to guard our hearts against sin and temptation and anything that might draw us away from Him. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Can you imagine going into battle bare-footed? No matter how heavily armored you were, without shoes you would be vulnerable as you winced in pain at every little stone you stepped upon; every obstacle you tripped over. It is only when we stand upon the firm foundation of the Gospel of Christ; when we have our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” that we can move swiftly and with surety across the spiritual battlefield. When our faith is based on Jesus Christ, crucified, buried and risen again, victory is sure. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:… [This is the Gospel.] Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? …But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (I Corinthians 15:1-4, 54b-55, 57-58)
David carried with him the shield of faith. Goliath could not see it, but it was there all the same, protecting David from any deadly thing the giant might hurl at him whether by word or weapon. His threats and taunts did not faze the shepherd boy; no sword or spear could have touched him, for the faith David had in his God was impenetrable. Satan tries his best to make us quiver with fear with his fiery darts. He tries to make us doubt. When we are protected by the strong shield of faith, however, his slings and arrows will fall by the wayside and we will move forth undaunted in the battle.
The name Jesus—Yeshua in Hebrew—means salvation. When the Bible tells us to put on the helmet of salvation, that helmet is Jesus. “O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation [Yeshua], thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.” (Psalm 140:7) He covers us first of all with salvation, but then He also keeps our minds and thoughts when we are yielded to Him. He tells us, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5) and promises us peace, hope and understanding. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love; and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” (I Thessalonians 5:8)
Goliath came into battle armed with a huge spear and a sword. David came with five little stones, a sling—and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. He had a real relationship with the Lord. He knew the Scriptures, and he knew the promises of God. He had the assurance of God that He was with him, and he turned that “sword” against Goliath. “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.” (I Samuel:17:45-47) When we are in the midst of a battle, we discover our best offense is the Word of God. When It is a part of our daily lives; when we have memorized It and meditated upon It, It will be there when we need It. The rest of the armor is defense. The Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is our offensive weapon.
Verses 11-17 of Ephesians 6 describe the armor of God. I think verses 10 and 18 act as parentheses to them, ““Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might… Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…” David knew he could not wear Saul’s armor for it would weigh him down. We look at the armor knights of old wore and marvel that they could fight with something so heavily cumbersome upon them. Armor would not do them any good if they did not have the energy and strength to use it. So, too, we must go in the strength and power and might of the Lord. Prayer is the energizer that helps us to do spiritual battle and persevere.
Each piece of God’s armor is essential, as are His power and strength. We can face each fight that comes our way knowing that victory in the end is sure, for the battle is the Lord’s.