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Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
The full armor of God isn’t armor of course, but in this parable it is like armor in that you put it on. Jesus offers us all kinds of Himself all day long— His peace, His righteousness, His forgiveness— but He gives us the freedom to take it into our life or not. When we put-on all that God offers us, it fully prepares us, inside and out, for whatever evil days may come. God is cheering for us to stand, not fall, in the midst of difficulty. He equips and trains and offers us His help in some way all of the time, even when we feel like He is as silent as can be.
In Paul’s day, not everyone wore shoes. It took a lot of work to get shoes that would be more than our 89¢ drug-store flip flops. Since shoes weren’t mass produced, each pair was custom made. Now apply that to an army of soldiers that were issued shoes and then had to figure out how to custom-fit them on their own. You might be a perfect men’s size 10 and your boots would fit great, or you might feel like a rock climber because you really need size 12. But once you got the shoes right, you could run across rocks, sticks, whatever like never before. After growing up barefoot for years, a young soldier might feel invincible in the right boots.
That’s what the good news of peace does to us. The fact that God is for us, not against us, and that He gave His one and only Son for our salvation is fantastic. It’s enough to make you able to march up a mountain or trudge through a nasty thick forest. That is what the Gospel of Peace is like to our souls.
The shield of faith is another whopper of an image. There were various types of shields and each one had specific names. The one mentioned here was a huge, 4 foot tall beast that was covered on the front with thick leather. This thing was heavy. Before a battle, soldiers would soak the shield in water (making it even more heavy) and then hold them together to make a turtle-shell shield over the whole group. The purpose here wasn't to dodge the flaming arrows. If you dodged a flaming arrow, it would go past you and hit another person. The point here was to be a huge arrow catcher. The arrow would sink into the wet leather and go out.
Our faith isn't purposed to dodge the devil's schemes. Our faith isn't part of an escape plan. It is a giant shield, that when joined together with others, becomes a protective wall that can advance against the enemy. It's not a fortress--- it's mobile. Our faith is heavy to carry, but is strong enough to withstand any hit. Like men joining to pray together for a brother, these Roman shields would protect an entire group as they covered the front, top, and sides of a battalion.
It is a shield, but an offensive shield. It is made to move men forward and to take ground while protecting them from the enemy.
Shoes and shields, all part of a saving faith that moves us forward in action.