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The Sword and the Shield

By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.

2 Corinthians 6:7.

Attack and Defence

In the passage above, a classic soldier of Christ describes his “armour” (KJV), his “weapons of righteousness” (NLT) comprising a piece in the right hand and another in the left hand.  According to the New Living Translation, they are weapons “in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.”  According to the Living Bible also, they are simply“weapons for defence and attack.”

The Whole Armour of God

Success in battle is not a function only of attack; it is also of defence. In Ephesians 6:13, we are admonished to put on “the whole armour of God.”  In other words, no one piece alone is good enough.  Considering the details of the armour as given in Ephesians chapter 3, the weapon for attack in the right hand would be the sword, and the weapon for defence in the left hand would be the shield.

Every piece of the armour is effective, but no piece is sufficient alone.  No matter what victories or what laurels have been won, anyone who is all sword and no shield, all attack and no defence, will sooner be a casualty.  No matter how powerful a boxer’s punch might be, if he knows only how to land heavy punches but not also how to defend; if he is all attack and no shield, he will not go very far.

Community Shieldlessness

One classic battle in the Bible that ended in colossal tragedy for what had been a winning side is the battle of Ai, as narrated bellow:

14 When the king of Ai saw the Israelites across the valley, he and ALL his army hurried out early in the morning and ATTACKED the Israelites at a place overlooking the Jordan Valley. But he didn’t realize there was an ambush behind the town. 15 Joshua and the Israelite army fled toward the wilderness as though they were badly beaten. 16 Then ALL the MEN in the town were called OUT to chase after them. In this way, they were lured away from the town. 17 There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not chase after the Israelites, and the town was left WIDE OPEN.

18 THEN the Lord said to Joshua, “Point the spear in your hand toward Ai, for I will hand the town over to you.” Joshua did as he was commanded. 19 As soon as Joshua gave this signal, all the men in ambush jumped up from their position and poured into the town. They quickly captured it and set it on fire.

20 When the men of Ai looked behind them, smoke from the town was filling the sky, and they had nowhere to go. For the Israelites who had fled in the direction of the wilderness now turned on their pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all the other Israelites saw that the ambush had succeeded and that smoke was rising from the town, they turned and attacked the men of Ai. 22 Meanwhile, the Israelites who were inside the town came out and attacked the enemy from the rear. So the men of Ai were caught in the middle, with Israelite fighters on both sides. Israel attacked them, and NOT A SINGLE PERSON survived or escaped (Joshua 8:14-22, New Living Translation).

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That was how it ended for a succeeding army that thought only of attack and made no plans also for their defence.  They got so carried away with their victory that they left their city open.  Open door policy – that was how they lost all the gains they had previously made.

In his early days, David had also been a victim of this corporate tactical error.  He had gone out with his warriors on a raid and had left his camp at Ziklag, with their wives and children, defenceless.  While they were out, the Amalekites had invaded and captured all the women and children.  The returning soldiers were heartbroken.  There was such lamentation and dispute among his rank and file that there almost was a mutiny.  A plot was already afoot to execute David by stoning (1 Samuel 30:1-6).  Alas, the consequences of a conquering people without defence; of strong swords without shields.

Corporate Shieldlessness

When David set out to recover what had been lost to his shield-LESS blunder, he was careful to not repeat the same error that had brought about the damage he was out to repair.  He divided his soldiers into two groups: the sword-force (to join him in pursuing the Amalekites to recover what had been lost) and the shield-force (to stay behind and guard their remnant stuff).  In the end, everyone was to share the booty equally, even though that didn’t go down well with everyone, especially those who believed that only sword-carriers were active warriors and deserved any merit (vv. 10, 21-25).

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David’s Recovery Organization comprised six hundred soldiers.  Two hundred had become so exhausted that they could drive no further.  David nevertheless found a way to still put their tiredness into productive use.  If their legs were too tired go, their eyes were not.  They would stay back and guard everyone’s stuff.  In other words, we might not all be good runners or fighters, yet some of those could be good watchers, and the good leader should be able to know when to reassign even some fighters as watcher; to let active pursuers for some breathing moment be restful keepers.

Personal Shieldlessness

On the personal level, Samson appears to be another who was victim to the same shieldlessness.  It came out in his last rather boastful outing speech: “I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself” (Judges 16:20).  He spoke apparently only of attack and not also of defence.  He was going to “go out,” but how was he also going to look back?  All his previous victories got apparently wiped out in one defenceless moment in the Valley of Sorek (Judges 16:4).

Ministerial Precautions

In corporate and ministerial affairs also, this principle of sword-and-shield applies.  Paul, who used the expression in his letter to the Corinthians, narrates an instance when he had to apply it in managing the charities that had been donated by the satellite churches to support the famine-threatened brethren in Jerusalem.  He was not only about outreaches, he also took care to work out strategies of self-defence.  Hear him:

18 We are also sending another brother WITH Titus. All the churches PRAISE him as a preacher of the Good News. 19 He was appointed by the churches to accompany us as we take the offering to Jerusalem—a service that glorifies the Lord and shows our eagerness to help [eagerness to help, notwithstanding, there was precaution].

20 We are traveling together TO GUARD AGAINST ANY CRITICISM for the way we are handling this generous gift. 21 We are CAREFUL to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable (2 Corinthians 8:18-21, New Living Translation).

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Let us see how it is stated in The Message Bible:

8 We’re sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. 19 But there’s far more to him than popularity. He’s rock-solid trustworthy. The churchES handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God’s gifts to honor God as well as we can, 20 taking every precaution against scandal.

We don’t want anyone suspecting us of taking one penny of this money for ourselves. 21 We’re being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God (2 Corinthians 8:18-21, The Message).

Some pastors do not attend to official matters at home; it is their shield.  Some male pastors would generally not counsel with some women alone in a private place without some ‘defence’ structure in place.  Some pastors, even though they are signatories to the church account, do not keep the cheque books with them.  That is their shield.  Some people are careful what they eat and where, not taking for granted the grace of God to protect them.  That is a shield too.  Each one knows their weak area and works how to ‘shield’ themselves. One person’s weakness is not usually someone else’s weakness, which is why each one designs their ‘shield’ differently.  Paul states clearly what steps were put in place not only to please God but also to take the fair feelings of ordinary mortals into consideration.

Armour Bearers

Not only in ministry but also in business and family life, shields are vital, no matter the gains we make by swords. If mighty men like Goliath still needed shields, in fact, a shield-man called an armour-bearer (1 Samuel 17:7); if the anointed David and the regal Saul also needed shields and armour-bearers as well as their swords, then we more (1 Samuel 30:1; 31:4).  “By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Corinthians 6:7).  Amen.

from The Preacher’s diary

September 25, 2017

 

 

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