A group of us were recently reading Scripture together, and we came across a verse that included weapons of war:
But from then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. (Nehemiah 4:16a, NLT)
When we talked about the spear, it reminded me of a Maasai spear. It’s heavy. I have 2, in my garage.
The shield brought to mind the traditional Maasai shield, also heavy, made from buffalo hide. I have 1, in my garage.
The bow brought to mind the simple Maasai bow, made from a single curved stick and local rope. It’s light. I have 1, in my garage.
All of this reminded me of how we view Scripture. We view it from our own culture and experience. So when I read the verses in Scripture that describe a spear, shield or bow I don’t think of what I can buy at the store. I think of the African artifacts in my garage.
Heavy. Simple. Handheld weapons of war. Items for survival, not for sport.
And each one kept his spear in his hand, even when getting water. (Nehemiah 4:23b, MSG)
Taking a heavy spear to bring back a full container of water would have been a lot of weight! Yet that was the expectation. Those with the weapons were strong, agile and committed. They were prepared at anytime, for anything.
When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, he took this imagery of war and spoke about wearing the whole armor of God. His audience would have been familiar with the story of Nehemiah, and the weapons required to succeed in standing up to their enemies. The church at Ephesus would also have needed to be strong, agile and committed to Christ, so Paul reminded them of the spiritual weapons they each had:
In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. (Ephesians 6: 16-18a, NLT)
The sword here brings to mind the Maasai sword I have, tucked away in its red sheath. I have 1, in my house. It is extremely sharp on both sides, and the most common weapon of that culture. The sword is also used for cutting of meat, tree branches, and yes even bones to get at the sweet marrow of the cow just slaughtered for meat. It’s what I think of when I read this verse, again comparing God’s Word to a sword:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates to dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, NLT)
My little African arsenal helps me picture more vividly the Bible verses of warfare. Yet our weapons now are spiritual and mostly for defensive purposes, with the offense supplied by the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, and prayer.
Throughout the Bible, time and time again, we see what the shepherd boy David saw when facing Goliath (who had a HUGE spear); the battle is the LORD’s. Perhaps those weapons of war mentioned in Scripture are not just for the sake of the story, but also for the sake of understanding the deeper spiritual battle we are in as followers of Christ.
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands. (1 Samuel 17:47)
Spear and Shield. Sword and Bow. The battle, in every culture and in every heart, belongs to the Lord.
Til next week,