Batman has his Batarangs and the Batmobile.
Spider-Man has his web-shooters.
Wonder Woman has her Lasso of Truth and an invisible jet.
But Captain America has a shield.
This is his identifying marker.
When you see a Bat logo, or a Spider on someone’s shirt, or the two W’s on a little girl’s backpack, you know what hero they are a fan of.
The same is true for Marvel’s First Avenger.
Put the red, white and blue circular shield on someone’s back and every fan of the comic books or the recent movies will tell you who that is.
The shield stands out. The shield is unique.
There is something amazing, I think, about a shield whether it is Captain America’s or the plastic replicas that young fans play with.
The image, the power behind the shield is something extraordinary, something that God aligns Himself with throughout Scripture, something that we as Christians, something that the people that do not believe or trust in God should take note of.
Because the idea of God as a shield is powerful. And the idea that God is not a shield is even more powerful still.
How is God like a shield?
What is this unique and powerful idea that God and a metal plate strapped to your arm have in common?
And why does it matter?
While this idea may sound bizarre, it isn’t one that I came up with myself. God started it.
In the days of the Patriarchs, the founders of the Christian faith, not long after a man named Abraham rescued his nephew Lot from slavery, the LORD God came to see Abraham.
It isn’t a physical visitation as God would later do, but the LORD came to Abraham in a vision.
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I AM YOUR SHIELD your very great reward.” – Genesis 15.1 NIV
GOD is a shield. That is what He says about Himself, that is who He is.
David, the young boy that killed the giant Goliath, the boy that would later be the great king of Israel, many years after Abraham, called God his shield as a part of his worship and prayers.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
MY SHIELD and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
from violent people you save me.” – 2 Samuel 23.2-3; Psalm 18.2-3
“As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
HE SHIELDS all who take refuge in him.” – Psalm 18.30
David’s son, the wise King Solomon, along with another king, Lemuel, shared with the nations this everlasting truth in the book of Proverbs.
“For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
HE IS A SHIELD to those whose walk is blameless,” – Proverbs 2.6-7
“Every word of God is flawless;
HE IS A SHIELD to those who take refuge in him. – Proverbs 30.5
God is a shield. Or God is like a shield, if the metaphor makes you feel uncomfortable.
But God says this about Himself, and then those that interact with this God, the ones that get to know Him declare that this is the case. God is a shield.
What does that mean is the next question.
God is a protector.
That is the simplest answer to the question. The Complete Jewish Bible even translated the encounter of God and Abraham as saying that God is Abraham’s protector. And God is going to do what a protector does, what a shield would do for a soldier.
I’m sure that Abraham, after hearing those words in the heavenly vision, had a number of questions he wanted answered.
Could God really do that? Was God actually a shield and able to protect him?
To these questions, whether Abraham actually had them or they are questions that you ask, there are answers to reassure and calm the worried soul. There are examples and Scriptures of relief for the spirit that is weary from the raging war and looking for safety.
God, as a shield, will protect you.
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
THE LORD PROTECTS and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes. – Psalm 41.1-2
God, as a shield, will keep you safe.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. – Psalm 23.4
God, as a shield, will stand between you and the enemy, and fight for you.
THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU; you need only to be still. – Exodus 14.14
The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because THE LORD YOUR GOD FIGHTS FOR YOU just as he promised. – Joshua 23.9-10
While the idea of a shield provokes a violent image, or images of war, there is something rather beautiful behind the image of God as a shield.
Let me explain.
John, a disciple of Jesus, records in one of his letters that “God is Love” (1 John 4.6), that this is the characteristic that God does all things out of. That if he had to describe God as having only one characteristic, or explain who this God is in three words or less, John would say, “God is Love.”
Out of Love, God sent His son Jesus to Earth for humanity (John 3.16).
Out of Love, God chose to save us from our own sinful natures, while we were still sinners (Romans 5.8).
Out of Love, God acts like a shield for His people.
Paul, another writer, wrote to a church in the ancient city of Corinth. He described Love and all the things that love does, what it looks like, how it acts.
It is not a stretch to assume that this Love that Paul describes is centered and based on the character of God. Paul says that love does a lot of things, looks like a lot of things, but specifically includes this one.
[LOVE/GOD] ALWAYS PROTECTS, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13.7
Love protects. The God who is Love, who is described as Love itself, protects those He cares about. God acts like a shield, protecting out of love.
How powerful is that idea?
In our world there are always things being thrown at us. People use their power and authority to try to push us down. Friends and enemies speak words of death to our souls. Our dreams and aspirations are dashed on the rocks with co-workers and spouses’ words of doubt and disbelief. The world condemns our body image and tells us that we have to aspire to an impossible image to be worthy of anything.
Sticks and stones are thrown. Words, like poisonous darts, are hurled our way.
But no matter what people may do to us, no matter what they may say, there is a God that declares that He is our protection, that He will keep us safe, that He will fight for us.
For God is a shield. And that is a good thing.
It should be noted that the original word for shield, found in Genesis 15, can be translated or understood differently than the way that we do.
Not that “The Lord is a shield” is wrong, but over the centuries, the original word’s meaning has shifted and taken on a unique meaning that adds to the truth that God is our shield.
The original word is “mogen”.
A quick search for “mogen” and a reference to Abraham, Israel or anything related to Judaism will undoubtedly show you this image.
This is the Jewish symbol, the Star of David.
Also known as the Shield of David. In the Hebrew language, it is called the Magen David, “magen” being a word rooted in the original “mogen”.
This shield is a symbol, a marker of distinction for the nation of Israel. This makes this people group unique, different from all the other peoples of the Earth. They are set apart, those that have this symbol, this shield.
One need only remember the horrific and traumatizing events of World War II, when Jews from around Europe were gathered together and all marked with a yellow star. A marker, something to distinguish them from all the other prisoners. A shield, a way of displaying who was and who was not being persecuted.
While the Nazis used the Shield of David as a distinguishing marker with a sense of mockery behind it, when God says that He will be our shield, that He would be the thing that makes us stand out, there was no mockery in His voice.
When God said that He was going to be a shield to Abraham, and by extension all people of like minded faith, God was saying, “I will be that mark, that badge that you wear that will show the world that you are unique. That you are in fact different, that you are set apart from them.”
Over and over again, God calls out Israel and those that fear Him to be holy as He is holy, to be obedient to the commandments and statutes that He had passed down. In this way, the Shield of The Lord would be seen by the nations of the world. They would see the Hand of God, blessing and prospering Israel and those faithful to Him, but only through obedience to Him.
I will make a distinction between my people and your people. – Exodus 8.23
God is like a shield. God is a shield.
God protects and keeps His children safe.
God stands between the enemy and His little ones and fights for them.
God is a safeguard against the poisonous words that are thrown our way.
God is the distinguishing marker, the symbol of a changed and different people.
God is just like a shield. He is a shield.
But if we weren’t going to describe Him just as a shield, we would be doing Him a great disservice.
Because the truth is, God is not like a shield. Not at all.
I really enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Solider, and I want to talk about one of the scenes in the movie.
No need to stop reading, there are no spoilers here. Nothing is revealed or given away.
But it does pertain to God not being like a shield.
Captain America is caught in the midst of battle with the bad guy, The Winter Solider.
Fists are flying. Knives are being thrust forward and artistically thrown around, all in an attempt to end our hero. Blood flies through the air as kicks connect with faces.
The fight is fast paced and dramatic. What makes it better is that it is a fight that matters, not just fighting for the sake of fighting.
At about the middle of the fight, Captain America loses his shield. The trusted instrument of his fighting and protection falls from his hands, down into the river below.
It falls, and Captain America and the Winter Solider keep throwing fists and taking punches.
In this way, God is not like a shield.
You can’t throw Him away or have Him get lost.
As much as some people may wish He was so dispensable, God is not something that can be tossed aside when you don’t want Him around.
God is not a stuffed doll that you can hide under the bed so you don’t get embarrassed by your friends. God is not a destination that you can leave, turn your back on and never have to see again.
Quite the contrary in fact, God is so much more than that.
A man named Isaiah, a prophet and spokesman for God, was blessed with a vision of heaven. There Isaiah saw the Lord in His glory. Angels and magnificent beasts flew in the presence of God and they said,
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; THE WHOLE EARTH IS FULL OF HIS GLORY. – Isaiah 6.3
The glory, the very presence of God fills the whole earth.
Years before Isaiah, King David knew and expressed the same truth in a Psalm.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. – Psalm 139.7-12
There is no where you or I can go, no place we can flee to that is without the very presence of God being there. There is no where you can put God away in, because He is already everywhere.
God is not something that can be tucked away, or dropped into the river like a shield. God is so much more than that.
While I may talk about Him, in a metaphoric sense, like a shield, like a piece of metal that we strap to our arms, like a symbol or a badge, that is not the limit of who this God is.
This God is so much bigger, so much stronger, so much more than a shield could ever be for us.
We would be fools to think so little of our God that we could push him away.
God is not like a shield in that regard.
In one last way, God is not like a shield.
The original Captain America movie gave us the introduction of the Marvel character. That included seeing him acquire his costume and shield.
There is a whole table of shields in front of him. He walks by and looks at all the different shapes, sizes, metal compositions. He glances over them all before he picks up the circular shaped one.
He picked the one that he liked. The one shield that he liked best.
That is not the way it is with God.
There is not a cosmic or spiritual table with all the gods sitting down and waiting for you to pick them. No, God would not sit and wait for that. Because God is not like a shield in that way.
God does something that a shield would never do. He picked us first.
“[GOD] CHOSE US in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…” – Ephesians 1.4
“You did not choose me, BUT I CHOSE YOU and appointed you…” – John 15.16
God is not some object that is passively waiting for you to chose Him to be a part of our life. He doesn’t just sit on a table and hope that you will pick him out of all the others.
No, God is actively pursuing you. He is picking you out of all the soldiers to be His Captain America, if I can reverse the illustration. He has long ago chosen you, determined in His mind that you were going to be the one that He would shield, that He would protect, that He would fight for.
Long ago God so decided that it was you, and me, and all of humanity that He would protect and save from the dark and evil forces of sin and death. Long ago, God so purposed to get between us and the enemy and fight for us. Long ago, before we were a thought of a glimmer in our parents’ eyes, God knew that we would come to be, and He knew that He wanted to be our shield, so He did.
A shield does not choose the solider that bears it. The solider does.
But God is not like a shield, for He chose us before we knew that we needed a shield. Before we knew we needed protection, God chose to do and be that for us.
God is not a shield. God is not like a shield, not in the least bit.
My whole purpose in this series is to describe and try to unveil who this God character is, so that Christians and non-Christians, believers and unbelievers can come to a mutual and enlightened understanding of who God is.
In saying that, know and understand this.
The God of the Bible is a shield. He protects. He saves. He stands between us and a world of enemies. He fights for us, in a battle that we cannot fight. God is our shield.
The God of the Bible is not a shield. He is so much more. He is not something that can be lost or taken away. God, in all of his glory, fills the earth. There is no place you can go where He is not. God is not a shield. He is so much more. He doesn’t wait for us to choose Him, rather He chooses us first.
This is who God is.
Do you think of God as a shield? Why or Why not?
What comparisons would you like to see in this series?
Did you miss the Introduction? Read it first, right here.