I arise today...
Through God’s shield to protect me...
The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)
The Lord is my strength and my shield.
My heart trusts him.
I was helped, my heart rejoiced,
and I thank him with my song.
- Psalm 28:7 (CEB)
In Genesis 15:1, God promises Abraham a great reward. The most literal translation of the Hebrew here reads: “I am a shield to you, your very great reward.”
The key here is not that God will provide some external source of protection or reward, but that God is Abraham’s shield and reward. In Ephesians 6:16, Paul describes the “shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” The key here lies in the object of our faith. What or who do we trust for our security?
As humans, we regularly put our faith in any number of things to provide safety and security in our lives. We trust in our own strength. We trust in job security, education, health-care, retirement funds, our military or police, even our guns. Our currency says, “In God We Trust” but as some have said, a more accurate statement may be “In THIS god we trust”, because in many cases, money itself has become our shield and our god.
On Sundays we go to church to proclaim our trust in God, but the rest of the week we spend building bigger and stronger safety nets to protect us from any worst case scenario. We build our nets so wide that it almost wouldn’t matter if God was there for us or not. Like rebellious adolescents, we essentially say, “I can take care of myself.” It’s almost as if underneath it all, we are afraid that God might not come through and we must have a backup plan. If we truly believe God is the perfect shield, why do we need to arm and protect ourselves so well?
We talk a great deal about security, safety and protection, but in truth, we spend most of lives living in fear. Fear is not the absence of faith. Fear is putting our faith in the wrong things, in things that cannot truly save us.
We have insurance, security systems, weapons and defenses of all kinds. We have law enforcement and neighborhood watches to keep the streets safe. We have shelters that are more than capable of weathering almost any storm. Yet in all of this, we are still afraid. In fact, the industries who produce all of the “shields” we use to protect ourselves actually tell us to be afraid. Fear makes for a wonderful marketing strategy. If you want to sell a warranty, you have to make the customer afraid that the product may break within a certain amount of time. If you want to sell a home security system, you have to convince them their neighborhood is not safe. The great irony here is that all of the people who make a fortune trying to “protect us” are the very ones convincing us that we need protection in the first place.
God is different. God doesn’t promise safety and security the same way an insurance company or a gun dealer might. God doesn’t promise that nothing bad will ever happen.
But in almost every encounter with humanity, God’s first words are “Do not be afraid.”
In fact, this is exactly how God begins with Abraham.
“Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your very great reward.”
Our act of faith in itself does not protect us from anything. God does. God is our shield and God alone protects us.
1. What are you most afraid of?
2. What safety nets do you have in place to protect ourselves? How much time, energy and resources do you invest in these compared to what you invest in our relationship with God?
3. Where have you seen God’s protection in your life?
Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:
... I arise today,
Through God’s host to save me…