In the first book of Samuel, we find the people of Israel in conflict with the Philistines. A giant man, a seriously large dude, named Goliath proposes a challenge during a face-off on the battlefield. “We’ll save the energy and people by avoiding a battle. Let’s just see if any of you can beat me in one-on-one combat. If you win, we’ll become your slaves. If I win, you’ll become our slaves.” Goliath’s got a reputation. Saul, Israel’s king, knows about this guy’s military history. Everyone remains silent while their hearts sink to their sandals. And then this scrappy shepherd boy named David gets pissed and accepts Goliath’s challenge. He even tosses a little defiance into his reply.
This story is so well known that it’s a part of the public lexicon. Every underdog movie is a “David and Goliath” story. A lot of focus is put on the small boy defeating a giant warrior. The little guy wins. My favorite part about this story is how David prepared himself for battle in 1 Samuel 17:38-40. “Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor. David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ And David took them off. He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd's bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.”
The armor should have suited him. I mean, the king gave David his own armor, the best armor. He should have been fit for a battle against a giant warlord. But David took it off and used the tools with which God had trained him as a shepherd. The armor was too heavy to be effective.
Another famous Bible passage is found in Ephesians 6:13-17. “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Portions of the text are in capital letters because they refer to Old Testament scripture. Paul, trained as a Pharisee, had learned scripture in the rabbinical style. Rabbis often used a technique in their teachings called “Remez”. This Hebrew word means that the rabbi mentioned one part of a scripture as a reference to the whole passage.
In Isaiah 59:17, God clothes Himself with the Breastplate of Righteousness and the Helmet of Salvation. But why? The whole chapter of Isaiah 59 speaks of mankind’s separation from God. He saw that no one would intercede and stand up for justice or righteousness, so He came to bring salvation Himself. The feet prepared with the Gospel of Peace refers to Isaiah 52. In this prophecy, Israel has been released from slavery and oppression. God has restored Himself to His people. Isaiah says in verse seven, “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” The Belt of Truth is derived from Isaiah 11:5, “Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist.” Bible scholars call this passage “The Peaceable Kingdom”. It’s a picture of the Messiah’s rule over the world.
So let’s look at these three passages, Paul’s three remez. First, God comes to bring salvation to the world. Then, people are sent out to proclaim God’s salvation. At the end, we have the hope of the Messiah’s kingdom. One could see the armor of God as an allegory of the Gospel. If this was Paul’s intention, then the armor takes on a meaning far different from how I had always perceived. Teachers focused on the different parts of the armor, detailing how each piece applies to our lives. If we didn’t have the whole armor on, then we were susceptible to the enemy’s attack. There was a time when I tried to “pray the armor on” every day. It took so much time, and even then I still felt spiritually attacked. But how about daily living in the knowledge and truth of the Gospel? When I began to look at the armor this way, it felt like I had taken off the heavy armor and picked up a slingshot. But that’s all it took to kill a giant.
Revelation 12:10-11 describes how this new, lighter armor defeats the enemy. “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.’”
Armed with our trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus and with our stories of God’s work in our lives, we wield a different kind of power than what the world expects. The message of the cross is powerful enough to move hearts, face adversities, and advance the Kingdom of God. Clothed in light armor, we can face the giants in our lives and proclaim, “Look at what God has done!”