Shielded (Psalm 5)

Psalm 5

For the music leader. For the flutes. A psalm of David.

5 Hear my words, Lord!
    Consider my groans!
    Pay attention to the sound of my cries, my king and my God,
        because I am praying to you!
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice.
    In the morning I lay it all out before you.
    Then I wait expectantly.
Because you aren’t a God
    who enjoys wickedness;
    evil doesn’t live with you.
Arrogant people won’t last long
in your sight;
    you hate all evildoers;
    you destroy liars.
    The Lord despises people who are violent and dishonest.

But me? I will enter your house
    because of your abundant, faithful love;
    I will bow down at your holy temple,
        honoring you.
Lord, because of many enemies,
    please lead me in your righteousness.
    Make your way clear,
        right in front of me.
Because there’s no truth in my enemies’ mouths,
    all they have inside them is destruction.
    Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues slick with talk.
10 Condemn them, God!
    Let them fail by their own plans.
Throw them out for their many sins
    because they’ve rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you celebrate.
    Let them sing out loud forever!
Protect them
    so that all who love your name
    can rejoice in you.
12 Because you, Lord, bless the righteous.
    You cover them with favor like a shield (Psalm 5:1-12, Common English Bible)

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of David and Goliath. There are many reasons for that. We all have times when we must face a giant or perhaps even several. One of my all-time favorite book titles (though I confess I haven’t read the whole book) is Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio. When I was in Course of Study School at Perkins School of Theology, SMU (Course of Study School is a curriculum for United Methodist Pastors who are older, second career pastors for whom the cost of seminary doesn’t make sense) I had the opportunity one night to go to a Christian theater in the DFW area and saw a play with the title David and Goliath in Cow-town. It was a hilarious look at the famous story with a few changes, for example, instead of five smooth stones, David had five smooth horseshoes.

When I read the story (and yes, I will get to Psalm 5) one of the things I found interesting some years ago, the David and Goliath story is the only place in the Bible where the writer mentions shield-bearers, and in that story we find them twice.

Shield-bearers were important in the Biblical era. The standard shield was so large a soldier could hide behind it. Much of the time, when we think of a shield we think of a small, probably round item one would use in battle, holding it with one arm, having a sword in the other. With the shield the fighter might wart off arrows but certainly could use it to block sword strikes.

But that only words with a circle with a radius of perhaps 18 to 24 inches. Anything else would weigh a sword fighter down and would probably be too heavy to use for such fighting.

If one is going to use a large shield and fight, one would need someone else to carry the shield, leaving the soldier free to fight. Take a look at the picture above. The group of soldiers, with these large shields had a nice, safe place to avoid the enemy.

When I read Psalm 5:12, my mind first went to that shield bearer from 1 Samuel 17. I started looking around on the internet for a picture that could enlighten all of us with the size of the shields and the need for a shield bearer. I never found a picture of one soldier but I actually think the picture at the top of the page is even better. We can see the size of the shields and we can see one of the ways early soldiers used those shields as a battle tactic to protect themselves.

Of course, the psalmist of Psalm 5 isn’t talking about literal shields, but something more figurative, representing the righteousness of God. If God covers us with righteousness as the Psalmist suggests, our soul finds protection even greater than a platoon of soldiers using shields to protect their bodies.

You and I need that dose of righteousness. We need God to cover us. We need God as our shield bearer, not because the shield bearer is something less than the soldier, but quite the opposite. The shield bearer protects the soldier and God protects God’s children.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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