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THE ROMAN TURTLE

The Roman army reportedly had a very special “turtle” they used in war. I caught about 30 minutes of the 4 hour movie, Cleopatra (staring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison), on Turner Classic Movies last week. 

In one scene, Harrison, as Julius Caesar, called for “the turtle.” According to the movie, this “turtle” was what they called their unique method of moving strategically into battles where the enemy was not just in front of them, but surrounded them. When my Bible study group was doing the Armor of God study (Pricilla Shirer), we learned that the Romans did use this method of creating an shell with their shields. 

According to a Website called Primary Homework Help, it was actually called the “testudo” or “tortoise”. “The Testudo was a very strong, tight formation. It was usually used to approach fortifications. The soldiers could march up to a fort in the Testudo formation and not one of them would get hurt.”  (http://primaryhomeworkhelp.co.uk/romans/formation.html) 

I guess “turtle” seemed better for American cinema of the day. In the movie, the soldiers walked through the battle field with fiery arrows flying at them, spears being hurled at them, and being attacked by swords, yet no one was injured.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the shield of faith, I more naturally think about holding up a shield in front of me to prevent a direct, frontal attack. Yet, that is not what the Bible describes. In fact, the Word gives us every reason to believe that the shield of faith surrounds us – preventing attack from any angle.

There are dozens of scriptures that call out God as our shield. And, since the shield of faith is the armor of God – HIS armor that He gives us to wear, much as Saul tried to give David his armor (1 Samuel 17:38-39) --  it is interchangeable to say that God is my shield or faith is my shield. 

Here are just a few of the scriptures that identify God as our shield (King James Version, unless otherwise noted): 

Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I [am] thy shield, [and] thy exceeding great reward.

2 Samuel 22:3 The God of my rock; in him will I trust: [he is] my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence. 

Psalm 28:7 The LORD [is] my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

Anyone who knows anything about military tactics is familiar with the concept of attacking from multiple directions. The history books are full of this type of attach strategy.  

Satan, the father of all hate and evil and strife and war, isn’t going to just come at us in a direct frontal attack. He will try to sneak up on my blind side and get me where I didn’t even realize I was weak. He’ll come at me from behind, either in ambush or just nipping at my heels until I am weary with the constant pecking and give in. He is going to pull out every trick in the book, including coming at me from all sides at once. Surely, you have seen people go through times when it seems like they just cannot catch a break on anything. Maybe you have had those seasons in your life too.

Well, that is why God is not just a preventer of frontal attacks. He isn’t a just shield that we hold up against a direct attack from in front of us. He surrounds us, like the Roman turtle. 

In Exodus 14:19 we read the example of how God was with Israel – before and behind them: And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:

Here are some examples of God being the rear guard: [Isa 52:12 [NIV] But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard. And Isaiah 58:8 [NIV] Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

And surrounding us: Psalm 34:7 tells us: The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

He covers us: Psalm 91:4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth [shall be thy] shield and buckler. 

Ephesians 6:16 [NIV] In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one – no matter which direction they are flying from. 

The shield of faith and the God whose armor it is a part of, provide turtle-like protection round about us. We need not fear, no matter which direction the devil comes from in his attack. God has us covered.

I’d love to hear your thoughts too. Write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.