After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am your shield…
"I am thy shield." These are the words that Jesus speaks to all His people. No one can do so much for our protection as He can. And so the subject we have now to consider is, Jesus the shield of His people. He is the best shield. We may speak of three reasons why this is the best shield.
I. It is so, in the first place, because it is so LARGE. The shields which the warriors had in old times were not large enough to cover the whole body. If a soldier held up his shield so as to cover his head, he would leave the lower part of his body uncovered. If he tried to protect that part of his body, then he must leave his head uncovered. And even if the shield had been large enough to cover his body from head to foot, still it would only protect him on one side at a time. While he was holding the shield in front of him, he might be wounded from behind. While any part of the body is left unprotected, we never can tell how soon danger and death may come through that very part. We read about a celebrated Grecian warrior in old times, whose name was Achilles. It was said of him that his body was protected all over from head to foot, so that there was no place in which it was possible for him to be wounded except in one of his heels. Now we should think that, under such circumstances, a man would be pretty safe. And yet the story says that, while engaged in fighting one day, Achilles was wounded by a poisoned arrow in that very place, and died of the wound in his heel. But, when Jesus becomes our shield, He is the best shield, because He can cover us all over. He can protect, at the same time, both head and heart, and hands and feet, and body and soul, and home and family, and all that belongs to us. And when we see how wonderfully Jesus can make use of anything that He pleases, in order to protect the lives, and property, and happiness of His people, we see how well He may say to anyone, as He did to Abraham: "I am thy shield." In the winter of 1873, there was a terrible explosion of a steam boiler in the city of Pittsburg. A number of persons were killed, and many more wounded. But there was one life preserved in a very singular way, as if on purpose to show how God can make use of anything He pleases, in order to shield His people from harm. This singular circumstance occurred to the wife of one of the men who was working in the mill where the explosion took place. She was in her own house, busy with her usual household duties, when she heard the noise of the explosion. All at once, she felt an unusual desire to pray. In a moment, she fell on her knees and began to pray. While she was thus engaged, a large piece of the boiler which had just exploded, weighing about two hundred pounds, came crashing through the room, and passed directly by the place where her head would have been if she had not been kneeling down in prayer. That prayer saved her life. Surely, He may well be called the best shield, who can protect the lives of His people in such strange ways as this! One winter night, many years ago, the inhabitants of the town of Sleswick, in Denmark, were thrown into great alarm. A hostile army was marching down upon them, and the people were greatly afraid of the soldiers. In a large cottage on the outskirts of the town lived an aged grandmother with her widowed daughter and grandson. This grandmother was a good Christian woman. Before going to bed that night, she prayed earnestly that God would, in the language of an old hymn, "build a wall of defence about them." Her grandson asked her why she offered a prayer like that, for she certainly could not expect God to do any such thing. She told him she did not mean a real, literal stone wall, but that He would be their shield, and protect them. At midnight, the soldiers were heard coming, tramp, tramp, tramping into the town. They filled most of the houses in the town. But no one came to the widow's cottage. When the morning dawned, the reason of this was plainly seen. The snow had drifted, and made a wall in front of the widow's cottage, so that it was almost hidden, and no one could get near it. "There, my son," said the grandmother, "don't you see how God has made a wall about us, and shielded us from danger?"
II. This is the best shield, because it is so SAFE. In old times, when a soldier was engaged in fighting, if his enemy raised his sword to strike, he would lift up his shield to turn aside the blow. And so, when an arrow was shot at him, or a spear thrust at him, he would try to ward them off with his shield. But, if his shield were made of paper, or pasteboard, or light wood, or tin, or even if it were covered with a thin sheet of brass or iron, it would not be safe. A heavy blow from a sword, or spear, or arrow, would go through it. And so, since the invention of gunpowder, shields are not used any more, because they cannot be made light enough for a soldier to carry, and yet solid enough to prevent a rifle ball from going through. Indeed, it is impossible to make a shield now of any kind that cannot be penetrated. Why, even when we cover the sides of our ships of war with plates of solid iron, four and five inches thick, they are not safe: they are not impenetrable. A cannon-ball can be sent with such force as to go crashing through them. But, when Jesus becomes our shield, we are entirely safe. Pie is a shield that nothing can penetrate, or get through (see Isaiah 54:17; Psalm 91:4). A minister, whose name was Stewart, was appointed to preach in a wild, mountainous part of Ireland, in which were many Roman Catholics. Some of these men were very bitter in their feelings towards the Protestants. One night, this good minister was preaching in the house of a farmer, when a very violent Romanist, who was present, interrupted him several times. After the meeting broke up, with a dreadful oath he swore he would kill the minister before he crossed the mountain the next day, as he understood he was going over in the morning to preach in another place. In the morning, the minister rose early to get a good start on his journey. The farmer's wife begged him not to go, on account of the man who had threatened to kill hire. He said: "No, I must go. The Lord is my shield, and He can take care of me." After lifting up his heart in prayer, he started. He had passed over the top of the mountain, and was descending on the other side, when he saw two men standing in the road. As he came near them, they seemed to be much excited. "What's the matter, my friends?" he asked. They pointed to a man who was lying by the side of the road, and said, "About fifteen minutes before you appeared in sight, that man came to this place. We were digging turf in the field. We saw him stagger and fall. We ran to his assistance; but when we came up to him he was dead." The minister looked at him, and said: "Last night that man swore a dreadful oath that he would kill me before I crossed this mountain. Poor fellow! he had come here, I suppose, to carry out his oath." "Well," said the men, "he will kill no one now." This good minister trusted to the best shield, and we see how safe it kept him. Many years ago, a gentleman in England, who lived in the country, kept a fine, large mastiff dog, whose name was Hero. He was chained up during the day, but let loose at night to guard the place. It happened once that several sheep belonging to a neighbouring farm had been killed on different nights. The owner of them charged Hero with being the cause of their death. One night another sheep was killed and it was plain that Hero had killed it. Under these circumstances, the gentleman felt that, sorry as he was to part with his dog, he could not keep him any longer. So he said to his servant, in the presence of the dog: "John, get a piece of stout rope and hang Hero behind the barn where he can't be seen from the house." Strange as it may seem, the dog must have understood what was said; for he rose at once, leaped over a stone fence, ran off, and disappeared from that neighbourhood. Seven years afterwards, this gentleman had some business in the north of England, on the borders of Scotland. At the close of a winter's day, he put up for the night at an inn by the wayside. He dismounted, and went to the stable to see that his horse was properly taken care of. Here he was followed by a large mastiff dog, who tried in various ways to engage his attention. When he sat down in the hall, the dog came and sat by his side. He began to think there was something strange in the dog's manner. He patted him on the head, and spoke kindly to him. Encouraged by this, the dog put his paw on the gentleman's knee, and looked up earnestly into his face, as much as to say: "Don't you know me?" After looking at the dog for awhile, he exclaimed: "Why, Hero, is this you?" Then the poor creature danced, and capered about, and licked his old master's hands, and tried in every way to show how glad he was to see him once more. After this, the dog remained by his side. On going to bed at night, Hero followed him to his room. When he was about to undress, the dog seized the skirt of his coat, and drew his master towards the door of a closet that opened into that room. The door was fastened, but, after a great deal of trouble, he contrived to get it open, when, to his surprise and horror, he found the dead body of a murdered man there. He saw in a moment what sort of a place he was in, and what he might expect that night. He made preparations to defend himself as well as he could. He had a pair of double-barreled pistols with him, and he saw that they were loaded, and primed, and ready for use. Then he fastened his door, and piled up all that was movable in the room against the door. Then he sat down to wait for the murderers, for he was sure they would come. Towards midnight, he heard steps in the entry. Then the handle of his door was tried. Finding it fastened, they knocked. "Who's there?" he asked. "Open the door," was the answer. "What do you want?" "We want to come in." "You can't come in." "We must come in." "Then get in the best way you can, and I'll shoot the first man that enters." They sent for an axe to break through the door. While waiting for the axe, the gentleman heard a carriage drive by. He opened the window and called for help. The carriage stopped. Four men jumped out of it. By their help, the gentleman was relieved from his danger. The men who kept the house were caught and tried. It was found that they had killed a number of persons in that way. Some of them were hung and the rest put in prison. Of course Hero was taken back to his old home, and treated as such a faithful creature deserved to be. And when he died, his master had him buried, and a monument erected over him which told of his faithfulness. And surely the God who can protect His people in such strange ways may well say: "I am thy shield." Ill. This is the best shield, because it is so READY. In the days when shields were used, a soldier was not able to keep his shield all the time in a position to defend himself. But it is different with the best shield. Jesus, our shield, has an arm that is never weary. By day and by night, at home and abroad, He is our shield; and He is always ready to protect and keep us. There is a story told of William, Prince of Orange, known as William the Silent, which illustrates this part of our subject very well. He lived about three hundred years ago. He was the governor of Holland. That is a little country, but its people have always been very brave. Philip II, who was then King of Spain, was one of the most powerful kings in the world at that time. He was trying to conquer Holland, and to make the Dutch, who lived there, give up their Protestant religion and become Roman Catholics. He sent an army into this country to conquer it; but, led on by their noble Prince, the Dutch people struggled like heroes for their liberty and their religion. When the King of Spain found that he could not conquer the Prince of Orange in battle, he tried to get rid of him in another way. He offered a large sum of money to anyone who would kill him. There are always bad men to be found who will do as wicked a thing as this for money. Some Spanish soldiers, who wanted to get this reward, made up their minds to try to kill the prince. One dark night, they managed to pass by the sentinels, and were going directly towards the tent in which the prince was sleeping. They were near the tent. Their daggers were drawn. They were treading very cautiously, so as not to be heard. But the prince had a faithful little dog, that always slept at the foot of his master's bed. He heard the tread of the murderers, although they were coming so carefully. He jumped up and began to bark. This wakened his master. He sprang up in bed, seized his pistol, and cried: "Halt! who comes there?" When the murderers found that the prince was awake, they turned and fled. And thus that little dog saved his master's life. The prince was asleep, and could not protect himself. But He who says, "I am thy shield," was there to protect him. He is the best shield, because He is always ready. A dear little English boy, named Bennie, lay sleeping in the shady verandah of his Indian home. The nurse who had been trusted with him had neglected her charge, and left him while he was asleep. A great fierce tiger, prowling in search of prey, finding the village very quiet, had ventured in among the dwellings. The English gentlemen were all absent; the natives were in the rice fields, and the ladies were taking their rest during the heat of the day. The tiger crept noiselessly past the quiet house, until he saw the sleeping child. Then, with one bound, he sprang upon him, grasped the flowing white robe of the child in his teeth, and darted off with it to his native jungle. Having secured his prize, he laid it down; and, as the kitten often plays with a captive mouse before devouring it, so the tiger began sporting with the child. He walked round and round him; laid first one paw and then another gently on his plump little limbs, and looked into the boy's beautiful face, as if his savage heart was almost melted by its sweetness. There was a brave little heart in Bennie, for he did not seem to be at all alarmed by his strange companion. He was well-used to Nero, the large black house dog; the ponies were his chief favourites; and he felt inclined to look on the tiger as if he were only Nero's brother. And when the tiger glared at him with his great fiery eyeballs, or when the sight of his dreadful teeth made his heart beat for a moment, he only returned the gaze, saying in baby language: "I'm not afraid of you, for I've got a father! You can't hurt Bennie -- Bennie's got a mamma!" Oh, if we could only have the same trust in our heavenly Father, how well it would be for us! All this time, while her darling boy was in such dreadful danger, his mother was sleeping. The faithless nurse returned by-and-by, to find the child gone. In her fright, she flew from house to house in search of him. But the Eye that never sleeps was watching that dear child. The best shield was stretched over him. An aged native had heard the tiger give a low, peculiar growl, from which he knew that he had seized some prey. Taking his gun, he followed in his trail till he came near him. Then he hid himself carefully behind the bushes. He saw the terrible creature playing with the child, and dreaded every moment to see him tear it to pieces. He watched his opportunity to fire, fearful lest the ball intended for the tiger should hit the child. The proper moment came. He took his aim, and fired. The tiger leaped, gave a howl of pain, ran a few steps, and fell dead by the side of the now frightened child. It was He who said, "I am thy shield," who watched over and protected that little one in such an hour of fearful danger. This is the best shield, for three reasons. In the first, because it is so large; in the second, because it is so safe; and in the third place, because it is so ready. Let us be sure that we make Jesus our friend. Then, wherever we go and wherever we stay, we shall be safe, because we shall have this best shield for our protection. Remember that Jesus has said, "I am thy shield."
(R. Newton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.