Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, January 26, 2020
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,
Fight Like a Roman Soldier
By Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: The Bible is clear: As the end of the Age of Grace draws to a close, God’s people will be increasingly persecuted, evil will abound, faith will falter, and good people will grow weaker and more silent. God will rely on only a few of His people– a remnant– to fight Satan. Most will sit by, watching silently.
How, then, should this small remnant of God’s people fight evil? The Bible answers this question, and God provides the tools for the fight.
PAUL’S PRISON EXPERIENCES: The Apostle Paul was first imprisoned (house arrest) in AD 60-62. During this arrest, he wrote four of his epistles– Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. He was released for a while, but arrested again probably as part of Emperor Nero’s persecution of Believers. (Believers were blamed for Rome’s destructive fire in AD 64.) In his second arrest, he was thrown into a horrific dungeon– the Mamertine Prison (called “The House of Darkness”). In Paul’s second imprisonment, he wrote 2 Timothy. He was executed– beheaded, according to tradition– by Rome in AD 68.
In his journeys throughout the Roman Empire, Paul saw and heard about the Roman army (then, the most powerful fighting force in the world). Apparently admiring the effectiveness of the Roman army, Paul promoted suggestions for Believers to fight in the manner of the Romans. Following are a few Roman army techniques that we, as Believers (God’s soldiers), should follow.
KNOW YOUR ALLIES, ENEMIES: When a nation goes to war, a declaration of war is announced. The nation entering war clearly names allies and enemies. God’s allies are defined in the Bible as those persons who love God and their neighbors and who follow God. God’s enemies are also defined in the Bible. They are those persons who hate God and their neighbors and who follow Satan. This pattern was defined in the Scriptures as early as Genesis 3:15. Paul taught that we fight against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
EQUIPMENT: The Roman soldier, the best-equipped soldier in the ancient world, carried many weapons, armor, and tools. The soldier’s load has been estimated to weigh at least ninety (90) pounds. The soldiers were so physically fit that they could march, fully loaded, twenty (20) or more miles per day. The soldier carried so many supplies, he thought of himself as a pack animal. He was nicknamed a “Marius’ mule.” (General Gaius Marius [157 BC – 86 BC] is credited with important Roman army reforms, making it the great fighting force it was.) In a search engine, find “Marius mule images” to see modern-day re-creations of what a Roman soldier was required to carry. The soldier needed to carry weapons, protection, cooking supplies, food, and building tools. In a search engine, find “Roman soldier images” to see modern-day re-creations of some Roman soldiers’ weaponry and shielding.
Read Ephesians 6:10-20. Paul told us to “be strong in the Lord.” He wrote that God has furnished us with defensive equipment (armor) to repel attacks from Satan, and with offensive equipment (weapons) to fight Satan. Consider:
DEFENSIVE PROTECTION: In Ephesians, Paul outlined some of God’s soldiers’ defensive protection (patterned after the Roman soldier), including:
** Wear the whole armor of God to repel Satan’s wiles, and remain standing. An armored soldier of Paul’s time needed to remain standing. If he fell to the ground, he was defenseless and would be easily killed.
** Gird the waist with truth. Holy God demands that His soldiers value truth above all else. Followers of Yeshua can enjoy freedom– the goal of any war– because they live in and are freed by truth (read John 8:32, 36).
** Put on the breastplate of righteousness. The Roman soldier wore metal shielding on his chest to protect his heart. A Believer’s heart should be shielded from Satan to remain righteous. The Roman breastplate was mostly effective from the front, and much less effective from the back. The soldier was expected to advance always into the heart of the enemy, not to retreat from the enemy.
** Shod the feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Professional soldiers today, having seen the horrors of war, greatly prefer peace over war. The Gospel– the Good News of Yeshua HaMashiach, the Prince of Peace– is the blessed alternative to strife and war. The Roman soldier’s shoes were lightweight, sturdy sandals. The leather soles of the sandals were fitted with hobnails. The hobnails, or studs, greatly improved the soldier’s footing, when he fought on hilly, uneven land. The Gospel message keeps sound footing for the Believer, even when standing on a rocky, uneven battlefield.
** Take the shield of faith. The soldier owned a small, decorated shield for parades, but he fought with a much larger battle shield (Latin: scutum). The battle shield was constructed of two or three sheets of wood (like our plywood) and was covered with up to six layers of leather. While the glue was drying, the armory workers heated and bent the wood. The final shield was shaped like a large, gently curved door (large enough to conceal most of the soldier’s body). Although the shield contained a sharp metal point (umbo) which could be used as a weapon, the primary purpose of the shield was to protect the front of the soldier’s body. Soldiers marched into battle in a long single line, with sides of the shields nearly touching each other. With his shield, the soldier protected himself and his comrades to his right and to his left. Paul likened a Believer’s shield to faith. Faith protects the Believer against Satan, and combines with the shields (faith) of other Believers to help protect them, as well.
Ephesians 6:16 needs explanation: … taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. An ancient military tactic was to shoot flaming arrows into the opposing army. Before battle, Roman soldiers soaked their shields in water. Because of the shields’ covering of several layers of leather, they became water-logged. When flaming arrows (“fiery darts”) struck a shield’s wet leather, the fire was extinguished and caused no harm. A Believer’s shield (that is, a Believer’s faith) will protect him/ her, help protect others, and extinguish the “fiery darts” shot from Satan and his demons and followers. The symbol of the Holy Spirit (water) enhances the shield of faith.
** Put on the helmet of salvation. The Roman soldier’s helmet was a bowl-like structure of thick-gauge metal, which covered his head and much of his face. Salvation should protect the Believer’s mind against evil thoughts, Satan’s temptations, and feelings of guilt and unworthiness.
OFFENSIVE WEAPONS: In Ephesians, Paul outlined some of God’s soldiers’ offensive weapons (patterned after the Roman soldier), including:
** The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: The Roman soldier carried several bladed weapons, but his primary sword (Latin: gladius) was made of a strong steel blade, 24- to 27-inches in length. With long, frequent practice sessions, the Roman soldier became a formidable swordsman, as God’s soldier should practice and be accomplished with his/ her “sword” (the Word of God).
** Holy Scriptures: The Believer has a mighty weapon at his/ her disposal– the Word of God. Practice in reading, memorizing, and speaking this Word makes the Believer able to combat Satan’s evil. Remember Yeshua’s confrontation and temptation by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). His effective defense against Satan was to quote Scriptures from the Torah, “It is written…” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
** Javelins: The Roman soldier carried one or two javelins (spears, lances) to make a first assault before engaging in hand-to-hand combat. A Roman soldier thrust his spear into Yeshua’s side to confirm death (John 19:34).
** Prayer and supplication: Paul viewed prayer, the Gospel, and bold speech as powerful weapons (Ephesians 6:18-20): … praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints– and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
ORDERS: Ancient Rome issued general and special orders to soldiers, as is the modern practice of the Pentagon. A soldier is expected to fight the enemies of the state and to not fight the allies of the state. A Believer is expected to fight Satan (the enemy), but not to fight allies (friends). Enemies of Believers should not be fellow Believers. We at Shomair should fight Satan and his followers, but not Believers such as Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc. Our general orders are written in the Holy Bible. The Holy Spirit may give us assignments (special orders), but special orders (assignments) will never contradict general orders (Bible doctrines).
PREPARATION AND TRAINING: Roman armies were highly organized and disciplined. They were generally divided into centuries (approximately one-hundred soldiers or legionnaires), each century being commanded by a centurion. (Approximate Roman army to U.S.A. army equivalents are: a Roman century compares to a U.S.A. company // a Roman centurion compares to a U.S.A. captain.) Roman soldiers spent long, repetitive hours training for combat; they were skilled in warfare tactics; they followed orders; and they believed in the decisions of their officers. Yeshua’s army is made up of Believers (the army members upon which God will depend). By in large, they are soft, lazy, virtually illiterate in the Scriptures, and complain about everything. Yeshua prophesied His followers would be an ineffective lot (Luke 18:8b): [Yeshua said] “… Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” And, Yeshua prophesied that the end days would be characterized by people acting as they did in the sinful days when Noah lived and God decided to wipe away most of the human race (see Matthew 24:37). And, Paul prophesied Yeshua would not return until the great falling away, or apostasy, first occurs (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3).
PROTECTING COMRADES: The Roman soldier’s long, rectangular battle shield resembled a door. A sharp projection (umbo) could be used as a weapon, but the primary purpose of the shield was protection. When soldiers marched into battle, they crouched behind their shields, extending only their javelins. The shields nearly touched side to side. A soldier protected himself (from direct shots) by holding his shield in front of him; and, he protected comrades to his right and to his left (from side shots). When they rushed a fort, soldiers held the shields over their heads, forming a tortoise shell-like canopy. Rocks, arrows, and hot liquids thrown at the rushing army would be mostly diverted, as each soldier protected himself and his surrounding comrades. A Believer’s “shield” (faith) should protect him/ her as well as other Believers. This expression of faith– assembling together to stir up love and good works and to exhort one another– is the essence of corporate worship commanded of us (Hebrews 10:24-25).
LET THE ENEMY KNOW YOU ARE COMING: Motor vehicles had not been invented in the first century, of course, and the Roman army marched into battle. The legionnaires were heavily laden with weapons, tools, cooking kits, and the like, which made loud, clanking noises with every step. The heavily-burdened legionnaires wore hob-nailed sandals, which made loud sounds during marches on stony roads. Horses neighed. Chariot wheels rumbled. Officers shouted commands. An advancing Roman army made a nearly deafening noise, and could be heard while many miles away. An enemy army heard the advancing Roman army long before it could be seen. Fear of impending battle– and death– rose with every minute. Some enemy armies fled for safety, even before the Roman army reached the battlefield. We Believers need to let Satan’s followers know we are coming for them, and we are ready for battle. As David wrote (Paraphrasing Numbers 10:35 in Psalm 68:1): Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those also who hate Him flee before Him.
Sadly, God’s army is too politically correct and silent on many issues. Too often, God’s “soldiers” contentedly and quietly sit in a pew/ chair, helplessly wringing their hands and meekly singing a sweet hymn, such as, “Oh, How I Love Jesus.” Some of the world’s biggest cowards stand in pulpits, softly saying, “Thus saith the Lord….” Is Satan afraid of such “soldiers?” Or, does he recline under a tree somewhere while laughing uncontrollably? Many of Yeshua’s soldiers have lost faith and are unsuitable to be led into battle (Luke 18:8b): [Yeshua said] “… when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
God needs brave soldiers, who will fight evil, take the fight to the enemy, and let the enemy know a battle is coming even before they arrive on the battlefield. Think of all the things you consider to be wrong in America. If Believers/ Christians– if you and I– had used our power (numbers, votes, lobbying, mail, calls, and so forth), would the government have adopted more God-honoring practices? The Greek philosopher Aristotle is credited with this truth: “Nature abhors a vacuum.” When Believers/ Christians retreated the marketplace of ideas (listening to the “separation of church and state” lie and worshiping political correctness over the Word of God), they left behind a vacuum. Filling that vacuum were those who love Satan and who hate Jehovah and Yeshua.
We Believers/ Christians have become our own worst enemies. Do you remember the Pogo comic strip, drawn by the late Walt Kelly? Pogo, a ‘possum, and other swamp critters lived in the Okefenokee Swamp. My favorite, although not very grammatical, statement from Pogo was: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Yeshua probably looks inside churches and Messianic synagogues throughout the world, seeing many who think they are His followers, but in fact are non-believing enemies who do not realize it. Yeshua’s greatest condemnations were leveled at the religious elite of His day.
DEFEAT IS NOT AN OPTION: Rome expected– no, demanded– that its army achieve victory. Roman armies entered battle, without considering the possibility of defeat. The Roman soldier fought to death, either vanquishing his foe or dying in the process. The chest armor provided protection in front but was essentially bare in the back. Roman generals expected their soldiers to always face and advance into the enemy and to never turn their backs to the enemy in retreat. When a Believer (with God’s armor and weapons and the Holy Spirit’s guidance) faces evil, he/ she should fight as the Roman soldier, advancing into the heart of evil, ever-confident of victory. God’s Word (the Book of Revelation) tells us of the end of the struggle between good and evil– God wins and we, as His children, also win! Hallelujah! I hope every saint in Heaven will be able to witness the fulfillment of this prophecy (Revelation 20:10): The devil [Satan],… was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast [Antichrist] and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Satan loses and is eternally punished. Another “Hallelujah!” is warranted.
CONFUSED? CAN THE PRINCE OF PEACE EXPECT US TO FIGHT? Many Believers/ Christians are confused, thinking of Yeshua as a weakling whose only response to His enemies is to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). Yeshua was, indeed, a meek Suffering Servant in His First Coming (Advent) approximately two millennia ago. But, Yeshua also knew that fighting is necessary at times (Matthew 10:34): [Yeshua said] “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”
Yeshua will come in His Second Coming (Advent) as a mighty Warrior King. Read Revelation 19:11-21. Yeshua, King of kings and Lord of lords, will ride on a white stallion, wear a bloodied robe, and be armed with a sword and an iron rod (scepter). Leading the Army of Heaven, He will dispatch the Unholy Trinity (Satan, Beast, and False Prophet) and the armies they command to the Lake of Fire (Hell).
Yeshua wants us to be gentle and kind. When necessary, though, He understands that we must fight. When you fight against evil, fight like a Roman soldier and fight to win decisively. Defeat is not an option. Shalom and Maranatha.