The prophet Isaiah, staggered by a vision of judgement coming to Babylon, cried, “Get up, you officers, oil the shields” [Isaiah 21:3-5]. Shields were covered with leather, and soldiers would oil them so that blows from swords and arrows would glance off. I paused as I read, speculating if there was any significance here for believers, warriors in Yahweh’s army. Paul wrote to the Ephesian church about putting on the full armour of Yahweh [6:11], urging them to ‘take up the shield of faith’ [6:16]. Musing on the fact that oil is often used as a type of the Holy Spirit, I wondered just how I could ‘oil my shield’!
Faith feeds on the promises of Yahweh, and flourishes when we spend time with Him. It will grow when we allow ourselves to respond to the challenges and demands we find in His Word. This much I have learned, but how to oil my faith was distracting my heart. “Contrary to popular belief,” writes J. Oswald Chambers, “faith is not always fostered best by great encouragements and swift answers to prayer…It thrives more in the midst of difficulties and conflicts…” ‘Of course,’ responded my distracted heart, ‘and that is precisely when I must oil my shield!’
In the midst of difficulties and struggles, it’s so easy to become beset with doubts, and a good dose of doubting will certainly quench our faith. Oiling our shields is about drawing on the power and understanding of the Holy Spirit [our Comforter] to hold fast to what we believe. We believe in the promises of Yahweh, we believe in His precious Word; these hold true no matter what the circumstances. Faith will blossom if we take the risk to believe our beliefs! Faith always involves risk, because without it there would be no need for faith! If we ‘oil’ our ‘shield of faith’ in times of distress by believing our beliefs [or doubting our doubts!], the ‘swords and arrows’ of life’s conflicts will be deflected. Yahweh doesn’t promise us an easy journey, but He does promise to be with us, wherever it may take us [Isaiah 43:2].