“Beliefs, as such, are convictions held on grounds, not of self-evidence, but of testimony.” –James Packer
Centuries before armored personnel carriers were invented to transport troops, the testudo military formation was used by the Romans to deploy soldiers into battle. The word testudo is Latin for tortoise. By forming a tightly packed group of men, this tactic was employed when assaulting a heavily fortified position.
The men at the front and both sides of the testudo would hold their shields to the outside, while those in the middle would provide an unbroken covering by overlapping their shields above their heads. Virtually invulnerable to arrows, javelins, and sling stones, the testudo could advance while being attacked. When used correctly, this formation took on the appearance of a slow moving turtle.
The shields used in the testudo were made out of interwoven bark covered in animal skin. To prevent them from catching fire, a soldier would soak his shield in water before going into battle. This was essential, for if a tarred fire-tipped arrow penetrated the shield, the flames could disrupt the entire combat formation.
The Apostle Paul used this imagery in his letter to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 6:16). Admonishing them to utilize the armor provided for the impending spiritual struggle, he reminded them that Satan would bombard their faith with destructive flaming schemes (Ephesians 6:10-18). The skirmish would be awesome and fierce, but in the end the faithful would be victorious (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Obviously while being attacked by flaming arrows, the Romans did not fight as individuals. Like these warriors, we are stronger when we work together (Ephesians 4:1-6). While we hold up our shield of faith, we are uncertain when the enemy will strike. Yet, we do not lose heart, for we know that our fellow prayer warriors are standing at our side with the sword of the spirit. This loyalty strengthens our courage to finish the battle (1 John 3:16-18).
Will you not take up your shield? You have been enlisted to fight in a cosmic battle against the spiritual forces of evil. If you refuse, you will be conscripted by the powers of darkness. Christian, are you up for the task?
“Against the foes in vales below,
Let all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.” –John H. Yates
There is an unseen spiritual battle being waged in heavenly realms.