Sunday Morning Greek Blog

March 23, 2012

Helmet of Salvation (Isaiah 59:17, Ephesians 6:17)

Filed under: Biblical Studies,Ephesians,Isaiah,Old Testament,Spiritual Warfare — Scott Stocking @ 7:37 am

NOTE: I beefed this up from a Word of the Week e-mail originally sent in May 2001.

When my kids were learning how to ride their bicycles, I was a bit obsessive about them using a helmet. Now when I was a kid (many moons ago, now), neither my parents nor I ever gave a second thought to riding my bike without a helmet. Helmets were for football, not bike riding. Granted, the helmet cannot save you from any and all injuries, which is one of the common arguments used by motorcycle riders opposed to mandatory helmet laws. But it is a measure of protection that gave me an added sense of security as a parent as my kids were learning how to be more independent. Now that my son has his driver’s license and my daughter is only weeks away from getting her learner’s permit, I’m obsessing about safety all over again. I’m not making everyone wear helmets when he drives, obviously. But Solomon was right. “There is nothing new under the sun.”

In three passages of Scripture, God uses the “helmet” (Heb. כֹּובַע) image to describe the salvation he freely offers (Isaiah 59:17; Ephesians 6:17; and 1 Thessalonians 5:8). In Isaiah 59:17, the prophet says that God “put[s] on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on His head.” In the context of Isaiah 59, God is “displeased that there [is] no justice” (vs. 15b). God’s salvation and righteousness are necessary to turn the tide of injustice in Israel. This word for helmet is only used six times in the Old Testament, but the Isaiah passage is the only time where God is said to wear this piece of armor. If God is all powerful, he doesn’t need armor, so obviously this is figurative language here. But this also betrays another myth we have about spiritual armor. We think it is defensive. But in this passage, God is not on the defense. He is moving forward in an offensive against injustice. He’s getting ready to execute his vengeance!

As I have mentioned before in other contexts, God’s salvation here goes far beyond our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, each of us individually can personally receive God’s salvation, but not solely for our own benefit. God’s salvation here has national (and international) implications. God wants the nation of Israel to be saved, as well as the individuals within the nation.

The apostle Paul has this multifaceted view of salvation-justice as well. In 1 Tim 2:1–4, Paul urges everyone to pray for “kings and authorities” so we may lead “peaceful lives,” because God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Isaiah’s image of the helmet fits well here. God wants you and I to serve as ambassadors who will proclaim his salvation not only to individuals, but his justice to our leaders as well (see also Eph 3:8–11, Romans 13:1–7). We do this by our behavior as well as by the words we speak. As Christians, we are not primarily on defense. We should be advancing in the power of the gospel, taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:3–6) and storming the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18).

For too long the more conservative, non-mainline denominations have put justice on the back burner, usually treating symptoms (soup kitchens, used clothing stores, etc.) while not addressing the causes (economic oppression, government policies, waste, etc.). Fortunately, more and more Christians are beginning to recognize that a witness of social justice is an important part of declaring God’s salvation to the lost, hopeless, and oppressed. And interestingly enough, the more it seems we concern ourselves with social justice, the more intense the persecution becomes against Christians. I’d say that means we must be doing something right to concern ourselves with God’s salvation-justice.

The bicycle helmet cannot protect us from skinned knees and elbows. We need kneepads, elbow pads and wrist braces if we are really serious about protecting ourselves as we ride the highways and byways of this nation. God’s helmet of salvation is only part of the “whole armor of God” that defends us against the onslaught of Satan and his forces. Not only is it defensive, but His armor terrifies our foes and causes them to retreat as they see us advancing against them in God’s might.

Peace!

Scott Stocking

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: