Some Trust in Chariots and Some in Horses
Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 9:40AM
Jeff Smith in Godhood

The horse occupies an important place in the literature and history of the peoples of the Bible, just as it does the people of America, especially in the west. Commentators suggest that the Jews might have become acquainted with the animal while in Egypt; certainly the image of Pharaoh’s chariots plunging into the once-parted Red Sea is indelible upon the story of the Exodus. Before that time, all that associates God’s people with the equine is an obscure prophecy regarding the tribe of Dan (see Genesis 49:17); what follows is a rich history, but one that often portrays the animal as a metaphor for trust in armies instead of God, of impending destruction, sometimes of rescue.'

I. Glory and Trouble

    A. The Glory of the Horse

        1. the Proverbs tell us that, “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (20:29); the glory of the horse, by contrast, is its incredible strength and noble bearing (Job 39:19-25)

            a. Winston Churchill said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

            b. John Steinbeck said, “A man on a horse is spiritually as well as physically bigger than a man on foot.”

        2. men have sought out that strength and nobility for many purposes, most notably the cavalry from olden times right up to the twentieth century, but God always warned against putting too much trust in horse flesh (Deuteronomy 17:14-17)

            a. acquiring many horses was a sign, not only of personal excess, but of trust in something far less certain than the favor and approval of God

            b. their acquisition also signaled a grave danger, both for the Israelite of old and the Christian of today – returning to the Egypt of captivity to acquire something that cannot be obtained closer to the Promised Land

                1. for the Israelite, it would occasion a sentimentality about a settled life, where victuals were more easily obtained

                2. for the Christian, captivity is simply sin and nostalgia about it means a flirtation with the former ways of one’s unbelief (Second Peter 2:20-22)


    B. The Trouble with the Horse

        1. the trouble with the horse is that, for all its nobility, it is still but an animal, unable to plan or to judge with morality, or to rescue whom God would punish

            a. Amos wrote, “Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save his life; he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he who rides the horse save his life” (Amos 2:14-15).

            b. the psalmist wrote, “At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned” (Psalm 76:6).

        2. the Hebrew people witnessed the fallibility of an army built on horse flesh (Exodus 15:1-6)

        3. and yet, they had to be warned not to throw off their trust in God when other nations mustered on their borders and they felt threatened, mostly because they had ceased to pray

            a. “The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue” (Psalm 33:17).

            b. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD” (Proverbs 21:31).


II. We Trust in God

    A. Fidelity

        1. it is probably difficult for our modern ears to comprehend the horse as part of the competing interests in their hearts, but as they vacillated between God and the horse, we might as a people rely more upon our nation’s military might, or our church’s rich history, or our own personal wealth, intelligence, or physical strength to give us a sense of assurance belongs more to pride than to faith

        2. to apply the prophets and the proverbs, substitute in the place of equine anything that emerges in your mind as a rival for complete trust in the power of God to carry you through to victory, even if that rival is the person you see in the mirror from time to time

            a. the trouble with men is that they are not only felled by becoming lovers of money and pleasure rather than lovers of God, but that they are just as prone to be lovers of themselves, especially in our self-esteem culture (see Second Timothy 3:1-9)

            b. when the unreliable steed is the person in the mirror, it is just as imperative that the child of God dismount and kneel at the cross

        3. we are Christians, part of a royal priesthood destined to reign with Christ in life forever (Psalm 20:1-7)


    B. Metaphor for Training

        1. in Scripture, then, the horse becomes a simile for training and instruction

        2. the psalmist wrote, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you” (Psalm 32:8-9).

            a. such animals are obstinate and must be broken to learn submission

            b. the hope of God is that our restless spirits can be tamed so that we will rejoice to spend our days next to him and not constantly in search of a meandering path into darkness and doubt

        3. that apostasy is what concerned Jeremiah – the “perpetual backsliding” of God’s children; he wrote, “I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle” (Jeremiah 8:6). 

            a. that is when the person in the mirror is intent on doing it his way, even if his way insults the spirit of grace and tramples the blood that bought him; “Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the Lord now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture” (Hosea 4:16)?

            b. our attitude should always acknowledge the will of God as supreme

        4. “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools” (Proverbs 26:3).

            a. we must be willing to be led, even in the depths of adversity (James 3:2-5)

            b. like bridling the tongue, some personal reformations will be more difficult than others, but we only fail if we give up


    C. Fear

        1. ultimately, our minds return to the horses of Israel, in which the kings and people trusted for deliverance, whether they were foreign steeds or directed by their own monarch

        2. God was not as impressed (Psalm 147:7-11)

        3. the fear of the Lord, not trust in princes, riches or oneself, is the beginning of wisdom

            a. “Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble. Like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:13-14).

            b. unbelievers “collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright” (Psalm 20:8).



“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).


Questions For Review

  1. What were horses mainly used for, at least in Old Testament references?
  2. Why didn’t God want Israel returning to Egypt for horses?
  3. What is wrong with trusting in the power of horses and chariots?
  4. What is the modern equivalent to that misplaced trust?
  5. How are people sometimes as stubborn as an unbroken horse?
  6. How did James compare people to horses?
  7. What does it mean to trust in the name of God?
Update on Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 11:40AM by Registered CommenterJeff Smith

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