One of the psalms that really challenges me is Psalm 20. David is about to go to war. Before heading out, as was normal for a king, he offers sacrifices to God. Meanwhile, the congregation blesses David in prayer: “May the LORD answer you…May he send you help…May he remember all your sacrifices.”
It’s one of those moments that brings to mind the preparations for battle in movies like The Lord of the Rings. All is quiet, but you know the battle is coming and you’re filled with anticipation. You can almost hear and feel the battle that’s about to begin.
But then the psalm says something surprising:
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Nice thought – unless you’re actually about to do battle. It’s one of those things that’s easy to say until it’s not a theory anymore. Remember that the setting of this psalm is before a real, actual armies were about to clash.
Chariots and horses were not just figures of speech. They represented the most powerful military resources at that time. Israel, however, was told not to accumulate large numbers of horses, presumably so they wouldn’t depend on military might (Deuteronomy 17:16). Their strength was to come from God, not from a horse.
- Should we be limiting our accumulation of horses – “best practices” that we are tempted to accumulate but that will make us think that the secret to success is in these resources and skills? Maybe we need to stop reading books and chasing after things that give us the impression that we need to depend on God less than we already do. What would it look like for us to limit our accumulation of horses? Fewer conferences, books, strategies?
- How can we avoid passivity but still, by our actions, show that we’re depending on God? David still had to get ready for battle. He didn’t just sit there waiting for a miracle. At the same time, the victory had to come from God, not his preparations. How do we do the same?
If it looks like I have the answers to these questions, I don’t. But I’m chewing on them. As I say, this is a psalm that continues to challenge me.