“Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7 NRSV).
The land of Israel sat at the crossroads of the ancient world. Its geographic location made the land strategically significant. For this reason, throughout Israel’s history, people and empires fought to control this international crossroads.
Within the ancient world, the horse and chariot represented the height of military technology. The armies that had superior cavalry and chariot forces often won the day and exerted their control over a region.
Throughout the Bible, Israel’s ability to remain within this strategic land depended upon their obedience to God. If the people of Israel obeyed the commandments of God, they stayed in the land. If they did not, God would remove them. The prophets and psalmists cautioned against trusting in horses and chariots. In other words, Israel’s military would not keep the Israelites in the land; instead, the people’s obedience to God would. Trusting in horses and chariots meant that they sought within the military technology and strategy of the day the source of their power and sustainability at the crossroads of the world—instead of obedience to God.
In Deuteronomy, we are told God commanded that when the people established a king he “must not acquire many horses” (17:16). The prophet Isaiah admonished, “Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 31:1). Israel would remain at the crossroads only when obedient; if they obeyed, they could trust that God would defend them and protect them against foreign threat. This is why the psalmist notes that while some trust in horses and chariots, Israel’s hope is in the name of the Lord.
Our modern world seeks to woo us into trusting our technology, our might, and our selves. Like Israel, we run the risk of losing sight of what keeps us anchored in our world—the source that sustains us. We find ourselves distracted by all the shiny new innovations that show up in today’s world, thinking that through this or that technology we can gain greater influence—even influence for God.
But the answer isn’t pride in our technology or in our ingenuity; it’s trusting in God, remaining obediently faithful to Him at the crossroads of our world. This, in fact, is the greatest witness we can have to His greatness—looking to Him and obeying Him, not trusting in our world’s sources of power and ingenuity.
Father, we look to You; we trust in Your name. Help us to remain obedient to You at our crossroads. Amen.