"He Does Not Delight In the Strength of the Horse"
Psalm 147:1 begins, “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful” (NKJV). We have been studying Nehemiah in our adult class on Wednesdays. Many believe Psalm 147 was written after the rebuilding of the walls for the celebration of Israel (found in Nehemiah 12). Take a look at verse 2 specifically and notice the phrase which may hint at this idea, “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds” (147:2-3). With this remarkable event in mind, it is easy to see why the psalm begins and ends with a call to “Praise the Lord!”
God, by His providence, was able to take those who were “captives” and “outcasts of Israel” and rebuild their city and nation against all odds. Though the Israelites were subjects of a pagan king, God accomplished His will. Though they had enemies from nations all around Jerusalem, God accomplished His will. Though they had been stripped of material wealth, God accomplished His will. Though they were small in number and were without any organized military, God accomplished His will. So, indeed, as the psalm states, we ought to “Praise the Lord” for it was only the Lord who helped them overcome those circumstances.
Many other things are noted throughout the psalm which cause us to “praise the Lord” such as His omniscience in numbering the stars (147:4), his omnipotence and power in giving “snow” and scattering “frost” and casting “hail” and blowing “wind” (147:15-17), and God’s providence in providing for the needs of all creatures great and small (147:7-9). Because of God’s giving, the author calls for “thanksgiving” to the Lord (147:7-8).
But, the phrase that really hit me is found in verse 10 where we find the Lord “does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man.” The horse was a powerful weapon of warfare in these days. Nations were feared who had powerful horses. Yet, God had always taught Israel NOT to “multiply horses” or “fear” any nation who had horses (Deuteronomy 17:16; 20:1). Horses were also a mark of wealth—just like a military today is wealthy who has many tanks, fighter jets, helicopters and submarines. So, in a roundabout fashion, the Lord is stating He cares little about the strength or wealth of a person or nation.
Likewise, the legs of soldiers and troops were muscular, lean and powerful as they marched with the infantry to fight in battles and ran to chase down their foes. But, even in the most toned legs God “takes no pleasure” (147:10). In fact, this passage uses all of those images—the imagery of what man sees as powerful and contrasts it with our All-powerful God! In this contrast, man’s greatest strengths are quite insignificant compared to who God is.
What is your view of manhood? What is your idea of power? What do you think makes a person, a people or a nation successful? Just like Israel may have seen horses, a lot of men today think strength is found in horsepower. So, we are proud of our fast cars and motorcycles and ATV’s. We see our toys as status symbols of our own wealth and power. We view nations quite similarly—we want to be on the cutting edge of engineering and technology so we can be viewed as an elite nation. Others think real power consists in our own brute force. We lift weights to get strong and fast and powerful. We flex in the cameras proud of our strength. As nations, we want to gloat of our advanced, organized and powerful military and worldwide dominance. Even churches can get caught up in focusing on these types of externals—nickels and numbers—as if a large membership, a nice building or a comparatively large bank account is what matters to God. We often glorify men who have high-paying jobs, drive nice cars, and who seem wealthy, strong and powerful. We do the same thing with entities—churches, schools, communities and nations. But, the wealthiest, strongest and most powerful of kings is quite nothing compared to the King of kings. The greatest nation is a small speck in the vast universe that is God’s. Do you think you will be able to stand before God and He’ll bow before you? Like Israel needed to learn, we are nothing compared to Our Creator and would be nothing without Him.
And, so we read in verse 11, “the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.”
God does not want a people who lean on their own righteousness or power or strength in life. We may only lean on the strength, power, wisdom and mercy of God to build us up, like He did Nehemiah’s walls in the days of the return from captivity. We are not self-built, we “are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). We are to be “living stones” who “are being built up a spiritual house” as God’s own “special people” (1 Peter 1:5,9). Before God sent His Son Jesus, we were all “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Yet, because of “God, who is rich in mercy” He “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). Because of what God has done “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
In spiritual fashion, the same promises God gave Israel are fulfilled through Jesus. Though we have sinned and have been broken, we can be bound. Though we have made ourselves outcasts by our sin, He can put us into a place of safety and peace because of the blood of His Son and the strength of His grace! Real strength, then, does not glory in ourselves. Real strength gives glory to the Almighty God for, without Him, our lives would continue to be useless and broken just like those old walls of Jerusalem. We are only what we are because God has done what He did through Jesus! So, in times of success, when we look for someone to praise let’s not look in the mirror—but to the heavens above!
As Paul writes, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). “Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 147:1, 20).