I remember growing up listening to a song that you heard all the time on the radio, and I later learned it summarizes humanity’s plight so perfectly: “Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places.” Can you think of a popular song title ever that crystallized so well what’s wrong with the world?
Of course, there are other things we can look for in the wrong places, and today’s passage tells the sad story of Israel, who was looking for security in all the wrong places. It’s totally understandable, when you know their situation: They heard of this 900-pound gorilla of the Middle East named Assyria, and it was heading their way. Nations a lot stronger than they were had fallen before this beast. From the human perspective, it looked like the most natural thing in the world to look for allies wherever they could find them.
And the most natural solution was Egypt. Once their refuge, then their oppressor, and now it looked like their only hope. Apparently relations had thawed over the years, since Egypt was offering an alliance against the common enemy. And Egypt had the one weapon that seemed virtually unbeatable: trained horses and chariots! This was the supposedly unstoppable weapon of that time.
Against this conventional wisdom the lonely prophet stood against the tide and said “Stop!!!” Of course, if they consulted their Scripture, it wouldn’t have even come to this point. There had been enemies in the past who'd had chariots and horses. Ever hear of the Judge Deborah? Israel had turned away from the Lord, and he had given them over to a Canaanite king named Jabin. Under Deborah’s guidance, Israel defeated them with God’s power behind them. The lesson should have been plain: Horses and chariots are not going to save you. Trusting and obeying the Lord? That will.
Now that raises the question: Is having a military wrong? No. The Lord himself raised up an army among Israel. Some of God’s finest people were military heroes, David being first and foremost on that list. The whole book of Judges is filled with military heroes. Rarely did the Lord tell his people to just “trust in God” by dismantling all earthly strength.
So what was the issue with going to Egypt at this point in time? Well, first and most importantly: God had already told them not to do that during the days of Moses. That should have ended the issue.
But the heart of the problem was, well, the heart. By disobeying his explicit command, they were demonstrating that they weren’t trusting in him. There’s nothing intrinsically sinful about horses or chariots or any other weapon or any other earthly resource. The only question is: “Am I trusting in God or trusting in my own resources?”
This principle applies on the macro level (with national defense) as well as on a more practical level in our daily lives. Are you trusting in God or in your retirement savings? Are you trusting in God or in your job skill set? Are you trusting in God or in your hard work, personal connections, etc.? Again, there’s nothing intrinsically sinful (most of the time) with earthly resources. They were given to us by our Father, and we should use them if appropriate.
But what, or who, are you ultimately trusting in? And if you claim that you trust him, are you demonstrating that by obeying?
Yes Father, I trust you. And by your grace, I’ll show that by obeying.
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