Psalm 20: The Trouble with Chariots

Read Psalm 20.

An army’s chariots could make all the difference. The speed and horsepower of a well-trained team of chariots and horsemen could overwhelm infantry in the ancient world. So, it was tempting for a relatively small nation, like Israel, to look to their more powerful neighbors, like Egypt or Assyria, when trouble came.

But raw might had never been the key to Israel’s success in battle. Pharaoh’s chariots were no match for the Red Sea when God sent walls of water crashing back into place. The fortress of Jericho crumbled at the sound of shofars and shouting. David defeated Goliath with a sling and a smooth stone. The God of Israel fought for His people.

Psalm 20 was likely sung before battles; it is a prayer asking for Yahweh’s blessing upon the king. The reason God’s people could ask for the Lord’s blessing is found in verse 7: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

Sometimes chariots in our lives can be difficult to spot, and that’s when they’re the most dangerous. I think of the rich, young ruler in Mark 10. He had been living an upstanding life, trying to follow the commandments of God. He even recognized Jesus as someone special. But when given an invitation to follow Jesus, He just couldn’t do it, not with the prerequisite Jesus had given him: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (v. 21).

On the surface, it seems like an unfair thing to ask. Jesus hadn’t commanded anyone else (that we know of) to give away all their money in order to become His disciple. But Jesus loved this young man. He knew he needed to give up his wealth; it had far too tight a grip on him. His money was his chariot. To leave it behind would mean trusting God for everything.

In Mark’s account, the rich, young ruler “went away sad, because he had great wealth” (v. 22). That’s the last we see of him, but I hope that wasn’t the end of his story. I want to believe that this interaction with Jesus was the jolt he needed to get his priorities straight, that he later gave away all he had and did indeed become a follower of Christ.

Of course, money is not everyone’s chariot. A chariot can be a thousand different things. It really doesn’t matter. Anything you or I put our trust in, other than Jesus, will leave us broken and miserable in the end. Sometimes, we need a jolt, or better yet—we need our chariots to fall apart on us before it’s too late. It may be that the best thing that can happen to a person is for him to have nothing left but Jesus. He’s really all any of us has anyway.


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