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 Pride - 12/15/10

The Sin of Counting Horses

December 15, 2010

This is a word that God has been working out, teaching, and developing in my life experiences and quiet time with Him over the past several weeks. Just as He has done so many times in me and so many others, He illustrated a biblical truth to me in my life and then proceeded to talk about that truth by leading me to areas in His word that shed light on it.

The situation: About a month ago on the morning of Saturday, November 20th as I drove home after an early morning men’s bible study, the transmission in our Durango went out. Then a few weeks later on November 29th, my cell phone, which I rely on heavily everyday for various aspects of my ministry work, broke so that it was barely functional. At the end of that same week on Friday, December 3rd, we started to notice that our freezer was having a very difficult time cooling the contents because most things had partially thawed and were soft. I tried some basic methods to remedy the problem and affect a fix, but Saturday morning when we woke up, it was now obvious that our side-by-side refrigerator/freezer was dead and there was nothing cold anywhere. That morning our family attended and supported a major function at our kids’ elementary school. While I was there, this situation back at home was also very heavy on my mind and heart.

We returned home that Saturday afternoon full of the knowledge that there was nothing cold anywhere in the house. Earlier that morning, we had thrown out most of the contents of the freezer. That afternoon I found myself reflecting on the sum of all that was going on and on my face praying to God. I thought about our dead truck, broken cell phone, and now dead refrigerator at a time when we could least afford to have any of this happen. I asked Him why were so many things seeming to break and crumble around us. I cried out to Him for help and direction. The truck, while important to our family transportation needs, is not essential, but it’s loss is merely a very large inconvenience. But the refrigerator… I cried out that He knew that it was something that we truly needed in order to keep food for this family. As I contemplated going to the Lowes website to see if they had any cheap refrigerators on sale, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me and said “why don’t you see if it can be fixed.” The end of this story with the refrigerator is that within 2 hours from that prayer on that Saturday afternoon, a repairman had made a home visit to our house and had the freezer working better than it had in a long time for a fraction of what it would have cost to buy a much cheaper unit.

So, you may be asking yourself what this all has to do with counting horses. On that Saturday evening, as I reflected back on the events that had occurred, God whispered to me that there was a definite spiritual message in what had just happened. Leading up to this time in my quiet time with Him, He had been showing me about our need to not hang onto or “depend” on the things of this world. He had shown how He illustrated this in Hebrews 11:15 that if we are mindful of the things from this old world, we will not want to leave it.

Next, in my quiet time, He took me on a tour of the book of Isaiah and then centered in on chapters 29, 30, and 31 where it became clear that He was talking about an issue of our tendency to count horses. As the Assyrians prepared to invade and conquer Judah, instead of coming to Him (the Holy One of Israel), they went to Egypt for help. This is because in their natural eyes, they saw that Egypt had a large army with many strong soldiers and horses. But the LORD rebuked them in Isaiah 30:1-3 for this misplaced trust.

Isaiah 30:1-3
1Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: 2That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! 3Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.

Just as it is for us today, for Judah to run to and trust in Egypt (the world) for their help during time of trouble is a poor choice and while it may appear to offer temporary relief, ultimately will lead to failure. See how He went on to describe this point in verses 7-13.

7For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still. 8Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: 9That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: 10Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: 11Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. 12Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: 13Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.

When we put our trust in these world systems for all of our help, we are holding on to something that will crumble whose fall will come suddenly (verse 13). Now if that was not enough, in the next chapter (Isaiah 31), He comes back to hammer this point some more and explicitly talks about trusting in horses.

1Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD! 2Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity. 3Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.

Finally, as another example of how God takes this so very seriously, look at what I believe to be the second of the two really big sins that King David committed. This sin is described in detail in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. Against the advise of his military leaders, David numbered the people (counted them apparently so that he could draw comfort from the size of his mighty army). I find it ironic that even David’s Captain of the Host Joab (who was not the most ethical of David’s mighty men) pleaded with the king not to do this evil thing. This sin of counting brought great anger from the LORD and gave way for His punishment of David and the people. David brought this on because of his sin… the same sin that was described above in Isaiah 31… a sin about misplaced trust… trusting in horses rather than the Holy One of Israel.

You know, the ironic part about the situation back in Isaiah 29-31 is that everything that was happening with the invasion of Judah by the Assyrians was happing because God had allowed it for a purpose. He was at all times in control (as He always is). When you think of it in that way, when Judah went to Egypt for help, it was an act of rebellion against the will of God.

At the end of the day, brothers and sisters, the question is “where is your trust?” And the answer to this question is in prayer and intimate time with your Heavenly Father. Make that (prayer) your default response in every situation… in good times and in bad.

Postscript
Consider this event as described from the different perspective in the north to Israel by the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 21 verses 8-9. The captivity of Israel by Babylon was something that God had brought about in His sovereign will and for His purpose. The people naturally wanted to resist being conquered and God sent Israel the following word through Jeremiah:

8And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.

9He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.

As a demonstration of His grace, mercy, and love for these same people, the same God spoke through the same prophet to these same people a few chapters later in Jeremiah 29:11 when He reassured them that He had great plans for them… plans to prosper and not harm them.

11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

As children of God, you and I also have this promise from Him, no matter what the circumstance. Let our default response be always to call on Him.

 

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© 2010 Gerald L. Prater

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