Director of Missions
Hamstrung Horses and Burning Chariots
Joshua, the warrior, took his fledgling army and began to fulfill the Lord’s command to take over the land that God had promised the Israelites. After winning a victory over the kings of the south, Israel’s army turned northwards. When the kings of the north heard about the approaching Israelites, they formed a coalition of five kingdoms and came against Joshua near Herom. It was there the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain to Israel” (Jos. 11:6). It happened just as the Lord said, and Joshua and his army utterly defeated the Kings of the north. Then God gave Joshua another command and said, “You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” At first, this may seem like a strange request or possibly even a tactic of war and conquest. But, it is actually something more. The command of God to hamstring the horses of the Canaanites and to burn their chariots would help the Israelites keep their trust in the Lord alone. How is that the case, you might ask. First, to hamstring a war horse was to take away its ability to charge in battle and ultimately remove its ability to fight. In wars of that era, a horse was a powerful instrument on the battlefield. Hamstringing a horse did not destroy the horse but only removed its prowess in battle. A hamstrung horse could still be used to pull a plow and work the land. Secondly, God told Joshua to burn all the chariots. In Joshua 11 the armies of the north were, “a great horde in number like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots.” Why would God ask Joshua to hobble the horses and burn the chariots? Couldn’t they be used to strengthen Joshua’s army and make it more powerful? Couldn’t they be used as a display of power to deter other nations from coming against them? Couldn’t they be sold and use the proceeds to fill the treasury of Israel? Yes. They could have been used for all these things, but God expressly set out this command to the children of Israel so they wouldn’t do those exact things. They would have trusted and relied on the power of the horse and chariot rather than God.
Psalm 20:7 says, ”Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” The children of Israel were to fear (trust) the Lord alone. How often do we rely on our own power or prowess instead of God? How often do we rely on our money, or status, or skills and talents rather than on God? How often do we rely on our church facilities or programs rather than trusting God? How often do we trust in those things that cause us to stop trusting our all-powerful God and trust in fragile things of this world? Maybe we need to reassess our lives and see if God has called us to hobble or destroy things in our lives that keep us from fully trusting Him in everything we do. As the new year is ahead of us, just as the promised land was ahead of the Children of Israel, let us follow their example and trust God alone for all we need.
Serving the King Together,