Percheron mares, aged 3 and under 4: Please enter the ringsounded over the arena loudspeaker. 

His pleasure is NOT in these strong horses? resounded in my bemused brain.

The draft horse stable is just inside the east gate at the Walworth County Fair. Each year we stop to see the horses. 

And each year, in awe, I gawk.

His delight is not in the strength of a horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.       

Psalm 147:10-11, ESV

The Strength of a Horse

Immense strength envelop exquisite equine form. Burly, bulgy backsides and shimmery, sleek shoulders bear witness. Divinity designed such elegant power.

draft horse

From the war horse (heavy saddler) to diligence horse (heavy coacher or light draft) to the true horse of heavy draft, the breeders of Le Perche sculpted away on their beloved indigenous breed for hundreds of years, altering the animal to meet the demands of the times and to entice the buyer.

In the case of the Percheron breed, French breeders played a big role in harnessing living, breathing strength:

God himself praised these creatures as he questioned Job,

Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with strength? Can you make him leap like the locust? 
He paws in the valley, and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.
He laughs at fear, and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword

Job 39:19-24

Entice they do. I stand in awe of the Belgian Drafts, Clydesdales, and Percherons. To lay eyes on these beautiful hulks is to marvel.

God seems duly impressed by his creation. So what does God mean when he says he doesn’t take pleasure in horses? 

The Danger of Delighting in Horses

I found John Piper’s explanation helpful:

God is not displeased with horses, but in those who hope in horses—or in whatever our modern equivalent is for the strength and security that horses once delivered.

To take pleasure in visible strength is natural. Big bank accounts and a clean bill of health can make me feel secure. Top Gun Maverick had a similar effect. I left the theatre feeling confident.

But it displeases God when we put our hope in militaries, missiles, or health—or in anything other than him. Because God cares for us. He wants the best for his children. And he knows that all of those are false security, and worse than false.

When we swell secure with anything less than the Lord, we not only dig broken cisterns, but forsake the living water (Jeremiah 2:13). When we think we can buy or be our own strength, we reject God our strength (Psalm 81:1).  

Fear & Hope: What God Delights In

God helps those who help themselves isn’t in the BIble. Military might and financial force don’t dazzle Almighty God.

But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. 

If you want to swell the heart of God, fear him and hope in his love

Bible commentator Matthew Henry writes that fear and hope not only may, but must go together:

In the same heart at the same time, there must be both a reverence of his majesty and a complacency in his goodness; not that we hang in suspense between hope and fear, but we must act under the gracious influences of hope and fearOur fear must save our hope from swelling into presumption and our hope must save our fear from sinking into despair.

Commentary on Psalm 147

Oh, for this holy, God-pleasing, Christ-exalting draw-near fear, for this fear co-mingled with hope! It is hope that will not disappoint us because God has poured out his love in to our hearts (Romans 5:1-5). It is fear that does not paralyze or make us run away. Perfect love casts that fear out. 

I got all that from a little trip to the fair.

Some might argue that these muscle-bound beasts have served their purpose. After all, horse pulls are just for show.

To them, I simply say “no.”

Every year at the fair, God uses them to remind me. These strong horses point past themselves to a God who is not impressed even by their splendid strength, to a God who is strength itself.

The LORD is the strength of his people…

Psalm 28:8a, ESV

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