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Chariots and horses? Kerry Campbell takes a look at Psalm 20 through a 21st-century lens.

As it often does, my Jesus Calling devotional pointed me to a verse today I’d heard multiple times, but never really considered. Today, it was Psalm 20:8:

Some rely on chariots, others on horses,
but we on the name of the LORD our God.

The times I’ve trusted in a horse are limited to the few times I’ve ridden one, at a ranch in upstate New York, and I don’t recall ever trusting in a chariot, but this morning, the verse had me contemplating the many ways that I have and do trust in these things. Maybe you do, too.

A chariot is a man-made machine which reflects human ingenuity. Invented in roughly 2000 B.C., it utilized wheels to allow for ease of movement in warfare, racing, hunting, and transport. The use of chariots made human daily life far more convenient and more productive. In a modern sense, you could compare a chariot, of course, to a car or other means of transportation, but you could also compare it to other things which move us forward: smartphones, technology, travel, government, education, economic and workplace practices, and other man-made systems and structures we trust in daily. When these things break down, or don’t function as they should, we feel lost. We trust in them, and rely on them to make our lives easier and more convenient, and when they let us down, we feel it.

Similarly, the "horses" that are referenced in the psalm could compare in the modern-day to the created things in nature upon which we rely. People, climate, our own biological systems, a world of microorganisms, plant, and animal life – living in this world for as long as we have breeds a familiarity and reliance on nature as we’ve always experienced it. But introduce an unexpectedly destructive storm, infertility, cancer, drought, or a novel virus, and we find ourselves questioning the things we’ve always taken for granted: health, food systems, family, housing, and even our very lives.

When it comes down to it, we can’t trust in the things of nature or the things we make to keep us safe or provide for us, but as the psalm says, we can trust in a name. I found myself doing just that last night, after everyone had gone to bed.


It was after midnight, and I felt the anxiety of the time rising in my chest as I sat on my couch in the silence of my living room. I’d long ago given up control to God, but old habits were creeping back in and I felt my fists tighten to hold on to the ways I want things to be, felt the pressure to act and move and make, when I remembered that I’m just one of those horses in the psalm. I’m a capable, forceful, beautiful, and gifted creation of God, just like you, but it would be foolhardy to place all of my trust in one person, especially myself. So, I called on the name of the Lord, again.

I named all my worries and concerns and things that are just going so wrong in this world, and I gave it all to Him, again. Because I know I can trust in Him. I know that when I call on His name, He’ll answer. Handing all of my stuff over to Him as I sat in the silence of my home and looking back at the wonders He’s done in my life was one way I remembered how true it is.

The chariots and horses are gifts to humanity, especially when they’re working well, but their inconsistency and insecurity can point us to something bigger. When the world seems like it’s breaking into pieces, He’s the one place we can put all of our trust, and even if we can’t quite yet see how the pieces will come together, we can know He’s at work in it. Thank God it’s so.

Psalm 20

For the leader. A psalm of David. 

The LORD answer you in time of distress;
the name of the God of Jacob defend you!

May he send you help from the sanctuary,
from Zion be your support.

May he remember your every offering,
graciously accept your burnt offering,

Grant what is in your heart,
fulfill your every plan.

May we shout for joy at your victory,
raise the banners in the name of our God.

The LORD grant your every petition!

Now I know the LORD gives victory
to his anointed.

He will answer him from the holy heavens
with a strong arm that brings victory.

Some rely on chariots, others on horses,
but we on the name of the LORD our God. 

They collapse and fall,
but we stand strong and firm. 

LORD, grant victory to the king;
answer when we call upon you.

2020 0811 KCampbell

When the world seems like it’s breaking into pieces, He’s the one place we can put all of our trust. #catholicmom

Copyright 2020 Kerry Campbell
Images (top to bottom): Johannes Plenio (2018) Pexels; copyright 2020 Kerry Campbell, all rights reserved.