Scripture Focus: Isaiah 31.1-3
1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, 
who rely on horses, 
who trust in the multitude of their chariots 
and in the great strength of their horsemen, 
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, 
or seek help from the Lord. 
2 Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; 
he does not take back his words. 
He will rise up against that wicked nation, 
against those who help evildoers. 
3 But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; 
their horses are flesh and not spirit. 
When the Lord stretches out his hand, 
those who help will stumble, 
those who are helped will fall; 
all will perish together. 

Reflection: Horses of Flesh or Spirit
By John Tillman

Egypt is the longest-lasting national superpower in the Bible.

Other nations rose and fell, but Egypt was always there, even if they waxed and waned in power. Egypt was the “arms dealer” of the ancient Near East, producing the finest war horses and chariots. Wealthy nations bought from them and no wise nation wanted to face them in battle. In addition to military aid, many nations found Egypt a reliable source of shelter, food, wisdom, and political support.

When David wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God,” he almost certainly referred to chariots and horses from Egypt. He had faced chariot-outfitted armies and seen that “The Lord gives victory.” (Psalm 20.6-7)

But Israel failed to live up to the lofty, poetic principle David penned. Principles are often sacrificed to practicality in times of crisis or undermined in times of comfort.

For Israel, a recurring temptation popped up in crisis after crisis. They wanted to go back to Egypt. Egypt was often an enemy, but Israel had a long history of trusting them for help. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sought help and shelter there. The instant Moses led the Israelites out, they wanted to go back. When Solomon secured his throne, he furnished his army with Egyptian horses and chariots. Practicality won out over his father’s poetic wisdom. And multiple times, throughout the history of kings and prophets, the nation wanted to ask Egypt for help while the prophets cried out for God’s people to trust him.

Crises expose what we truly rely on. They turn up the volume on temptations and drown out trusted voices. Comfort dulls our hold on principles and the strength of our convictions. In times of plenty, it’s not that we actively choose not to trust God, we just don’t sense our need for him. Comfort weighs us down, weakens our muscles and joints, and slows our reflexes and capacities. When it comes time to stand or fight, we are slow to respond and hesitant to do so.

What biblical wisdom have you explained away in service of a current crisis?
What comforts dull or delay your reliance or response to God?
What crises send you looking for an Egypt to save you?
What principles have you sacrificed to practicality?
Are you trusting horses of flesh, not spirit?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help. — Psalm 13.5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Isaiah 31 (Listen 1:49)
Acts 18 (Listen 4:06)

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