This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Proverbs 21:31 ‘The horse is prepared against the day of battle; but vict

This Week’s Focus Passage: Proverbs 21:31

‘The horse is prepared against the day of battle; but victory is of Jehovah.’

    Although the attribution of the saying is questioned by some, it is largely held that it was Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson who coined the phrase,  “Do your duty, and leave the consequences to God,” or perhaps, more correctly, ‘Duty is ours; consequences are God’s.’ The gist remains the same either way. ‘Stonewall; Jackson was, by all accounts both a phenomenal military leader as well as a remarkable Christian man. There are numerous biographies readily available, and perhaps the best one is that which was written by the theologian and pastor, Robert Lewis Dabney, who was also, at least for one year’s campaign in the war between the states, Jackson’s adjutant, which gave him personal access to many details that other writers would have only at second-hand. These features, of course, could only promote, it is only fair to say, a bias in the biographer. We trust that the Christian integrity and honesty of R. L. Dabney himself would have gone a long way to prevent any such prejudicial influence over truth.

    In any event, portions of the biography in question are derived from the letters written by Jackson himself and thus should provide truthful records of his own thoughts and perspectives. By any account, Jackson was a remarkable man well deserving of being remembered by Christians and soldiers alike. One of the most noteworthy circumstances of his life was his ‘accidental’ death. We use the term ‘accidental’ because he was mistakenly shot by his own troops. In our day, this is called ‘friendly fire.’ Returning from a brief investigate foray with a few other officers to hopefully be granted a view of the enemy emplacements, they were surprised by an enemy scouting party and forced to turn heel and flee back to their own lines. In the confusion of the pursuit, as they approached their own troops with ‘bluecoats’ close behinds them, the Confederates mistook all of the horsemen as troops belonging the enemy. They fired upon the entire body of horsemen, both ‘bluecoats’ and ‘greycoats.’ Unhappily, their general, ‘Stonewall’ Jackson received severe wounds in the engagement. In fact, Dabney relates, ‘His right hand was penetrated by a ball, his left forearm lacerated by another, and the same limb broken a little below the shoulder by a third, which not only crushed the bone but severed the main artery.’ These wounds were greatly aggravated by the difficulties involved in transporting the wounded general back to camp, being almost dragged in a litter by his men. The left arm was, of necessity, amputated. Jackson suffered much, but in all the trial remained content with the providence of God. He survived for eight days but, taking fever, passed into the arms of his Savior on May 10, 1863, at the age of thirty-nine years. Jackson had lost his left arm, but his commander, General Robert E. Lee, famously said that in losing Jackson, he had lost his ‘right arm.’ What does this have to do with Proverbs 21:31?

Solomon has pointed us to a biblical fact that was in great evidence in the life and career of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. In the first place, Jackson’s many victories were often to be accounted to nothing less than a Providence of God in the same way of His giving victory to such biblical personages as Gideon, whose force of 300 was so greatly outnumbered, as were Jackson’s on so many occasions. We may see God’s overruling numbers and strength of arms for the Confederacy through Jackson even as He overruled for Israel’s favor through giving victory to untrained David over the giant exper-ienced warrior, Goliath. And while He made use of  pitchers and lamps for Gideon’s victory, and they were prepared for the day of battle, nonetheless, it was God’s victory. In the same manner, He employed the ‘shepherd boy’ and a stone to provide victory for His people, Israel, but still the ‘victory is of Jehovah.’ Because He is easily able to defeat all His enemies and the enemies of His people; this does not preclude the use of instruments. This is what Solomon is saying in our focus verse. Not only is ‘the horse prepared against the day of battle,’ but it is a means granted by the Lord, and blessed by Him in the engagement. But the son of David is saying more than that. He is saying that, no matter what instrument or secondary means are utilized, the victory belongs to the Lord our God. Understanding this reality is that which contented Gideon, David, and yes, ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. ‘The horse is pre-pared against the day of battle: but victory is of Jehovah.’ ‘Duty is ours,’ the duty to use brains and horses, wisdom and weapons, but notwithstanding the implements, ‘consequences are God’s’ Jackson had also said, ‘Be content and resigned to God’s will,’ and he was.  

    God complained of His people through Isaiah, 31:1, ‘Woe unto them that go down to Egypt for help, and rely 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 Jehovah!’ It was not only their disobedience in going to Egypt, but their trusting in Egypt, in horses, chariots, or horsemen rather than trusting Jehovah. The teaching here is well expressed by Solomon’s father in Psalm 20:7, when he wrote, ‘Some trust in chariots, some in horses; but we will make mention of the name of Jehovah our God.’ This, I believe, spoke of the tenor of David’s life, as well as the tenor of the life of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. Though knowing the lawfull-ness of the use of means, their trust was in their God. This is why, toward the end of his days, David could say, ‘let us now fall into the hand of Jehovah, for his mercies are great.’ Similarly, it is recorded among Jackson’s last words, although in somewhat of a delirium shortly before his death, that he said, ‘Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.’ He used cannon and horse, but his trust for victory was in the Lord his God.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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