All my life I've heard people of good intentions say it means that, unlike any other book, a passage from the Bible can mean something different every time you read it. But I don't happen to believe in a God whose Word changes its meaning every time it speaks...rather, I believe that as *I* am changed, sanctified, I understand it at new levels and that it never fails to speak the very same message to the very different circumstances of my life.
Last night, sitting in the recliner that has pretty much been my home since June 5, I became acutely aware of the state of my muscular atrophy. Oh, I'd long recognized the sorry state of my quads--they've been cut into so many times in the past six years it's a wonder there's any tissue left there at all. But last night I suddenly realized that I have almost no calf muscle left, either. And no one has put a scalpel anywhere below my knees!
There are all kinds of exercises to build up your calves, but the truth is that most people get all the exercise they will ever need just by walking or running. Trouble is, I don't do much walking these days, and haven't really done much of it in years. I can sure see it in my calves...and that makes me feel pretty crummy. The state of my legs in general makes me feel pretty bad, even when they're not causing me pain. Not just pretty bad, but embarrassed as well.
I don't know how many times I've read the Bible all the way through, and I've certainly read through the Psalms many more times than that, so there's no telling why this passage never really stood out to me:
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.
I ran across these verses while reading one of my current books, The Pleasures of God by John Piper. After spending some time speaking of the intersection of love and fear, Piper returns to the question implied in the first part of the passage.
Now we must ask why God does not take pleasure in horses and legs as it says in verse 10:His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man.
The point here is not that strong horses and strong legs are bad. After all, God made them. In fact...he rejoices in the strength and freedom of mighty horses. For example, he asks Job,Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with strength?
Do you make him leap like the locust?...
He paws in the valley, and exults in his strength,
He laughs at fear, and is not dismayed;
he does not turn back from the sword...
he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
He smells the battle from afar,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
(Job 39:19-25)Clearly God exults in the strength of the horse that he alone has made. Job can't take credit for any of the horse's wonderful powers. No, the point is not that this glorious animal is bad. The point is this: in the day of battle, men put their hope in horses instead of putting their hope in God. But Proverbs 32.:31 says, "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD." Therefore Psalm 20:7 says, "some boast in chariots, and some in horses; but we boast of the name of the LORD our God." And Psalm 33:17 says, "The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great strength it cannot save."
God is not displeased with the strength of a horse and the legs of a man as good things that he has made. He is displeased with those who hope in horses and in their legs. He is displeased with people who put their hope, for example, in missiles or in makeup, in tanks or tanning parlors, in bombs or body-building. God takes no pleasure in corporate efficiency or balanced budgets or welfare systems or new vaccines or education or eloquence or artistic excellence or legal processes, when these things are the treasure in which we hope, or the achievement in which we boast. Why? Because when we put our hope in horses and legs, then horses and legs get the glory, not God. [emphasis mine]
The Word is alive! All my life I've read these verses and never had the ears to hear what it was saying to me. Still, God doesn't give up on me...He gives me circumstances that will allow His Word to speak to me where my ears have been stopped up.
I've never owned a horse and probably never will, so I'm not really tempted to put my literal hope in one. But I do own a pair of legs that used to serve me well and are now largely lifeless. I've been putting a lot of hope into the return of their usefulness through surgery and exercise. And I'd be lying if I said I don't want God to answer my prayers for strong, healthy legs. That would give me a lot of pleasure. I want to be increasingly aware, however, that HIS pleasure is "in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." If He chooses to restore my strength, wonderful! But may I ever have my eyes on the eternal and put fearing and hoping in Him above all else.
That kind of life has legs.