“Cursed be the man that…maketh flesh his arm.” Jeremiah 17:5
It was the year 48 BC and civil war was disrupting the Roman Republic. The troops of the Roman Senate, led by Pompey, were deployed for battle at Pharsalus, Greece. The senators were overconfident in their superior number of horsemen—7,000 compared to the 1,400 of their opponent, Julius Caesar—and they urged Pompey to attack. Notwithstanding their numeric superiority, Pompey’s great army was defeated.1
The Israelite nation also faced the temptation of trusting in their horsemen. As a safeguard against dependence on the arm of flesh, the Lord had warned those who should rule over Israel not to multiply horses unto themselves: “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay 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 the LORD!” Isaiah 31:1.
Completely disregarding this command, King Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt. “They brought unto Solomon horses out of Egypt, and out of all lands.” “Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.” “And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.” 2 Chronicles 1:16; 9:28; 1 Kings 10:26; 4:26.
“More and more the king came to regard luxury, self-indulgence, and the favor of the world as indications of greatness.”2
Today we also face the ever-present danger of trusting in the arm of flesh. Education, wealth, talents, natural abilities, human reasoning, and personal criteria and experience can all become our arm of flesh. We have the natural tendency to place our confidence and dependence on any of these advantages.
What a contrast we see in Jesus’ life as a human! He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” John 5:30.
May we place our trust in “[God’s] strong arm” (Psalm 89:10), follow His Word, and humbly submit to godly counsel.
1 Nardo, Don, Julius Caesar: Roman General and Statesman, p. 60
2 White , Ellen G., Prophets and Kings, p. 56