Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.Psalm 20:7, NIV
In the reporting about Hurricane Ida and its devastating impacts, much of the conversation has centered around whether or not the reinforced levee system in New Orleans accomplished its objective and prevented the level of catastrophic flooding that occurred with Hurricane Katrina. By all accounts it did, but this success came at great cost; approximately $14.5 billion dollars. I imagine there are some who would argue this was a waste of tax- payer money, given that most of New Orleans is below sea-level. But I am more interested in whether or not reinforcing these levees was the right thing to do from a Christian perspective. Shouldn’t Christians save their money and trust God instead, since he has the power to send a storm in whatever direction he chooses? Does the decision to build the levees in the first place suggest New Orleans is not a very religious city?
Psalm 20, in its entirety, is, like most psalms, intended to be read in the context of communal worship. But this psalm was written for a very specific occasion, when the people were preparing to go to battle. In verse 7, the verse quoted above, the psalmist affirms the importance of trusting in God for victory, as opposed to trusting in horses and chariots, which were the most technologically advanced weaponry of that time period. But at no point does he say not to use horses and chariots if you’ve got them. Using horses and chariots in battle, and trusting in God, are not mutually exclusive. What the psalmist is most concerned about is who God’s people are counting on the most, and who will get the credit for their victory. It’s easier to see if you read the Psalm in a more literal translation. The NRSV, for example, reads like this, “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.” It’s even more clear in the NASB, “Some praise their chariots and some their horses, but we will praise the name of the Lord, our God.”
Taking all available precautions does not preclude trust in God, so long as you don’t treat them as your Savior; that title belongs to God only. Trust God, but build levees if you are able.