(Originally published on November 30, 2011)
Joshua 11:6 “But the Lord said to Joshua, Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow by this time I will give them up all slain to Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” (AMP)
The above verse was part of today’s Bible reading during our family devotional. As I was listening, my attention was drawn to the directions given by God. I’ve read this verse many times and have even looked at the probable reason for the commands. But today, God began to specifically speak to me about this verse during the ensuing prayer time, and I want to take a moment to talk a little bit about how we can apply it to our lives today.
When considering ancient warfare, it is easy to see the prudence of an infantry based army burning the enemy’s chariots. The chariots would not enhance the infantry’s battle capability. Additionally, they could possibly be recaptured and reused by the original owner. While there would be little use for a chariot away from the battlefield, horses were a different story. Everyone could use a good horse, as it was the equivalent of today’s car or tractor. So why intentionally, as one translation puts it, “cripple” the horse instead of simply killing it? This intrigued me.
My study revealed that hamstringing horses was a common battle tactic used as recently as World War I. By doing this, you significantly limit its capability. Both the loss of agility and the ability to pull heavy loads will occur, and these attributes are definitely needed in a war horse. Yet afterwards, it still be quite useful for simple personal mobility and carrying light loads as well as breeding.
I once read about an Old West stationmaster who had eight horses that were trained to pull wagons. As each horse had its personality quirks, he took time to rotate the horses and test their teamwork. He discovered many interesting points! One was that the best solo horse was rarely the best team horse. He even discovered that the makeup of the team impacted their ability to work. And, he also learned that if he teamed a new horse with another particular horse, it would learn to pull its load more quickly and efficiently. Conversely, if he paired a new horse with yet a different horse, it would nearly destroy the value of the one newly purchased by teaching it bad habits.
You may be saying, “Mark, that is interesting, but I’m not in the horse business. What has this got to do with me?” I get your point. Let’s look at the spiritual aspect.
Do you ever feel like you are spiritually “hamstrung?” You know that you have powerful spiritual muscles and superb training, but you just can’t seem to be able to use those assets. This has little impact during the normal course of life; however, when you need to do the “heavy lifting,” you collapse under the weight. Additionally, as soon as you enter a battle, you simply do not have the agility necessary to dodge those fiery darts. (Ephesians 6:16) This, in turn, forces you to quickly retreat from battle and even occasionally attempt to negotiate a truce, just to keep from losing to your spiritual enemy. Compounding the problem is the realization that those whom you should be training are responding to circumstance just like you.
This is a very real scenario, and I suspect that I have found myself in this position as many times as you have. To me, the most troublesome part is not the lack of efficiency of my efforts when I am hamstrung, but the potential of passing these negative actions to those who may be watching (or learning from) me. The hamstrung horse learns to adapt to the loss of ability and appears to live a normal life. Spiritually, we are the same. We may even forget about our war injury, but the effects are always present.
At the age of 18, I cut off the tip of my first finger in a work-related accident. Through time, I have adapted my actions and rarely even think of my loss. It has little impact on much of my daily routine. However, when the temperature drops, I cannot get the end of that finger warm, regardless of the quality of either the material or workmanship of my gloves. You see, one of the results of my injury is poor blood flow in the tip of my finger. If I need to do precise work in a cold environment, it is quite uncomfortable, which then causes me to speed up my work as my desire for warmth increases. Sometimes, this causes me to make mistakes that I would not have normally made, which has caused the need for a paid professional, as my error made things worse than the original problem.
The good news is that I know a Great Physician. He specializes in those war injuries that I alluded to earlier. We only need to place ourselves in His capable hands and allow Him to perform surgery on our spiritual hamstring. The healing that Jesus can deliver will not only enable us to enter – and win – the next battle, but it will also enable us to pass our new positive attributes to those who are watching us.