By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz
My ten-year-old son grew up on the Tolkien trilogy. So I guess I should not have been surprised when we got a flat tire and, as we stood by the side of the road, my son looked up to the sky and asked, “Where are the eagles of Manwë to carry us away.”
You might think this sounds strange, but people do things like this all the time. In fact, there is even a verse in Psalms which evokes some very Tolkien-esque imagery.
Psalms 20 is often read in times of trouble. This is fitting given the second verse of the Psalm:
May the LORD answer you in time of trouble, the name of Jacob’s God keep you safe. Psalm 20:2
A little later on in the psalm, David contrasts those who rely on God for their salvation to those who rely on material things:
They [call] on chariots, they [call] on horses, but we call on the name of Hashem our God. Psalm 20:8
I actually pointed this verse out to my son and it led to a very compelling discussion.
Sometimes we wish there was an easy way out, or that some being would swoop down from heaven and relieve us of our troubles. For Tolkien it was eagles, for the warriors in David’s time it was horses and chariots. And in modern times, we put our trust in mechanics to fix our cars and our faith in our doctors to heal us.
But in this psalm David is telling us that the only thing we can really rely on is God.
The nice thing about going to experts is that they generally offer distinct and clear solutions. An auto mechanic will tell you precisely which part of your car is broken and how much it will cost to repair. A visit to the doctor is comforting when they can tell you precisely what is causing your illness and what the cure will be.
But life is not always so simple. Solutions are not always so readily available. Doctors are sometimes left without a cure to offer. Even mechanics get stymied. Life’s most pressing problems frequently have no clear-cut solutions.
They [call] on chariots, they [call] on horses, but we call on the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and lie fallen, but we rally and gather strength.” (Psalms 20:8-9)
Sometimes we get confused and think that our salvation comes from tangible things, like the warrior who thinks his strength and victory are in the hands of his chariots and horses. But ultimately “they collapse and lie fallen” while those of us who rely on God “rally and gather strength.”
The key to salvation and getting through times of trouble is a recognition that everything comes from the Lord, and that ultimately He is the only one who can really help us. In fact, the Bible tells us in Deuteronomy (8:11-20) that it is precisely when we forget about God and put our faith in other things that we start to have trouble in the first place.
Relying on horses and chariots has always ended badly (though my son still thinks eagles might help). So I call on God instead to figure out how to get me out of whatever trouble I am in. And whether He chooses to send an eagle or a car mechanic, my job is to remember that the deliverance ultimately came from God.