The Legs of a Man

The Legs of a Man

Photo by Jura on Unsplash

The Lord does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. (Psalm 147:10)

No pleasure?…

Like many of you, I plan on watching the Olympics this summer. And I confess, I will be ‘taking pleasure in the legs of a man’. (Yes, and of a woman too.) Those powerful bodies! Trained and tuned and fuelled by determined spirits! And the youth! The beauty and grace. The soft, smooth skin. The responsiveness of those limbs to the mind’s requests!

Is it true that the Lord takes no delight in a beautiful body? No delight in human strength, athletic or otherwise, and the mental determination behind that strength?

Obviously the Lord does take pleasure in these things. He made us – in His image and likeness! In fact He likens His love-at-work (pictured as the sun) to a strong man running a race across the sky.

In [the heavens] He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race. (Psalm 19:4-5)

He pairs here the image of a strong man running a race with that of a bridegroom emerging from the canopy under which he was wed – exuberant, joyful, his face aglow with love for his bride.

In the book Heaven and its Wonders and Hell, Swedenborg speaks of the fact that after death, our bodies return to a youthful condition.

Those who are in heaven are continually advancing towards the spring of life, with a greater advance towards a more joyful and happy spring the more thousands of years they live. … Women who have died old and worn out with age, if they have lived in faith in the Lord, in charity to the neighbour, and in happy marriage love with a husband, advance with the succession of years more and more into the flower of youth and early womanhood, and into a beauty that transcends every conception of any such beauty as is seen on the earth. Goodness and charity are what impart this form and thus manifest their own likeness, causing the joy and beauty of charity to shine forth from every least particular of the face, and causing them to be the very forms of charity. … In a word, to grow old in heaven is to grow young. (Heaven and Hell 414)

Why would this happen if the Lord took no pleasure in youth and in the beauty of a working body?

So what is Psalm 147 speaking of when it says that the Lord takes no pleasure in the legs of a man? The message in context is:

The Lord does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy. (Psalm 147.10-11)

The message is about self-reliance that shuts out the Lord vs. humility and God-centredness that are open to His leading. The Lord takes no pleasure in bodies that are tuned only to bring self-glory. He takes no pleasure in efforts and actions that don’t allow Him to bring His blessing to others through them. Such self-reliant efforts limit the happiness He longs to give!

We will undoubtedly be seeing displays of both humility and of conceit in Olympic athletes this summer. Of course, it is touching when the Lord is given credit. But even when He is not, those youthful bodies and their amazing feats are pictures of an ideal in which the Lord takes pleasure and in which we can take pleasure. They are pictures of the power and intensity, grace and beauty of the Lord’s love and wisdom, marvellously at work in a human being. They are pictures of the potential and promise, inherent in the human spirit and heart, when it turns to the Lord – turns with striving and discipline to receive His life!