At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.”Proverbs 21:22
A certain kind of power, or wealth, or might, is the kind that you can see with your eyes, or rap on with your knuckles. It is evident, physical, and manifest. And for many, this is all the information they need to conduct their calculations. People look at the number of the troops arrayed against them and say, “That settles it. Might as well recognize the inevitable.”
But wisdom knows how to scale a wall. Not only so, but wisdom can scale the walls of a mighty city. What the wise do in this instance is that they cast down the strength of their confidence—which is what they were relying on. Put another way, the hubris that arises from apparent strength is the weakness of perceived strength. This is quite different from the strength of perceived weakness (2 Cor. 12:10).
In 1863, during the American Civil War, before the disastrous battle of Chancellorsville, the Union general Hooker said, “Gentlemen, if I can plant my army there, God Almighty can’t drive me out.” This is the kind of statement that Nebuchadnezzar made upon the walls of Babylon, right before he went into bovine mode. It is the kind of statement attributed to a complacent person before the Titanic disaster—“God Himself couldn’t sink this ship.”
At any rate, when Hooker had his position, not only was he driven out, and defeated, but this was done by Lee’s 60,000 men against Hooker’s 130,000.
Confidence is a mojo thing, and once the mighty are rattled, everything can start to go to pieces. I think of the waning days of the Soviet empire, when they, a nuclear superpower, went up against Boris Yeltsin, holed up in a house. A mighty superpower against one Russian with a drinking problem. But the thing about that mojo is, when it goes, it’s gone.
The wise are those who can see this beforehand, and who know what to do. As Peter Drucker once put it, you should be able to see the future that has already happened.