A proverb like this one is sometimes read as though it dismisses one thing in favor of another.
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD. (Proverbs 21:31 NRSV)
By this understanding, the cavalryman’s preparation of the horse against the mortal engagement that awaits is seen as futile, because YHWH does it all anyway.
The is almost certainly not what the proverb intends.
Rather than pit A against B in a win-lose sprint towards understanding, the proverb places A in a new context. A second reality shows the first truth’s genuine colors in ways that it cannot display by itself.
By this reading, the hard work of planning and preparation—for battle or for anything else—is honored, but not praised. It is not given the prize of Prime Mover of anything good that happens, in this case ‘victory’
Rather, we are helped to see that victory would not come if the horse had not been made ready. Planning and preparation make other things possible. YHWH gives the victory precisely to the well-prepared horse and his horsemen. They do not win it for themselves.
So does the realism of biblical wisdom credit both human agency and divine providence. It does not imagine that true clarity lies in collapsing them into just one or just the other.
This is not a kind of created reality that can be manipulated by human beings. It does not give itself up to mechanical claims of causality, especially of human causality.
Rather, it urges us to prepare, for the sluggard is the one who lies around all day and paves his own highway to poverty.
Yet it liberates us also from the delusion that we are the makers of today or of tomorrow.
To the stables, then. There are horses to be shod.