Running with Horses
"If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, Then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” - Jeremiah 12:5 NASB
I woke up with another song on my heart this morning. This time it was “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones. Just like last week, I haven’t listened to that song in years but immediately I saw the connection. I've been meditating on Jeremiah 12:5 ever since it stuck out to me last Sunday. I was reading a book (unrelated to horses) when the author quoted this verse. I don't even remember what he said about it, all that marked me about that moment was thinking, “Wow, that's an epic verse!” You see it got me amped up, I love big, crazy, warfare stuff in the Bible, it's what floats my boat and to me, this was that. It felt powerful. I want to compete with horses!
Then a few days later, after being blindsided as I was running alongside the footmen I realized that my understanding of this verse was limited at best. Yes, it's a wonderfully powerful word spoken to Jeremiah but at the time he received it, I'm sure it wasn’t exactly encouraging. You see Jeremiah was called to something, something huge, epic even. He was called to be a prophet to the nations—not his local congregation or friend group or the twenty people that read his posts on Facebook but the nations! That is a tall order!
So Jeremiah is chugging along, doing his prophet thing but it’s not going quite as he expected. His neighbors are threatening to kill him if he keeps prophesying what they don't want to hear and he grows discouraged. This man of God, this prophet to the nations starts to question the very One that recruited him to the cause.
This is where Jeremiah 12:5 comes to play, it is God's answer to Jeremiah's questions. This wonderfully epic, amped-up verse came to a man who is questioning his purpose and feeling down and out. God's reply to Jeremiah's questions is a far cry from his recruitment promise back in Jeremiah 1:8 where God tells him, “Don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you.”
I want to take a minute to stop here and level with you. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what I am supposed to be writing about but quite honestly I don’t know how. I am still in the middle of learning this lesson. I’m writing this to myself just as much as I am writing it to you. I'm still struggling with my race with the footmen and recently I grew tired. I was like Jeremiah and wanted to quit. I wanted the future that I felt like I was promised and I wanted it to play out the way that I had expected.
Here is the thing about Jeremiah's story though, that feel-good encouragement at the beginning was precisely for moments like this. When God commissioned him in Jeremiah 1, He told him, “Don't be afraid of the people.” I wonder if Jeremiah got caught up on the “prophet to the nations” bit and missed the part where he was told that the people would be scary. I mean come on, what is the point of saying do not be afraid if there wasn't going to be a temptation to fear?
See, oftentimes we want to hear the encouraging thing. We want to be talked off the edge of quitting. We want the promise of health and prosperity and blessings. Are those there? Absolutely, but we are also promised hardship, persecution, and difficulty along the way. The recruitment promises are meant to keep us going through the difficult seasons.
Jeremiah didn't know it but this wasn't the hardest obstacle that he was going to face, there was a whole lot more opposition coming his way. He didn't need to be coddled; he needed to be reminded of the magnitude of his calling. There were horses coming, it was time to buck up and learn to run well here, with the opposition that he was currently facing. There was no quick fix; there was no bear coming out of the forest and mauling his enemies. There was difficulty because he needed to grow! He needed to get back up and keep moving forward. This was a training ground for the trials to come.
Whether you are in a land of peace or trudging through the thicket, you are in training for your next trial. They will come, it rains on the just and the unjust but without rain what hope is there of growth?
Which brings me back to the Rolling Stones, there is one line in the song that keeps ringing in my ears: “Wild horses couldn't drag me away.” What a grandiose promise! I get it, I feel that way about my own set of things, my husband, my children, my Jesus! There is no turning back, there is no plan B, there is no do-over. I'm in it, one hundred percent, all the way, ride or die. Wild horses couldn't drag me away.
But what about rejection? Weariness? Distraction? Complacency? Fear? If these footmen problems tire me out I'm never going to make it to the horses!
This is not the platform and right now is not the time to dive into biblical prophecy. I know that many of us come to the table with differing views on what the end is going to look like and how it’s going to play out. One thing I believe we can all agree on though is that it's not going to get any better. I've read the end of the book, we win but it gets dark on the way to the victory. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but in the future the horses are coming and it's not a good idea to start training for the race in the middle of it.
Right now is the time to prepare, right now is the time to run well, and to build up endurance. If you grow tired do not despair because we have a wonderful promise that applies, Isaiah 40:31 promises that He will renew our strength, which is all well and good but this puts me in mind of God's promise to Jeremiah to not be afraid. I think we can get caught up on the “wings of eagles” portion and miss out on the fact that in order for something to be renewed it must first be depleted.
You are not going to be able to do this in your own strength. If I've grown tired while running with the footmen (which I have), there is no way that I will be able to hold my own in the race against the horses but God can and God will! That is our promise to hold on to. Yes, the horses are coming but when you reach the end of yourself, there is supernatural strength that will renew you if you don't give up, if you don't turn back, if you keep moving forward despite being tired, despite being scared, despite being rejected and persecuted.
One more warfare verse and I am finished: Revelation 12:11, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” I love the overcoming, triumphant promise of these words! We win! The devil is defeated! Oohrah! He is defeated because of the blood of the Lamb and the testimony of the saints who are not afraid to die for the cause. I want that tenacity! But am I willing to live for it now? Am I willing to keep going in the face of my footmen problems and choose to be molded through them rather than sidelined by them?
It's time, beloved, to learn to keep pace with the footmen so when the horses come, and they will come, that we can endure until the end.
Written by Amanda Strauser