I’ve never ridden a horse. And I don’t intend to get on one anytime soon. In fact, I often joke about saving my first horseback ride for the return of Christ. If I read the Scriptures rightly, the elect of God shall be gathered from the corners of Heaven and arrive with Him on flying steeds. An old Daniel Amos song spoke of the “Posse in the Sky” that will surely come down.
Yes, flying horses are a part of what we believe. Is this so unusual? Such a thing fits quite nicely with the virgin birth of our Savior, the water turned to wine, the five loaves and two fish that fed five thousand, the great fish that swallowed Jonah, and the mud that made a man born blind able to see, etc.
The Bible speaks of horses as symbols of strength and speed and action. Horsepower was something of note long before the muscle cars — think Ford Mustang, Chevy Corvette, and Dodge Viper — came rolling off Detroit’s assembly lines. Ancient empires measured their military might by horses and chariots – these were the cutting edge instruments of war at those times.
Pharaoh led his well-armored chariots as they galloped toward the millions of Israelites who were hemmed in at the Red Sea. His short-term memory should have told him to let those people go given that his kingdom was in ruins from the plagues put upon it by God. But he was blinded by the might at his disposal. He numbered his horses and chariots and became puffed up all over again.
Down into the parted sea, Pharaoh sent his forces. And then the Lord closed the waters over them. Carcasses of man and beast washed ashore, giving evidence to the power of the God of Israel. Not long afterward, music burst from the throng of former slaves who were made free. They sang of the Lord’s glorious triumph and of “the horse and rider thrown into the sea.”
Would Israel remember this? Not really.
King Solomon, contrary to the warnings in Deuteronomy, collected horses as he multiplied wives. By most accounts, this wisest and wealthiest of kings had hundreds of stalls scattered throughout the kingdom of Israel. He once acquired a particularly impressive animal from Egypt and a deluxe chariot to go with it. Solomon enjoyed his stylish rides. It seems he failed to take note of his father David’s song that said, “A horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength” (Psalms 33:17).
Isaiah preached to a nation that had lost sight of God and His power in its midst. He referred to the people as rebellious, lying children “unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord.” Return to the Lord and find rest, the prophet told them. Quietness and confidence in Him are true strength was the message.Lives spent so fast and so furiously can come to sad, abrupt ends. Click To Tweet
Did they heed Isaiah’s words? “No!” They said. “We will flee upon horses. … We will ride upon swift steeds.” See Isaiah 30 for the full account.
Horses are elegant, beautiful, powerful beasts. This is the time of year when the fastest of them compete in America’s Triple Crown races — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. Wealthy owners enter their finest thoroughbreds in these celebrated contests. These events are full of pomp and partying that go on for hours and days. The races themselves are over in about 2 minutes. Trophies are hoisted, jockeys and trainers feted. It’s show time for the rich and famous.
At times, however, these races expose the fragility of the horse. Numerous steeds have pushed their bodies at paces beyond their limits. Sudden fractures bring some down to the turf and to a misery that demands their humane destruction. Lives spent so fast and so furiously can come to sad, abrupt ends.
There’s something horse-like about us, isn’t there? Made in God’s image, we possess strength and beauty and intelligence on a natural level. Too often, we rely on these elements of who we are, and this leads to trouble.
Consider the following counsels from the book of Psalms:
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright” (Psalm 20:7-8).
“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man” (Psalm 147:10).
It is God’s delight to confound the strong with weak, small things – a smooth stone, a hymn sung by prisoners, a simple Carpenter from Nazareth. It is His pleasure to run laps around intelligent ones with the words of foolish preachers, such as Stephen, Philip, Amos, Elijah, Peter, and John.
Our natural strengths require guidance and control. Muscle needs mastery.
Just ask Samson. His body and passions ruled him. We read of his remarkable triumphs in the book of Judges. His tore a lion apart, slew hundreds with a jawbone, and carried city gates of large stone on his shoulders for miles – up a hill. But Delilah cajoled him and plied him until he slept on her lap. His loose lips would sink him. He wound up weak, blind, and in chains.
How did Samson let this happen? It seems he had no true friends and none to teach him discernment. He followed his whims and wishes into a woman’s arms and, ultimately, into the hands of the Philistines, the enemies of his people.
A pastor and a church may have been a great help to someone like Samson. Spirit-fueled instruction and the experience of the presence of the Lord encourage our hearts and settle our minds into convictions. And convictions serve to form character and competence.
The horse in each of us needs to be led by the Holy Spirit. The still, small voice of God can direct us like the rider guides the horse with bit and bridle. We can be shown the way in our talking and in our actions.
Let’s learn to sing as the Israelite sang:
“The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2).