Run with the Horses
Out of all the prophets in the Bible, I have a special place in my heart for Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was chosen for a difficult task. He was told that he would be a prophet to the nations. Like anyone who was chosen for something that they never asked for, Jeremiah was unsure of his calling. He told the Lord that he was “too young.”
It turns out God doesn’t really care about our age or our ability. God chooses who he chooses when he decides to choose them. Abraham was chosen to be a father of nations at the age of 100 and Jeremiah was chosen to be a prophet in his youth.
There is no perfect time for God to tell us He has work for us to do.
The Lord put his words into Jeremiah’s mouth, and asked him to speak truth to the kings of Judah, its officials, its priest and the people of the land. The Lord shared it wouldn't be easy. He tells Jeremiah that they will fight against him, but he will not be overcome. God will be with him.
Jeremiah obeys and in time grows weary from speaking and not feeling heard. He comes back to the Lord and desires to speak with Him about his sense of justice.
The Lord replies: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?”(Jeremiah 12:5)
One of my favorite verses since I was little is in Jeremiah.
It’s one of those verses that is overly quoted and etched onto pillows and graphic design prints. It goes like this:
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
God is actually speaking to the nation of Israel, but it’s hard not to feel that this message is meant for you and me. It’s hard not to gravitate to the good news of this verse. The good news that there is a hope and a future. Because of that, we often miss the first part of the story.
This verse is actually part of a letter that was sent to the surviving elders, priests, prophets and more that were carried into exile from Jerusalem into Babylon.
At the beginning of this letter, God encourages those in exile to get comfortable where they are – in a land that is not their own. He tells them to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters.” (Jeremiah 29:6-7)
He pretty much tells them to sit tight – your exile is going to be awhile, so you might as well embrace it.
Jeremiah’s words were not tidings of great joy to the Jewish people. The last thing they wanted to hear was that they were going to be far from home for a while, especially when a number of false prophets had been telling the Jewish people the exile would be over soon.
God’s message through Jeremiah was very different. He shared there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but that tunnel was going to be a long and winding road.
It was the truth – and it was exactly what no one wanted to hear.
I find the first part of the letter to the exiles oddly comforting.
That in the midst of waiting, God calls his people to make themselves at home. Enjoy life. Pray for the prosperity of the world around you. Plant a garden. Sit tight.
God shares that hope is coming, but it’s not on our timeline. It’s on His.
Ugh. That is a hard pill to swallow – to be called to live in the present and also abide in the hope of the future. To hold the tension between what is and what will be in our hands.
That’s why I love Jeremiah. He was not popular or especially well liked, but he was faithful. He was obedient to God and told people the truth, even when they didn't want to hear it.
They call Jeremiah the “weeping prophet” because of the amount of trials and persecution he endured – and how honest he was to God about it.
When Jeremiah complains to God in chapter 12, it could be easy to see God as mocking Jeremiah when the Lord asks: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?”
I don't believe God mocks us. If anyone understands rejection, it is Him.
I can’t help but see God asking this question of Jeremiah with love and a sad sort of understanding in His eyes: What do you really want Jeremiah? My path is not easy, and my burden is not light. Do you want to run with the horses or not?
From the beginning, God invited Jeremiah into a life that was greater than He could accomplish on his own. Jeremiah told the Israelites what they didn’t want to hear and what they most needed to hear. God does the same for Jeremiah.
In the end, Jeremiah chose to stay the course. He ran with the horses.