Books of Bible
Contending With Horses
By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs
"If thou hast run with footmen, and they have
wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and though
in a land of peace thou art secure, yet how wilt thou do in the
pride of the Jordan!" (Jer. 12:5).
Jeremiah was born into privilege. He was of the priestly
class and that gave him standing and influence. He was reared
in the quiet little town of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.
This was one of thirteen cities Joshua assigned to the children
of Aaron when Canaan was occupied by the Jews and the land was
divided among the various tribes of Jacob (Joshua 21:17-18). The
city was occupied by priestly families as they waited their turn
to serve at the tabernacle, and later at the temple. It must have
been a very peaceful town. The citizens of Anathoth devoted themselves
to a study of the law of God so they would be able to officiate
at the temple, or perform whatever the Mosaic Code required of
them. The people of the town, therefore, would be scholarly and
mainly interested in matters of the spirit. Jeremiah grew up in
that kind of atmosphere. When he was still a very young man (he
says he was "a child") God gave him a commission to
prophesy doom and desolation to the land of Judah. He was appointed
to "pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant"(Jer. 1:6-8).
Jeremiah did his work with valor and vigor. He went
up and down the land condemning the people for indecent behavior
at their idolatrous feasts, festivals and functions. He accused
them of playing the harlot under every green tree and upon every
high hill. He condemned their backsliding as unexampled. His preaching
caused the people to feel shame because their conduct was so shameful.
Jeremiah opened his mouth to rebuke a sinful nation.
And they hated him for it! People like to be complimented and
encouraged, but Jeremiah saw nothing to praise. He spoke only
stinging words of condemnation. The people of the land despised
the bold but weeping prophet. They wished him dead. Even the priestly
families of Anathoth regarded him with heartfelt loathing. They,
too, cherished a death wish for the brokenhearted prophet. They
wanted Jeremiah to keep his mouth shut; and if he must speak,
they wanted to hear only charming and positive things from his
"Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning the
men of Anathoth that seek thy life, saying, Thou shalt not prophesy
in the name of Jehovah, that thou die not by our hand" (Jer.
1 1:2 1). The message was plain; stop rebuking us or die! That
must have been tough for Jeremiah to take. To be detested by one's
own people and to be abhorred by one's own class is an uncomfortable
and unbearable plight. Jeremiah's situation was made even more
insupportable when his own family turned against him and joined
the howling mob as they hounded the prophet and demanded his death.
"For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even
they have dealt treacherously with thee: believe them not though
they speak fair words unto thee" (Jer. 12:6).
Jehovah forewarned his servant, Jeremiah, that the
days ahead would be far more difficult and his sufferings far
greater than the misery already endured. The Lord said to his
prophet, if running with the foot soldiers has made you tired,
what will you do when you have to contend with horses? Jeremiah
would find the coming days to be darker and the burdens to be
borne heavier and the opposition more fierce than anything he
had encountered up until now. God wanted him to get ready.
Preaching To Be Popular
It is nice to be accepted. It is agony to be rejected.
The desire to be popular, approved, praised, celebrated and in
demand has caused more than one preacher to tremble and compromise
his message. There is nothing wrong with being popular. Jesus,
at one stage of his earthly career, was immensely popular. It
is one thing to preach and be popular and a very different thing
to preach in order to be popular.
The preacher who makes popularity his ambition is
sure to be a traitor to God and the gospel. Paul said those having
"itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their
own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn
aside unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:3,4). The price for popularity
is preaching fables instead of truth. The herald of the King of
Glory who would curry the favor of men must descend to the level
of a court jester. He must make of himself nothing more than a
joke teller and a dealer in vain human philosophy. He has so much
to tell yet tells so little: that, having eternal truth to deliver,
he spews perishable nonsense.
The truth of God has never been popular at least,
not for very long. It is usually with the remnant; error and evil
are with the majority. Only Lot's family was saved when Sodom
was destroyed; only eight human souls survived the flood; only
two of the adults who came out of Egypt entered Canaan. Most people
are like the Hellenistic Jews who heard the truth from the loyal
Stephen and "cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their
ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; and cast him out of
the city, and stoned him" (Acts 7:57, 58).
Unto this second and third generation of the heirs
of the mighty plea to restore the ancient order "is fulfilled
the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear,
and shall in no wise understand; and by seeing ye shall see, and
shall in no wise perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross,
and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed"
"Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is
the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and
many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and
straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that
find it" (Matt. 7:13,14). Jesus ended the parable of the
marriage feast and the slighted invitation by saying, "Many
are called, but few chosen" (Matt. 22:14).
Sad! Heartbreaking! Tragic! But it has ever been
true that the minorities have been on the Lord's side while multitudes
bow down to Baal. "Truth forever on the scaffold; Wrong forever
on the throne." It is the unwelcome and hard task of gospel
preachers to ring out words that cut and pierce. For the discerning
few who fall prostrate in the dust and confess their sins, there
is hope. The good news is that the lamb has been slain and there
is salvation for all (Titus 2:1 1). The salvation, however, is
conditional. God forgives if we confess (I John 1:9). The salvation
offered in the great commission is contingent upon belief and
baptism (Mark 16:16). We must be born of water and spirit, or
we cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5). We must be
willing to die for the cause of truth and righteousness, if we
would wear a crown in heaven (Rev. 2:10). God's spiritual blessings
have always been given on condition. No man was ever blessed on
account of his faith until that faith manifested itself in an
overt act of obedience. Those who obey receive overflowing joy
and deep inner peace. The gifts of God are marvelous and thrill
the soul. The majority of the people of earth will never bow before
the King of Glory until they are compelled to do so in the time
of final judgment (Phil. 2:9-11). But their confession and obeisance
will come too late and will work to their everlasting shame and
What the world needs is more prophets cut out of
the same cloth as Elijah and John the baptist. "Ring out
the watchword; silence it never!" We must have preachers
who care more for right than they care for popularity. Ezekiel
was sent to the chosen people of God; he was not sent to men outside
of the house of Israel. God said to the prophet: Behold, I have
made thy face hard against their faces, and thy forehead hard
against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have
I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their
looks, though they are a rebellious house. Moreover he said unto
me, Son of man, all my words that I speak unto thee receive in
thy heart, and hear with thine ears. And go, get thee to them
of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto
them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; whether they
will hear, or whether they will forbear" (Ezek. 3:8-11).
God said to the courageous Ezekiel, You are going
to have to be hardheaded and tough. Do not be afraid of these
sinners. They will look at you through their eyebrows, but be
not dismayed. They may cast baleful looks in your direction, but
don't let that deter you. You do what you are sent to do and say
what you have been told to say. It does not make any difference
as to whether they hear you or refuse to hear you, you speak the
words that I have given you. Your message is, "Thus saith
the Lord Jehovah." "Whether they hear, or whether they
forbear" they will at least know that there has been a prophet
among them. Jeremiah and all the prophets had the same commission.
It may be as hard as contending with horses, but it must be done.
As the cup of the world's iniquity reaches the brim and overflows,
God will be the more denied and ridiculed and his truth dragged
in the mud. The few who hold to unadulterated truth will be scorned
and laughed at; the minorities who cling to the old paths and
walk in the narrow way will have to contend with horses. Friend,
the cavalry of the enemy is coming! Get ready! Stand fast! Watch
ye! Be strong like men!
Encouragement and Help
The servant of the Lord has the unfailing assurance
that he will be gathered to his grave in peace. He has the encouragement
of knowing that God bends a loving eye over his chosen people.
They therefore can cast all their cares upon him (I Pet. 5:7).
Nothing will be too hard for them to endure and no sacrifice too
great. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as man
can bear: but God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted
above which ye are able; but will with the temptation make also
the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it" (1 Cor.
This verse does not promise some kind of fantastic
and supernatural assistance to children of God who are tempted.
The passage is not saying that when temptation has boxed you in,
and cornered you, that you will be given some kind of marvelous
relief and that a door will unaccountably appear through which
you can flee to safety. Paul is teaching that Jesus defeated Satan
at Calvary, and when the Living Hope of a lost world went back
to his home in glory, "he led captivity captive" (Eph.
4:8). Jesus bound the Devil and will keep Satan in chains until
the end of this age (Rev. 20:2). In the first century, the supernatural
power of God was demonstrated to be greater than the supernatural
power of the devil. Having won the contest, God named the terms
of surrender. He restricted and limited himself to working within
the confines of natural law and placed the same restriction and
limitation on Satan.
God will not allow you to be tempted supernaturally
today so that supernatural power would be required to overcome
the temptation. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you
to be tempted above that which ye are able." No temptation
will come upon you that is greater than you can bear. That is,
you will not be tempted supernaturally, but will only have to
face and deal with temptations such as other men have faced and
defeated by use of their natural powers. You can handle it! That
is the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13. You may have to contend
with horses, but you can do it! We may sometimes, like Cain, cry
out, "My punishment is greater than I can bear." But
the answer is, "No! You can bear it! And you must bear it!
Paul wrote, "I can do all things in him that
strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). This is a much abused and
often misunderstood statement. Paul is not saying that he could
do impossible things. There are some things even Almighty God
cannot do. He cannot lie! He cannot deny himself! He cannot violate
the limitations he has imposed upon himself! He cannot destroy
the world by a flood! He cannot do anything that contradicts his
nature, or that is self-contradictory. Omnipotence may have its
limitations. Otherwise, it is not omnipotence. If one says God
cannot limit himself, what does that do to God's power to limit
himself? How sad that well-intended people have taken this verse
to mean that we can pay debts without money and have therefore
contracted obligations they could not possibly discharge. How
tragic that these words have been used to promote some impossible
dream or grandiose, impractical scheme. Visionaries point to Paul's
words in order to beat a drum for some absurd exaggeration.
No, friend, the apostle is not saying that we can
leap over tall buildings at a single bound, or that we can outrun
on foot a speeding train. All Paul is saying is that he could
endure what he had to endure, and to suffer what he had to suffer.
Notice the context, "I know how to be abased, and I know
also how to abound: In everything and in all things have I learned
the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound
and to be in want." And then he said, "I can do all
things in him that strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:12,13).
To acknowledge that some things are unrealistic or
even impossible is not to be without faith in the promises of
God, but is to admit the obvious. Still, whatever burden we have
to bear, whatever cross we have to carry, we shoulder it wordlessly
and march on. God gives sufficient strength for us to do what
we have to do. We can contend with horses, if we have to. Trouble
is fearful only to the extent it strikes fear into us. "And
let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall
reap, if we faint not" (Gal. 6:9). Make no mistake about
it. God does not promise us exemption from disappointment, misery,
sickness, persecution, pain, dissolution and death, if we follow
him. But to the profound reverse, he does promise that our faithfulness
will bring down on us grief and suffering.
"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a
servant above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple that he
be as his teacher, and the servant as his Lord. If they have called
the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household!
Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall
not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell
you in the darkness, speak ye in the light; and what ye hear in
the ear, proclaim upon the housetops. And be not afraid of them
that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather
fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt.
John may have to languish in prison and eventually
have his head cut off, but God lives and his promises have not
failed. Peter is released from jail and from danger, but James
suffers martyrdom. Stephen is stoned to death, while Paul is stoned
and lives. The Bible is telling us that it matters not at all
whether we live or whether we die -- the important thing is how
did we live and how did we die. If for you to live is Christ,
death is gain (Phil. 1:21). If you die without a tremble and in
the assurance of a confident faith and living hope, then death
is not death, but is victory. No matter how you die, you are gathered
to your fathers and to your grave in peace. "Christ hath
Here is a precious promise: Are not two sparrows
sold for a penny? and not one of them shall fall on the ground
without your Father: but the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Every
one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also
confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall
deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who
is in heaven (Matt. 10:29-33).
That gives us power to contend with horses and to
endure what must be endured! Notice: the sparrow falls; God's
love does not prevent that. Jesus is simply saying that God knows
about it. He doesn't keep it from happening. He knows everything
about us, even the number of hairs on our head. He knows if we
are faithful and true; he knows it we suffer and are mistreated
and abused; he knows if our hearts are breaking within us; he
knows if we must contend with horses; he knows about it all! he
knows! And his promise is, "Confess me and I will confess
you before my Father who is in heaven and before all his holy
angels." And that promise gives us peace, both in life and
God does not promise us that if we will follow him
he will put us under a glass and never allow any bad thing to
happen to us. If that was the promise, then many people would
follow him for the loaves and the fishes. God does not promise
that we will never be stoned and left for dead, nor beaten with
forty stripes save one, nor beaten with rods, nor suffer shipwreck,
nor be hungry and thirsty, nor be sick, nor suffer, nor have to
be in peril among false brethren, nor have to contend with horses.
He only promises that "our strength will be as our day, and
the toils of the road will seem nothing, when we get to the end
of the way." The trials and tribulations and frustrations,
the disappointments and defeats, will pale into nothingness when
we stand before the King and hear him say, "Father, this
is my brother; he lived for me and thereby confessed me before
men; I confess him now in your holy presence and will that he
should have a fadeless crown and a translucent robe." And
we shall hear him say, "Come up here, my child, and sit down
with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and sat down with
my Father in his throne."