R3 Alliance | Run with the Horses, By Eugene H. Peterson
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Run with the Horses, By Eugene H. Peterson

Run with the Horses, By Eugene H. Peterson

So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men,

what makes you think you can race against horses?

And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm,

what’s going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?  Jeremiahs 12:5  (The Message)

We continue to have an unquenchable thirst for wholeness, a hunger for righteousness.  When we get thoroughly disgusted with the shams and cretins that are served up to us daily as celebrities, some of us turn to Scripture to satisfy our need for someone to look up to.  What does it mean to be a real man, a real woman?  What shape does mature, authentic humanity take in everyday life?

When we do turn to Scripture for help in this matter we are apt to be surprised. One of the first things that strikes us about the men and women in Scripture is that they were disappointingly non-heroic.  We do not find splendid moral examples.  We do not find impeccably virtuous models.  That always comes as a shock to newcomers to Scripture: Abraham lied; Jacob cheated; Moses murdered and complained; David commit adultery; Peter blasphemed.

The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original.  God’s creative genius is endless.  He never, fatigued and unable to maintain the rigors of creativity, resorts to mass-producing copies.  Each life is a fresh canvas on which he uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportions that he has never used before.  We see what is possible:  anyone and everyone is able to live a zestful life that spills out of the stereotyped containers that a sin-inhibited society provides.

The terrible threat against life, in the book God Is Not Yet Dead, is not death, nor pain, nor any variation on the disasters that we so obsessively try to protect ourselves against with our social systems and personal stratagems.  The terrible threat is “that we might die earlier than we really do die, before death has become a natural necessity.  The real horror lies in just such a premature death, a death after which we go on living for many years.”

“So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses?  And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?  (Jer. 12:5).  Biochemist Erwin Chargaff updates the questions: “What do you want to achieve?  Greater riches?  Cheaper chicken?  A happier life, a longer life?  Is it power over your neighbors that you are after?  Are you only running away from your death?  Or are you seeking greater wisdom, deeper piety?”  Are you going to live cautiously or courageously?

Jeremiah, I called you to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living and promised you adequate strength to fulfill your destiny.  Now at the first sign of difficulty you are ready to quit.  If you are fatigued by this run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence?  What is it you really want, Jeremiah?  Do you want to shuffle along with this crowd, or run with the horses?

There are two interlaced convictions that characterize a prophet.  The first conviction is that God is personal and alive and active.  The second conviction is that what is going on right now, is this world at this time in history, is critical.  A prophet is obsessed with God, and a prophet is immersed in the now.

A prophet lets people know who God is and what he is like, what he says and what he is doing.  A prophet wakes us up from our sleepy complacency so that we see the great and stunning drama that is our existence, and then pushes us onto the stage playing our parts whether we think we are ready or not.  A prophet angers us by rejecting our euphemisms and ripping off our disguises, then dragging our heartless attitudes and selfish motives out into the open where everyone sees them for what they are.  A prophet makes everything and everyone seem significant and important—important because God made it, or him, or her, significant because God is actively, right now, using it, or him, or her.  A prophet makes it difficult to continue with a sloppy or selfish life.

Jeremiah didn’t like any of it, but he wasn’t afraid of it because the most important thing in his life was God—not comfort, not applause, not security, but the living God.  What he did fear was worship without astonishment, religion without commitment.  He feared getting what he wanted and missing what God wanted.  It is still the only thing worthy of our fear.

What a waste it would be to take these short, precious, eternity-charged years that we are given and squander them in cocktail chatter when we can be, like Jeremiah, vehemently human and passionate with God.

(Selected excerpts from Run with the Horses, by Eugene Peterson)