Leadership

April 23, 2015

Jeremiah Ethics 3: Can Adventists Run with Horses?

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Written by: Duane Covrig
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I run 5k races and once I ran a 10k with my daughters (only because there was no 5k event).

I don’t run long races. I can’t handle it.

As such, God’s question to Jeremiah hits a sensitive spot:

“So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men,
what makes you think you can race against horses?” (Jeremiah 12:5, Message).

Weekend athletes take warning. God is calling us wimps!!!!

Adventists take notice. God is calling us to pick up the pace!

This is more than a call to get back on an exercise plan. There is something more at work with this question to Jeremiah than staying in shape. The call to run with the horses was a reference to Elijah.

By Jeremiah’s time, Elijah had become “the job description” for prophets. If you wanted to be a prophet, no one had a good list of what to expect, a statement of the payment options, or a good retirement package. Some prophesied once and got killed. Others could do 50 years telling truth to power. The best God could do for new prophets was reference the former ones. One of those was Elijah and for some reasons he became a standard for what a prophet could expect (except most caught on later to the fact that unlike Elijah, you could probably expect torture and death rather than a chariot ride).

Jeremiah I think figured this out. To run with the horses was God calling Jeremiah to stop whining and look to Elijah for his running orders (a pun intended). That next level included tough stuff: One had to speak truth to power, to bear down hard on false gods, to name the false thinking around the place as “stupid,” to take on the false prophets who were piling up hatred for you and project the flock. That takes more than a “Sunday afternoon jog” mentality.

You had to commit to run with horses.

The false prophets were like fat cats flush with the king’s resources and winning friends and popularity by their lying lips. False prophets have nice homes and good retirement accounts. They have acceptance. Not true prophets.

There was something different, better, but not easy.

1 Kings 18 and 19 suggests what that was:

“Elijah said to Ahab, “Up on your feet! Eat and drink—celebrate! Rain is on the way; I hear it coming.”

Ahab did it: got up and ate and drank. Meanwhile, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bowed deeply in prayer, his face between his knees. Then he said to his young servant, “On your feet now! Look toward the sea.”

He went, looked, and reported back, “I don’t see a thing.”

“Keep looking,” said Elijah, “seven times if necessary.”

And sure enough, the seventh time he said, “Oh yes, a cloud! But very small, no bigger than someone’s hand, rising out of the sea.”

“Quickly then, on your way. Tell Ahab, ‘Saddle up and get down from the mountain before the rain stops you.’”

Things happened fast. The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain, with Ahab hightailing it in his chariot for Jezreel. And God strengthened Elijah mightily. Pulling up his robe and tying it around his waist, Elijah ran in front of Ahab’s chariot until they reached Jezreel.” <Message Bible>

From Pastor Pauley’s blog: “There is an excellent lesson in humility here. After accurately predicting the downfall of Ahab’s kingdom, calling fire down from heaven and miraculously ending a drought that he had initiated, Elijah took the humble position of a runner before the king. Ahab on the other hand had a great man of God before him and never bothered to invite him into his chariot as the Ethiopian eunuch did for Philip. Ahab went on to self-destruct. Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind.”

The point is, that to run with horses is to be able to not only speak truth to power, but to love in radical service, even exhausting service, even when and especially when the very one’s you serve, won’t even see it. Ragged humility. No chariot rides. Just a lot of work for others who will rarely appreciate it.

Elijah was able to do the big stuff and the small stuff. He was able to kill the prophets and the next moment fill in as a front runner for the very king that would try to kill him.

Runners—who run by the hours and not the minutes—know a truth (at least I am told they do. Remember, I don’t run long races).  It is fun to take a nice jog. To run with horses mostly takes commitment…past comfort zones, past health craze zones, to a crazy zone, a place where only God and prayer and faith and truth can sustain you.

Being a prophet is never a nice jog and definitely not a pleasant job!!!

I have seen that.

I know a woman who has given her life for over 25 years to bring reform to her community, doing things I didn’t think are human can. She has brought change when the rest of us would-be reformers have long ago dropped off the pace.

I know a leader who faced heart attacks but faithfully kept leading anyway, trying to do the best for the people he was serving, often being misunderstood, criticized and even seen as an enemy.

I know a mother, juggling with a single-parent life, with kids with health problems who she loves dearly but she has to bark out orders as she is misunderstood by her own kids, even as she tries to lead them past the swamps to better places.

I visited a 7th grade teacher in his classroom one time. Decades in a junior high classroom had taken its toll. He was spastic, hard to follow, and a bit off the wall. When I visited, I saw he had learned to run with horses. He was a master at weaving learning for his 7th graders. He would snatch up their spastic and random questions and comments like a Golden Glove short stop and drill home meaning like a baseball throw to first base. It was amazing. Superhuman. Something you can only do when you run with horses.

I don’t know if he will ever recover from that commitment and its exhaustion!

Sometimes running with the horses ends up getting appreciated. I know another man who has given his life to help other research. It is not easy work. 12 books, 200 articles, and over 400 dissertations later, he is still running, as gentle and smart as ever, into his 70s. He just keeps a committed pace. Most admire it.

I wish we all would see the runners going ahead of us and appreciate them like he is appreciated.

All of them are in a crazy zone….where only God and commitment to serve can keep you running!!!!

Adventists, are we ready to run like that?

If suddenly no financial loans were available for our college students, would Adventists keep running colleges?

If suddenly all health care funding stopped, would Adventists keep doing health care?

Can we run with horses?

With prayer and commitment we could!!! God Help us!!!



About the Author

Duane Covrig
I teach leadership and ethics at Andrews University. I am a Seventh-day Adventist eager for the Second Coming of Christ and positive about His judgment hour work (Rev 14:6-12). I use that reality to understand morality and ethics.




One Comment


  1. […] My first three posts on Jeremiah’s contribution to an “Adventist” ethic reviewed the role of prophets as a moral irritation (post 1) to the status quo, as fostering a holy moral sobriety in the midst of ethical intoxication. Such a life requires deep courage (post 2) and  a steady moral faithfulness to serve others with endurance (post 3). […]



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