Contending With Horses


Contending With Horses


The passage before us sees a complaint by Jeremiah to the Lord. The complaint is not one of disrespect but one of reason. Many years earlier Isaiah the prophet wrote of God’s desire to reason with the people,

Isaiah 1:18 

18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 

And so we see here in the passage Jeremiah’s desire laid out before the Lord as he ‘talks with him of his judgments. And what he speaks to the Lord of is not unreasonable, for it is these very wicked who have grieved him.

From verses 1 to 4 is Jeremiah’s complaint to God;

Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins. But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.

No doubt this might be a complaint that many of us have had from time to time. We are limited in our understanding and knowledge however and so we wonder how it is that the wicked seem to prosper, and they often do so at our loss.

Keep your finger here, but turn to Psalm 73.

It was Asaph who wrote Psalm 73 with this same question, testifying that he almost lost his footing for the envy he had for the prosperity of the wicked;

Psalm 73:1–6 

Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. 

Asaph continues for ten more verses in his musings against how this can be, UNTIL he decides to go before the Lord, and it was then he understood their end;

Psalm 73:17–20 

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. 19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. 20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. 

So we see that the prosperity of the wicked will not last. In comparison to eternity, their luxury and triumph over all that is good, is gone in a moment before the terror of eternity wakens them. Hell will turn their temporal dream into an everlasting nightmare.

So, for four verses we see Jeremiah enquire before the Lord, and then we are blessed by him sharing with us God’s own response in the next two verses of the paragraph;

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan? For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee. Jeremiah 12:1-6

I am confident this is the Lord’s own response to Jeremiah as it is the only way the passage can be reconciled and God continues his discourse for the balance of the chapter.

Four points I pray might both challenge and encourage you this morning;

Weakened By False Expectation

Worn Down By Self Abasement

Wearied By The Footmen

Contending With Horses

Weakened By False Expectation

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

I am only going to be dealing with the first portion of the fifth verse this morning and see if we can both glean that which is on the surface, but also just under the surface.

I am concerned that there are some among us but also many who might hear this message online who are struggling with some of the troubles of life more than they need to be. I am concerned that if this is the case when the trials of life are relatively moderate, how will you “contend with horses”? how will you deal with matters that intensify our trouble?

I am not only speaking of the political climate of the day and what we might see coming on the near horizon, I am talking about any given tragedy that might come personally.

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

Clearly there was an expectation of comfort in life by Jeremiah. He had not thought to ever prepare himself to “run with the footmen” and so found himself wearied by the effort.

Jeremiah was called by God to speak unto the people of God. The Lord had promised to be with him and to put the words into his mouth. Jeremiah was concerned he might be too young, but the Lord corrected the notion (Jer 1:6-7).

Yet there seems to have been in him a representation of the typical ideas that plague those who are in youth, that life itself would have great comforts. No doubt Jeremiah may have expected that the people would simply listen to him as he told them “THUS SAITH THE LORD”, but they didn’t, in fact, they persecuted him for his words.

The young have always been this way, but it is possibly more apparent today.

They are the first generation to have received a “participation awards”, first in sports and finally in their high school certificates. This is testified to by the fact that “no child is left behind”, everyone passes, even if they failed.

Leaving school; there is an expectation that the dream job they have trained for will simply open their doors for them. And just like their school years, they don’t expect they need to perform in their work to retain their jobs.

This False Expectation however continues to be reinforced in other areas of their lives even if the reality of a job that expects people to work and perform, has scuffed those Rose Colored Glasses.

Their friends are also experiencing the same things and so, in complaining to one another they feel justified that the fault is NOT THEM! They are unfairly treated and so the cycle of false expectations continue.

We are a generation that simply likes being lied to. We prefer it to the truth. We want to believe all is well with the world and tomorrow shall be as today but more prosperous.

But this is not new to the 21st century, Isaiah wrote of it 2700 years ago,writing of the rebellious people of his day who prefer lies to truth;

Isaiah 30:10 

1Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: 

Sadly the majority of the Churches today are actually encouraging such behavior, they match those whom Paul was writing of in;

2 Timothy 4:3–4 

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Beloved what do you do then when real life hits you? What happens when REALITY whispers its voice? What will you do if REALITY SHOUTS at you?

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

You can wrongly temper metal increasing its hardness but also making it brittle.

Many Christians today are Weakened by False Expectation.

They trust that life is going to be easy and so do not prepare themselves to deal with the difficult times that might come their way.

Christians should be reading their Bibles every day. 

Christians should be in prayer every day.

Christians should be in fellowship as often as they can be, and “All the more as they see the day approaching”.

But sadly far too many Christians are prioritizing everything else and so have become BRITTLE. The moment the smallest trial hits them, they can’t cope.

They don’t read their Bibles daily

They don’t pray daily

They give all manner of excuses to not be in Church or in fellowship. And I am sorry, but if you have a JOB that forces you to work on the Lords day, and you choose to be removed from fellowship, don’t expect not to struggle. 

Forcing Christians to work on the day they should be in fellowship with the Lord, is Satan’s doing. To this day I have NEVER seen a Strong Christian that ASLO works on the day he should be in fellowship, NEVER! I don’t expect I ever will.

Nor do I expect to see strong Christians, able to endure the trials of life, if they are not reading their Bibles.

The most brittle of Christians are those who don’t pray daily.

Without fellowship, without the Bible, without prayer, I expect to continually see Christians Weakened Through false Expectations.

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

Worn Down By Self Abasement

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

It’s not only the false expectations that weaken Christians, we also go through something that the people of the world don’t. 

Unlike the lost, we have a heightened awareness of our own sinfulness and it grieves our hearts.

This grief can often continue unabated and again because we do not prioritize our time with the Lord. 


Rather than return quickly to our first love, our pain and shame has us run from him. We run also from the fellowship we need to help us deal with this changed life.

We get caught in a rut and ignore the only help that can pull or push us out, The Lord himself.

Beloved, life itself has its struggles, but Christians seem to have more going against the general motions of life than any other, AND IT’S THE VERY REASON WE NEED Weekly  Fellowship / Daily Bible reading / Instant prayer

Unless we PRIORITISE the Lord in our life, you will not even keep up with the footmen let alone contend with horses.

Please let me describe Biblically the struggle of the Christian. (And those of you who are yet to have eternal life, do not take any comfort through this temporary negative Christians struggle

For Isaiah wrote; “There is no peace saith the LORD, unto the wicked” (Isa 48:22))

Christians might struggle now, but they have rest for eternity!

Those who are saved, these are the things you face;

  1. You have become the devil’s enemy.

You were once his captive and now belong to God. But the devil desires to devour you lest you share the hope of Christ to others. Turn to

1 Peter 5:8–9 

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 

  • The World hates you.

The world is under Satan’s dominion, and so now that the devil is your adversary, the world also hates you. 

John 15:18–19 

18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 

  • The Flesh Lusts against the Spirit

Galatians 5:16–17 

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 

Probably one of the most difficult things to contend with for the Christian is their own selves. There is a new nature in us, the Spirit of God has come to take residence, as such there is an inner conviction of sin that is not pleasant.

One is contrary to the other, it is like a battle raging in the same life and that is what is presented in that passage of Galatians by Paul.

The Galatians, like the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews, are trying to deal with this issue by turning back to the Law, but Paul exhorts them otherwise;

Galatians 3:2–3 

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

But that there is a battle is made clear by Paul again in Romans 7;

Romans 7:14–19 

14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 

Beloved, these are the explanations of all that Christians have to contend with, but if you are not prioritizing your faith you will get worn down.


There is NOTHING unusual with any of these trials, these are basic, 101 of the Christian life.

Not only do we need to deal with the normal matters of life that every one else has; 

things such as rising costs of living, looking for a job, a career, paying bills, putting food on the table, buying a car, a house, paying insurances, caring for sick family members, pets, bringing up children, caring for elderly parents, balancing life / work and dealing with people on a day-to-day basis, traffic jams and all the stuff the world throws at us in these last days; 

But Christians also need to add to themselves those things I have already mentioned.

YET all this is STANDARD FAIR! And is the REASON WHY we need a minimum of Weekly  Fellowship / Daily Bible reading / Instant prayer

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

Wearied By The Footmen

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

Jeremiah was struggling with those things that God already knew and for which God had sent him as a prophet to warn the people of his judgments against them and to turn.

Like us, Jeremiah was first WEAKENED BY FALSE EXPECATION, clearly, he thought God’s judgments would readily come upon the wicked. He was not aware that God’s desire might have been for them to have the fill of their sin that his judgement might come as “a thief in the night”.

3…..pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.

Clearly there seemed to be some impatience with the trials he was enduring. 

But like us, Jeremiah was also dealing with those things that come with being set apart by God. 

Turn to

Jeremiah 20:7–10 

O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. 10 For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting,saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him. 

Like all who hold firmly to the Lord and to his word, persecution comes. 

Jeremiah was in the midst of a people that were beginning to suffer the direct judgements of God for their sin. A huge portion of the Old Testament surrounds the incredible event known as the Babylonian Captivity that was soon to come in later chapters of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was not only experiencing the circumstances of the people, but added to that, he was suffering the trials of being set apart by God for his work. 

  • The hatred of the world
  • The devilish attacks against him
  • His own emotional turmoils.

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

Yes, it was spoken to Jeremiah, but can we not see its application to us also?

God wanted him to prepare for greater trials, for he was already wearied running with the footmen, how on earth would he contend with that which is to come? 

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

Beloved, far too many Christians are wearied by the footmen! How will we be able to deal with greater struggles?

MEN, I want to address you for a moment this morning.

If you are going to be REAL MEN, men who are able to deal with the world to come, if you are going to be able to protect your wives, your families for the future, YOU NEED TO be the man who can first deal with his personal struggles before the Lord.

YOU must show that LEADERSHIP NOW and set the Lord before you DAILY;

Romans 12:12 

12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

If you are NOT reading your Bibles daily, not only will you be wearied by the footmen, you will have no chance of dealing well with anything more, “How will you contend with horses?”

If you are not on your knees each and every day praying God will; 

forgive your sin

increase your faith

give you wisdom,

and grant you peace, YOU WILL NOT CONTEND WITH HORSES.

Tips of things to STOP DOING and start doing;

Stop working on the Lords day and be in fellowship.

Stop giving yourself excuses against reading the Bible and start devouring that book.

Stop avoiding prayer like a scared child and come boldly before the thrown of grace knowing you have a FATHER IN HEAVEN.

Prioritize the things of the LORD!

I address you men beloved because YOU are the leaders and where YOU lead your family will follow!

The world has already turned inside out and upside down and too many of you are still playing as if nothing has changed.

Your families need MEN!

Real men.

MEN sold out for Christ and willing to take the hits when they need to.

Not boys playing games, wasting time watching movies and TV shows. After all that has happened in the last two years, far too many still cannot see that horses are coming!

Contending With Horses

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

The same verse continues saying;

and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

When Jordan overflows its banks the beasts of the field enter into the populated areas. Jeremiah 49 and 50 speaks to the Lions that come up “from the swelling of Jordan” (Jer 49:19).

If Jeremiah was wearied during the times of peace in the land, what when Lions come to trouble him? 

God was angry with his people and so he sent an evil against them, but this was yet to come upon Jeremiah and the people. 

Today God is angry with the world but it is not yet HE who is yet judging them, not directly. 

The people of the world are reaping the consequences of their own evil. They have dug a pit for others but they themselves are falling into it.

Our … governors, … are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 1 Peter 2:14 

If we are troubled at the times that are now before us, how will we do if we are here when things get worse?

The day of his wrath is coming upon the world, and although Biblical Christians will not be here to see it, what TESTIMONY are we going to leave for those left behind?

The convergence of events in the world that perfectly describe we are living in the Time of the Signs, demonstrate a political fight will not prevail, lest you find yourself fighting the Lord!

YET WE ARE CHARGED to demonstrate the hope we have in Christ!

How does our life TODAY demonstrate WHERE WE obtain our peace and hope in THESE troubled times?

Later in the book of Jeremiah we see the greatest evil come upon Judah; Famine strikes hard against them in later chapters as Nebuchadnezzar lays siege against Jerusalem, even Moses wrote of the severity of the famine that would come upon them in Deuteronomy;

Turn there to see;

Deuteronomy 28:56–57 

56 The tender and delicate woman among you, …., her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, …. and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all thingssecretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates. 

Famines, wars and Pestilence !

Those three ALWAYS come together, both Biblically and historically. 

Michael Yon was the youngest Green Berea in United States history and has become a present and historical reporter on the times we live. He said;

I’ve read hundreds of books on war. About 60 on … pandemic[s], 20 on famine… these three things cannot be separated”[1]

He goes on to speak of his discovery of the four horsemen of Revelation 6 and was amazed to see his theory affirmed in the Bible. 

Jeremiah however was preserved.

While all this was occurring above ground, Jeremiah was wallowing in the mire, in a dungeon. Until finally he receives a blessing from the captain of the kings army;

Jeremiah 40:2–4 

And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place. Now the LORD hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you. And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go.


Beloved, there needs to come a time when you will trust in the Lord enough to prioritize your life around the things of God

A minimum of being

Weekly in Fellowship / Daily reading of the Bible/ being Instant in prayer

Only then, will you be able to “Contend with horses”.

Because of the fickle nature of our flesh, if your days do not begin with the Lord and end with him, YOU WILL forget the peace and hope that stems from him.

  • Your fears will come upon you like a wave.
  • Your hope and joy will disappear like the setting sun.
  • Your trust in him will become as empty as a politicians promise.

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?

The world needs you to be strong in your faith and to prioritize everything around the Lord.


Because the Bible teaches us that WE should demonstrate a hope so sure and so evident in our lives, that it generates an enquiry from all those who witness it!

1 Peter 3:15 

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 

Sanctify, sanctify, sanctify God in your heartnot just today, not just tomorrow, but each and every day, so that you can be “ready always to give an answer to EVERY man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you

  • If your Job takes you away from brethren, especially on the Lords day, tell them no or get another job.
  • If your other commitments remove your opportunity to read the Bible or spend time with him in prayer, then reorganize those commitments and stop entertaining those things that keep you a babe.

My responsibility is to make as many opportunities available to you to become the people you need to be to “Contend with Horses”, but yours is to take advantage of those opportunities and prioritize your own.

Contending with horses is NOT impossible in the Lord, but it will not be possible without him!



Leave a Reply