God’s ways are mysterious. Sometimes He works in completely unexpected ways. Sometimes He may ask something of us that makes no sense to our human way of thinking. Or then He chooses people to work for Him, whom others would never have suspected could do a great work for Him. He sometimes passes by the educated and influential and chooses the simple, humble people. “Mark the features of Christ’s work. He moved in the greatest simplicity. Although His followers were fishermen, He did not advise them to go first into the school of the rabbis before entering upon the work. He called His disciples from their fishers’ nets, and said: ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 359. Although church mission schools are beneficial, they are not mandatory.
How does this thought just mentioned relate to horses? The title indicates that this article is about horses. Let us study further and see. Horses are very useful animals. They are also very beautiful and majestic animals. There is something about the manner of a horse that man has and greatly admired. God never intended the horse to be worshiped. His intention was for this incredible creature to draw our praise, admiration and reverence to our Creator.
Unfortunately, mankind has so much admired horses that they have gone as far as to worship them. King Josiah made a reform in the nation of Israel and removed this practice. “And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.” 2 Kings 23:11
Horses, as with many animals, make great friends with their owners. Horses have been beneficial to mankind in many ways throughout history and they played a prominent role in the Bible. They were used for transportation purposes (“And there went up with him [Joseph] both chariots and horsemen.” Genesis 50:9); or for military purposes (“They shall lay hold on bow and spear. . . and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee.” Jeremiah 6:23); or we see royalty riding a majestic horse (“Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head.” Esther 6:8).
Horses were sometimes given as royal gifts. They were a symbol of wealth. “And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king’s merchants received the linen yarn at a price. And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means.” 1 Kings 10:28–29
As beautiful as these animals are, when the nation of Israel settled in Canaan, God gave the command that they should, “Not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses.” Deuteronomy 17:16
Why was this command given? Horses were not used for farming purposes; their main role was for military purposes—war. They were mounts of kings, princes, conquerors, and soldiers. To ride a horse implied war, doom, and victory. Men of peace did not typically ride horses but rode donkeys, mules, camels and drove oxen carts, as these animals did not herald threats of war. The more horses an army had, the greater their strength was viewed. God commanded the Israelite kings not to keep many horses, which would prevent them from building their armies as did the heathen—with horses. The Lord wanted to have men put more faith and trust in Him than in their own resources or strength—their horses and chariots. He wanted His people to rely on Him for deliverance and victory from their enemies. “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.” Proverbs 21:31
King Saul obeyed this command and his armies never included cavalry. However, we see a deviation from this command beginning with King David. “David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates. And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David hocked all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.” 2 Samuel 8:3–4. David spared only 100 horses for his military—but it was still a disobedience from the command of the Lord. Solomon, his son, learning from his father, had many horses.
Another reason that this prohibition was given is that God loves these beautiful creatures also, and they have a sweet and innocent nature when correctly trained. I am sure many of them perished in battle. These poor creatures became victim to man’s cruelty and hatred of each other. “And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.” Exodus 15:21. These horses perished, sadly, while putting all their energy and might into pleasing and obeying their masters.
Horses are faithful and loving animals and if treated well, they will happily try to please their owners. For this reason man has viewed them as good military animals, “as the horse rusheth into the battle.” Jeremiah 8:6. When their owner tells them to go, they go with all their energy, rushing fearlessly into battle, wishing to please their master and trusting his owner with his own life. Sadly, as I just stated, some get wounded and killed—betrayed by their owners who they trusted for their safekeeping.
Horses are only flesh and blood as man is. They all perish one day. Although many trust in them for safety, our only true safety comes from the Lord. In the Bible we read many times when the Lord defeated the greatest armies of the world who were fighting against His people (when His people were being faithful). Regardless of the number of soldiers, horses, or chariots, the enemy was no match for the angels of the Lord. “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” 2 Kings 19:35. “An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.” Psalm 33:17. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7
Horses are known for their speed. There are many horse racing events in our world today. Jeremiah compared our spiritual walk/run to horses. “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?” Jeremiah 12:5. Can we run with the horses? Very few, I could say, would be able to outrun a horse on their own, but we read of Elijah when he was filled with the spirit of the Lord—he did run with the horses. “And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” 1 Kings 18:36. Horses have great endurance and can run great distances. We need to have this same kind of endurance in our Christian race.
With all these good qualities of the horse, and although we are told we should be able to run with the horses in the Christian race, King David tells us not to be like the horse. Why? “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Psalm 32:9
The Apostle James agrees with what King David wrote. He wrote how this very large animal can be controlled by a small bit in its mouth. He compares this to man, and how this small tongue can control the entire man. “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. . . Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” James 3:3, 5. This little tongue can make or break us. “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matthew 12:37. How little thought some people give to their words. James even goes on to say that he who is able to control his tongue is a perfect man. “If any man offend not in word, the same is
a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” James 3:2. “As Christians we should speak as Christ would speak were He in our place.” –The Review and Herald, April 9, 1901
You can read pages and pages of quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy regarding the right and wrong use of the tongue, and the serious consequences of its wrong use. Here are a few:
“Let the Christian bridle his tongue, firmly resolving not to speak harsh, impatient words. With the tongue bridled, he may be victorious in every trial of patience through which he is called to pass.” –Messages to Young People, p. 136. “Guard well the talent of speech, for it is a mighty power for evil as well as for good. You cannot be too careful of what you say; for the words you utter show what power is controlling the heart.” –In Heavenly Places, p. 174. “The talent of speech is a gift of God, and when we hear so much useless, meaningless chit-chat, we may be assured that those who thus use this precious gift are not Christians. They are not abiding in Christ, nor is Christ abiding in them.” –The Voice In Speech and Song, p. 65–66
Horses need training. Many are easily trained and controlled by man. When controlled by man with this small bit in their mouth, they can be quite submissive. “A whip for the horse.” Proverbs 26:3. Some need constant discipline to get them to comply, but many well-trained horses do not think for themselves, but only do as directed by their beloved master. While we can say that it is good to be controlled by our heavenly Master, we are also asked to think and act for ourselves—in keeping with the law of God.
WHO ARE WE TO IMITATE?
Although horses are beautiful animals, we are told not to imitate them. Rather we are told to imitate one of the smallest creatures. We are told to imitate an ant. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6–8. They need no guide, overseer or ruler in order to do useful work; contrary to the horse, who needs a bit and bridle to do useful work. The ant works as an individual for the good of the colony. They busily do their work with no interference or training from mankind. They simply work individually, but collectively for the good of the colony—for its survival. Have you ever seen an ant sitting still? Ants are barely noticeable as they quietly and faithfully do their work.
Often God uses the smallest, unnoticed, and unexpected people and methods to do His work. It is not always the grand and most talented people He uses.
It was not the earthquake or fire but the still small voice on the mountain that the Lord used to speak to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12).
Now, back to the beginning of the article where I mentioned the call of the disciples. Jesus called 11 of the disciples, not because of their education or talents. One of the 12 disciples was called of man, not by Jesus. This one was the most educated and talented. He was a horse in comparison to the ants of the other disciples; however, Jesus was not looking for outward talents. That was the furthest thought from His mind. His primary focus was on sincere, heartful devotion from His followers. On the day of Pentecost, the people marvelled at the preaching of the followers of Jesus “And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?” Acts 2:7. The 11 men (ants) spoke eloquently, and in different languages, not having been highly educated by worldly institutions. They preached for the benefit of the colony (church). The talented one (well-trained horse), who had been called by man because he was talented, had committed suicide.
David looked like an ant compared to Goliath, but the victory was made through this unarmed ant, who had put on the armour of God, which is stronger than any earthly horse, chariot, or armour. Here we see David acting individually (in the Spirit of the Lord) for the good of the nation. “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.” 1 Samuel 17:45. Shortly afterwards, to everyone’s surprise, David killed Goliath. No one expected this except David himself. The ant killed the horse.
Samuel was called by the Lord at a young age. Who was this child in comparison to the Priest Eli? “When but twelve years old, the son of Hannah received his special commission from the Most High.” –The Signs of the Times, December 15, 1881. I am sure Samuel was surprised as he was not even a teenager or from the tribe of Levi, yet he was called to be a messenger for the Lord to the people and to serve in the temple. “God will work with children and youth who give themselves to Him. . . God passed by the hoary-headed Eli and conversed with child Samuel.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1010
Gideon had no horses when he won the victory over the Midianites. I am sure he was mystified initially when the Lord told him his army of 32,000 men was too large to fight the army of the Midianites that numbered 120,000. He must have felt like an ant compared to the horses of Midian. But the Lord won the victory. “Be not disheartened at small beginnings. It is often the humblest work that yields the greatest results.” –Gospel Workers p. 340
Johnathan and his armourbearer won the victory over the Philistines—just the two of them—two little ants against the horses of the enemy (1 Samuel 4:11–15). King Saul was losing hope at the sight of his dwindling army; however, the victory was gained through a smaller method than his waning army. Why? Johnathan believed in God’s power to save. “And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.” 1 Samuel 14:6. “It would have been an easy matter for the Philistines to kill these two brave, daring men; but it did not enter into their minds that these two solitary men had come up with any hostile intent. The wondering men above looked on, too surprised to take in their possible object.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1015
The two soldiers had the work ethic of an ant. They got busy doing their work for the good of the colony. Although they were unnoticed as ants to the enemy, the enemy was terrified when they saw the hosts of the heavenly horses. “This daring work sent a panic through the camp. There lay the dead bodies of twenty men, and to the sight of the enemy there seemed hundreds of men prepared for war. The armies of heaven were revealed to the opposing host of the Philistines.” –Ibid., p. 1015. What an awesome and fearful scene that must have been for the Philistine soldiers—to see the heavenly army.
Ellen G. White was called to be a prophet—the weakest of the weak. The more prominent and educated men refused to bear the message of the Lord, so He chose the unexpected. The last person anyone would have expected to be called into the office of a Messenger of the Lord. “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” 1 Corinthians 1:27
In the world it has often been that people who are rich and famous get more privileges and honour in society than the simple humble working man who is barely noticed. But God does not look at it that way. “For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
We often have no problems stepping on an ant which seems to be in our way, but we would never want to squash a large horse. Think, though, before stepping on that ant. If it is not in your way, or not hurting you and is busy with its own labour, then do not go out of your way to step on him. Watch, admire, and imitate its work ethic.
Jesus Returns on a Horse: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.” Revelation 19:11. Why will Jesus choose a horse as the animal to ride on when He returns to earth? Riding a horse is a sign of royalty. Jesus returns as victor—the King of kings and Lord of lords. He returns as a conqueror; He returns for the final battle to defeat the forces of evil.
Horses are our friends, as with all domestic animals. They are regal and majestic, as well as loving and loyal creatures. They have their place in their duties. We are to love them and care for them, but we are not called to imitate them. We are called to imitate the smallest of the small—the ant. And from these small beginnings the Lord can do a great work.
“Most things have small beginnings. Christ tells us that the smallest of seeds, put into the ground, grows to be a tree that the birds may lodge in.” –The Review and Herald, October 11, 1898. “Do not fret at small beginnings. It is often the humblest work that accomplishes the greatest results.” –Ibid., December 8, 1885