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Horses to Those Who Can Ride Them
“I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to put riders on them!” Isaiah 36:8. This challenge was made by one of Sennacherib’s generals, Rabshakeh, during his speech demanding the surrender of Jerusalem.
A Message of Intimidation
The Assyrians had come down upon Judah, “like a wolf on the fold.” Rabshakeh presented a powerful piece of propaganda, laced with lies, half-truths, boasting and blasphemy. His speech was designed to demoralise and discourage God’s people and persuade them to give up all hope and surrender to the Assyrians. In his speech, he insulted and taunted the representatives of King Hezekiah. One of his memorable taunts was: How could they possible resist the overwhelming military might of Assyria. Even if he, Rabshakeh, were to give them two thousand horses, it could do them no good for they had no trained cavalry to ride them.
A Message of Inspiration
However, the Word of the Lord came through the prophet Isaiah: “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Surely I will send a spirit upon him and he shall hear a rumour and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” Isaiah 37:6-7
The Hand of God
“Then the Angel of the Lord went out and killed in the camp of the Assyrians, 185,000; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses, all dead. So, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed and went away, returned home and remained at Nineveh. Now it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch, his god, that his sons… struck him down with a sword…” Isaiah 37:36-38
An Important Insight
However, amidst the remarkable propaganda speech by Rabshakeh, is a gem of wisdom and insight. Horses for those who are able to ride them.
The Parable of the Talents
This is what our Lord Jesus taught in the parable of the Talents. “Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the Kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore, He said: ‘A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So, he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ ‘And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise, he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’ ‘Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’ And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ ‘And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to him who has ten minas.’ (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them and slay them before me.’” Luke 19:11-27
Opportunity Reveals Character
Although three men received different amounts, one ten, the other five and the third one, two of them succeeded in multiplying their gifts, but the third failed to take advantage of the opportunity and the responsibility before him. It was not lack of opportunity, or lack of ability, but lack of character that caused the third man to squander his opportunity and fail in his duty.
Responsibilities Reveal Character
When the day of Reckoning comes, those who proved themselves able by their character to make the most of the opportunities entrusted to them, will be rewarded with greater gifts and new opportunities. However, those who fail to fulfil their responsibilities and fail to be productive because of their lack of character, will lose everything that they have. “For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” Luke 19:26
The Industrious are Rewarded
The world is inclined to penalise the productive and reward the parasites. However, the Lord makes it clear that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways. The Lord Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Talents, that He will punish the unproductive and reward the productive. Lack of a work ethic will disqualify a man from mounting the horse of usefulness and influence. To whom much is given, much is required. To whom much more is given, much more is required. The more industrious will receive greater rewards. “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honour, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” 2 Timothy 2:21
Character Determines Competence
Horses to those who can ride them. Cars to those who can drive them. Equipment to those who can operate it. Messages to those who can deliver them. Ministries to those who can serve faithfully. Missions to those who can complete them.
Attitude Determines Achievement
Places of importance are waiting for the man, or woman, who can fill them. Achievements are waiting for those with the character, determination, diligence and dedication to accomplish them. You must make yourself worthy, prepared, ready and fit. Victory loves preparation. Your attitude will determine your achievements.
Do You Make Excuses? or Do You Make a Plan?
Anyone can make excuses for why it was not done. People of character make a plan, adapt, innovate, overcome and persevere to accomplish the task. Obstacles are only there to be overcome.
Your Decisions Determine your Destiny
Every decision you make helps to shape your destiny. Every temptation you resist makes the next temptation easier to resist. Every temptation you give into, makes the next temptation easier to give into and harder to resist. Every decision we make, makes us more a creature of Heaven, or of hell. Every decision we make sets us further up the narrow path to life, or down the broad way to destruction.
Alexander and Bucephalus
Alexander the Great was not only one of the most accomplished military commanders in history, he was also a fine horseman. One day as a youth, he saw a beautiful black horse, Bucephalus about to be rejected by the king’s officers because he plunged and reared and kicked about when anyone tried to ride him. Alexander requested to be allowed to ride the horse. After speaking soothingly to the horse and calming him down, he turned him and then speaking reassuringly to him, vaulted gracefully onto his back and then, in full control, cantered about to the admiration of King Philip and his officers. Alexander had noted that the sun was behind the horse and the horse was being startled by his own shadow.
On one of his military campaigns, in India, Alexander was struck by an arrow. As his men were about to operate on him to remove the shaft, they firmly gripped his arms to hold him while the excruciatingly painful operation was performed. Alexander dismissed them, saying, “There is no need to hold him who is able to hold himself.”
Violated Law Breaks Us
It is not so much that we break God’s Law, as God’s Law breaks those who violate it. The Law of God is like gravity, it is not just a good idea, it is the Law. If you wander off the side of Table Mountain and try to defy the law of gravity, you will lose. It is not the fall; it is the sudden stop at the end that kills you. You cannot violate the law of gravity without harming yourself. Similarly, no one can break God’s Law without harming themselves and their eternal destiny.
Those who would control others must first learn to control themselves. Self-discipline is essential to effectiveness and productivity in life. Where opportunity is the most abundant, there temptation is the most seductive and powerful. It is incredible how universities have moved from being places of great learning and advancement to such cesspools of temptation, debauchery and frivolity. So many who go to university seem oblivious to the Scriptures which are written over the gates and doorways of many an institute of higher learning: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And “Let only the earnest, thoughtful and reverend enter here.” Yet many will testify how they squandered their great opportunities while studying at universities, by indulging in a never-ending series of parties, drunkenness and time-wasting diversions. Libraries of wisdom were ignored as many students disqualified themselves from the school of life, by ignoring precious opportunities for advancement in favour of frivolous time-wasting.
Study to Succeed
That is why the Scriptures command us to study to show ourselves approved unto God. We need to be prepared for every good work. When Gary Player was the world’s golfing champion, someone commented to him: “You’re lucky!” Gary Player responded: “Yes and the harder I practice the luckier I get.”
If yielded to, the temptations of the flesh, will disqualify a man from riding the horses of influence and usefulness. “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from blood.” Jeremiah 48:10
God Deserves Our Very Best
As Christians, we are called to wholehearted, sacrificial service. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23
Our Greatest Priority
The greatest Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength (Mark 12:30). It follows then that the greatest sin would be to fail to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind and with all of our strength.
“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things and by Your will they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11
“And they sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10
“And every creature which is in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea and all that are in them, I heard saying: Blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Revelation 5:13
Our great God, loving Creator and merciful Redeemer deserves all our praise and honour and faithfulness and zeal and dedication. It is a terrible sin to be lax in doing the Lord's work.
Slackness in God's Service is a Sin
“Woe to you who are complacent in Zion…” Amos 6:1
2 Chronicles 24:5 reports that “the Levites did not act at once”;
Nehemiah 3:5 records: “…but their nobles would not put their shoulders into the work…”
“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready, or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.” Luke 12:47
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.” James 4:17
King Saul's Partial Obedience was Actually Rebellion
Israel's first king, Saul, knew what God had commanded, but failed to fulfil his Divine instructions. “This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites…now go attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them...!” 1 Samuel 15:2-3
The Scripture records: “but Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle…everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. Then the Word of the Lord came to Samuel: 'I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from Me and has not carried out My instructions.' Samuel was troubled and he cried out to the Lord all that night.” 1 Samuel 15:9-11
When the prophet Samuel went to meet King Saul he was told: “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honour…” 1 Samuel 15:12
“When Samuel reached him, Saul said, 'The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord's instructions. But Samuel said, 'What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?' Saul answered, 'The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.' 'Stop!' Samuel said to Saul. 'Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.' 'Tell me', Saul replied. Samuel said, 'Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king of Israel. And He sent you on a mission, saying, ‘go and completely destroy these wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord? …Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord He has rejected you as king…You have rejected the Word of the Lord and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!…The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbours, to one better than you.” Samuel 15:14-28
Although King Saul thought his partial obedience good enough, the Lord utterly rejected him. God's Word describes King Saul's partial obedience as: “rebellion…arrogance…idolatry.”
Tolerating Evil is Itself Evil
In Revelation 2:12-17 we read in the letter to the Church in Pergamum that the Lord rebuked the believers for tolerating the idolatry and immorality of the Nicolaitans. “Repent therefore! Otherwise I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” Revelation 2:16
Conflict Requires Courage
Warfare calls for sacrifice, conscription, rationing, dedication, determination, courage and tenacity. In warfare one is required to fight. To attack the enemy. To apply all the force that is necessary in order to defeat the enemy and defend one’s homeland.
“Shall your countrymen go to war while you sit here?” Numbers 32:6
“‘Curse Merzoz,’ said the angel of the Lord. ‘Curse its people bitterly, because they did not come to help the Lord, to help the Lord against the mighty.'” Judges 5:23
The Danger of Inactivity
King David was an extraordinary soldier and a devoted servant of the Lord God. David was Israel's greatest King and the author of many of the most loved Psalms and Hymns. David has the unique privilege of being described by God as “a man after My own heart.” Acts 13:22
Yet, 2 Samuel 11 records the most disastrous fall into sin by David. It all began with these ominous words: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war… David remained in Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 11:1
The quickest way to destroy one’s spiritual zeal is to respond to Biblical commands with apathy and inactivity. It is a guaranteed pathway to spiritual disaster:
Sins of Omission
There is a tremendous danger in passivity, inactivity is deadly to spiritual life (Matthew 25:33-46). “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it sins.” James 4:7. Those who linger inactively at home when they should be off to war, are easy targets for temptation. The devil finds evil work for idle hands.
When Duty Calls
When God commissions us to fight, then we dare not flinch from our duty. We as Christians have the obligation to love our neighbours and this love must be shown in action. When Christian brothers and sisters are suffering persecution in China, Sudan, Zimbabwe and elsewhere, we must respond in prayer and action. Publicise their plight. Alert other Christians to the crisis. Pray both privately and in public meetings for the persecuted. Mobilise pressure against the persecutors. Be generous in your support of those who are practically helping the persecuted. Encourage others to contribute whatever skills, or resources they can towards helping those brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering. If God calls you to go personally and serve His people in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Angola, the Congo, or wherever, then be prepared to respond with wholehearted enthusiasm and dedication.
First Time Obedience
It is certainly spiritually refreshing to step out in faith and obey God. The first time I heard the Gospel, I went forward and committed my life to Christ. The first time I heard a request for volunteers, I volunteered. When Scripture Union needed workers for a holiday mission; when the Sunday school needed another teacher; when posters needed to be put up to advertise an evangelistic rally; when counsellors were needed; when I heard the first challenge to get involved in missions, I volunteered. Looking back, I am so glad I got involved on each of these occasions.
Respond to God’s Commands Promptly
Responding to these calls with enthusiasm were the best things I could have done. They were followed by spiritually testing times, sometimes tough times, always teaching times. They were used by the Lord to purge, purify and prepare me to be more prayerful and practical in the adventure of Christian discipleship.
Wholehearted Obedience to the Lord is Essential
“Be sure to finish the task you were given in the Lord's service.” Colossians 4:17
“According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death.” Philippians 1:20
“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24. Where God guides, He provides. The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.
Duty is Destiny
As General Stonewall Jackson often said: “Duty is ours. The consequences are God's.” It is spiritually refreshing to step out in faith. The most healthy habit you can cultivate is the habit of practising responding to the Word of God in obedience. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ… stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the Faith of the Gospel.” Philippians 1:27
There are horses for those who can ride them. There are ministries to those who are prepared to serve. Messages to those who can deliver them. Missions to those who can complete them.
When it comes to talents and opportunities: “Use it, or lose it!” Carpe Diem! Seize the day!
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa