Jeremiah was a prophet who experienced great hardship. If we had to undergo the trials Jeremiah faced, we would likely not hold up as well as he did. We would find it hard to be joyful. Even residents of his hometown, Anathoth, were plotting to murder him. When the prophet grew impatient and complained to God about his wicked persecutors, God promised He would punish them (Jer. 11:21-23). Yet, God also gave Jeremiah a challenge for greater faith, asking, “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jer. 12:5).
Jeremiah had become wearied or impatient with the footmen. False prophets who said Judah would never be destroyed contended with Jeremiah who preached the truth that God would use Babylon to punish Judah for her sins. God said of these false prophets, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (Jer. 23:21). The false prophets who contended with Jeremiah gave him a good run and caused him to become weary. Yet, things were about to get worse.
Jeremiah was wearied when the land of Judah was still “a land of peace,” but soon Babylon would come with a flood of cavalry. The Hebrew word translated “contend” in Jeremiah 12:5 means to “become hot” or “angry;” it seems to refer to a heated race. Jeremiah had not seen anything yet. Soon, he would race horses.
Who can win a footrace with a horse? Oddly enough, there are annual races in our world that test this very question. Since 1980 an annual horse vs. man marathon has been held near Llanwrtyd Wells, a town in Wales. Only twice (2004 and 2007) has a human won—when weather conditions were particularly hot. In our own country, Prescott, AZ hosts an annual “Man Against Horse” race with distances up to 50 miles. Humans seem to have a better chance at winning the hotter the weather and the longer the distance.
Sometimes we must go through a “fiery trial” (1 Pet. 4:12). No matter how hard life gets, it could always be worse. God tested His people in ancient times in the “furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10). Today, we go through tests of our faith as well. Yet, we must not give up. We must remember that the Christian life is an endurance race (Heb. 12:1). We must not grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9; 2 Thess. 3:13). Keep fighting the good fight and keeping the faith until your race is finished and you receive the crown of righteousness at the last day (2 Tim. 4:7-8).