The Revd Brutus Green
Horses, by and large, get a rough ride in the Bible.
We are also told that the Lord ‘delighteth not in the strength of an horse’, though this is rightly qualified by him also ‘not taking pleasure in the legs of a man.’ For the most part they are associated with war and are very often, with their riders, thrown into the sea.
It’s for this reason that in the Bible the Hebrews often leave it to God to deal with the horses - so in Zechariah the horses are smited, smitten I suppose, with astonishment and blindness, and their riders with madness. Let us hope that is not our fate today.
In any case, wherever a horse is to be found it also has a rider - till the very end in fact when it falls to the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse to wrap things up.
The New Testament on the whole though takes a more friendly approach. The Duke of Wellington observed that ‘Because a man is born in a stable that does not make him a horse’, a fact that the Gospel writers are no doubt grateful for. Here though it is a donkey that has carried the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem and away to safety in Egypt, as it is a donkey that brings Jesus into Jerusalem, signalling his peaceful intentions. ‘Horses’ after all, as the author of the Bond novels remarked, ‘are dangerous at both ends and uncomfortable in the middle’.
Our rather charming reading today recounts the strength of the horse - its warlike capabilities. It’s set in the context of Job, a man whose life has literally fallen in around his ears, wondering what on earth God is up to. The Almighty here is pointing out the incomprehensible complexity of creation; that our world, and here every horse, is fearfully and wonderfully made. A point reinforced by our noble Queen who remarked as a child that she should like to be a horse.
But a horse is only good for this so long as it is partnered. As the psalmist says ‘Be not like the horse or mule which have no understanding : whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle’. And while ‘Horse sense [may be the] good judgement that keeps horses from betting on people’, in general horses are better off when well looked after and cared for.
So we should remember that, as with all of creation, horses are fearfully and wonderfully made, to be respected, admired and cared for. They are not things to be used but creatures to be loved.
Likewise we should remember that we too, with our friends, families and neighbours are fearfully and wonderfully made, and should treat each other with the care that that requires. And also, especially on a day like today that has brought the horse-world, the school, the local businesses, the church and community together, we should remember that we are better when we come together. Life is more fun in partnership with others, even when we feel saddled with them!
Finally we should give thanks to God for all creation and pray for the ‘strength of a horse’ that we might live in peace and harmony with all. Amen.