The formidable Russian army has been besieging the forces of Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union. Most of us believe that's a rather lopsided fight. Very similar to the situation in which King Hezekiah found himself back around 700 B.C., facing a much larger, invincible force. The story is found in the biblical books of II Kings, II Chronicles and Isaiah.
Judah's King Hezekiah was being besieged by the Assyrian army, which also had vast resources, superior equipment and more men. Most of the cities of Judah had been captured. The emperor sent his ambassador to Jerusalem to demand that they surrender.
To make sure that Hezekiah got the point, the ambassador ridiculed the weakness of Israel's army and their lack of allies. He taunted them by saying, "Don't think that the Lord will save you and that he will stop our army from capturing your city. Did the gods of any other nations save their countries? What makes you think the Lord can save Jerusalem?" And then, to add insult to injury, he made this boast to taunt Hezekiah: "I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride them."
Do you remember seeing Westerns where the gunman is such a good shot that he tosses a gun to an unarmed opponent, and then they have a shootout, which, of course, he wins?
If you're really, really good, or really, really strong, you might brag and swagger and humiliate your opponent by offering them a weapon, and then utterly demolish them.
That was the offer made by the Assyrian emperor. He offered to give Hezekiah 2,000 horses if the king could provide the riders for them _ knowing that there was no way that King Hezekiah was going to muster 2,000 cavalry riders. "Come and do battle," the emperor challenges. "I dare you."
We face that same question today: "Can you provide riders for 2,000 horses?"
In these times, the fact is that we do have unbelievable resources. Incredible things. Astonishing possessions. But where are the riders?
God has given us the horses. Thousands of horses. But we haven't had the riders to match the horses.
Think about how much energy we put into the Lord's work. It should lead us to ask ourselves some heart-searching questions: Why is our service for Christ sometimes performed in such a half-hearted manner? Why do other things always come before our time with God?
Back to the story of Hezekiah. The king said to his troops: "Be determined and confident, and don't be afraid of the Assyrian emperor or of the army he is leading. We have more power on our side than he has on his. He has human power, but we have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles."
Hezekiah prayed to God for help, and the prophet Isaiah brought back this message: "This is what the Lord has said about the Assyrian emperor: He will not enter this city or shoot a single arrow against it. No soldiers will come near the city, and no siege mounds will be built round it. He will go back by the road on which he came, without entering this city. I will defend this city and protect it.'" And sure enough, the next day the angel of death wiped out much of the Assyrian camp. The emperor withdrew to Nineveh and was later killed there by his own sons.
An amazing story. But here's the point: God has given us the horses. We have the resources _ we have horses _ what we need are the riders. And when we trust in God, as Isaiah told Hezekiah and the people to do _ and they did! _ when we trust in God, "We have more power on our side than he has on his. He has human power, but we have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles."
In the New Testament, John recognized that same truth, saying "The Spirit who is in you is more powerful than the spirit in those who belong to the world." And Paul asserted: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"
The church of God has the resources it needs, and they are great. We have the power, we have the strength, we have the ability to do the things God wants us to do" _ because we are God's church! We have the horses. All we need are the riders.
Mount up! For those who trust in the Lord "shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
The Rev. Douglas Deer is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Cooperstown.