Running in different cultures and throughout history is interesting. I love a good running story as much as anyone. Recently, I’ve been enjoying reading about running in the Bible. Here are two fun stories that involve racing, man vs man and man vs chariot, as well verses using running as a spiritual example.
The Race to the King[2 Samuel 18: 19-27] A prince was at war against his father, King David. When the prince had been killed, an eager running messenger, Ahimaaz, asked to be the one to tell the King. Mind you, the King did not want his son killed, just captured. This was bad news.
Joab, his commander, says no, and sends another messenger. Ahimaaz was the son of the high priest and perhaps Joab felt it was safer to send a foreigner to deliver bad news. However, Ahimaaz did not give up.
“Yes, but let me go anyway,” he begged. Joab finally said, “All right, go ahead.” So Ahimaaz took the less demanding route by way of the plain and ran to Mahanaim ahead of the Ethiopian. (v. 24) NLT
After the first messenger had already left, Ahimaaz convinces Joab to let him go, and he beats the first messenger there! It would seem the first messenger takes a common and direct route over difficult terrain, while Ahimaaz takes a longer but flatter route. The king’s men can see the messengers in the distant, running alone, and identify Ahimaaz by how he runs (v. 27).
Faster Than Chariots[1 Kings 18:44-46]. Elijah was a prophet during the reign of an ungodly king and his incredibly violent queen, Jezebel. She killed many prophets, but could never get her hands on Elijah. Also, a bunch of sham priests who had royal favor hated Elijah because he kept showing everyone they were fakes!
Elijah challenged the fake prophets to a contest on Mount Carmel, with the king and country all there watching. Well, all but the queen. The result is the ungodly prophets lose and are killed. This is important to mentioned because it was going to make the queen furious and even more determined to destroy Elijah.
Right after this happens, Elijah tells the king to get his chariot and head home quickly before a storm comes. The king takes off on his chariot but Elijah picks up the ends of his robe and runs back, beating the king to the entrance of the city. Some say this would’ve been a 14 mile cross country run! Scholars are divided on whether or not Elijah raced the king or if he ran in front of his chariot like a herald. Either way, he got there first!
Attitude of a Runner[1 Corinthians 9:24-27] In the New Testament, Paul writes letters to churches he helped start in different cities. The church in the city of Corinth had many problems and Paul addresses them using examples that they will understand; like athletes!
Corinth hosted the Isthmian Games, second only at the time to the Olympic Games! So people from Corinth had probably seen exciting races and talked about how seriously the athletes trained, like we do today.
Therefore, Paul encourages them to be like these elite runners who run with purpose! He wanted them to live their faith with purpose, to give it all they had, like the runners who did all they could to win.
Paul tells them to think like an athlete in training. Sometimes athletes don’t eat or do certain things, not because they’re illegal, but because it isn’t good for their training. Likewise, there are things in life that we should not do, not because it would be sinful in and of itself, but because it doesn’t help our faith or our witness.
More Running Verses:
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)
Psalms 19:5 describes how the sun, which travels through the sky, glorifies God:
“It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.” (NLT)
“…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)