A friend suggested I should watch the movie Chariots of Fire. Although the music from it was the first, and only thing, I have ever learned to play on the piano, I had never seen the underlying film. I watched it this weekend. In the film, two runners, from two different religious backgrounds, make it to the Olympics in 1924. One is fighting prejudice because of his Jewish heritage and one is running to bring glory to God. When he is challenged as to whether he should be doing something more purposeful than running, he responds: “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” But when the Olympic race is on a Sunday, the runner refuses to participate despite the pressure from those around him including the Prince of Wales. Instead he delivers a sermon at church that Sunday in which he quotes from Isaiah:
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
So much to unpack from all of this, including following God’s purpose for us, using God’s gifts to us for His glory, standing up for our beliefs even in the face of prejudice or promises of personal gain, turning to and waiting upon the Lord for our strength and our renewal. But of course I wanted more. I was curious as to where the Chariots of Fire came into play. Chariots of Fire are mentioned twice in the second book of Kings. First a fiery chariot and fiery horses take Elijah up to heaven in 2 Kings 2:11. Then a few chapters later, the King of Aram sends his horses and chariots to take Elisha captive. They arrive by night and encircle the city where Elisha is:
Early the next morning, when the servant of the man of God arose and went out, he saw the force with its horses and chariots surrounding the city. “Alas!” he said to Elisha. “What shall we do, my lord?” Elisha answered, “Do not be afraid. Our side outnumbers theirs.” Then he prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes, that he may see.” And the LORD opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw that the mountainside was filled with fiery chariots and horses around Elisha.2 Kings 6:15-17
It is easy to grow weary. It is easy to give in to the world around us. It is easy to fear and to allow that fear to consume us. But our side outnumbers theirs. When we are with God, our side always outnumbers theirs. When we are afraid, our eyes are blind to the truth: God is with us. God’s fiery chariots and horses surround us and protect us.
The title of the movie purportedly comes from a poem by William Blake, in which he states:
Bring me my bow of burning gold;
Bring me my arrows of desire;
Bring me my spear; O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariots of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In [America’s] green and pleasant land.
Open my eyes, that I may see. Help me to turn from worldly promises and gain, for heavenly gain is all I truly seek. I will wait upon you to renew my strength. Help me to mount up with wings like eagles, help me to run and not grow weary. Bring me your Chariots of Fire, that I may see. Arm me with your bow and arrows and spear. Cloak me in your armor, O Lord. Help me to do your will on earth and fulfill the purpose you have planned. I need you Lord. Help me not to fear.