On your high horse
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)
I am not an equestrian—I admire these handsome animals from a distance. However, I do recollect as a teenager, being reprimanded by my parents on occasion to ‘come off your high horse!’ It never occurred to me then to think what the expression meant—I was too preoccupied with my injured feelings. I now discover the origin of the saying:
In medieval England, a person’s rank was reflected by the size of the horse he rode. A noble or a person of importance would ride a large and expensive horse, one much taller and bigger than the horses ridden by commoners. The phrase ‘on one’s high horse’ came to mean ‘superior.’
Before I read this reference, I imagined it to refer to riding on a horse that was too big for the rider, therefore risking a fall. When we look at the actual meaning, and my supposition, they are not far removed. In Isaiah 2:12 there is a stern warning as to how God feels about elevating oneself above a fellow man or woman, ‘The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),’. The apostle James quotes from Proverbs in James 4:6, ‘But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”’
The medieval exalted one, on his or her high horse, could possibly see the distant view but certainly not what or who was on the path in front of them. They had to rely on one of their entourage to guide them, but in truth they had no wish to know what the peasants below were doing. Pride had blinded them – as it does us today when we elevate ourselves above others. God requires us to be humble. 1 Peter 5:6 tells us, ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.’
Let us come off our high horses of pride, and with humble hearts love and serve our fellow human beings, following Jesus’ perfect example. The ‘Way’ is clearer when walking on foot with Him.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the humility you showed dying on the cross for us. Help us to keep our feet on the ground and our hearts with you always.
Study by Irene Wilson
About the writer:
Irene Wilson is a Deaconess in the Watford Congregation of Grace Communion International, where she also serves on the Pastoral Council.
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