Run with the Horses

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

Review of Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best - Commemorative Edition, by Eugene Peterson
Run with the Horses is Eugene Peterson’s commentary on selected passages from Jeremiah. Peterson, best known for his paraphrase of the Bible into modern language – The Message, uses that text as his platform. I say platform instead of starting point, because in many instances in Run with the Horses Peterson returns to scripture’s original language to tease out not just the definition of a word, but the intent of the meaning as it is used in a passage.
The book’s title comes from the twelfth chapter of Jeremiah. Jeremiah starts by complaining that the wicked have it better than the righteous. In verse 5 God begins his answer to Jeremiah:
So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses?
It reminds me of when my daughter was in middle school, whining about the difficulty of her homework.  I nonchalantly said, “Oh. I thought you could do it,” as if to imply she couldn’t.
This made her angry and she started telling me she could do anything she wanted; she could become a doctor if she wanted to. I told her that doctors don’t get there by whining and saying, “This is too hard.” That stopped the whining, mostly. 
Things were about to get a lot worse for Jeremiah, and I think God was challenging him, asking if he would be up for the task ahead.
This is the Commemorative Edition released not long after Peterson’s death. This newer version uses The Message for scripture quotations, and it contains the text of Peterson’s funeral homily delivered by his son Eric Peterson. 
Peterson was a great communicator. Even so, one pass through this book left me just skimming the surface. I believe that’s owing to the complexity of the Book of Jeremiah. I wouldn’t recommend Run with the Horses as this summer’s beach read, but if you are a serious Bible scholar, it should be on your list!
By the way, my daughter is now entering her third year at a top college in their honors program. **SPOILER ALERT** Jeremiah was faithful to God until the end.
#RunWithTheHorses #NetGalley @ivpress @PetersonDaily
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Thank you for the chance to read this book. I loved it. Such a rich compelling study. Will definitely read over and over.
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My previous blog post was also on a Eugene Peterson book and much that I share about the author there speaks to him regarding this book. When you read one of his books - he reveals a part of his heart and his own faith so we can be blessed by it.

Run with the horses provides some insight into one the major prophets - Jeremiah. These insights allow us to glean from this prophetic text applications for our personal lives and for our churches. 
One of the benefits of this edition that I reviewed, is Eugene Peterson's son Eric shares some thoughts and insights into his father who has recently passed away. The world lost a man who blessed many with his thoughts and insights, but even more so with his actions and words.

This book specifically helps us reorder our perceptions, through reflecting on Jeremiah, his life and ministry, we are reminded that it is God who pursues us and loves us, and is the driver of our relationship with Him. In many ways this books is a reminder that it's not all about us, rather it is all about God. 

I'd highly recommend the book for personal devotions, theological reflection, sermon preparation material, or just to reflect on who we are in relationship to God.
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This commemorative edition of Eugene H. Peterson’s classic, Run with the Horses, intrigued me. Heretofore, my general impression of Jeremiah came from the word jeremiad—a prolonged lamentation or mournful complaint. It doesn’t sound much like something an optimistic person like myself would want to spend time on.

Peterson made me see Jeremiah in a completely different light. Yes, Jeremiah lamented, warned, and annoyed his contemporaries with his prophecies from God. But he also lived an incredible life of obedience and faith in a world gone wild. 

According to Peterson, “My procedure here is to select the biographical parts of the book of Jeremiah and reflect on them personally and pastorally in the context of present, everyday life.”
And he does just that. He takes the incidents from Jeremiah’s life—the strange, unique, ordinary, and terrible, and shows us how Jeremiah maintained his faith through each and every one.

For Peterson, “The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God. God is the center from which all life develops.” And Jeremiah began with God. We need to do the same, because, according to Peterson, “we are living in the middle of the story.” Only the Author knows the entire story, so we must go to him for information, direction, and wisdom. 

Grab a Highlighter Before You Begin

I don’t think I’ve highlighted a book this much since my university days. Jeremiah has wisdom on every aspect of life, and Peterson does a marvelous job of sussing out the truths. Instead of feeling depressed whilst reading Run with the Horses, I found myself encouraged. All too often the state of the world depresses me if I think on it too long. But Peterson reminds us:

“And if we are going to live in the world, attentive to each particularity, loving it through all the bad times without being repelled by it or afraid of it or conformed to it, we are going to have to face its immense evil, but know at the same time that it is a limited and controlled evil.”

I also fall into the trap of arguing with fellow Christians about trivial things (such as how to worship, when to worship, what a passage in the Bible means). But Peterson reminds us that “Believers argue with God; skeptics argue with each other.” This brought me up short. Do I argue for the sake of argument and thus waste emotional and mental energy? 

I’ll read this book over again more than once. And next time, I’ll read the book of Jeremiah along with it. You don’t have to have a theology degree to understand Run with the Horses. And reading the book of Jeremiah along with Peterson’s book will help you dig in to an important book for out time. After all, God still needs people of incredible obedience and faith living in a world gone wild.
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You know what attracted me to this book at first, the title. Run With The Horses – The Quest for Life At Its Best was written by Eugene Peterson in 1983. But also the author, I like Eugene Peterson’ writing, it is almost novel poetic in style, but with biblical application. Now this book has been out for over 25 years, however so much good application that can be gained by reading it. The popular message of today is live your best life or do what makes you happy, this book will be very counter to that message, as that is not what life is about. So, it is very timely that this revision is being released!

This is new revision has a commemorative wrote by Eugene’s son’s Eric Peterson. “What you thought was a flow is actually a gift to us all. In ways that continue to astound me, God consistently chooses to accomplish divine purpose through the agency of human imperfection. Through the weaknesses and short comings of the clay pots – which are our lives – uncommonly beautiful things emerge.”

This book goes through the life of the prophet Jeremiah. The title is from Jeremiah 12:5 If you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? What a great summary for what this book is about. Eugene writes, his life is not an American pursuit of happiness. It is more like God’s pursuit of Jeremiah. We people have it backwards if we think the Gospel is about our happiness and what God can give us. Eugene writes, “People, aimless and bored, amuse themselves with trivia and trash. Neither the adventure of goodness not the pursuits of righteousness gets headlines.”

What you will see through reading Run With The Horses, is how Eugene took biographical parts of the book of Jeremiah and reflected on them personally and pastorally in the context of present, everyday life. What he finds is the only way that any of us can live our best is in a life of radical faith in God. “It is not enough to be in the right place; it is not enough to say the right words, it is never enough until we are walking with God twenty-four hours a day everywhere we go, with everything we say as an expression of love and faith.” He says, “We need to be stretched out of dull moral habits, shaken out of pretty and trivial busy work. Where we are and will be is compounded with who God is and what He does…Before Jeremiah knew God, God knew Jeremiah…Our lives are not puzzles to be figured out. Rather, we come to God, who knows us and reveals to us the truth of our lives. The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God. God is the center from which all life develops.”

This is a hard book to put down once you start, I enjoy the way Eugene writes and how he brings out convicting truth that is needed. There is so many nuggets to be gained in his writing. This would be a great book to read after you have read through the book of Jeremiah.
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Run with the Horses

The Quest for Life at Its Best

by Eugene H. Peterson


InterVarsity Press


IVP Books

Christian , Religion & Spirituality

Pub Date 02 Apr 2019



I am reviewing a copy of Run with the Horses through Intervarsity Press and Netgalley:



“If you’re worn out in this foot race with men, what makes you think you can run against the horses?”  Is the question brought forth in Jeremiah 12:5.  We all strive to live our best life to somehow be able to bring together spontaneity and freedom with purpose and meaning.  So why is we so often find our lives So unadventurous and so routine.


And often if our lives aren’t unadventurous and routine it is so frantic, so full of activity and yet it still lacks fulfillment!  How are we to learn to risk, to trust to pursue wholeness and existence to run with the horses instead of going with the crowd!


 If you are looking for a Biblical approach to living life at its best then Run with the Horses is just the book for you!



Five out of five stars!



Happy Reading!
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The best thing about this book is the ability to sum it up with one statement – the perfect companion for reading through the book of Jeremiah.

This is a commemorative edition of one of Eugene Peterson’s best books.  The book of Jeremiah has been one many people have struggled to understand, whether it be the context, the content or simply trying to make sense of what is what.  Running with the Horses is a book you should sit down with as you study the book of Jeremiah. Peterson doesn’t spare any description or commentary on the life and ministry of Jeremiah and this allows the book (both biblical book and Peterson’s) to come alive in the hands of the reader.

One thing I appreciated was the inclusion of a study at the end of the book itself.  It allows the reader to dig deeper and not just stop at the words of the author.  Sometimes we are lulled into the sense of “this one has it all wrapped up for me” and fail to invest the time to study ourselves.  By adding these few pages the reader is invited into a new depth of opportunity with the book of Jeremiah.  One that brings new knowledge and passion.

The recommendation is simple for Run with the Horses.  If you are looking to learn more from Jeremiah’s life, this is a great tag along for you.

*I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  These are my personal thoughts.
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I am still amazed that I read this book. I am normally not a bit Eugene Peterson fan. I picked this because of the title. The title comes from Jeremiah. I enjoyed reading the book more than I thought. It did give me a much better understanding of the book of Jeremiah. I was ready to read through Jeremiah when I came there in my read through the Bible reading. That made it worth it. I am glad that I ignored the fact that I am not a Eugene Peterson fan and read the book. It helped me to reflect on Jeremiah in a new light.
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This is one of Eugene Peterson's best books. Based on the life of the biblical prophet Jeremiah, Peterson gives us a counter-cultural view of what "life at its best" means. We live in a world that measures success by all the wrong variables. We think that becoming rich and famous would lead us to happiness. We devour non-stop programs and busy ourselves with all sorts of activism to try to get a sense of fulfillment but to no avail. We think of excellence based on the wrong standards of measurements. At the root of our restlessness is our unsettled soul. By refusing that ordinary and normal is good enough, we embark on all kinds of projects to intensify our search for self-accomplishment. Peterson turns it all around to say that "excellence comes from a life of faith, from being more interested in God than in self, and has almost nothing to do with comfort or esteem or achievement."

Not only that, as Peterson had alluded to how the world influence us, we are reminded about how our quest for excellence had become ambitions clouded with all manner of selfishness and worldliness. So he goes back to an Old Testament prophet who experienced emotional turmoil and discouragement at critical junctures on his time. It was in one of these moments that God challenged him:

    "If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country,how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" (Jer 12:5)

Popular motivational gurus would say things like "When the going gets tough, the tough gets going." They could also say that success comes with strength and grit or other inspirational quips to whip one back into contention. These formulas work for some but usually for a brief moment. Unfortunately, when one's need for such mantras become chronic, one questions the long-term benefits of positive thinking. What if we could turn it around and recognize that we cannot help ourselves. We are unable to run the long race on our own strength. There is something we could do and many other things way beyond our control, even our will. He shows us that Jeremiah's story takes us on a totally different direction. It is about God helping us to write our own stories of faith. He enables us to be original to God and not copycats of the world. In other words, Peterson writes that the image of man is essentially "the intensity to intensify a passion for excellence combined with an indifference to human achievement." 

How then do we live a life of excellence? Like a well-honed pastor and student of the Bible, Peterson brings us back to the identity question. Who is Jeremiah? The name points out the essence of the person's life. Neither roles nor achievements should define us. Our names should be the first thing with regard to knowing ourselves before we know how we can excel. Peterson notes how the name of Jeremiah is directly connected to God. In other words, Jeremiah's call is to the LORD. The more Jeremiah is connected to God, the more he becomes the best version of himself. There are reasons for this. First, it was God who created man, and obviously that means God knows what we are created for. Second, God knows the limitations of human beings. Learning to see from God's perspective also means a greater understanding of the limits of one's being. In fact, Peterson takes us further by saying that our relationship with God is not an "add-on" but the primary essence of understanding who we are. Third, Jeremiah's calling and purpose is intricately linked to his self-understanding. Without knowing his identity, how would he know his purpose? Without knowing his purpose, how would he know how to excel? As a skillful word-smith, Peterson answers all three simultaneously. Not only that, he seamlessly moves between the Old Testament story of Jeremiah and our modern cultural contexts to show us not only how relevant the life of Jeremiah is but also how much we could learn to be counter-cultural for our times. 

My Thoughts
My first thought is that this book looks like a collection of sermons on the life of Jeremiah. Following a short passage from the book of Jeremiah, and a brief quotation to set the tone of the chapter, Peterson launches into chapter with an insight, a story, or an observation about life. It reflects his preaching style which is expository. Slowly, he shows the reader on the importance of understanding one's identity and not to let the world define us. This he is able to do with such effect that one would have to pause to let the words sink in. One of the most powerful segments has to do with the nature of a prophet and the purpose of religion, in which he brings us back to the purpose of our created beings:

    "The task of a prophet is not to smooth things over but to make things right. The function of religion is not to make people feel good but to make them good."

Secondly, Peterson does not hold back from criticizing the culture of excess and self-conceit. His very first chapter pins down the tragedy of mediocre living that is trapping people in. That is the major barrier to our own growth toward excellence. More often than not, he makes self-application to remind himself that he too is vulnerable to the very traps he writes against. In the chapter about the potter's house, he compares and contrasts the two different perspectives of pottery and portraits. Frequently, these things are used by the world for efficacy purposes and miss out the beauty and the nature of the pottery and portraits themselves. Even the brown paper bag has become a way to describe this difference. This reminds me of how the world is becoming infatuated with the cheap and the pragmatic. When this happens, we see objects only as a means to an end, instead of learning to appreciate the thing for what it is. Very subtly, we are reminded that how we treat things could also translate into how we treat people.

Thirdly, I must say that this is one of the best books written by the late Eugene Peterson. With deep reverence for the Word of God, he combs the life of Jeremiah looking for gems to share with us. Very few people are able to do what he has done. Peterson has written many books, but this remains high in the list of my favourites.

Eugene Peterson was an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church (USA). From 1993 to 1998, he served as the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College. A prolific author, he is also an extremely popular pastor and professor with full-time ministers and students.
Rating: 5 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of Inter-Varsity Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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If you have a hard time with reading Jeremiah, but you really want to understand it, then this is an excellent resource for you.  I have read this book numerous times and I read it again just to be reminded of some fresh truths in relation to God's Word.  Eugene does a great job of reflecting and praying thru his journey of Jeremiah to help you and I to better understand it.  You must read this book to raise up your level of understanding Scripture, especially Jeremiah.  I promise, you won't regret reading this book.
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Run with the Horses is a re-imagined and updated version from Eugene H. Peterson's previously published version in 2009. With quotes from "The Message" translation of the Bible, Peterson blends personal stories along with observations and thoughts regarding Jeremiah. (The person and the book in the Bible). It is well thought out and challenging... Challenging in that it isn't a "feel good" wasn't he amazing and wow we should be like him type of Bible devotional. Instead it challenges the reader to step out of what is comfortable to find the faith that comes with God's presence. Very good!!
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I did not realize this was a study of Jerimiah.  It was heavy and I did learn things I was unaware of.  However, I am in the middle of another Bible Study so I did not get as deeply into it as I would have otherwise.  I read it due to Eugene H. Peterson, the author.  I respect his wring and wanted to read this special edition, since he died recently.  It would be good forma group Bible Study.
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Taking Jeremiah's life, from the book bearing his name, Peterson explores what human life should truly look like. He explores how Jeremiah and Yahweh's interactions explain and illuminate the Christian way of life, challenging our burn-out and over-worked culture. Peterson's death was felt across the spectrum of Protestant churches, but his legacy lives on in the helpful books he's written with his characteristic pastoral tone and familiarity with the entirety of the Bible.
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This updated edition with quoted verses from The Message and eulogy from Eugene Peterson's son should be on your To Read list. Also, special are words from Peterson about the commemorative edition written in the final year of his humble yet remarkable life.

Peterson relays a passion for living and encouragement from the life of Jeremiah.  Life is to be lived as a quest for the best no matter our circumstances and opposition.  What a timely book for our time.

I received a complimentary copy of the book without obligation. This review is my opinion.
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