Chariots of Fire

Posted by on August 19, 1999

A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads

I finally figured out how the movie Chariots of Fire received its name. The main character, Eric Liddell, is a student whose running makes him feel closer to God. Consequently, when he learns that his Olympic race will be on a Sunday, he chooses not to run, believing that he should honor God by resting on the seventh day. His decision throws everyone around him into turmoil, but Liddell holds fast and everything works out fine in the end. The movie’s title, Chariots of Fire, is a specific reference to an ancient story about another man who holds firm in the face of seeming disaster.

The title, Chariots of Fire, was taken from the second Book of Kings, where we read of yet another man with total confidence in the invisible and the unknowable:

“Go, find out where Elisha is,” the king orders, “so I can send men to capture him.” The report comes back: “He is in Dothan.” So the king sends horses and chariots and a strong force during the night, and they surround the city.

When Elisha’s servant Gehazi gets up and goes out early the next morning, he sees that an army with horses and chariots has surrounded the city of Dothan. “Oh, my lord Elisha, what shall we do?” Gehazi asks. “Don’t be afraid,” says Elisha calmly, putting on his clothes. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” As Gehazi continues to pace about, wringing his hands in fear, Elisha looks upward and says, “Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then Gehazi’s eyes are opened, and he looks, and sees the hills around the king’s army are full of horses and chariots of fire.”

Is this kind of supreme confidence available only to great historical figures and amazing athletes, or is it hidden deep inside every one of us? I can’t help but remember a scene from another movie. In Shakespeare in Love, Mr. Fennyman, the loan shark, and his two henchmen apprehend Henslowe, the cash-poor owner of The Rose Theater; they demand the repayment of his debt. “Allow me to explain about the theater business,” explains Henslowe. “Its natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.” “So what shall we do?” asks Fennyman sharply. Henslowe shrugs and replies, “Nothing… Strangely enough, it all turns out well.” His answer is unacceptable and Fennyman’s goons lurch forward to kill him. Suddenly, the queen’s herald strides into the town square and announces a solution. The scene ends with Henslowe walking away unscathed.

Should you find yourself solidly in the middle of “imminent disaster” this week, consider the confidence of Eric Liddell, Henslowe and Elisha, and look up; the hills around you are covered with horses and chariots of fire, waiting to come to your rescue, if only you will believe in them.

Roy H. Williams

Have you ordered your copy of Roy’s newest book, Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads? Maximum discount and quickest delivery are available only by pre-order on before September 6th. Order now, and the cover price of 16.95 will be reduced to only 10.17 and your book will be shipped on the release date of September 6th. Copies should appear in bookstores around September 14th. Why not order it today?

Chris Maddock

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