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Friday, January 13, 2012

Oxen being spurred on by goad
"The words of the wise are like goads."
These oxen are being spurred along by means of an ancient farm implement, the ox goad.

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"The Words Of The Wise"

"The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails--given by one Shepherd" (Ecclesiastes 12:11).

Several days ago I received an email informing me that Edward Menaldino, an esteemed senior brother in the Lord was quite ill. Over thirty years ago this brother spoke a word of truth into my heart by quoting a Scripture text that has since become my life verse (1 Corinthians 15:58). Yesterday in the course of my chaplain work I had an opportunity to challenge a young man
with that very same verse who is seeking to live his life for Christ. Furthermore it occurs to me that I am now very close in age to the older minister when he spoke to me, and the young man is the same age as I when I received the word! *  What comes around goes around! I received a word from the wise and sought to pass it on.

There are teachings in the Bible that require a bit of historical research to understand even though they would have likely been more easily understood at the time they were written. Today's verse is an example concerning the words of the wise. Let's consider three characteristics of these "words of the wise":

Goad1) "They are like goads." I suppose many of our readers would not know what a goad is, since it's not a part of our daily vocabulary! The goad is a traditional farming implement, used to spur or guide livestock, usually oxen, which are pulling a plow or a cart. Today some farmers use a cattle prod. I joined my neighbor once as he was preparing to load finished hogs in a truck on the way to market and saw the workers use a prod to goad them along into the truck.

The goad is a long stick with a pointed end. Perhaps it's most peculiar use involved Shamgar who killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (Judges 3:31). I still recall an Old Testament professor explaining this verse and pointing out an ox goad is a "stick with a prick on the end." An obscure verse likely rarely considered indicates their value in the economy of the day.

By way of a spiritual analogy the goad is similar to the conviction of the Holy Spirit revealing truths that function like "goads" (pointed sticks) prodding us on to live in the right way. Consider Acts 2:37 describing the response of the crowd at Pentecost to Peter's message; "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'"  Later the word actually is used at Saul's testimony of his conversion, "I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads'" (Acts 26:14). When God uses His Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, or as a means of directing us, it may initially be a very painful or uncomfortable stirring within our hearts!

Photo of firmly embedded nails2) They are "like firmly embedded nails." What a powerful word picture for those who have tried to remove a nail firmly embedded in a piece of wood. Just like embedded nails, may the principles of God's Word be firmly embedded in our minds and hearts.

Nails in their crudest form date back to 3,000 BC, some 2,000 years before Solomon lived. Our spiritual application is in regard to having the truths of God's Word firmly embedded in our hearts.

Consider the photo of two rusty nails driven into some rough, gnarly wood, perhaps a fence post or a power line pole.  At some point the nails were bent and now after many years they show the rust as they've weathered moisture and age. At this point these nails are very firmly embedded in the wood. If you've ever removed nails you might picture the effort likely required to pull them out and the creaking sound you would hear!

We have a role in allowing God's Word to be firmly embedded in our hearts. We read, study, listen to godly teaching, memorize and hide God's Word deep in our hearts. The Word in time becomes firmly embedded like the nails in the photograph. When Satan's siftings are experienced we might be put through the grinder of fear or doubt, but in Christ we remain steadfast, firm, and immovable!

Good Shepherd3) They are "given by one Shepherd" It seems to me that the "words of the wise" and "collected sayings" ultimately refer to the Word of God. Due to the divine inspiration of Scripture these wise words and collected sayings are indeed given by one Shepherd, although various human agents were involved.

Ecclesiastes ends with this powerful truth that completes the thought: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14).  Keep this in mind as you live for Jesus today!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we recognize the spiritual, emotional, and physical strength that comes from relying on truths and principles established in Your Word.  Impress them deep upon our hearts like embedded nails so that we hold firmly to them.  Otherwise we get lax and are led astray from the paths You've laid out for us. Much like the oxen we need the goading or prodding of Your Holy Spirit to keep our hearts in check and our will submitted to Your leading. Keep us faithful we pray.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

* "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).  I very specifically recall the time I was being examined for my ordination nearly 33 years ago.  Only 24 years old at the time, I was sitting at a massive conference table with the elders who had served in ministry for many years. After written tests (4-5 hours), essays, background checks, references and so forth this was the final step in my approval for ordination. These tried and proven elders (we use the term Presbyter) asked various questions concerning my call to ministry, Bible knowledge, doctrinal understanding and so forth. It was very stressful and wearying.

As the meeting came to a close I recall one of the presbyters, Edward Menaldino, a very distinguished Italian minister who pastored a large church on Philadelphia's south side, stood up, paused, and made direct eye contact with me. He then solemnly and slowly quoted this Scripture portion from memory with the Spirit's anointing.  Given his age and the time probably the KJV:  "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

Perhaps that's why this passage has stood out over the years as it has been a source of encouragement through our many years of Christian service. Only God would know that the church we were planting at the time would have many ups and downs, difficulties would abound. Of course in various ways that has been the case wherever or however I have served the Lord. I would need the Spirit's prompting to never shrink back, but "always give myself fully to the work of the Lord knowing that my labor in the Lord is not in vain."

That's a word for you as well, dear friend. No matter what God has called you to do, give yourself fully to it, and know that your work is not in vain.  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. You may not see the fruit of that victory at the present, but trust God that He will reveal it to you in due time. (See Galatians 6:7-10)

Literal & spiritual meaning of the nail illustration: I consider just looking at today's photo of the nails driven into the post and how hard it would be to remove them. I would probably need to drive a flat-bladed screw driver in and bend them out enough to get a claw hammer in. Then I would probably need to strike the claw hammer on the handle with another hammer and hope the nail head doesn't break off. I might have to hit the nail back and forth to loosen it.  I would then hope to hear a creaking sound as the whole nail slowly is removed!

John Deere transport
Yesterday I visited with Lee, a friend who shared about an area near Sarasota Florida where a lot of the Plain or old-order folks visit in the winter.  He showed me several interesting photos he had taken including this interesting looking mode of transportation. It is powered by solar panels on top although I don't know if there's an alternative power source. Notice the front of a John Deere lawn tractor. Apparently it balances similar to a Segway but I can't tell from the photo how they steer it.

Plain children with ice cream conesThese children look like they're really enjoying a blueberry flavored ice cream cone!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Ancient Words” (Video)
Ancient words, ever true
Changing me, changing you
We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart.

"I Know Whom I Have Believed"  Video Traditional tune sung Acapella This song came to mind due to the phrase "I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in Him." That speaks of the goading power of the Holy Spirit! Here's the same song to a bit of an updated tune.  Video
Here's a nice instrumental version with lyrics.  Video

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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