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To Kick Against The Goads

And when we all had fallen to the ground,
I heard a voice speaking to me
and saying in the Hebrew language,
'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?
It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' (Acts 26:14)

So, what does it mean "to kick against the goads"? This phrase is a proverb, and is used as a metaphor to compare and show how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in one important way. God used this analogy in describing the waywardness and stubbornness of Saul the Pharisee before his conversion to become Paul the Apostle.

Many people in Bible times were tillers of the soil. Oxen were used to work and plow the soil. The goads were necessary tools used by farmers to prod animals to keep them moving. A goad was usually a wooden shaft with a pointed prick at one end. The farmer working the oxen would position the goads in such a way as to exert influence and control over the oxen. If the oxen were stubborn and refused the commands directed by the farmer, the goads would be used to jab or prick the oxen. Sometimes the oxen would further resist their masters by kicking at the pricks. As result, the pricks would be driven deeper into the flesh of the rebellious animals. The more the animals rebelled, the more the animals suffered.

The Bible teaches that the wise instructions of a good teacher act like goads.

The words of the wise are like goads,
and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails,
given by one Shepherd. (Eccl 12:11)

Goads could also be used as dangerous weapons to kill people.

After him was Shamgar the son of Anath,
who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad;
and he also delivered Israel. (Judges 3:31)

These goads or pointed pricks were not used on young oxen which had not being properly trained yet. As the young animals were more likely to resist the prodding, they would often get hurt seriously by the goads in the process. Therefore, goads were used on more mature oxen which were conditioned and were more easily guided by the farmers.

This example of kicking against the goads was used to teach the lesson that it was foolish to rebel against God-given authority, and any attempt to do so would simply result in much greater distress and discomfort.

Saul was rebelling against God. God had been trying to urge him to go in a certain direction, but Saul was resisting against God and against His ways. And in doing so, he was not just hurting others, he was also hurting himself. He was not just persecuting the Christians, he was actually persecuting Christ! His self-righteousness and zeal became uncontrolled as he captured the followers of Jesus, chaining them and bringing them back to Jerusalem for punishment. Many died as a result.

As he was nearing Damascus on his mission, the Lord met him and blinded him with a bright shining light from heaven. Saul fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."

It was interesting to note that Saul was mature enough to respond correctly almost immediately. Our Lord Jesus was a wise Master, and He knew how to guide this very special vessel back to the work He had chosen for him.

As spiritual leaders and teachers, we should always remember that there is a risk in using sharp pricks to teach a young believer or a novice about the Way and the Truth. Paul exhorted us in Ephesians 6:4:

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath,
but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

As young ministers developing to be the servants of God, we are encouraged to reach out for spiritual maturity that will make us to be willing to be guided by the directions of our Lord and the spiritual leaderships of our pastors and elders He has placed over us, and also through the trials and tribulations of life. We should seek to respond like Saul did, when we are presented with challenges and opportunities for the service of the Lord.

Pertaining to submission to authority, the Apostle Paul exhorted us in Romans 13:1-3: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same."

Peter also taught the same in 1 Peter 2:13-17: "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men-- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."

Therefore, we should not kick against the goads. We should learn to have respect for all that are in authority over us. Early in our lives, we should learn the importance of submission and obedience to our parents. Later, we should learn to cultivate respect for our teachers in school, our supervisors in the workplace and the authorities in the community and the state. If we resist and rebel against these authority figures in our life, we will have difficulty in learning to be humble and submissive to the Lordship of Christ and our Father in heaven.

In Psalm 32:8-9, the psalmist wrote:

I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.
Do not be like the horse or like the mule,
Which have no understanding,
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you.

We need to wise up when the Lord chastens us because we are His children as He leads and guides us through the journeys of life. We must follow Him, and not Him following us! When we seek to go our own ways and disobey God, we would only hurt ourselves. When we continue to rebel against God, we are driving the pricks deeper, inflicting more pains and hurts to ourselves. And that's the result that we would not desire to have.

And herein is an encouragement. We have a great example, and He is our Lord Jesus Christ:

During the days of Jesus' life on earth,
He offered up prayers and petitions
with loud cries and tears to the One
Who could save Him from death,
and He was heard because of His reverent submission.
Although He was a son,
He learned obedience from what He suffered and,
once made perfect,
He became the source of eternal salvation
for all who obey Him
and was designated by God
to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10)

Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered, and so must we. Only then can we walk and talk with God, following Him and working with Him, co-laboring in His kingdom and harvest fields, for His glory!

Written on:
14 January 2010