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)
Kicking Against The Goads
Beasts of burden have been a common picture of rural life since the beginning of time. Man was given dominion over the animals and utilizing their great strength and endurance, he was able to subdue the land and carve out for himself means of survival. The oxen were an especially durable animal used often in plowing the land but it was also a very stubborn and rebellious creature. Jabal, son of Lamech (early descendant of Adam) is noted as the father of those who dwelt in tents and had livestock. He would have learned early how stubborn the oxen would be. It is uncertain who invented the first goad, but it seems like a practical solution to a persistent problem.
A goad is a length of wood about eight feet long. In time goads had iron spikes attached to the end or would sharpen the end of the wood to prod the animal to move. It is the nature of oxen to be stubbornly refusing to walk but a well-placed goad encouraged the beasts to continue moving. However, instinctively, feeling the sharp jab of the goad, an ox would kick against the goad resisting the prodding. The animal continued to move but it was unhappy at the pain inflicted by the goad and fought the plowman’s efforts. Fighting the goad did not solve the problem as the plowman would continue to enforce the goad. The only thing the ox accomplished was to hurt himself. It did not change its station in life.
Jesus used the proverbial saying of goading oxen to ask Saul of Tarsus why he continued to fight against the church dragging off men and women to prison. Saul was intent on destroying those who followed Jesus Christ and was quite effective in his passion. When Jesus came to Saul on the road to Damascus, He enforced a clear lesson for the zealous Jew to know that all he was doing was hurting himself. In the first place, his efforts to destroy the church were powerless. There was nothing Saul could do that would change the divine plan of God. Any resistance to the cause and will of God would be fruitless. Like an ox kicking against the goad, Saul was only hurting himself. He would later recall how vehemently he persecuted the church and how great a sinner he was for what he did.
Albert Barnes said of the expression to kick against the goads is to rebel “against lawful authority, and thus getting into greater difficulty by attempting to oppose the commands to duty.” Saul’s persecution of the church is the same malady experienced by those who reject the clear teaching of the gospel and the word of God. Refusing to obey the commands of God does not change the law of God. Attempting to resist the will of the Father will never change the mind of the Father. Trying to save oneself by good deeds is commendable but will never save a man. Believing that a person can live with the carnal pleasures of the world and be acceptable to the righteousness of the Lord will never bring one into a holy covenant with God. Changing the church to fit the ideals of human wisdom does not mean the church of Christ is diminished. There is only one body and one church and that has not changed in two thousand years. Opposing God and refusing to submit to the authority and will of the Father will only bring the disapproval and wrath of God.
Kicking against the goads is a common malady. The nature of man is to resist. He wants to rule his own life. His wisdom seems greater than the wisdom of God. Most refuse to accept the authority of God in their lives and like the ox, kick against the goading of God’s word – but to no avail. The ox resists the goad but they are still shackled to the plow and they still serve the will of the plowman. This will not change because all that man can hope to be is an obedient servant of the divine master who is the Lord God. The goad can be painful but the blessings of those who lovingly guide the lives of the faithful are immeasurable. Submit to the goad of God and you will be blessed.