Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Ox

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Did you know the word Ox or Oxen is found in the bible 92 times. There are a lot of verses that deal with not coveting or stealing someones oxen. If you steal an ox and get caught you must pay back 5 cattle and some sheep. Actually one verse says you must pay back double the value if the stolen ox is found in your possession.

I'm sure you are already wondering how I've gotten off on this subject. Actually I was thinking about plowing and how animals are yolked together to effectively plow together. I think ministry is often like plowing and who we are teamed up with makes a difference in weather or not we can plow a strait line or if we end up going in circles. Not being a farm girl I don't have any real tangible experience in plowing. Yet the Lord often talks to me regarding the church in terms of fields that need prepared for planting. Even when it seems there is no seed the Lord still tells me prepare the field. Preparing the field is about plowing. One ox can prepare a small patch of ground to do a larger area teams are needed.

In reading about ox teams it seems the lead animal is to the front right if using two oxen. If using four the more able leaders of each pair would be in the middle setting the course or direction. In a good team the strongest oxen are actually at the back of the team rather than the front. The reason being is that they are able to slow down the team or stop the team particularly when going down hill. It seems there is a different set of muscles used for this purpose. So not only does one need leaders who can pull and move forward we need strength to hold us back when there is too much momentum to move at a safe pace for the team.

So I look at the people around my church plowing team. If you hitch it up wrong - you end up going in circles. If you put the wheelers (the strong ones that slow things down) in the front you won't go very far or move at all. The wheelers need to follow the leaders. The leaders need to be all aligned to the same purpose or direction. In a good team one must lead and one must follow adding strength and pulling power. In a duel team one leader must defer to the other and through their combined leadership move the team in the same direction.

If we want to effectively plow together we must pray that God would come and hitch us up in the best configuration. Where would God put you in the team? Are you the lead or one of the leaders. Are you coming long side a leader. Are you the wheeler that helps put the breaks on but only when needed not out of resistance to the leaders. Maybe you are still being groomed or trained to be able to be part of a team.

Another animal used for plowing is the donkey or the ass. The donkey is said to be one of the smartest animals. It is said to work harder and longer than cattle. The tricky thing with donkeys is that because of their intelligence they are at times offended or put of if incorrectly handled or managed. Donkeys are known to hold a grudge. They won't forget the person who mistreats them and will often wait for years for an opportunity to pay back on offense.

Interestingly both the donkey and the ass are included in our traditional manger scenes but are never actually mentioned as being present. It is thought that it is because of this verse in Isaiah 1:3 that they have been included.

Isaiah 1:3 (NIV1984)
The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”

Anyway for my little rabbit trail it seems to me that the ox and donkey people are those who do know their master. They are the ones to lead and plow. They are the people who help move us forward. It is not until they are mature that they are put to work as part of pulling or plowing teams.

Interestingly Deuteronomy 22:10 says 10 Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.

Here's why according to the Reformation Study Bible. "The reason for this may be the impracticality both of making a donkey pull an ox’s load and of making an ox go at the faster donkey’s pace. Or, the contrast between clean animals (the ox) and unclean (the donkey, 14:1–8) may have served to remind Israel of her call to purity. Paul cites this verse in 2 Cor. 6:14, forbidding the fellowship of believers and unbelievers."

Matthew Henry says "they must not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, nor mingle themselves with the unclean, as an ox with an ass."

2 Corinthians 6:14 14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
I guess for the purposes of my post today. I guess I am simply saying that it matters who we are yoked together with be it in marriage or in ministry partnerships. Its important that the team all be going in the same direction and that we are not working against one another.
Lastly when Elisha was called to ministry he burned his plowing tools and cooked his oxen to feed the people. When he heard God's call he set his course in such a way as to not be able to go back to his old life. This guy clearly knew how to plow. We find him working with 12 yoke of oxen.
1 Kings 19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

Well I'm not sure why I personally found God speaking to me through oxen and donkeys today but I hope something in my assorted thoughts and discoveries will encourage you.

I've got to run so - this will have to do for today. Blessings to you my dear readers. I pray the Lord will speak to you some how through these words. 

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