GOD AND OXEN
1 Corinthians 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
Mankind has been intrigued with their relation to animals for centuries. We see the stone statues made in ancient Egypt of human bodies with eagles heads. And of course we all know of the Sphinx, the lion’s body with the human head. The Greeks brought forth in their mythology the half horse and half man. And more recently, we see Hollywood making tons of money with a Bat-man and a Spider-man!
We, as Christians consider ourselves to be the Lord’s sheep! Psa. 100:3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. And of course, He is known as the Lion of Judah, and the Lamb of God! The Lord Jesus called Herod a fox (Luke 13:31,32). And the nations of the Gentiles were referred to as various animals in Daniel 7:4-7. So there is a great deal of knowledge to be had concerning animals, but only from the view point of spiritual Christianity, in order to attain that which the Lord meant to convey.
Doth God take care of oxen?
We must not remove this question from this context in which the Apostle Paul is considering. Of course God cares for oxen, as he does for all his creatures! One only needs to read the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of the Book of Job to see of the Lords provision, knowledge, and care of his creatures and creation! But this question is asking of the spiritual meaning and application of that which was written in the law. He is saying that this is a verse which should tell us of the principle of the financial care for gospel ministers!
Also in 1 Timothy 5:17,18 we read, Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
The Oxen’s Strength
In 2 Samuel chapter six, King David is trying to get the ark of God up to Jerusalem. The ark was the place of God’s communion with Israel! Exodus 25:22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. Our ark in the New Covenant is Christ! His is the only Mediator authorized to make communion between God and man! (1 Tim. 2:5).
And oxen played a role in both the first attempt to get the ark into Jerusalem, which failed, and the second, which succeeded. In the first attempt, the Israelites tried to transport it in the manner of the Philistines; on an ox drawn new cart. While this worked for the Philistines in ridding themselves of the judgments that came with the ark, for Israel it resulted in the death of Uzza, and in the shame of David.
The two verses in that passage which reveal the different roles for the oxen are six and thirteen. 2 Sam. 6:6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 2 Sam. 6:13 And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings.
In verse six we read of Israel depending upon the strength of the oxen. And there is no doubt that these creatures are more than strong enough to accomplish this task. But this was not the God-ordained way! But in verse thirteen we read that when the oxen were used as sacrifices, with the Levites carrying the ark, it arrived at it’s proper destination! We find this to be the main principle of the Christian spirit! For it is not by our works, but by His amazing grace through the sacrifice of Christ, that spiritual matters are accomplished! 2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
In Proverbs 14:4 we read, Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. It is the “strength of the ox” that produces much dung! And the Apostle Paul clearly tells us that the works of religious practice are but dung in God’s sight!
Philippians 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: For it is Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. (Zech. 4:6).
The Face Of an Ox
In the description of the life of God within the soul of man there are four creatures brought forth in order to reveal this deep, inner mystery of God’s regenerating work by the Holy Spirit. This is never seen by human eye, not even by the one receiving it! John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Eph. 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. And the one who has received it must come to the God-ordained light to have witness that his new attitudes and actions are actually God working within him! (John 3:21).
Therefore the Spirit uses four creatures to help the spiritual man understand his new nature in Christ. They are listed in Ezekiel 1:10, and in Revelation 4:7. And the four are these: the face of the lion, the face of the ox, the face of a man, and the face of the eagle. And since we are forbidden to make graven images of any likeness of anything in heaven, on earth, and in the seas, we cannot join in with Egypt’s eagle man, nor the Greek’s horse man, nor Hollywood’s Spider man! But what then is the benefit of these images offered to us in the Scriptures?
The life of God within man’s soul upon regeneration will prove itself lion-like in it’s boldness! These come boldly unto the throne of grace! (Heb 4:16). And they preach the gospel boldly, not fearing the wrath of man! (Eph. 6:19,20; Heb. 13:6).
Also the spiritual man has the ox-like character of strength with submission, even unto sacrifice! 1 Corin. 15:31 states, “I die daily!” And in 2Cor. 4:10 we read, Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. He is meek and lowly of heart, like his Master! And God’s power is revealed through him who is gentle and submissive.
The Spirit’s work is also seen to be reflected in the face of a man, in his intelligence, with his ability to discern and make judgments in compassion. For he softens his facial features to reveal his kindness to those he comes in contact with. The Spirit’s work within the soul will bring one unto the measure of the statue of the fulness of Christ: – unto a Perfect Man! (Eph. 4:13).
And lastly, he is as a flying eagle! He sits spiritually in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephes. 2:6). And he is not earth bound in his vision, nor in his dependance! For he mounts up with wings as eagles, to soar with God in his trust and hope and faith! (Isa. 40:31). He communes with Him whose name is far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come! (Ephes. 1:21).
Man’s Full Redemption
All the creatures and the creation of God await the final and full redemption of the believers! Their burdens, sufferings, and sicknesses will not be fully relieved until the glorification of the believer in his new body! Rom. 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
The lion-like natural man within the believer has already been made to lie down with his new nature, the lamb-like new man of grace. The child of faith has already been safely playing on the hole of the asp, since the Lord Jesus has destroyed the sting of sin, by crushing the serpent’s head! The old wolf-like sinful nature that cause the hireling to flee, already feeds with the lambs of Christ’s regeneration! But one day that which has been mysteriously hidden within the city without walls, the Kingdom of Christ, that the natural eye could not see, shall be revealed in all the beauty of the glory of God throughout eternity!
Pastor Gene Breed