Kicking Against the Goads

I read the book of Acts just over a year and a half ago, but recently I started a more in-depth study of Acts. One of my favorite parts is Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

This story is told 3 times in Acts. Once here in Acts 9:3-6, again before the mob trying to kill Paul in Acts 22:6-11, and lastly before the Roman governor Felix and King Agrippa in Acts 26:12-16. In this last version Paul adds a line that is not in the other versions. It says:

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

Now I had read about goads in the Old Testament but forgot what they were, so I had to go look it up again. They could be used as weapons but most often were used to drive oxen.

1. (n.) A pointed instrument used to urge on a beast; hence, any necessity that urges or stimulates.
2. (v. t.) To prick; to drive with a goad; hence, to urge forward, or to rouse by anything pungent, severe, irritating, or inflaming; to stimulate.

I found this to be an interesting comment that Jesus made to Saul but the more I researched it the more it made sense, both in relationship to Saul and Jesus and myself also. Here is some interesting commentary from Barnes’ Notes on that line of scripture.

“The expression ‘to kick against the prick’ is derived from the action of a stubborn and unyielding ox kicking against the goad. And as the ox would injure no one by it but himself; as he would gain nothing, it comes to denote ‘an obstinate and refractory disposition and course of conduct, resisting the authority of him who has a right to command, and opposing the leadings of Providence, to the injury of him who makes the resistance.’ It denotes ‘rebellion against lawful authority, and thus getting into greater difficulty by attempting to oppose the commands to duty.’ This is the condition of every sinner. If people wish to be happy, they should cheerfully submit to the authority of God. They should not rebel against his dealings. They should not complain against their Creator. They should not resist the claims of their consciences. By all this they only injure themselves. No man can resist God or his own conscience and be happy.” Those words, which are omitted here but which were obviously spoken, give us to believe that Paul knew in his heart that Jesus was the Messiah and that the report of His resurrection from the dead was true.

This now makes perfect sense why Jesus said this to Saul. By resisting the Lord he was injuring no one but himself. As I look back over my life I can see many times that I have exhibited this same problem. On many occasions I resisted my parents. I resisted law enforcement on one occasion. I resisted management at work and loved ones in my relationship. Like the ox against the goad, I ended up hurting myself on most occasions. But none of this hurt me as bad as resisting the Lord for most of my life. Like Saul, I finally stopped resisting and realized there is only one way of living and that is through the light of Jesus Christ. Now, whenever I’m having a bad day or I’m frustrated that things might not be going the way I think they should, I stop and make sure I’m not “kicking against the goads” again. Invariably, I find that is my problem and by putting our Lord and Savior in control, all things come into focus again.

If your struggling at times, stop and make sure you are not kicking against the goads!

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