I know nothing of what it’s like to own an ox, but I have been around someone who owns a horse. And while riding those beasts might be fun and games (ok, and sometimes a lot of work), it’s a whole different world when you gotta clean up after them. Stalls can be really nasty places. It’s where those horses eat, and drink, and . . . . do other stuff. So maybe I’ve got a bit of context for picking up the word picture the sage is trying to lay down this morning.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
(Proverbs 4:4 ESV)
It’s easy to keep clean the barn that is uninhabited. But it might be worth a bit of mess in the stable if the result is food on the table.
And, it might be wise to expect that as we seek to walk in a manner that’s worthy, it’s gonna come with it’s fair share of waste. But that dealing with the dust and dirt along the way is all part of reaping the harvest at the end.
Sure, it would be easier to not have to clean up after situations. To not have to replace bedding that’s been soiled and broken down over time. To not have to deal with unpleasant, and sometimes unexpected messes. But if the price for clean stalls are vacant silos, isn’t that too high a price to pay? Would a hassle-free life really be worth an empty existence?
Not that it makes the mess any less. Not that it eases the pain of dealing with the unavoidable consequences of doing life. But with an eye to the harvest, dealing with the bedding becomes doable. Remembering what lies ahead is great motivation for leaning into the seeming chaos of the present.
And here’s the thing, we’re not left on our own to deal with the collateral disorder that can come from doing life. The dirt left as a result of sin can be cleansed by the blood of Christ. The disarray that comes from separation can be re-ordered by the Comforter who draws near. The disorientation that caused by un-wanted circumstance can be realigned as we set our hearts afresh on things above. And the disillusionment that so often raises its head as we run the race can be diffused as we remember the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake as we strive for the prize.
It’s going to be worth it all. We want oxen in the stable, and all the mess and effort that comes with them, because we believe their will be a great harvest. We’re willing to try and pick up the pieces along the way, because we’ve been told it’s worth putting our shoulder to the plow.
Not based on any merit that is ours. But founded solely on the majesty that is His. Not because of what we can do. But only because of what He has already done.
“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus
(John 16:33 ESV)
And so, we’ll keep mucking the stalls as we watch for the harvest.
By His grace. For His glory.