Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,…
The first glance at the words shows us a proverb. Even from heaven, God, if He speaks at all, must adapt His speech to man's usages. The risen and ascended Saviour spake not on earth only in parables. That before us is taken from the very commonest life of man. With a goad in his hand, headed by a long sharp spike of iron, the farmer drives before him the reluctant animal which would loiter or deviate from its way. In the obstinacy of an untamed will, the bullock unaccustomed to the yoke will even kick against his driver; and then the iron, other. wise harmless, enters into the recalcitrant foot. So in human life, in the affairs of the soul, there is a Hand which directs, and there is also a wilt which it seeks to guide. So long as the human will moves along the straight furrow of duty, so long the goad of punishment is unfelt. But if man will refuse the Divine influence, and stop or hedge aside, the guiding impulse must become a painful goad of discipline, and resistance must be coerced and, if necessary, punished into acquiescence.
1. "The way of transgressors is hard." So speaks Solomon. He had found it so. And so speaks Christ. The young man thinks it a sign of independence to forget God that made him, and to walk in the way of his own heart. He learns to forsake the rule of his father, and to despise the law of his mother. He forms new associates; his habits become more and more such as a Christian parent would mourn over. Does he find his new life a freedom? Are his new ways ways of pleasantness? He calls them so in his hours of mirth. But somehow he feels to be more in bondage than ever. The old rules of his parents, if they were restraints, at least had no sting in them. But now, these pleasures of sin, not only are they short lived, they are anxious in the indulgence, and torturers in the retrospect. His conscience is ever warning and lashing him. And when sickness comes, when grey hairs are upon him, when death is imminent; how then? Young men — young women — be persuaded of this; that there is a God over you; if you will have it so, a God of love; if you will not have it so, then at least a God of power! It is hard for thee now, as well as dangerous eventually, to kick against the pricks.
2. There are those who are kicking against the goad of a fatherly discipline, who do not understand and love the method by which God is training them for Himself. They are denied many things which they desire: they are subjected to many things which they dislike. When they seemed to have even attained, the prize was wrenched from them. When they did attain, the coveted fruit has turned to ashes in the mouth. By these means the world was made a world of nothingness to them. Perhaps they were too eager for it. They were of that nature which would have been satisfied to "sit by the fleshpots and eat bread to the full." And therefore the discipline needful for them was desert life. Sinai, with God speaking from it, was necessary to their soul's safety. And yet scarcely were they in it, when they began to find fault. Their "soul loathed this light bread," the bread of eternity and of the Spirit. The smitten rock yielded only a spiritual supply; and they were athirst for something more luscious, more earthly. Thus again and again they were rebellious against the hand that guided, and forced it to become a hand that drove. Why? "Even because He had a favour unto them." To kick against that Hand, even if it was forced by their waywardness to hold a goad, was rebellion as much against happiness as against strength. I address some tonight who are in definite trouble. My friend, "it is the Lord. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil." "Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?" "Humble yourselves" rather under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. It is hard for thee, painful now, eventually ruinous, to kick against the goad.
3. There is yet a further use of the proverb, that in which it was originally spoken. St. Paul was moral and conscientious; but be was kicking against the goad because he was refusing the revelation of Christ. He saw not his own sinfulness. He knew not his own want of a Saviour. He was not willing that others should trust in One whom he knew not. Can there be any here whose sin is that of Saul? Certainly there are those who are willing to take everything of the gospel save the very gospel itself; moral, conscientious, earnest men, yet who suffer themselves to repudiate altogether the revelation of the forgiveness of sin through the Atonement, and of renewal by the Holy Spirit. Depend upon it, you are kicking against a goad. You do want a Saviour for forgiveness, cleansing, strength, comfort and grace in daily life. Why, then, will you keep out of your heart that bright light? Why will you compel Him to drive, who would lead and guide? Conclusion: Scripture gives us examples of every kind of direction. Mark the order.
1. There is the sharp iron for the refractory. "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
2. There is the bit and bridle for the unreasoning.
3. There is the voice of the Shepherd, known and loved by the docile flock.
4. There is the guidance, not even of voice, but of the eye only, which suits the ready, anticipating will of the entirely tractable and sympathising child.To kick against the goad is the extreme of disobedience; to watch the guiding eye, to wait not for the word or the sign, much less for the spur of authority, is the perfection of obedience. In all senses, may that last be ours!
Parallel VersesKJV: Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,