11 The words of the wise are like goads, and masters of these collections are like driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive study is wearying to the body.Ecclesiastes 12:11
The other day I shared with my husband how I’m reading through the minor prophets in the Bible. I had just finished the book of Hosea and was so intrigued to do a deeper dive into the historical and cultural facts, when my husband said (paraphrased), what if doing the research will take away what you just learned?
By simply reading the word (with a few cross-references), I learned how much more compassionate, loving, and forgiving God is. Despite the oddities in Hosea compared to our modern culture, God repeatedly invites His people into a deeper relationship with Him. He wants us to have more than just head knowledge, so that we would have heart knowledge, which is what helps us change for the better.
We often get caught up in our head knowledge by acquiring information and researching topic after topic without letting it take root in our lives. We’re inspired and informed, but not motivated to change. Even though it’s good to study the word and the ins and outs of biblical context, it can sometimes get the best of us. Kind of like cattle or sheep. Without a little goad they might eat something harmful in the field, get their hooves too dirty, and even wander off from the herd.
In a similar sense, we need a goad to stay on track with the truth of the gospel. I wanted to dig deeper into the book of Hosea, but the simplicity of God’s word had already taken root. Enough for me to think about how I could reciprocate my love to God. Perhaps in the future I could dig deeper and research, but in the meantime, Ruvim’s wise words felt like a goad that reminded me to enjoy the “food” God gave me.
Correspondingly, the 12th Hebrew letter, Lamedh, means to “prick, sting, incite, goad.” So in this post, I want to share with you how its definition relates to the word of God through Psalm 119:89-96.
Definition of Lamedh
The original meaning of the letter, Lamedh, is “to prick, sting, incite, goad,” as a shepherd might do to provoke cattle to perform an action. It’s momentarily painful, but it’s motivating enough so that the cattle obeys. The Hebrew name of the letter itself, (root word lamad) means to learn or teach, and it first appears in Deuteronomy 4:1, which reads:
“Now, Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you will live…”
In the Hebrew culture, learning and/or teaching is always tied to an action. It has to spur one on to take action, like a goad would with an animal. It’s easy to get caught up with the fun facts of certain topics, the history, and culture, but if it doesn’t lead you to change, then it’s left as head knowledge.
With these 2 definitions combined, the goad can represent the word of God. Just like a shepherd uses a goad to provoke an animal to take action in the field, God uses His word to lead us to take action in our lives. His word and simplicity of the gospel must go from head knowledge and become heart knowledge, so that we can walk in righteousness and truth.
In the following verses, the psalmist helps us see why it provokes, or motivates, us to take action:
89 Forever, Lord, Your word stands in heaven.Psalm 119:89-96
90 Your faithfulness continues throughout generations; You established the earth, and it stands.
91 They stand this day by Your ordinances, For all things are Your servants.
92 If Your Law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my misery.
93 I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me.
94 I am Yours, save me; For I have sought Your precepts.
95 The wicked wait for me to destroy me; I will diligently consider Your testimonies.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection; Your commandment is exceedingly broad.
The Goad in Our Life
Verses 89-91 show us that the word of God is enduring.
It’s trustworthy because it doesn’t change. Our perspectives and understanding changes because we are finite humans, but truth doesn’t change. Historically, people have tried to destroy and eliminate its very existence, but the Bible hasn’t only survived, it continues to thrive. It is alive and active, completely inspired by God. Statistically, it is the most loved, the most hated, the most challenging, and the most transformational book in the world.
The next 2 verses help us understand that the word of God is life-giving.
The psalmist states that it is his delight and that through it, God revived him. It’s become his saving grace, and similarly, we can see how this is true for cattle and sheep when a shepherd leads them in the right way using goad. After being pricked so many times, they learn that apart from its discipline, they could perish and lose their way outside of the herd. The word of God brings life and peace to us as we learn to delight and trust in it.
And last, the word of God is motivating, which is how it provokes us to take action.
In the last 3 verses, the word of God reminds us who we are (vs. 94: I am Yours); which helps us approach God as redeemed sons and daughters. It shows us how to respond during trials (vs. 95); the word is often timely and fitting for our situations. And it is “exceedingly broad,” (vs. 96) which opens up our hearts and minds in our situations and relationships, helping us see the bigger picture with wisdom for the next step.
This makes me think of an animal that is hyper-focused on a twig or a bush, scratching it to satisfy its hunger, when its shepherd uses a goad to reveal the bigger and broader field, filled with luscious grass and countless plants to choose us. God’s word broadens our perspective.
The following quote helps us understand this a little more:
“Broad, or large, both for extent and for continuance; it is useful to all persons in all times and conditions, and for all purposes to inform, direct, quicken, comfort, sanctify, and save men; it is of everlasting truth and efficacy; it will never deceive or forsake those who trust to it, as all worldly things will, but will make men happy both here and for ever.”(Poole),
God’s word brings life because it is alive. “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me. The Bible is not antique or modern. It is eternal.”(Luther, cited in Boice), David Guzik’s commentary on Psalm 119
When my husband shared his thoughts, I realized I already gained heart knowledge just by reading the word of God. It revealed God’s nature and proved how enduring, life-giving, and motivating His words are. And furthermore, it reminded me of the simplicity of the gospel, that it’s all about getting to know Him.
And to conclude, there are many things that act as goads in our lives. My husband’s words became a timely goad. Often our friends and family can act like goads. But beyond the comparisons and analogies, may God’s word be a true goad in your life, pricking your conscience to walk in His truth. May His revealed word to you personally result in heart knowledge, leading you to know Jesus more and more. ❤
What else can act as a goad in your life?
How has the word of God been a goad for you?
How has the word of God proved itself to be enduring, life-giving, and/or motivating for you?