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  • Writer's picturemitchhorton

Animal Metaphors For The Spiritual Life

Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you (Psalm 32:9).

The Bible uses animals and their dispositions to illustrate the attitudes we should and shouldn’t have as believers.

A horse is independent and high spirited, and will bolt in a moment’s notice. A horse must be trained to trust. It’s difficult to be lead if you constantly “jump the gun.” God can’t lead us if we’re in front of Him, so slow down! We, like the horse to its owner, must learn to trust God’s gentle, guiding hand.

A mule is lazy, slow, and stubborn, and can easily get left behind. A mule wants its own way and must be forced to comply. We must be fervent and diligent in spirit as we serve the Lord. A lazy person is a carnal, body and feeling ruled individual. Be quick to obey what God says to you in His word.

A goat is independent and self-reliant. He wants things his way and in his time frame. In my past travels in Ethiopia on missions trips, I regularly see goats tussling in a tug-of-war with boys or men who are seeking to lead them. The goats want to do it their way, at their speed, and offer great resistance.

A sheep is a really dumb, helpless animal that must depend solely upon the shepherd for its care and provision. It has no self-defense against any enemy and can easily wander off the path and get lost. A sheep sticks close to the shepherd and is trained to listen for the shepherd’s voice. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. He is the great shepherd of the sheep. Jesus is the good shepherd.

All of us at some time or the other display some of these characteristics. We all at times have run ahead of God in our human, fleshly zeal. I’ve learned some hard life lessons that way. Perhaps we’ve let down our guard and not been diligent to obey, and allowed our flesh to rule us. All of us must keep in check the tendency toward self-reliance and independent living.

The best we can do is give up our fleshly right to control our lives and make our own way, and daily yield our will to the will of the Father who works all things together for our good and His glory. To be dependent on God and His word, we must be willing to humble ourselves and assume the attitude of a sheep towards its shepherd. It’s the best way, the most cared for way, and the hardest on the flesh!

Jesus became the Lamb of God, denoting total yieldedness. What will you allow yourself to be; a horse, a mule, a goat, or a humble sheep. Can you hear His voice calling you?

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