"Where No Oxen Are"
"Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox." Proverbs 14:4
Many times I have sat and meditated on this verse; its meaning is nothing short of a call to action, both in the natural and in the spiritual. (I Corinthians 15:44) Albert Barnes noted "Labor has its rough, unpleasant side, yet it ends in profit. So also, the life of contemplation may seem purer, ‘cleaner’ than that of action. The outer business of the world brings its cares and disturbances, but also ‘much increase.’ There will be a sure reward of that activity in good works for him who goes, as with "the strength of the ox," to the task to which God calls him." — Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Oxen where of great value due to their strength and endurance to labor. There was much increase by the use of these wonderful beasts, but this also meant the cleaning and maintaining of their crib or stall. Working on a ranch as a youth, I can appreciate what Solomon is talking about here. Cleaning out the stall was a dirty, smelly, time consuming endevor. However, the work the animal produced far out wieghed this unpleasant chore.
John Gill's Exposition deals more with a spiritual interpretation of this verse. He writes that "oxen are an emblem of faithful and laborious ministers... where there are no ministers of the Gospel, there is no food for souls." To this I agree, though believe it has an even deeper significance to each child of God.
We are in a warfare that extends from the higharchy of dark satanic forces to the conquest of our own carnal passions. Yes, "the crib is clean" where there are no battles, but there is great advancement of the kingdom of God through these battles. The soul of man never advances towards Christ-likeness without conflict and tribulation. It is a great sin against God not to fight in this battle. "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion." (Amos 6:1)
We walk by faith, but faith is without question an action word, "faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2:17) Even at a complete stand still, there is action, "and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:14) The Greek word here for stand is histemi #2476; which means literally to continue, to establish, to hold up in a present and future tense.
Here is Paul's meaning when he says to stand. "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;" (Ephesians 6:14-18)
Do all this Paul said, "that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11) Standing therefore means to actively defend, not to be idol. An idol saint will be overtaken in darkness because darkness does not sit idol. "...darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people:" (Isaiah 60:2) Darkness is ever moving forward, those whose faith is inactive Will Be overtaken in it.
Scripture is plain about this, the child of God must be aggressive.
"...we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22
"I press toward the mark for the prize..." Philippians 3:14
"For we wrestle..." Ephesians 6:12
"...every man presseth into it..." Luke 16:16
"...the violent take it by force." Matthew 11:12
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life..." 1 Timothy 6:12
This is the faith that produces results. Yes, the crib will become dirty and smelly which will require some unpleasant duties; may even become very difficult along the way, but what of the great increase wrought for the glory of God by those who would risk all, and take it by force.
The late President Theodore Roosevelt said this, "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
God is looking for ordinary men to do extraordinary things. These men are empty of self, and are full of and led by the Holy Spirit. Men who hate sin and love truth. Men who want nothing but to glorify God in all they do. These are the oxen which bring forth much increase!
— Randy Munter Editor and Webmaster
The Sword of the Spirit
by Charles H. Spurgeon
"Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17
To be a Christian is to be a warrior. The good soldier of Jesus Christ must not expect to find ease in this world: it is a battle-field. Neither must he reckon upon the friendship of the world; for that would be enmity against God. His occupation is war. As he puts on piece by piece of the panoply provided for him, he may wisely say to himself, "This warns me of danger; this prepares me for warfare; this prophesies opposition."
Difficulties meet us even in standing our ground; for the apostle, two or three times, bids us-"Stand." In the rush of the fight, men are apt to be carried off their legs. If they can keep their footing, they will be victorious; but if they are borne down by the rush of their adversaries, everything is lost. You are to put on the heavenly armor in order that you may stand; and you will need it to maintain the position in which your Captain has placed you. If even to stand requires all this care, judge ye what the warfare must be!
The apostle also speaks of withstanding as well as standing. We are not merely to defend, but also to assail. It is not enough that you are not conquered; you have to conquer: and hence we find, that we are to take, not only a helmet to protect the head, but also a sword, with which to annoy the foe. Ours, therefore, is a stern conflict, standing and withstanding; and we shall want all the armor from the divine magazine, all the strength from the mighty God of Jacob.
It is clear from our text that our defense and our conquest must be obtained by sheer fighting. Many try compromise; but if you are a true Christian, you can never do this business well. The language of deceit fits not a holy tongue. The adversary is the father of lies, and those that are with him understand the art of equivocation; but saints abhor it. If we discuss terms of peace, and attempt to gain something by policy, we have entered upon a course from which we shall return in disgrace. We have no order from our Captain to patch up a truce, and get as good terms as we can. We are not sent out to offer concessions.
It is said that if we yield a little, perhaps the world will yield a little also, and good may come of it. If we are not too strict and narrow, perhaps sin will kindly consent to be more decent. Our association with it will prevent its being so barefaced and atrocious. If we are not narrow-minded, our broad doctrine will go down with the world, and those on the other side will not be so greedy of error as they now are. No such thing. Assuredly this is not the order which our Captain has issued. When peace is to be made, he will make it himself, or he will tell us how to behave to that end; but at present our orders are very different.
Neither may we hope to gain by being neutral, or granting an occasional truce. We are not to cease from conflict, and try to be as agreeable as we can with our Lord's foes, frequenting their assemblies, and tasting their dainties. No such orders are written here. You are to grasp your weapon, and go forth to fight.
Neither may you so much as dream of winning the battle by accident. No man was ever holy by a happy chance. Infinite damage may be done by carelessness; but no man ever won life's battle by it. To let things go on as they please, is to let them bear us down to hell. We have no orders to be quiet, and take matters easily. No; we are to pray always, and watch constantly. The one note that rings out from the text is this:-TAKE THE SWORD! TAKE THE SWORD! No longer is it, talk and debate! No longer is it, parley and compromise! The word of thunder is-Take the sword. The Captain's voice is clear as a trumpet-Take the sword! No Christian man here will have been obedient to our text unless with clear, sharp, and decisive firmness, courage, and resolve, he takes the sword. We must go to heaven sword in hand, all the way. "TAKE THE SWORD." On this command I would enlarge. May the Holy Spirit help me!
It is noteworthy that there is only one weapon of offense provided, although there are several pieces of armor. The Roman soldier usually carried a spear as well as a sword. We have seen frequent representations of the legionary standing upon guard as sentry, and he almost always stands with a spear in his right hand, while his sword hangs at his side. But Paul, for excellent reasons, concentrates our offensive weapon in one, because it answers for all. We are to use the sword, and that only. Therefore, if you are going to this fight, see well to your only weapon. If you are to have no other, take care that you have this always in your hand. Let the Captain's voice ring in your ear, "Take the sword! Take the sword!", and so go forth to the field.
Notice, first, the sword you are to take is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. That is our first head; and the second is equally upon the surface of the text: This sword is to be ours. We are ordered to take the sword of the Spirit, and so make it our own sword.
John Gill's Exposition on Proverbs 14:4
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"Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox."
But much better is the mystical sense, thus; that where there are no ministers of the Gospel, there is no food for souls. Oxen are an emblem of faithful and laborious ministers. The ox was one of the emblems in the cherubim, which design Gospel ministers; the names by which oxen are called agree with them. Here are two words used of them in the text; the one comes from a root which signifies to "teach", "lead", "guide", and "govern"; and the same word for "oxen" signifies "teachers", "leaders", "guides", and "governors"; names which most properly belong to ministers of the word: the other word comes from a root which signifies to "see", to "look"; because these creatures are sharp sighted. Ministers are seers, overseers, and as John's living creatures in Rev_4:6; one of which was an ox, were full of eyes, within, and before, and behind.
So ministers of the word had need to have good sight, to look into the Scriptures, and search them; to look to themselves and to their flock, and to look out to discover enemies, and danger by them; and to look into their own experience, and into things both past and to come. There is a likeness in ministers to these creatures, as to the nature of them; they are clean, creatures, as such should be that minister in holy things; and chew the cud, as such should revolve in their minds and constantly meditate upon divine things; and, like them, are patient and quiet under the yoke; and are not only strong to labour, but very laborious in the word and doctrine; submit to the yoke, draw the plough of the Gospel; bring home souls to Christ, to his church, and to heaven; and tread out the corn, the mysteries of grace, out of the sacred writings. Now where there are no such laborious and diligent ministers of the word, as there are none in the apostate church of Rome, there is no spiritual food for the souls of men; but a famine of the word, and men perish for lack of knowledge;