This reminds me of David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17:41–49). “In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride.” This is a picture of Goliath. He did a lot of boasting as the champion of the Philistines. When David volunteered to fight him, Goliath reacted this way: “And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field” (1 Sam. 17:43–44).
“But the lips of the wise shall preserve them.” Now notice David’s answer: “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (1 Sam. 17:45).
Now the ox was a strong animal. In fact, he was the tractor and the sedan of the families in that day. They used the ox to ride to market, and they used the ox to plow their fields. I suppose he was rather a dirty animal in the sense that his crib needed to be cleaned out, and that was an unpleasant task because he was a big animal. Of course, the way to get rid of cleaning the crib was to get rid of the ox. That would give them a clean crib, but they would be deprived of the “strength of the ox.”
This has a tremendous spiritual lesson for us. Sometimes we try to solve problems in the church and try to clean up divisions in the church by throwing out the ox. Often there is a group or clique in the church, busy as termites and with about the same result, who want to get rid of those people who insist on having Bible teaching in the church. They are going to clean the crib, they think, so they throw out the ox. I believe this has happened to church after church in our country. After a while it becomes evident that it was the oxen who pulled the plow. They were the ones who contributed financially; they were the ones who sent out the missionaries; they were the ones who paid the bills. So before one tries to do any cleaning, it is very important to find out who are the oxen in the Lord’s work.
I play golf with a wonderful Christian man. He gives to our Bible–teaching program because he believes in teaching the Bible. We have wonderful fellowship together, but we disagree on a lot of things. When we are playing golf, I like to concentrate on the game. He is always talking to me about my work, saying, “Why don’t you do this, and why don’t you do that?” Sometimes that is a little irritating. I could get rid of him—that would be getting the crib clean—but I would be throwing out the ox! I would lose a friend who is very right in much of the advice he gives me. And he pulls the plow with me in trying to get out the Word of God. How absolutely foolish it would be to clean the crib by throwing out the ox.