Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why The Ox?

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 
Matt. 11:29-30

In his book, Ezekiel described a cherub. Luke's account of Christ's nativity records a heavenly host's appearance which terrified some shepherds. If a cherub matching Ezekiel's description, along with some of Heaven's other unusual beings, was part of those delivering the Lord's birth announcement, the surrounding area may have been very messy!

A cherub's four faces reflect the nature of God. Three of these: the lion, king of the Jungle; the eagle, top of the aviary chain; man, God's highest creation, represent the apex of their respective species. Then there's the ox.

Its strength is formidable, still an ox doesn't strike fear into one's heart. It's rather slow, lumbering and dull, hardly anything to get excited about. What does this show us about God?

Oxen can be harnessed in order to produce even greater results. Individually they're a force, as a team their power and strength increases exponentially. Young oxen are yoked with those more mature who train the newbies, enhancing their value and productivity.

Unlike work horses which require blinders to maintain focus, the ox's poor eyesight naturally limits its attention to things close by. It's not easily drawn off course or distracted by its surroundings.

As opposed to its three counterpoints, the ox is the only one who doesn't kill it's own kind or, for that matter, any other species. Pair up the other three into like teams and soon the claws and fangs come out. One would hardly classify that trio as being gentle or humble in heart. Not so with the ox. Jesus' reference to a yoke brought to His listener's minds this ordinary beast of burden. How does this apply to believers?

In Christ, we possess great strength and power. When we yoke up with Him, He trains and works with us to accomplish things we'd never figure out or be able to accomplish on our own.

Looking though the eyes of the ox we're less prone to sideline distractions. Concentrating only on what's ahead, we've no vision for future obstacles, real or imaginary, that produce fear, and prevent us from moving forward.

When adopting the personality of the ox we help shoulder the load, and share responsibility. The work's not glamorous but necessary in order to bring God's kingdom to earth. In the process we don't waste time, energy and resources devouring our own and those around us.

How about you? How do the characteristics and nature of the ox speak to you about what God's like? We know He is glorious and wonderful beyond description. Why do you think He chose to identify Himself with the ox? Which of the cherub's four faces do you most readily identify with and why?

p.s. Early Hebrew was like Egyptian hieroglyphics; it was a pictorial language. Later, letters, which also double as numbers evolved. The first letter of the aleph-bet, the aleph, was depicted as the head of an ox. When Jesus spoke of being yoked to Him, His audience would have immediately identified with this common work animal and the original picture of aleph. Aleph is comprised of two other Hebrew letters, the yod and the vav. Yod equals 10 and vav equals 6. Aleph has two yod's (20) and a vav (26) bringing its sum total to 26.

The tetragrammaton, the 4 letter unspeakable name of God is YHVH (Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey) or our word Yahweh. The numerical equivalent of these 4 letters is also 26. In the same way that YHVH cannot be pronounced, aleph has no pronunciation. Because its numerical equivalent is the same as YHVH, aleph is also considered to be the number of God. In addition when you see LORD capitalized, it normally refers to YHVH in the original manuscripts.

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