Much Increase With the Ox (2)
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School
Proverbs 14:4: “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.”
The farmer who was not willing to do the work required to keep oxen, a lazy farmer, would experience the poverty of small harvests. Oxen are strong and increase the size of the harvest, but having them requires work, a lot of work. Some of the work required in keeping oxen isn’t pleasant either. A wise farmer understands that the trouble of keeping oxen is amply rewarded by the increased harvest.
Solomon wrote about the increase provided by the strength of the ox. This increase was a bountiful harvest. In Scripture, a harvest is a spiritual picture of growth in God’s church. This growth can be in the number of church members, as God uses the call of the gospel to bring people into active membership in the body of Christ. This growth can also be the spiritual growth of individual church members, as they learn more about God by listening to the preaching of the gospel, learning their catechism and reading the Bible at home. Scripture uses harvests and fruit as pictures of His whole church and of the godly lives of individual believers.
In Matthew 9 and Luke 10, Christ speaks of a large harvest and tells us to pray that the Lord will provide labourers for this harvest. The harvest is large but the labourers are few. Christ was not speaking of grain or grapes. He was speaking of gathering His elect through preaching. In Matthew 3, Christ speaks of bringing forth fruits meet, or fitting, for repentance. In Matthew 7, part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the example of good and evil trees, and their fruit to teach us that the godly will bring forth the fruit of good works. This fruit is a harvest, an increase.
In this verse from Proverbs, Solomon is not interested in merely giving advice to the Israelites about how to have farms which yield a large harvest. He does not want farmers to take his advice about using oxen so the nation can experience wealth, prosperity and happiness. Solomon saw a spiritual truth taught in the physical world.
This growth, this spiritual harvest, takes work. If we are lazy, there will be no spiritual growth. We must realize that in order to have the increased harvest, we must be willing to do the hard work of having a dirty crib, caring for oxen, as Solomon has taught us.
Read II Corinthians 11:18-33. The Apostle Paul knew God had His people in the nations around the Mediterranean Sea. Jehovah had His elect ready for harvest, and Paul was the labourer sent by God to gather that harvest. This was not easy work for Paul. Unbelieving Jews whipped him five times. Did Paul bear scars on his back from these whippings for the rest of his life? Paul was beaten with rods three times. Unbelievers stoned him. He suffered three shipwrecks. He led a dangerous life for the sake of bringing the gospel to God’s people. He faced many physical dangers.
Paul also speaks of the burden he experienced because of his care for the churches. Not everything was as it should have been in the early New Testament church. We can see this in the letters he wrote. Some church members had fallen into terrible sins. Paul had to write some harsh things to the churches to encourage godly living. Does Paul’s work sound easy to us? Does Paul sound lazy? If Paul were a farmer, would his crib be clean?
Some of your fathers are officebearers in the church. God takes care of His people through these ministers, elders and deacons. None of these office-bearers may be lazy. They must work hard. Ministers do not download their sermons from the internet. Sermons require hours of study and preparation. Elders must prepare for meetings. They have to study so they can lead family visitation. They must work diligently when a church member falls into sin. Deacons do not simply mail a check to a family who is struggling to pay the bills. They meet with needy families and bring the comfort of God’s Word.
You also have work to do as members of the church. Don’t think the work God has given you is unimportant because you are young. You have the work of loving God and your neighbour. Just how Christian our Christian school is depends in a greater way than you realize on how you treat each other. Is this a school where God is honoured? That will show in your kindness. Do we honour each other as brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we understand not only how much God loved us in sending His Son to die for our sins and do we also realize that God loved our classmates in the same way? Do we treat others in a way that shows we know that each of us has an important place in the church which nobody else could fill?
It is hard work to fight against sinful pride which causes us to think that we are better than others or that others are not worth treating with Christian respect. It is hard to watch our tongues so we do not speak harsh words to or about one another.
God promises a great increase for diligent labour. We will have a harvest of good works which honour Him and show our gratitude for the salvation He has graciously given us in Jesus Christ. We will have Christian friends whom we can trust. We can enjoy the company of our friends and fight temptation together.
It was hard work for the farmer to care for his oxen but their strength provided a great harvest. It is hard work for us to live a Christian life but we can bear fruit for the praise and honour of the Triune God.