“It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
“It is dangerous and will turn out badly for you to keep kicking against the goad.” (Amplified version)
“You hurt yourself by trying to hurt Me.” (NLV translation)
(hard, harsh, rough, stiff… to kick or strike with the heel… at, near, by, towards… an iron goad for urging on animals…)
This has always been an intriguing verse to me. Primarily that’s because it seems slightly out of place. If it was Socrates’ way to answer a question with a question, then it was Jesus’ way to respond to comments and questions with statements that seem to have nothing to do with the conversation. This always seemed to me to be one of those times.
“Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
“Who are you?”
“I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. It’s hard for you to resist My prompting.”
Huh? What is Jesus talking about? Nothing that we’ve read in all of Acts has given us any intro to this. If this were a work of fiction, I’d suggest to the writer that they introduce this plot twist somehow, a few chapters earlier.
For instance, chapter 7, back when Saul stood by, holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen. Wouldn’t that have been a great place for a little foreshadowing? “They laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. Saul stood by, nodding his head in encouragement at the zealots, but deep in his heart, he felt a little stinging feeling. Almost like an urgency to do something, or be someone. He kicked that feeling away. But it wasn’t gone forever…”
Yeah…. no. That’s just one writer’s idea. Mine. The Holy Spirit went a different way, and Jesus’ mention of the goads is the first we’re hearing about it.
But it’s clearly not the first time Paul is hearing about it, although maybe it’s the first time anyone has given voice to what Paul had been feeling.
We know this isn’t new to Paul, because he doesn’t react with confusion to the words he is hearing. As a matter of fact, I almost hear resignation in his words. And I don’t think it’s hard to read even relief there. That’s often the case, I think, when we’re being goaded by God. You resist for awhile, and then He forces the issue, but you’ve been fighting it ~ Him ~ so hard, or for so long, that it’s a relief to get it out in the open, or to start whatever it is you’ve been avoiding.
Paul’s next words are the most powerful words that a Christian can speak. Trembling and astonished, Paul simply replies, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
And that’s when it begins.
In Paul’s case, what began was the work of the greatest advocate for Christ in the New Testament. Preaching, teaching, loving, converting, writing, mentoring, shepherding, modeling…
For you and me, those words are the start of something else. Something maybe a lot like that list of Paul’s, but with a unique twist on it. The Caller is the same, after all, but the call itself is custom-designed.
You may not even know what it is you’re being called to do. Paul didn’t. That’s why he asked for more details. And ~ do you notice? ~ he didn’t even get that. “Get up, and start walking, and wait for further instructions.” Vague, yes, but powerful and compelling.
You know if you’re kicking at the goads. It’s painful and exhausting. Stop fighting Him. Relax, acknowledge His Lordship and His calling on you. Acquiesce, and then start walking in the peace that will come, and await further instructions.
He’s got big plans for you.