Are you an ox or a donkey?
Sometimes animals behave more intelligently than humans.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
“Children have I reared and brought up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.” (Isaiah 1:2,3)
If you feed an animal he will recognize you as being the source of his food; all of us have received blessings from God but many fail to acknowledge him as the source of those blessings.
But not all animals respond in the same way. Under the Mosaic law the ox was considered a clean animal. It was suitable for sacrifice and its flesh could be eaten. The ox knows it owner.
The donkey was an unclean animal. It was useful for farmwork and transportation, but it could not be eaten or offered as a sacrifice. The donkey’s focus was not on the owner himself but on the food he received from his owner.
Aren’t all of us like one or the other of these animals? Some of us serve God because we love him; some of us care more about what we have received from him.
God had a message for a church that was like the donkey, faithful in service but lacking in love.
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: “The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God”. (Revelation 2:1-7)
The Ephesians were like donkeys, serving God faithfully but not because of love. God commended the good things they did but warned them to repent of their lack of love. I’m afraid many Christians, including me, are like the Ephesians, serving God not for love but because of the gifts he has given us. We need to learn to be like oxen, serving God because of who he is and not just for what he has done for us.