“They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” (Jonah 2:8 KJV)
There were no signs she’d dug under it and no reason to think she could’ve jumped over it uphill. But at the sound of my voice, Bella turned and belly-crawled right back underneath the fence into the pasture like nothing ever happened—never touching the bottom strand.
Bella acted like she owned the pasture and was more like a good dog than a goat. She was always glad to see me, came when I called and followed me all around the pasture. She even headbutted the other goats if they came close.
What she didn’t realize was her escapes set a bad example for the others. It wasn’t long until they, too, crawled outside to graze. They picked right beside the fence and went back under when they saw me coming. They didn’t realize the boundaries were there for their protection as well as confinement. I wanted them to stay in but also wanted to keep predators out. The spacing of the barbed wire and electric fence was probably adequate to keep predators out.
Two things I learned from goats. One was I didn’t want any more, and the other was how much goats and humans have in common. We’re both stubborn, strong-willed, and determined to do whatever we set our minds to regardless of the danger or consequences.
Christ didn’t put boundaries in his word to be mean. He always knows what lies beyond the fence. On the outside of his boundaries, we’re subject to the enemy’s attacks. Inside, we can dwell in peace and safety while the Lord keeps the enemy at bay. When we walk with him, he won’t let anything harmful come through the fence. When we violate his boundaries, we may suffer consequences that last a lifetime.
Jonah learned this concept, but not until he was caught in a storm, thrown overboard from a ship, and then swallowed by a whale where he stayed for three days and nights. It took all of that before he ever repented. When the Lord released him from the whale’s belly, he didn’t remove his command. Jonah still went to Nineveh and preached possibly the most remarkable revival meeting in history. The problem was, his heart had become bitter and vindictive, blaming Nineveh for his suffering. He thought because he’d suffered, they should also. Through a couple more hard lessons, God taught Jonah the extent of his mercy___there’s no limit if we repent.
Jonah never enjoyed the fruits of his labor. He preached one sermon, and over 120,000 people repented. His bitterness caused him to forfeit the fellowship and admiration of those people who undoubtedly appreciated his obedience. How pitiful to accomplish that great work and never enjoy how God used him to bring Nineveh to repentance.
Are we willing to stray outside of God’s protective boundaries? Are we prepared to sacrifice the blessings of obedience to pick outside the fence? We’d see things much differently if our family had lived in Nineveh. Are we willing to obey God to see our families repent in the future? God won’t send Jonah to them, but he may send you. Have a blessed day in the Lord!
© Copyright 2021 Andy Hollifield, used with permission.