Goads and Nails

Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people.” That’s Ecclesiastes 12:9. Who is the referenced “Teacher”? It is Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes (1:1). Early in Solomon’s reign, God gave him a “genie in the bottle” opportunity: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5). Young Solomon asks well: “Give Your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9). God was pleased with the request: “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be” (1 Kings 3:12). A chapter later we hear the same: “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29).

Solomon then went to work with his “measureless” mind. “He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs” doing so by finding “just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true” (Ecclesiastes 12:9-10). And what did these upright and true words accomplish? What impact did they have on those who heard them? We are told: “The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails” (12:11). Goads and nails are sharp; used to prod wayward cattle and to penetrate resistant wood.

Solomon knew he was the “Teacher” but he knew he wasn’t the “Author”. He knew his wise words were wise because they came from the “one Shepherd” (12:11). God gave Solomon “goads and nails” to prod and penetrate; apparently people can be wayward and hardened.

In this, we find insight and application for today’s preacher. He is to give “knowledge to the people” (the congregation) by using “just the right words”—words given by the “one Shepherd” (the Bible). And if he does this faithfully, it will have the impact of a sharp stick to the backside of a beast or of a nail driven through hard wood.

The parishioner may not like the imagery (“You’re likening me to a cow? To a piece of wood?”) Actually, the wisest to have lived said this; he also was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he did.

A sermon characterized by “goads and nails” may not always endear the preacher to the pew; but he is not looking for endearment. His concern is for the wandering sheep under his care and for the hardened soul who thinks God has nothing to say to him. There is always temptation in the pulpit to entertain or to wax eloquent. The pastor has to remember, however, the Shepherd wants him to use “goads and nails”. By design they are sharp—that’s the point.

Pastor Rich Hamlin
October 13, 2011

 

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