The title is somewhat confusing, but I shall offer that there is a dramatic relationship between weapons that prod people in various directions of travel – some toward, and others away from their goal.
It all started with my encounter with German Ground Hornets – pestilent little bees with an angry temper. Unknowingly, I had disturbed their privy while removing branches from the forest floor. The first sting was rather listless, but it commanded a mental inquiry as to what just happened. The next micro-stab was more fruitful, for it engaged my eyes to inspect my surroundings. The third and fourth javelins were commiserated by automatic quick steps in the most efficient direction of exist. As I ran, my eyes caught a glimpse of barely perceivable yellow and black hornets exiting a small hole in the ground – in mass – lying five feet from my last position. I say my last position, since the whole process took no more than three seconds I was already yards from the attack and my velocity was increasing exponentially.
I made it to my shelter – a distance of 100 feet from the hordes of Hermes [the Roman god of commerce and messages]. The message was quite clear, “Don’t work your commerce in this particular area of the forest.” However, as I closed the door to what I believed to be safety, I noted that there was a buzz in the room and my door closure only locked the pursuing pests in with me.
I was now, a man on a mission! As if in a soothsayers trance, I began rolling, slapping, and shaking wildly until the last of the front guards were terminated. Their bodies lay about the carpet, like soldiers who had performed admirably upon the field of battle. They won the battle, but it cost them dearly. However, it cost me multiple sting points on my arms, legs and back – a total of about twelve individual spears – so small that it would take the use of a 10X eye loop to identify one.
As I inspected my wounds, I noted that the stings felt like fire – as if someone had heated a metal poker and jabbed at me quickly. After an hour my muscles began to ache and become stiff. By evening, the pin pricks were swollen and began to itch. My first response was to ignore the inflammation and its craving manifestation. However, hours later I took the medicinal road to recovery, while contemplating my revenge!
The next morning I found the irritation had still not subsided, and as I opened my morning prayers, I distinctly heard the voice of God say, “So, what have you learned about the bees?”
Out of a diatribe of sarcasm, my most intelligent answer was that they were “relentless.” It was then that my mind drifted to a somewhat esoteric text of scripture;
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” — [Ac.26:14]
I remembered that for many years I never had a satisfying understanding of this verse, even though, on the surface, it indicated Saul’s [St. Paul] persecution of the Church – to wit it implied that he persecuted Christ as well. But what was a goad? And how was Paul kicking against something?
The word “persecute” is ‘dioko’ in the Greek, and means, to put to flight, drive away, to pursue.
The word “goad,” is the Greek word, ‘kentron’ that comes from ‘kenteo’ to prick, as in sting [Rev.9:10], and metaphorically as the sting of death [1Cor.15:55-56] and as a noun meaning the device that stings [Ac.26:14]. Modern use as a verb would mean “to prompt.”
In secular literature and etymology, the word “goad” is characteristic of a piece of military hardware – a stick with multiple small, but sharp, points attached at its head. The Langobardic [Lombard or Germanic] gaida spearhead is a good representation of a goad. A modern equivalent would be a cattle prod.
The purpose of the device is to steer or drive, people or cattle, in a direction that they do not prefer, but may, or may not, need. A cow may turn right or left to impede the directing of the prodder, but in the end, the cow will be steered into the caged area.
In my case the goad or the goading was the stingers of the bees. They continued their effort as a relentless driving. Their goad felt like a red hot poker. Hence we have better understanding of the scripture verse;
“Where O, death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?” — [ICor.15:55-56 and Hos.13:14]
Sin goads or drives a person from God to a place of confinement, but God goads or drives the sinner to the place of mercy.
What Jesus said to Saul [the future, Paul] was, “Why do you attack me with goads like a bee – to drive me and my people from your presence? As you can now understand Paul, my goad – my needle like cattle prod – is driving you towards me.”
Further, Paul uses the idea of a goad in 1Cor.15:55 to query Death. “Where is your victory – where oh Death is your goad – your stinger – your weapon?
From verse 1Cor.15:56 we read that the sting of death is sin. In other words, the weapon used by Death to prod us, is the goad called sin.
We are further told that the power of the Death’s goad, called sin, is powered by the law, but Jesus – through his atoning sacrifice – discharged the weapon and there is no more darts left in it, anymore. It is like having a guard point his Taser at you, which is lacking a fresh battery and dart.
The point of Paul’s exposition found in 1Cor.15, is that believers cannot be driven by sin anymore, since Jesus Christ has discharged Death’s weapon.
Let’s extend this concept….
Sin is the goad or prickly weapon of death, just as the stinger is for the bee. The result of a sting is a hot burning desire to flee toward or away from. If one flees toward sin, the heat becomes unquenchable. If one flees away from sin, the burning stops, but as with the bee sting, the itching begins. This itching is the temptation to scratch, which can cause more physical damage or infection.
So let’s say a person’s sin is adultery. One may say that he is on fire with lust. If the person tries to flee, he will think about the temptation [the itch] as with the term, “the seven year itch,” And everyone knows that an itch just has to be scratched! He may scratch it with pornography, or phone sex, but the itch remains. If he flees to the adultery to stop the itch, he will get stung again.
This is why prostitutes prefer to remain in the “oldest profession,” and over time they suffer the effects of scratching that itch for money and by giving into the easy dollar that eats them alive with disease, or to become the prey of merciless pimps, or the desire of psychopaths.
The same can be said of a drug addict, a thief, or a gambler.
So, the idea is not to simply flee the sin, or take a road of flight in any direction, but to obtain a healing ointment or a soothing balm, by entering upon the road to mercy, forgiveness and safety. Therefore, when sin is evident, the sinner either flees toward the itch of sin, or toward Christ Jesus. In either case he is responding to the goad of sin or the goad of God.
In the end, the decision to go in either direction – toward sin or towards God – is an intellectual choice. Unfortunately, running from sin in your own strength only leaves the pest of sin relentlessly pursuing, tempting and itching, just like the German Ground Hornets stinging rampage.
And just like my experience with the Hornets, the feeling from the sting only makes one aware of a need. Metaphorically this equates to a need for more sin, or a need for Christ. To wit the scripture that describes the effect of a wrong choice, when we allow the goad of needles to become our skewer;
“Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many griefs” — [1Tim.6:10]