A Journal for Bible Teachers

The Ox and the Ass

The Ox and the Ass

Jesus gave the commandment to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). He also declared that the gospel of the kingdom of God would be preached to all people groups (Greek – ethnos – nations and people groups) before His return at the end of the age. This is being accomplished now but will find its greatest fulfilment in the Feast of Tabernacles revival that will come for the final and greatest harvest before Jesus’ Second Coming.

The Holy Spirit will be poured out in a new way and intensity that will empower the church in the fulfilment of this mission. “Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass” (Isaiah 32:20). Isaiah proclaims a blessing upon those who sow beside all waters. The word waters refers to multitudes of people throughout the world (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible). Jesus said to teach all nations (Matthew 28:19). Isaiah’s words further confirm these New Testament responsibilities laid upon the church today.

We must have a worldwide vision that encompasses every people group around the earth. God will have for Himself kings and priests out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9-10). This message of God’s high calling must be taught, as well as the gospel of salvation.

 

What Kind of Ministry?

What should be the concern of God’s ministers for the fulfilment of these end times before the return of Jesus? Isaiah uses an unusual analogy in this verse. He declares a blessing upon those who send forth to this mission the feet of the ox and the ass. What is the message the Holy Spirit wants to convey to us?

The word feet refers to those who bear God’s message around the world. The Apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:7 to make application of the feet to those who preach the gospel. “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15).

Returning to Isaiah 32:20 we notice that he mentions sending forth both the ox and the ass. Both animals are valuable beasts of burden used as farm animals for ploughing and harvesting. However, they are not to be yoked together in labour (Deuteronomy 22 :10). Each is very useful and productive to the farmer and are types of those that are sent forth to sow beside all waters. What is the difference in the ox and the ass?

 

The Contrast

12 Brazen Oxen

In 1 Corinthians 9:9 Paul uses the ox as a type of God’s ministers. Twelve brazen oxen were used to support the huge laver, or sea as it was called, before Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 7:44). This confirms that God’s ministers are to uphold the truth of God’s cleansing word. The ox was set apart by God as a clean animal acceptable for sacrifice to the Lord (Exodus 20:24). In contrast, while the ass is a very useful animal for labour in sowing and harvest, it is considered by God as an unclean animal and unsuitable for a sacrifice. Every firstborn ass was to be redeemed back to the farmer with a lamb (which was suitable for sacrifice). If the farmer could not redeem the ass with a lamb, the ass was to have its neck broken. This was because, being the firstborn, it belonged to the Lord even though it was unclean and not an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord (Exodus 13:13). Both the ox and the ass are valuable for sowing and harvesting, but only the ox is an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord.

In Ezekiel 44 God speaks of two kinds of ministers. “And the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity. Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them. Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord God, and they shall bear their iniquity. And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed. But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein” (Ezekiel 44:10-14). Many ministries today have compromised God’s truth,giving the people what they want rather than leading them faithfully in God’s ways to know Him in Spirit and in truth.

These are similar to ministers that Paul speaks of who preach the gospel with impure motives. “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:15-18). These ministries are like the ass that does a valuable work but is unclean before the Lord.

In contrast to these, God speaks of the sons of Zadok in Ezekiel 44:15-31. They come near to the Lord in His sanctuary to make offerings acceptable to Him and teach the people the difference between the holy and the unclean. The Lord is their inheritance because they are clean, holy to the Lord, and acceptable to Him. Both the Levites and the sons of Zadok are useful ministers, but their type of ministry and personal outcome varies greatly.

 

Vessels of Honour

Paul uses another analogy that helps us understand the difference in the ox and the ass ministries. He speaks of vessels of honour and vessels of dishonour, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Timothy 2:19-21). Both kinds of vessels are useful but those of gold and silver are of much greater value and their use is considered honourable, as Paul says. God wants the golden purity of His divine nature formed in us. All iniquity and uncleanness are to be purged by the silver of His redemptive work in us. The vessels of wood cannot endure the fire. Both the wooden and earthen vessels are common and of little value compared to those of gold and silver.

The oxen are those who have purged themselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1), have allowed God to lead them in paths of righteousness and holiness, have become vessels of honour that are acceptable sacrifices to the Lord, and are fit for every good work the Master has in mind for them. They have an eternal purpose in God’s presence and He is their inheritance. Let us consider what type of ministry we will have. So many are going the way of the people and the way of temporary results that please the people. May our burning desire be to please the Lord and qualify to minister in His holy presence throughout eternity.

May we be like the sons of Zadok who are holy to the Lord, and He becomes our inheritance. We want to be the ox that serves as an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord, and not the ass.



About the Author

Rev. Robert A. Tucker Sr.has pastored Starville Church, Marine City, Michigan for over 30 years. He graduated from Elim Bible School (Dip. Min) and received his masters degree from Regent University (M.A.O.L.). Rev. Robert Tucker teaches in Bible schools and in leadership seminars throughout the world. He authored articles and books that are published in many languages and used in many different countries.

Rev. Tucker is married to Angeline and together they co-authored a book that is a practical study on marriage and family life. They have two grown children, both serving the Lord, and four grandchildren.

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