The Understanding of a Mule

Last week I came across these verses in my daily Bible reading (Psalm 32):

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.

It made me think about those old Louis L’Amour westerns I sometimes enjoy, in which the main character (invariably a cowboy) usually has a well-trained horse that responds to the subtlest nudges with the knee. It will often come when he calls it (or will stand where he leaves it) without needing to be tied. Sometimes the hero of the story is wounded and the horse carries him out of danger. Apparently that is mostly fiction; horses and mules are generally ‘without understanding’ unless highly trained and/or unusually loyal.

Nearly all Louis L'Amour books have a horse on the front cover.

Nearly all Louis L’Amour books have a horse on the front cover.

I’m always worried, whenever I go to the dentist, that they will put one of those rubber wedges in my mouth to ‘help me keep my mouth open’. This is dentist code for: “You’re not opening far enough, so we’re going to force your mouth open even if it feels like we’re dislocating your jaw.” In my experience, it is a lot more pleasant to voluntarily open my mouth than to have it forced to stay open, because you can rest your jaw when they take a break. I bet it is like that for a horse bridle and bit, too.

Not my actual mouth or dentist.

Not my actual mouth or dentist.

So God allows us this liberty. We can obey Him and do His will voluntarily, or we can be tied to a post with a bit in our mouth, because we don’t have the understanding necessary to obey the Master willingly.

Sometimes I have the understanding of a mule, and I must be handled with a bit or a bridle. On my better days, I am more like that fictional horse, who loves and obeys his Master and comes when he calls. It is interesting to note that either way, as a follower of Christ, I am a beast of burden, and either way, I end up doing the will of the Master. But I think it is significantly more pleasant to not be tied to a post or have a metal bit in my mouth.

Jesus said to His disciples:

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

So the next time you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in your heart or mind, have better understanding than a mule, and cooperate willingly and creatively.


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