“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your [masters], “Bring wine, let us drink!” Amos 4:1 NKJV
I grew up on a small farm in Indiana. My dad had a full-time job but also raised cattle on a small scale. One of my jobs was to bring the cattle to the field behind the barn every evening and count them to make sure they were all there. I learned a few lessons about counting and patience when trying to tally up a constantly moving herd of cattle.
Most of the time the cows were docile and easy to manage, but there were always those days when they decided to ignore fences—or rather push through them—and get out. The worst times were when they got into the neighbor’s corn field. Trying to find a cow in amidst corn taller than you or the cow wasn’t fun. The corn leaves were sharp and would cut my arms if I wasn’t careful. But, we had to get the cows out. What they saw as a wonderful adventure, actually meant sickness if they were left there or worse, their death.
I have been pondering the scripture from Amos 4:1 in light of what I learned as a child and where I am today. In the past few weeks, I’ve realized I’m not in a good place and need to make changes in my life. So, what do the cows of Bashan have to do with the cows of Indiana or with me and my need to change?
The cows of Bashan lived in a fertile area. They were large and known for pushing their way out of the hedges around the field that protected them. This caused problems for the cows and their owners. Just as the cows in my childhood got into trouble when they got into fields where they shouldn’t be. Just as I am when I am out of God’s will and floundering to try to get back on course. That’s the way I felt at the end of the year—as if I’d taken a wrong turn and was lost in the midst of a corn field and couldn’t see the way back.
You might think getting back on course is easy. Just call on God. He will answer, tell me where to go and what to do and voilà, I’m all set. I only wish it were that easy.
You see, when you get in the corn field at night, you are walking blind because of the dark. You can’t hear properly because of the obstacles – corn stalks breaking, cows lowing, other people calling, etc. Sounds are distorted and finding the correct voice to listen to becomes very complicated. Even if you are familiar with their voice, you can have trouble telling where they are and which direction to walk.
A cow in the corn field is one demanding her rights. She has no concern for the poor or needy. She wants that tasty corn and her freedom, not considering the dangers around her and that the hedge had been in place for her safety and protection. She is self-focused, although she may have followed others of her kind to that destination.
As I ponder this, I see that many of my actions have been self-focused. I don’t intend that to happen. I want to always consider others before myself, but somehow self always creeps back in without me noticing. Instead of considering Jesus words in Matthew 25 where He asks us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and visit those in prison and by doing so, we are doing this to Him, I am the cow demanding things for myself.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not want to do this, and most days I am thinking of others, but this attitude has crept into my home life and needs to be addressed. The subtlety of the change is distressing. Only in looking back and being honest do I see how far I am from where I should be.
So, what do I do? For this coming year, I am not choosing a word to meditate on, but instead choosing a hedge to crawl through and a field of safety to graze in. I want to be so centered in the will of God that I won’t long for corn fields and night time escapades of self, but will think only of Jesus and the others He brings in my life. I want to only do what makes Him happy, not considering what will please me.
For 2020, I will consider the poor and needy first, hard though that may be. I will lay down my pride, and my demands couched in pretty words, and ask every day, “Jesus, what would You have me do?” I want to be the cow in His hedge of safety. I hope you want that for your life too.