I was in Proverbs 14 this morning (14th day of the month…14th chapter of proverbs – isn’t God kind to us!) and a verse stood out that I am sure I have never read before haha. That happens to me sometimes. I can read a chapter or a passage many times and then suddenly, one day, it’s as if God has added a verse because it has never really registered with me until that moment…
Anyway. Proverbs 14:4 says (New Living Translation) : “An empty stable stays clean, but no income comes from an empty stable.”
I read this verse in two halves. Firstly I read “an empty stable stays clean” – my thought was, that sounds great, a clean stable; that sounds like what I want. But then I read the second half of the verse and it dawned on me that a clean stable is not what I want at all.
A clean stable sounds good though doesn’t it? Things in order, nice and tidy, a feeling of peace and calm. But a clean stable generates no income. Another way of saying that is “a clean stable is a fast and sure way to poverty.”
The Message version of this verse says: “No cattle, no crops; a good harvest requires a strong ox for the plough.”
So what did God say to me about this verse? A few things but I’ll concentrate on what God told me about our corporate gatherings. We talk a lot about excellence in our gatherings and I agree that we should strive for the best in all things that we would always be a fantastic witness to the world – but this cannot and must not be at the expense of the presence of God.
When we experience the presence of God we experience God’s way of doing things. In fact a really fast way to quench the Holy Spirit in a gathering is to say to God: ‘ok, I see what you want to do but let’s do it our way so we don’t offend anyone.’
The presence of God, the longings of the Holy Spirit, will always cause us to do things God’s way and that may mess up our ‘clean stable’. A clean stable, a polished stable, an excellent stable may look good but if it’s just man-made, if the presence doesn’t abide and if we don’t let the Holy Spirit ‘make things messy’ (from our point of view), then what will we achieve?
We want to achieve, as the New Living version says, ‘income’ – I’ve interpreted that, (in this instance), as the presence of God. The Message says: “…a good harvest requires a strong ox for the plough.” A sure-fire way to stir things up in a clean stable is to put a strong ox in it. The words: ‘Bull’ and ‘china shop’ spring to mind.
Let us long after the presence of God and not be afraid to let our plans, methods and stables be completely over-turned by the Holy Spirit when He comes and says ‘this is the way I will do it’.
May we always prefer the mighty ox of the Spirit of the Lord, dwelling amongst us and doing things His way, over a clean and tidy, yet ultimately man-made and eternally impoverished stable.