Greetings MOL Family!
In our lesson today, our opening text is Galatians 6:17. Before we read the text, however, I want to share with you some lines, which anyone who knows about cattle will appreciate; and perhaps all the rest of us will remember enough about what we’ve heard of caring for cattle, that we will get the point…
The Brand of Ownership
Today I found a critter on my range
As fat and sleek as any calf I own.
But this fat calf was slick unbranded grain,
The burning iron this calf has never known.
O’ lucky calf, you’ve never known the fright
Of lariat that snatches you in flight.
You’ve never known that hopeless, helpless plight
When strong unyielding hands have held you tight,
And that fierce iron has burned upon your hip
An everlasting mark of ownership.
I pass you by to ride among my own
To see with joy how much my calves have grown.
To care for any sickness, any need
To put my cattle on the finest feed.
My cows it seems quite gladly wear my brand;
It seems somehow they almost understand
That they are mine and I will give them care,
And what they are is but the brand they wear.
I wonder if this calf unbranded still,
That feeds alone upon that lonely hill
Is lucky as I thought he was at first.
No rancher cares if he should die of thirst,
And if at roundup time that calf is lost,
No one will search and never count the cost
Of making sure he’s safely back at home
Before the howling wolves of winter come.
It seems I read once in a Sacred Book
That sheep is blessed that knows the Shepherds crook.
And some day surely I will understand
How blessed is one who wears the Master’s brand.
From henceforth let no man trouble me for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. – Galatians 6:17
The New English Bible translates this:
I bear the marks of Jesus branded on my body. – Galatians 6:17, NEB
This was quite literally true in the case of Saul of Tarsus, who was, after his encounter with the Savior, called the great apostle to the Gentile world. Something happened to him, body, mind, and soul, and he was never the same. In a number of his epistles, such as to the Romans and the Philippians, he introduces his letter by speaking of himself as “Paul, a bound slave of Jesus Christ”.
Back in those days some slaves were branded, as we brand cattle today, to show their ownership. In those marks that were forever with Paul, the scars of his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul recognized the brand of ownership. From that moment he belonged to Jesus; from that moment he was not his own. From that moment, what he wanted was not the question. The whole point was what does Jesus want? What are my orders for the day?
That involved a constant putting aside of personal wishes, a constant choosing of the Divine will. So, writing to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians15:3, he said: “I die daily.” That is, everyday his will and his desires would be in a certain direction, but the will of his Master, Jesus, is in another direction. Recognizing the brand that was upon him, recognizing the ownership of Jesus, he did what Jesus wanted instead of what Paul wanted.
Was that a miserable life? Oh, no. Paul was one of the happiest men that ever walked this world. He had found the real secret of living, for writing from a dungeon to his converts at Philippi, he said, “For me to live is Christ.” This to him was life. He had found the real meaning of life.
Oh, I know, dear friend, there is a certain carefree joy in being able to run the range without ownership, as the calf in our little poem story; without a brand, has no one running after him to tell him where to go and what to do. So, there’s many a young person today that feels that the real joy of life is to throw off restraint, brook no interference, accept no direction or orders. And as I heard a young man say once, “My motto is obey that impulse.” I’m afraid he carried out his motto.
What we’re looking at today is something entirely different. Calves can be caught by the cowboy; a brand can be burned into the hide. But the Christian is branded only as he willingly, voluntarily, of his own free choice, comes and says, “Jesus, I want Your mark on me. I want my life from hence forth to be Yours and Yours alone.”
We have this represented for us in illustration in the 21st chapter of Exodus. You remember in the Mosaic Law, God made provisions that if a Hebrew man should be sold into slavery, he could be held only six years, and in the seventh he must be set free. But suppose that during this time his master had given him a wife and children had been born. And suppose that at the time for him to go free, he decided he would rather stay with his master, with his wife and children who had been born to him in his captivity. The Lord made provision that a certain ceremony could be performed, entirely at the volition of this Hebrew man who had been a servant for six years; if he wished, for loves sake, to be a servant, forever.
We read it in Exodus 21:5-6:
And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever. – Exodus 21:5-6
Here is indeed the brand of servanthood – perpetual servanthood. That hole in the ear was the brand that that man had, of his own free choice, placed himself (forever) the servant of another.
Notice the motivation of it. “If the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, my children; I will not go out free”, then this ceremony was to be performed. Oh, it’s a wonderful thing, my dear friend, to have love, enough to be a servant – forever!
We come down hundreds of years later to the days of David. And in the 40th Psalm, this picture from the 21st of Exodus is used to represent the experience of our Lord Jesus Christ, in giving Himself, forever, as our Redeemer and our Savior:
Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened… – Psalm 40:6
You’ll note in the margin, the Hebrew word is ‘digged’. Below that you’ll find in the marginal reference Exodus 21:6. Here is Jesus saying, Father, I know what you want; it’s not the offering of bloody sacrifices, it’s not the slaying of lambs and bullocks. I know what You want. I delight to do Thy will O my God, yea, Thy law is within my heart. And I have come to the door post; I want my ear bored through with the awl, in token of everlasting servanthood. Why? Ah, as the servant under the Mosaic Law did that of his own free choice, for loves sake, so Jesus made this wonderful sacrifice – for loves sake!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” – John 3:16
Until next week – Invite a friend, and we’ll see you then…
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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.