Answer: For those that are not aware of where this word “goads” is found in Scripture, it is in Acts 9:5 where Jesus appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road and he was saved. This is what it says in the context. Then Saul (Paul’s name before conversion), still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord.”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads (pricks KJV).” (Acts 9:1-5) To put it simply a goad is a sharp stick that is used to poke at animals to make them move. An animal that is plowing or carrying a heavy load might not want to move, for obvious reasons; you could try convincing them by using a goad once or more than once.
This usually would do the trick, but then you might even have an animal that was particularly stubborn, this one would kick at the goads refusing to move. Jesus is giving Paul an object lesson of something he was no doubt very aware of, maybe even that day one of the mules or donkeys didn’t want to move that was carrying his supplies. He may even have had to jab it several times, and it started kicking.
Jesus is saying to Paul, “You are acting like a stubborn animal that won’t move even when you have had loud and strong warnings to do so!” Paul was intent on persecuting Christians trying to get them to recant their faith, even as many Muslims and other religions do to Christians around the world today. Paul had seen the testimony of many Christians as he whipped them, men and women, who still held to the Lord Jesus:
“I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.” (Acts 22:4-5) “And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” (Acts 26:11)
Even as he took part in stoning them to death they still stayed faithful to the Lord. Saul was holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen. “But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this he fell asleep (died).” Acts 7:55-60)
Paul was kicking against Jesus who was “pricking” his heart every time he persecuted or killed Christians. “Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 8:5) All the time when Saul was hurting Christians he was hurting Christ as He was watching. All the time his heart was being pricked by the “goads” of conviction.
Even today when Christians are being persecuted, the ones who are doing it are hurting Christ’s heart. He is speaking to them and they are kicking against His warnings not to do this, you need to receive Me and become a Christian like the one you are persecuting. Thank God, Saul made the choice to stop kicking and start listening. It took a lot on Jesus’ part to get Saul’s attention, what will it take to get your attention if you are reading this and you are not saved?
Thanks for the question,
Gary T. Panell
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