The Horse and Mule
“Do not be like the horse and the mule, senseless creatures which will not come near you unless their spirit is tamed by bit and bridle. Again and again the sinner must feel the lash; he who trusts in the Lord finds nothing but mercy all around him.” (Psalm 32: 9-10 Knox)
David paints a vivid picture of the carnal nature of man by alluding to these two “senseless creatures.” Truly, those who are not under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit are utterly thickheaded to spiritual truths. (By contrast, Jesus said the Prodigal “came to his sense” in the pigpen and began the long journey back to his father.)
But these brute beasts’ lack of sense is not the only spiritual reality that can be derived from this illustration. Although these two animals are similar in many ways, I believe David chose them to also illustrate their most distinguishing characteristics.
In its natural state, the horse is a wild and unruly animal. It is utterly useless to its human owner until it undergoes the long process of being broken of its own will. Here again we are presented with a perfect description of an unconquered man. He fights and bucks against all restraint being placed upon him. It is only after he has suffered long at the hands of sin’s dominion that he will respond to the Master’s loving invitation, “Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.” (Matthew 11:28-30 LB)
Such a marvelous offer! Yet man is not quick to relinquish control over his own life. He truly is “stubborn as a mule.” His natural response to the gospel message is to resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit, resist the God-given inclination to surrender and resist God’s insistence on obedience.
Those who will not submit to the processes of God will eventually reap the consequences of their rebellion. The following translations accurately, if somewhat differently, convey the sense of verse 10:
- The sinner will be full of trouble… (BBE)
- An evil person suffers much pain… (NET)
- The torments of the wicked are many… (Har)
The Hebrew word translated variously as “sinner” is a general term describing unbelievers. Those who will not subject themselves to God’s authority, are certain to face a life of “much pain,” many “torments” and “full of trouble.” But this is also a relative spiritual truth. In other words, to the degree a person is given over to rebellion will determine the sorrow he will face in life.
And how about you? Can you discern the difference between the normal hardships of life, the disciplines of the Lord and the consequences that come from rebellion? Do you regularly, consciously submit yourself to the Lord’s yoke?