Like the Horns of the Wild Ox

God brings them out of Egypt and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.

Numbers 23:22

“Why do you always take her side!” 

As a dad with more than one kid, I hear this from both my daughters from time to time. When fights start, they want dad on their side. When they do nothing wrong but are hurt by their sister, they want dad on their side. When they do wrong, they still want dad on their side. 

It hurts to feel alone. It hurts to feel like no one understands you. It hurts when it seems like others are either uninterested in your good or even actively working for your harm. That’s why we long to know that someone is for us.

Like the Horns of the Wild Ox

I recently came across a contender for my new favorite word picture in the Bible. In Numbers 22-24, Balak is worried that the vast number of Israelites wandering in the wilderness might overwhelm his land, so he tries to hire Balaam to curse the people of Israel. But four times Balaam instead ends us blessing Israel. It is in these blessings that Balaam says of Israel that God “is for them like the horns of the wild ox.” (Numbers 23:22, 24:8)

I’ve never tangled with the horns of a wild ox. That is one of those things I don’t need to experience to know I’m not going to like it (kind of like getting Ebola or eating potato salad). I’m content to leave that one in the category of things I’m ok with not experiencing in this life. 

In describing the prize-winning steers he would see at the Minnesota State Fair every year, John Piper says, “It is not hard to imagine that the horn of the wild ox became for the ancient near eastern people (who had no cars or tanks or motors) a sign of tremendous strength and a means of victory in conflict.” In Psalm 22:21, David uses the “horns of the wild oxen” along with the “mouth of the lion” as analogies of the danger he needed to be saved from. So the horns of the wild ox were serious business. 

That is why I love the word picture “the horns of the wild ox” provides us in understanding God’s work for our good. All that strength and fierceness is wielded by God on our behalf for our ultimate good. 

God Wielded His Own Horns Against His Own Son

God demonstrated just how for you he is in that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you. (Romans 5:8) God is so for you and for your good that he sent Jesus to take all the punishment for all your sin. God wielded his own horns to pierce his own Son so that your sin could be dealt with and you could have a right relationship with him. That is how for you he is. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Like the horns of the wild ox, God is for you. He is defending you, leading you, helping you, and protecting you today. Not so he can help you get whatever you want. No. He is for you for a far better reason. He is for you so he can give you everything he wants for you, which is for his glory and your eternal good. 

He wants what is best for you, which is above all to have a right relationship with him. So trust in those horns today. Because “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

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