Near the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says, “The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd” (12:11). Solomon makes some interesting comparisons that shed light on the power of wise words. His analogy of the goad is particularly interesting.
If you have ever driven cattle, you know what a goad is. A goad is a pointed instrument used to prod livestock in the direction the rancher wants them to go. Nowadays goads have a built-in electrical charge. They can be pretty persuasive.
The words of the wise are like goads. They move people. Unlike most words spoken or written, words that are like goads make an impact on our lives. Because Christians have been charged with a mission to persuade the world with words (Mt. 28:19-20), we ought to be interested in speaking words like goads.
There is a catch. Solomon says, “The words of the wise are like goads.” How do we gain the kind of wisdom that is needed to speak persuasively to a lost and dying world? Another way of asking this question is, when do our words serve as “goads”? The answer is twofold…
Only when they are true. True words have the ability to set a person free (Jn. 8:32). False words may seem to do the same thing, but ultimately they bind their audience with awful chains (Rom. 2:6-9; 2 Thes. 2:12). Speak true words. That is the first step in persuading others to go in the right direction.
Only when they are believed. We’ll never convince the world of the truth until we believe it ourselves. Charles Swindoll tells a story about the skeptic David Hume, who was seen walking in the snow long before daybreak on frigid morning. He, along with many others, was making his way to a little chapel where George Whitefield was preaching. Someone who knew him said, “Mr. Hume, I didn’t know you believed this message!” He responded, “I don’t, but that man in the chapel does, and I can’t stay away.” When divine words are believed by the person who is speaking them, even skeptics cannot help listening.
Just because a sinner is being goaded by God’s Word, that doesn’t mean he will respond. Jesus declared to Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14). Indeed, it is hard, but some are still kicking. As the church, it is our job to keep prodding, convicted of the pure message, praying that some will listen and be saved.