Some of you may remember, I spoke some years ago about a mustang that I adopted. This is the sequel to that story.
I adopted a mustang. It came from the high desert wilderness in Nevada. He’s a good boy. He has good strong legs. He likes to run and he is affectionate. I can generally make him do what I want him to do. We’ve had our differences. We’ve both had our spills, but I like him.
The problem is this horse doesn’t focus. He has a problem with focus. He doesn’t really trust me and so he isn’t really with me when we are working together. If I put a bridle on him, I can make him do mostly what I want him to do. But his concern, while we’re together, is about what the rest of the herd is doing, where his food is, what distracting items are around him. He’s not fully yielded to me and that makes him hard. It makes him distracted. His neck is out when he runs. He’s looking around. He’s clumsy. We’ve actually fallen together, where he will trip over. He doesn’t progress in skill as we work together and if I leave him for any length of time, he immediately regresses back to his original form, which is a wild mustang. And that is a life of self-preservation.
We have a romanticized view of what a mustang’s life is. It’s a hard life and they don’t live very long. This horse has absolutely no excuse for his regression, repeatedly, because he has a wonderful barn. He has won the lottery when he made it into my wife’s barn. She runs a tight ship. Meal plans, supplements, customized tack, opportunities for growth and training, safe surrounds, fresh shavings. The fences are there for his protection and well-being. It’s a great spot. It’s a wonderful place to be and he should be content. He should be focused on the minimal requirements that we put on him, the training opportunities that we’re putting in front of him, but he doesn’t.
Recently, he lost his spot. He got cut from the team because he isn’t fit to purpose. That was a really hard choice for us to make as a family. For me to make. Ultimately, it was my horse and my choice because I want him to succeed. I want him to learn all the things we’re doing for him. We gave him every chance. We’ve had him for five years and we’ve worked over and over on many of the same things, but ultimately I’m not running a horse rescue, charity program. This horse needs to do what I need him to do.
We’ve had our problems, but the last straw came when I took him off property to go to a help a neighbor with some livestock. We got about 200 yards down the road and he refused, he wouldn’t go further. He started dancing around, pulling up, spinning. We were on a paved road and it’s a dangerous situation when a horse behaves that way.
I was disappointed. I was angry. I was frustrated. Up to that point, I had no deadline. There was no measurement bar that I had set that he had to clear. When it became clear to me that he wasn’t going to progress past this point of development, I called it. Within a week, we had loaded him up, driven him back to the wilderness and given him back to the cowboy that we had taken him from. As I said, we didn’t want to do it. It was heartbreaking for us, and he had an enviable spot. He had a really good place to be and he lost it.
The analogy isn’t terribly obtuse in Psalm 95:6. We need to hang on to our spot. We need to be focused. God called us to serve a purpose. We were taken from the wilderness, and we were granted a spot in God’s Kingdom. We’re going to look now at the example of ancient Israel and recognize what some of those Israelites gave up.
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (Psalm 95:6-7).
As the Israelites were, so are we. We are in His hand. We are citizens in His Kingdom. That’s a gift freely given, and it is our possession. But it is not irrevocable, and why is that? It’s because God has a purpose. He’s not running a charity program either. He has a plan that He is working out and He has called people to serve that purpose. We have a job to do and, just like my horse, just like the Israelites, we tend to get distracted.
We don’t focus. We get our neck stretched out and stiff. We don’t yield. We allow ourselves myopic perspectives that don’t really take in the fullness of what God is doing. We let irrational fears govern our behavior. We let selfish appetites drag us away from the work God wants us to be doing and we regress over and over and over. Sliding back into our instinctive patterns, failing to advance into God’s purpose. God gives us lots of second chances as He did with the Israelites, over and over again. But that is not an infinite allowance.
In Psalm 95:8 the psalmist shifts voice. The psalmist has just affirmed that we are sheep in God’s hands, we are in God’s pasture. It’s a wonderful place to be, but He gives us a warning.
“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work” (Psalm 95:8-9).
What is this day of rebellion? It is the point in time in which the Israelites refused to enter the promised land. They pulled up (Deuteronomy 1). God said to go up and possess the promised land and He reminded them at the time, He gave them the instruction of all the things He had done for them. They had been given so much. They had been shown wonderful miracles, nevertheless, “you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God and you complained in your tents”.
They were tempted by fears they heard, and they turned back. Then we see: “For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” (Psalm 95:10-11).
God cut an entire generation from the team and He withdrew His protection. They repented desperately. They went forward to battle anyway and they lost soundly. We talk a lot about God’s patience and His mercy, as we should. It is amazing what He puts up with and how long He works with us. But He has a purpose and ultimately, we need to be fit to that purpose. Otherwise, we’re just an expensive pasture ornament. There is a cutoff point, He will draw a line and we don’t know when.
Sending this horse away was a difficult process for us and I didn’t recognize what I was going through at the time, but when I reflected on it, it was quite jolting to me. In my minimal purpose with this animal, I have an end point. I will draw a line and I did, as hard as it was for me to do.
God is not going to be different in that with us. I’m hopeful for my mustang. He’s not headed to the glue factory. He’s being retrained by someone that’s better at it than me, but it’s the hard way. He’s in a much more difficult environment with a harder path. A more rigorous life. He will soon be rehomed and we’re somewhat tracking his progress, but it didn’t have to be this way. He wasn’t conscious of what he had and what he’d been given.
We’ve been given the “all access” pass. We need to be celebrating what we have been given and what we know is the plan for all of humanity. But this Kingdom that we’ve been granted entry into has a King and that King has a bigger plan. If we want to be part of that plan, we can’t get distracted and we can’t keep regressing. Rather, we must see what we have. The hard part for so many of us is really done. We’ve heard the story of the Israelites and all they went through. They were right there, standing at the border of the promised land with all the things they needed to go forward, and they balked. They went backwards. The promised land was there for them. They had come out of Egypt. They had been through the wilderness, but they stopped. We need to hold on to that Kingdom. Let’s not lose our spot.
There is an example of the Israelites in the book of Hebrews that we need to remember: ” ‘… Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’ For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:15-19).
Let’s go back up now to a more encouraging section where we need to focus our minds.
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today”, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Hebrew 3:12-14).