In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
What follows is an excerpt from When Swallows Return by Mari Jones. The book is a collection of stories from farm life which, although written some years ago, contain spiritual lessons for us today.
‘Watch The Cows!’
‘I wonder if you could spare a minute? I could really do with some help.’ It was a delicate hint that help was needed to move the cows, with their calves, from one field to another. Thinking that I could at least fill a gap, out I went to my appointed task.
‘Watch the cows!’ That was the only word I had, by way of instruction, and but little did I know at the time what it involved!
The field, which had to be emptied of cows and calves, was on a bit of a slope. Time and time again we thought that we had got them gathered together to the opening at the top end of the field, when, suddenly and without warning, the calves would take it into their heads to rush down-field past us, in a nervous, blind stampede, impossible to restrain — and, invariably of course, they were followed in a wild, panicky rush by their mothers.
Believe me, it was not easy to get ahead of them, while they were aiming for the bottom of the field. They ran at a gallop, tails in the air, with an occasional shake of their body and a sudden leap. They were having a great time provoking us.
If all this is true of cattle, it is doubly true of sheep and lambs. Those are wilder still! When trying to get them into the fold for the first time in the season, the lambs will slip through one’s hands in a second. We are always thankful that dogs can be used to make them behave.
But as for cows with young calves, no dog would dare to put in an appearance. He would be just something to be gored and destroyed without delay, before he could begin to look like being the slightest threat to their offspring. And, woe betide anyone who happened to stand between the maddened cow and the dog!
The great secret is to get the cows, or the mother sheep, to remain standing unmoved in their place, even though their progeny should leave them in this wild rush. As surely as the mothers do this, sooner or later, their young will return, calm and in their right minds. But, without a positive stand on the part of the mothers, neither the calves nor the lambs have the faintest idea what is expected of them. The parents’ example is the only thing that will make them sober up and come to their senses.
There was a great deal of running around and waving of sticks in the air, that day, and our patience was tried to the limit. It was a continual struggle between us and the frantic cattle, before we finally succeeded in getting them quiet and obedient. No wonder I was given the warning, ‘Watch the cows!’
Although the lively cattle had a great time at our expense that day, as we tried to exert our authority over them, we could not but feel that their behaviour would have been very different if they had realized that all we were trying to do was for their good. There was only one purpose to the whole exercise, and that was to move them to better pasture in the other field. But, while each one persisted in going his own way, complete disorder reigned — there was anarchy in the bovine society that afternoon, and life was not too good for them or for us!
‘In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (Judges 17:6). Lawlessness prevailed in the nation of Israel during that period, and at many later times too. And the same is exactly true of us when we reject the claim of God on us. The blame for the present chaos is put on the young, on their parents, on the schools and on religion. But the truth is ‘we have turned to our own way’. We have turned our backs on God who wants to lead us into ‘green pastures’.