October 13

The Benefits of Raising Goats

“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. There will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls.” (Proverbs 27:23-27)

So, I’ve got your attention, and now you know this may be a little goofy, but hopefully is helpful and worth your time. Today as I began studying Proverbs 27, I became interested in the nuances of raising goats, which are mentioned twice. Cheryl Smith wrote an article entitled “The Benefits of Raising Goats,” which I have unashamedly stolen as the title for my devotion. She mentions many advantages of rearing goats, including dairy and meat production, self-sufficiency, having readily available pack animals for hikes that also enjoy your companionship, fiber production, such as mohair and cashmere, and having handy weed-whackers. (1) Here is another example of the practical wisdom of the Bible. More generally, though, I find the advice to attend to fields and flocks, always assessing their condition as a reminder that the simple work of life, tied to nature and the natural order, is soothing, foundational, and a possible remedy for the stress of high-tech life today.

In the days of Proverbs 27, a landowner would have their wealth in his animals and crops. Therefore, it was necessary to know the condition of both, as a means of protecting his income. As long as the goats and lambs were in good condition, and crops were growing, there would be food on the table, and the promise of more to come. Farmers have a built-in system of accountability for their success which many vocations do not offer until there is a milestone of success or failure. The Reformation Study Bible comments, “Economic resources of a renewable sort (flocks, crops) are preferable to riches that cannot be replaced. Careful attention to the providential order of nature generally ensures lasting provision for our needs. The ecological implications of this passage are even more obvious in the modern context.” (2)

Some of us spend most of our days with people, perhaps with the general public in sales, services, or ministry. Maybe for you, woodworking, gardening, or reading is a relief from the complexities of relationships. Others spend most of your time programming, engineering, studying, writing, or planning. When you want to de-stress, you may spend time with people—playing sports, or bridge, having meals out, or just visiting. Balance in our work and activities keeps us fresh and probably more responsible as providers and stewards of our property.

The natural cycles of weather, with its variations in temperature and light during different seasons have little influence over what most of us do these days unless we are involved in outdoor sports or vocations. But perhaps we should pay more attention to God’s simple order of nature, to find more satisfaction and peace. Jesus certainly stayed close to the earth and water as he taught with parables and analogies. Maybe we would be more content with the life God has given us if we look up at the clouds today for a few minutes, or consider the benefits of planting a garden. Maybe we should even think about the benefits of raising goats, to get out of our artificial, climate-controlled, automatic, presumptive routines. I have a friend who takes fabulous photos of skyscapes and landscapes, reminding me of God’s creation. But today I’m going to think about goats, as silly as it may seem, as a way or remembering our role of stewardship over nature and try to pay more attention to my garden “crops.” (See Genesis 2.) How will you connect with nature today?

(1) Smith, Cheryl K., “The Benefits of Raising Goats,” https://www.dummies.com/home-garden/hobby-farming/raising-goats/the-benefits-of-raising-goats/

(2) The Reformation Study Bible, Proverbs 27:23-27 Comments, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.

 

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