Kicking Against the Pricks?

Monday, October 29, 2012

“And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5 KJV).

What did the Lord mean here when He said Saul of Tarsus was “kicking against the pricks?”

The King James Bible uses “pricks” thrice—today’s Scripture; its parallel verse, Acts 26:14; and Numbers 33:55. Let us examine the latter for a clue as to the definition of “pricks.”

God instructed Moses to advise Israel when she would enter into her Promised Land: “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (Numbers 33:55). Notice “pricks” and “thorns” are connected (cf. Ezekiel 28:24).

Prior to Paul’s salvation, God had been forming the nation Israel (often likened unto sheep). God had also sent His Son, Israel’s Messiah-King, Jesus, as the “good shepherd” (John 10:11), to lead wayward Israel back to Him. Jesus declared, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24; cf. Matthew 10:6; Luke 15:1-10). Saul was one of those lost Jews, bitterly opposed to Jesus Christ: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). He imprisoned and murdered Jewish believers (verses 10,11; cf. Acts 7:58–8:4; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13,14,23; 1 Timothy 1:13).

God described Saul’s activities as “kicking against the pricks.” “Pricks” (goads) resemble thorns; they are pointed objects used to prod and drive rebellious livestock. Essentially, Jesus Christ referred to Saul as a disobedient sheep, sinfully opposing God’s will for Israel (Saul rejected Christ, and was killing those who accepted Him).

Saul learned his fighting against the Creator God was futile, for he was unsuccessful in annihilating believing Israel. In fact, hell-bound Saul eventually quit striving against God. He trusted Christ, and ultimately became the Apostle Paul, God’s apostle to us Gentiles!