Studies in the Scriptures
by Arthur W. Pink
It is our steadily deepening conviction that the “goats” of Matthew 25:32, 33, 41-46 refer not to the openly wicked and profane, but to those who pose as the real children of God; that is, to professing Christians. We wrote to a Brother in Australia who is engaged in the rearing of goats, and is making a close study of their characteristics and ways. What he says confirms our opinion, for in many respects these animals adumbrate and illustrate the religious goats. We quote the leading points of interest from his letter, adding a few comments thereon.
“From the beginning they were chosen (by a woman!) as being the most suitable instruments to deceive a blind and fleshly child of God (Gen. 27:9)”—the first reference to “goats” in Scripture! “They were taken ‘from the flock’,” intimating they typified those associated with the true people of God. “But why not a lamb! Ah, even one who was blind and could not ‘see afar off’ could not be deceived into believing Jacob was Esau if he had been covered with the skins and wool of a lamb!”
The next reference to “goats” is in Genesis 30:32, where we find Jacob proposing to Laban that he should receive the “brown” cattle and sheep (generally called “black sheep”) and the “spotted and speckled among the goats” as his remuneration: upon which Brother Connerton asks, “is not this the ‘hire’ chosen by shepherds who are not right with God?” Sad to say, it is—typifying those backslidden servants of God who are content to minister unto and receive their salary from a flock of “black sheep” and “speckled goats,” or white-washed worldlings.
Next we read “They took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood” (Gen. 37:31). “This is parallel in principle with, I may almost say in detail, with Genesis 27:9.” True; for the sons of Jacob did not propose to deceive their father—who was out of communion with God—by dipping Joseph’s coat in the blood of a lamb! Ah, is not God just in permitting us to be deceived by the “goats” when we are out of touch with Himself?
“Most solemn is Exodus 36:14.” The tabernacle—type of Christ, and His people in union with Him—was covered with the skins of “goats,” over which was a covering of rams’ skins (Exo. 36:19). “Our true character, and His also, is concealed from the world by the ‘goats.’ How awe-inspiring to notice them taking cover under ‘the rams’ skins dyed red’.” There is nothing which so hides the true character of Christianity on earth as the worldly and fleshly lives of empty professors who claim to be under the blood of Christ.
“Ezekiel 34:18 (see previous verse) is a perfect picture of what goats do. Pastures become ‘goat sick’: where goats are left in green pastures they afterward become barren (whereas sheep improve them!), and nothing—including the goat himself—will eat there. If you chain him, he will cry all day, and trample it down, and sooner starve than eat it. They will mark all trees, especially fruit trees, climbing up and breaking off the branches. Scientists tell us that great deserts in the East owe their existence to the goat, which once fed on them, but not a blade of grass nor tree is now to be seen there.” How like thousands of “churches” today, where the Spirit has been “quenched” by a preponderance of “goats” (unregenerate) in the membership, and now all that is there is spiritual desolation.
“Goats are intolerant and uncharitable in their conduct towards other creatures, and are extremely selfish. I have seen a big basin of bran-mash given to some goats, and the strongest stand over it, eat his or her fill and then put a front hoof in the remainder, or top it over in a most brutal manner; you may scold or flog, but it is of no avail. The next strongest one does the same.” So it is with the religious goats; they have no relish for the ministry of a true servant of God, and will do all in their power to prejudice others against him.
“Goats are fickle and fastidious. To get the best results from goats and obtain from them the most milk, they must be given a great variety of food, for they quickly tire of one thing, and will refuse to eat it. Starve? Oh no! they will eat just sufficient for their own personal needs, but the little extra which goes to make milk for you is left, or rather, is pushed scornfully aside.” Thus it is with the religious goats; they must be entertained with a constantly changing program;—it is the opposite with sheep; they never tire of the green pastures! So too the professor is greedy in devouring all he hears, but no fruit is yielded for God or good unto His people.
“Goats will not mix with sheep: there is no record extant of their ever becoming mixed. We have a mule, which is half donkey and half horse; a “jennie” which is half horse and half she-ass; and many other monsters, such as half cat and half rabbit; but half goat and half sheep? No—that is impossible.” How striking! God has drawn a line of demarkation between His people and the children of the devil, which no human device can obliterate. God’s “sheep” and Satan’s “goats” may associate together, but there cannot be any real fellowship between them: “What communion hath light with darkness”!
“The coat of the goat is both wool and hair. The wool is very valuable, and is used to make expensive shawls for ‘noble’ ladies: his hair is the well-known ‘mohair.’ The poor sheep produces only the common wool. The skin of the sheep is just ‘basil,’ the poorest of leather, used almost exclusively to make aprons for wagon-drivers. But the goat’s, why his skin is the famous ‘chami’ leather, and is considered par excellence. Where are the gloves to compare with kid gloves?” How this illustrates man’s respective estimates of real Christians and showy professors: the one is despised, the other highly esteemed.
“Goats do not like water, and to wash one is dangerous. I have done it, and even on a hot day they get cramp in the legs. A shower of rain is enough to drive them scampering for shelter, even from the most tempting meal.” How startling is this fact. There is nothing which empty professors detest more than experimental holiness. Preach to them of the imperative need for their fleshly ways to be cleansed, and they are at once offended: it is the last thing they want to hear about. How different with the sheep, who love the water!
“Goats are mostly ‘kept up’ here, chained to blackberry bushes, because they are the only animal which will eat them down. The ‘thorns,’ symbol of the curse, disappear shortly after mister goat has been chained to them, and are never seen again until the goat is removed or dies; then they come up worse than ever. He eats the tops off level with the ground, but the roots are still there, and spread, so that when his activities cease, they come up ten times worse.” So it is with most of modern evangelism; thousands of the unsaved are inclined to make a profession, and are hailed as “converts” (delivered from the curse), but “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20). How often there is outward reformation (the thorn bush leveled with the ground), but no miracle of grace wrought within—the root of evil more active than ever.
“Goats are extremely devout, spending much time upon their knees. They always get down and go under a fence. If on a chain, no matter how long it is, they will get on their knees and strain hard to reach some thing beyond them.” It is because of their religiousness that empty professors deceive so many—very often themselves included. It is not praying which proves I am a child of God, but the getting of real and miraculous answers to prayer which evidences I have the ear of my heavenly Father. How few can endure that test!
“They are fond of company, no matter what sort it is, for they hate to be alone.” This is a sure mark of an empty professor: company, excitement, a ceaseless whirl of activity, rushing from one meeting to another, gadding about and visiting all who will gossip with them, fill up all their “spare hours.” Their consciences will not allow them to engage in quiet reflection and meditation, still less do they cultivate getting alone with God and communing with Him.
“Nearly all creatures are afraid of fire: even lions and tigers may be driven off by a fire-stick. But not so with goats. I have seen them walk into the fire. I have seen the same goat jump into the fire several times and be burned. I believe that is why we are told in Matthew 25:41 that Christ will yet say to the goats ‘Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,’ not as in the case of the guest without a wedding garment ‘cast him into’.” How solemnly true is this of the religious goats. The most awful sermon of Eternal Punishment stirs them not, for they are quite sure that they will never experience it. So completely has Satan lulled them to sleep that they have no dread of the awful doom which is most surely awaiting them.
“Yet they are afraid of death! A sheep is very submissive in death: it does not kick, or even attempt to run away. But the goat cries loudly for nothing, before he is hurt. In death he kicks like an infernal machine, and must have at least three legs tied if he is to be killed in the same manner as a sheep.” The writer has long been impressed with the fact that the majority of those who seem to be surest of their own salvation are the most reluctant to die; yea, they are terrified at the very thought of it. Few of them would acknowledge it, and many cloake it under the claim that they are looking for the return of Christ.
“They have a most offensive smell, as bad as swine, especially the billy goat”—figure of an unregenerate preacher. Yes, no matter how loud their profession, how fine their words, how devout the demeanor of the religious goats, they are a stench in the nostrils of Him who requireth truth in the inward parts. And the more a real Christian is in communion with God, walking closely with Him, the more will the “goats,” the religious hypocrites of the day, disgust and nauseate him—far more so than open worldlings who make no profession at all. The above-mentioned characteristics of the natural goats ought to make it much easier for the child of God to now identify the religious “goats” with whom he comes into contact.—A.W.P