I was a brand new Christian when I went to Bible College to prepare for a life of service. I hadn’t even read most of the Bible yet but was about as spiritually hungry as a person could be. Almost every class (with the exception of psychology) and nearly every professor (except the English teacher) made a gargantuan impact on my life. It’s been over 40 years but there’s still one of them, Paul Hackett, whose classes I still remember. Paul was an African-American pastor who made the Old Testament stories come alive for all of us. His dramatic presentations of the narrative were always riveting. We couldn’t help but see Joseph running away from Potiphar’s wife, hear Moses’ tirade to the Jews at the base of Horeb, and smell the Passover lamb being roasted on a spit.
I’ll never forget the class when he told the story of the miraculous plagues in Egypt, Brother Hackett flung down Moses’ rod and lifted up a snake, slammed that rod onto the Nile and turned it to blood, and bravely demanded that Pharaoh let his people go. But when he got to the sly compromise that, in order to tether them to Egypt and keep them from worshipping the Lord fully, Pharaoh posed to Moses that the Jews leave their herds in Egypt, our preacher/professor thundered Moses’ audacious response, “Not a hoof is to be lift behind!” Goose bumps and shouts of “Amen!” echoed throughout the class of over a hundred hopeful young preachers. We all heard and felt God’s thunderous call that day to give it all and not leave anything behind!
Each graduating class from that institution used to choose a name that best reflected their corporate sentiment for their four-years together. One class previous to ours, evidently moved in the same way we were on that day chose the name, “Not a hoof!” As cumbersome a name as it was to, they were the class of “Not a hoof!”
I was reading the story the other day and my attention was drawn to the remainder of Moses’ outburst to Pharaoh: “Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshipping the LORD our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the LORD.” In other words, “We won’t know till we get there exactly what God’ll require of us. We can’t leave anything behind – not one cow, one ox, or one item, because he might demand something of us that we didn’t expect. We’re not leaving behind even what might seem to be the least valuable thing to sacrifice. God might want something from us that he hasn’t yet revealed to us.”
“Not a hoof!”
There’s something here for us New Testamenters, and how we go about living for the God of Moses. We’re told to give “spiritual sacrifices” (1 Peter 2), offer “sacrifices of praise” (Hebrews 13), and give our “bodies as living sacrifices” (Romans 12). Our sacrifices don’t entail shedding animals’ blood, but they may involve shedding some of our own – figuratively or literally!
We who read the Bible most days and listen to sermons most weeks till we’re bloated with Bible tend to assume that we’re pretty much aware of everything God requires of us! We’ve learned that he wants us to love him and our neighbors and stay away from soul-depleting, society-damaging activities like stealing, lying, and sleeping with someone else’s spouse. All good things to know; things he requires of all of us all the time. He invented the hardware and installed the software, so he knows the healthiest and most productive way for us to function. He knows what’s best for us and loves us too much to leave us in the dark about how to make him happy and keep ourselves healthy.
Our self-willed attempt to rule our own lives is the core tendency that belongs on the bloody altar of sacrifice. But what about our specific life choices? I’m sure there are a lot of things in particular that the Creator requires of me that are different from what he expects of you and vise versa. I’m talking about personal leadings, individual giftings, and specific callings. We’re not all called to be apostles, public school teachers, or politicians. Some are called to serve in one way and others in other ways. Some of us have God’s permission to drink fermented beverages in moderation and others have to keep even their microbrews on the altar (i.e. out of the refrigerator). You get the drift.
How can we know what he requires of us? The rule of thumb is to not leave one hoof behind! Lay it all down at Jesus’ feet then let him decide what to keep and what to give back to us to use for his glory! When somebody is coming to Christ I always suggest, “Give to God all you know you have and later when he shows you something that you have that you didn’t know you had, then give that too.”
When we compartmentalize what’s God’s and what’s ours, reserving for ourselves what we want to keep in our control, we take Pharaoh’s bait. Typical hoofs that we tend to leave in Pharaoh’s court are sex, stewardship, and servanthood. Even if he doesn’t require something of us today, how can we know he won’t require it later? Don’t leave one hoof behind! Take everything out of Pharaoh’s control! Don’t leave anything under his authority. You don’t know what God will want from you, so dedicate all of it. Don’t declare anything off limits to him, anything he might ask you to sacrifice!
It’s reminiscent of when Abraham drove off the “birds of prey” that had swooped down on the carcasses of the animals that God had prescribed to be offered (Genesis 15). It’s just like our adversary to try to steal our sacrifice! In those times we have to drive away those thieving spirits and follow through with the sacrifices to God that he’s prescribed for us.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
In other words, hiding nothing from the sacrificial knife leads us to discover the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God for us.
How to know if you’ve left some hoofs behind:
- You keep finding yourself taking frequent trips to Egypt in order to eat.
- You haven’t done anything risky for the glory of God or the good of people in a while.
- You don’t have the time or money to do something you’re supposed to do because you’ve spent them on things that you wanted.
- You’re supposed to give something away that you already used up.
Being tricked into leaving stuff in Pharaoh’s hand is always a bad idea. Not only might God require it of us, Pharaoh might use it as a weapon against us. He always wants to bungee cord us back to Egypt. The old saying is, “Never give the devil a ride. Because if he likes the ride, pretty soon he’ll want to drive.” The only way to be entirely free from that evil king is to leave nothing for him to use to attract us back to his control. And the only way to do that is to give it all to God to begin with.
You might also want to read: The Day I Got My Whatever Back