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A Heifer On Its Haunches

A Heifer On Its Haunches poster

“For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer,” Hosea 4:16.

At the door of the Tabernacle in the wilderness was an altar. It was an altar of brazen. It was called the brazen altar and the “altar of burnt offering.” Its design and description in detail may be found in Exodus 27:1–8. The brazen altar was situated and located in the court of the Tabernacle just before the open door. The altar was the most conspicuous object about the Tabernacle. “All priestly ministry and every act of worship were connected with it.”—Moorehead. By the altar alone could men draw near to God who dwelt within the veil. Offerings for sin were made at this altar. The offerings were here brought whether ram, lamb, bullock or heifer. Four horns, one at each corner, were used for the binding of sacrifice to the altar. This was necessary for the animal was often in a state of remonstrance. It was one thing for the priest or offerer to approach the altar with a lamb and quite another to approach it with a bullock or heifer. A lamb was led unresistingly to the altar—thence the words, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,” for Jesus was thus voluntarily offered up on the altar of burnt offering. A heifer was in characteristics much unlike the lamb and was stubborn and sometimes violent. As the heifer would approach the altar [s]he would draw back and rear back. [S]He would throw himself [sic] upon his [sic] haunches, stoutly resisting his [sic] leader. Who has not tried to lead a beast when it refused the leading and threw itself upon its knees or haunches and resisted to the testing of the strength of the halter?

The prophet lays hold upon this attitude of the heifer and makes application to his own people Israel. Says he, “Israel is as a backsliding heifer.” “Israel slideth backward.” As the heifer on its haunches, so also are my people. He deplored their stubborn resistance at the will and word of God. He, under this figure, summarized the national attitude of Israel. No willingness for the place of sacrifice. Refusing the place of God and the purpose of God is an Old Testament portrait of Israel which is carried into the New Testament. Stephen said: Ye do always resist.” Yes, Israel is a “heifer that slideth backward.”—A heifer on its haunches!

The Apostle Paul also takes hold upon the figure and exhorts: “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.”

Don’t be led forward to the altar like an unwilling heifer. Be not stubborn and resistant, be a willing living sacrifice! Be not afraid of the altar. Be not a heifer on its haunches.

Christ was not as the heifer on its haunches, His was a voluntary offering unto God. When He faced the cross it was not with stubborn resistance but with willing surrender. “I lay My life down of Myself,” said He. “No man can take it from Me.” Says Paul, “The Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Revised Version).

He, as Isaac, carried the wood to the mountain on which He would be put to death. With Isaac, He answered the call of His Father with the words, “Here am I.” He fainted not and failed not. His face was set to the sacrifice. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. As a sheep before her shearers is dumb so He opened not His mouth. He went to the altar of sacrifice, not as a heifer but as a lamb. He was not as a heifer on its haunches.

With the figure which the prophet employs let us now turn from national Israel and from Christ to ourselves and make the application of the text. There are multitudes of Christians everywhere who are heifers on their haunches. They slide back from the place of sacrifice and death. They are unwilling and stubborn. They think more of the superficial and the artificial than they think of the sacrificial. They rebel at every claim of God on their lives. They are heifers on their haunches. May God use us today to get them off of their haunches.

  1. Many Christians Are Like A Heifer On Its Haunches Because They Fear The Fire Will Burn Out The Dross.

There was fire on the altar. It frightened the heifer. It threw itself back on its haunches. Fire consumes. It burns the burnable. It cremates dross. It reduces to ashes everything that can not pass through its fiery baptism. There are Christians who do not want God’s process of purifying and sanctifying. They are afraid of His demands and commands. They covet fine gold but condemn the furnace which brings it forth.

They do not want to see the fourth form, the form of the Son of God in the fire. They want to see Him, but apart from the fire.They slide back on their haunches like a heifer. The thing they want to keep is rotten with corruption and only the fire can act as a spiritual incinerator.

Jonah Brooks of Wheaton tells of a missionary unable to return to Africa on account of the fever, stocked a farm in Kansas with the determination to use the proceeds for missions. He dealt in high bred stock and developed a herd of remarkable cattle. One heifer was particularly his joy and delight. He learned to love it and take pride, as sometimes is the affection between man and beast. The heifer died. It was a blow to his hopes. The first day he ordered the heifer to remain where it died. He told his wife that nothing had affected him more than the death of the calf. He just couldn’t think of putting it out of his sight. The second day it was pulled out into the lot, but orders were given not to bury it. He came back and looked at it and grieved over it.

The third day he went to town and upon return went out to see the heifer, and lo the blow! Flies had come and the stench was rising.

He ordered a farm hand to take it out of his sight and go and bury it.

After supper he said to his wife, “I’ve learned a lesson today I can’t forget. I now know why God wants some things put away from our lives.” Then he told her how he came back and found the calf in a state of corruption and disintegration. “I can now see,” said he, “that if some things in our lives are not put away and buried they will breed corruption.”

So it is. God at times points out these things and back on our haunches we go. We would rather have things pleasing in our sight than the things pleasing in His sight. We will keep them in our sight till corruption and decay demand their judgment. Said saintly Rutherford: “Make thy nest in no earthly tree for they are all marked for death.” “The things that are seen are temporal.” Why cling to a carcass fit for the habitation of worms when Christ claims you for life enduring beyond worlds?

Why fear the fire of the brazen altar? It will consume the dross, burn but the wood, the hay and stubble.

Oftentimes as we ride about America, we notice through the yards wherein are congested many freight cars, the following placard tacked to many cars: “USE NO TORCH HEREINFLAMMABLE MATERIAL.”

Certainly keep the flame of torch from the inflammable and combustible elements. In many a life there are certain things which would burn quickly if the divine flame touched them, and with what care we protect, and in the face of the One whose eyes are as a “flame of fire” we say, Keep thy fire away O God, this is inflammable material.

O may God get you off your haunches and me also!

  1. Many Christians Are Like A Heifer On Its Haunches, Because They Are Not Willing To Reckon The Loss.

When the heifer was placed on the altar, and the fire began to consume, its life went down into the altar in ashes for the ash pan, and up in smoke to the heavens. This was the price the altar demanded. Many believers are like the heifer on its haunches because they do not want to die out and live up. The corn of wheat goes down and dies while down, before it lives up. Death precedes resurrection and resurrection succeeds death.

Dr. Gregg of St. Louis told us a beautiful story in the life of the “Marshal”—Mrs. Booth Clibborn. When a child she lived with her father, General Booth, in the poverty and simplicity of their lot.

She never knew until she grew older how few things they had in their home. One day she said: “Father, we have such few things, others have much more. Why don’t we have more things?”

Said General Booth: “Get me a piece of paper and a pencil.” When these were provided, said he, “Daughter look here.” He then made a pencil dot at the center of the sheet and named it “Things.”

Around it he placed a circle and named it “Man,” and then about it a larger circle and called it “God.” “Now, said he, “I have always given “’things’ in this world the place of the little dot, I have given ‘man’ the first circle and always placed ‘God’ at circumference—given Him the large place.” The General then ordered the second page of paper and said to his daughter: “I will place another dot at the center and name it ‘God.’ The first circle and name it ‘Man’ and at the outer circle I will put the word ‘Things.’ Which will you have, daughter—‘God’ at the little dot or at the big circle?”

Said the daughter, “Put God at the outer circle and let things always be the little dot!”

The general nor his daughter were not as a heifer on its haunches. They were ready for an offering to God.

All ye that hear me—Where do you put the circle? Does God have the little dot or the big circle? Are things more to you than God? Are things more than man? Why not “things,” the insignificant dot and God the sweeping surrounding circle? Is it a sacrifice to give up “things” for “God”? Then why not off of your haunches?

It isn’t some “thing” we need it is just some One. The One is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. “Things” bring gratification but never satisfaction. “Things” hold for a time but have no elements of “eternity.” Christ is an eternal possession. “Things” pass, He remains. O what a passing of “things” there will be one of these days!

“They shall PERISH,…they shall wax old as doth a garment…as a vesture Thou shalt fold them up and they shall be changed,” Hebrews 1:11, 12. But in their contrast remember, “THOU REMAINEST” and “THOU ART THE SAME.”

“All flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth the flower thereof falleth away.” This is the end of flesh. This is its destination and consummation. Why then live after the flesh? But what saith the Scripture?


Don’t be afraid of the cost to count it. Reckon on the brevity of time and on the certainty of Eternity. Get off of your haunches to the place He calls you. Do it.

III. Many Christians Are Like A Heifer On Its Haunches, Because They Do Not Want To Experience The Work Of The Cross.

The work at the altar of brass shadowed forth the work of Christ on the cross. He was there among the shadows revealing Himself to His own.

The shadows of Leviticus prefigured His coming person and His work.

Many aspects of Christ’s cross could be seen at the altar of the burnt offering.

In the “Burnt Offering” Christ is seen in His exaltation with God.

In the “Meal Offering” Christ is seen in His humiliation for man.

In the “Peace Offering” Christ is seen making peace.

In the “Sin Offering” Christ is seen in substitution and expiation.

In the “Trespass Offering” Christ is seen in reparation and restoration.

The altar demanded death as did the cross. The heifer in the presence of the instrument of death threw himself back on his haunches. There are Christians who fall on their haunches before the cross.

They do not like it—it means death to the flesh and judgment on their desires.

They do not fancy such statements as “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ by whom the world is crucifiedunto me and I unto the world.” They have no pleasure in such a verse as, “Reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin.” Much less the words of Paul: “I am crucified with Christ.” They fall to their haunches. The cross is God’s only dealing place with sin. What He thinks of sin may there be seen and also what He thinks of the sinner. The cross is the display of both God’s love and God’s holiness. At the cross you see the wrath of God on sin and the path of God for man to get out of sin. The cross is God’s way. At the cross God condemned sin in the flesh.

In Romish countries, some, sensible of their sins, when they come to die, bargain that they shall be wrapped in a monk’s dress and be burned in it; that the merits of the order of Saint Francis, or of Saint Augustine may be imputed to them unto their salvation.

But God does something on the inside of man before He covers the outside. He deals with the malady itself. He puts “in,” before He puts “on,” He puts “away” before He puts “on.”

But the cross is at cross purposes with man’s mind. He wants to live in God’s sight, not knowing that in order to live in God’s sight he must die in God’s sight. This is perplexing and beyond his understanding, so he takes to his haunches like a heifer.

And how often we offer compromise where God demands sacrifice. Some months ago we told the children of our magazine the following story. It is time for its repetition here for it is germane to our subject:

“One time there was a home with three children in it. Of course there were children in it or it wouldn’t have been a home, it would have just been a house—it takes children to make a home. Well, one Christmas time these three children received a strange kind of a gift. It was a Noah’s ark and all the animals that were to go in it. There were two lions, and two elephants, and two giraffes, and two monkeys, and two bears, two horses, two cows, and two eagles—and, well—just two kinds of all animals and birds. One day the children put the ark in the bathtub and put all the animals in and thought they would play “flood.” The water was turned in the bathtub and the water began to raise the ark up and up and up, until it was carried on the bosom of the water in a small way, just as the ark of Noah was in a big way. It all seemed so very real to the children and they greatly enjoyed it, especially little sister. Mother read to them the story of the ark and they were thinking of the safety of those on the inside and of the awful storm upon those on the outside. Of course you know this ark was a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only safe place for any Christian to be because an awful storm is coming. Well, when the flood had reached its highest point they pulled the stopper out of the tub and it went slowly down. Then they said, ‘Mother, the flood is over now, what shall we do next?’ Mother said, ‘Do what they did in the Bible next, offer a sacrifice unto God?’ Then they began to look around to see what they would sacrifice. Sacrifice means to give up. The giraffe was too pretty, and the elephant too big, and the horse too necessary, and the cow they needed for milk, and what would they do? They had one little animal that had its leg broken and was all scratched up. It was a little lamb. Little sister cried out suddenly, ‘I know what to do, bruvver, let us sacrifice this little lamb with the broken leg, it ain’t much good!’ So they sacrificed the ‘little lamb’ with the broken leg that was ‘not much good,’ and this is just what most everybody is doing—sacrificing the little lamb with the broken leg that is not much good.”

Most of us give to God the poorest thing we have when we ought to give Him the best. If we have anything that’s broken and marred, this we think is good enough for God. God wants our best and we give Him our worst. We keep the best for ourselves and just sacrifice anything to God. It shows how very selfish our hearts are, and how much unlike God we are. When God wanted to give us a gift did He get a little lamb with a broken leg that wasn’t very much good? No, God gave us His greatest gift, He gave us His Son!

So like a heifer we are on our haunches unwilling and unbroken. O that God would work in the lives of many that hear me tonight. O, that the power of God may fall and praise of God arise and the people of God rejoice. Die where God demands death and take life at His hand! Live unto God! Amen.