WFT- biddable

12 November 2012

Jeff let out a shrill whistle and Sarge charged the first obstacle, leaping over it.  He low-crawled under the next barricade and then sprinted on to the next challenge.  Running, jumping, crawling, and balancing his way through the course, the three year old German Shepherd constantly watched his trainer’s hand signals and listened to his voice.  The bond of love between master and dog was plain to see.


George knocked on his neighbor’s door then rang the bell after nobody answered.  Eventually, a disheveled, tired looking man opened the door and grumbled, “Whadda ya want?  I was watching the game.”  George handed the man a rope and replied, “I believe this belongs to you.”  At the end of the rope was a dirty, scruffy looking mutt.  “He got out again?”  “Yes, and this time he tore up two more pillows on our back porch chairs.”  The man jerked the rope, yanking the whimpering dog inside the house.  “This stupid pooch is more trouble than he’s worth.”


Dan loved fall weather and the brisk morning air.  Running through his neighborhood in the first cool weather of the season, he was reminded of the attack.  Had it already been four years?  Two blocks from here, the dog had come out of nowhere.  He had heard others in the neighborhood talking about a stray in the area but hadn’t thought much of it.  It had taken two other joggers to scare off the dog and provide first aid until the ambulance arrived.  As if upset by the memory, his left arm began to ache, but Dan kept running.


Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  (Genesis 1:26-28)


G-d has created an order, a structure to His Creation.  He alone is at the top, we are under His authority, and the creatures of the earth are under us.  We recognize the goodness and rightness of that order and we praise the Creator when things are orderly.

In the first story, Jeff and Sarge lived in a proper relationship.  The master provides instruction and the servant obeys.  Dog trainers win awards and acclaim for their ability to lead and dogs for their ability to follow.  We honor the rightness of that relationship.

In the second tale, George’s neighbor neglected to train his dog and, as a result, the dog’s behavior was dishonorable (and expensive)!  The word “subdue” in the Genesis passage comes from a Hebrew term that means “to bring under” as in “to put in its proper place under authority”.  The word doesn’t mean that humanity should beat animals into submission or destroy the earth.  Instead it tells us we should bring everything in it into its proper place under our authority.  And our place is under G-d’s authority.

In the third story, Dan had been injured by a stray dog.  Left to their natural instinct in our fallen world, stray animals can be destructive.  Damage and injury is often the result of the world being “out of order”.

We see the beauty and orderliness of animals, indeed all things, when they are in their proper place in this world.  Yet at the same time we (in Western society) celebrate the “unconquerable human spirit”.  We extoll the success of “the individual” which unfortunately often involves rebellion against authority and opposition to even to the mere idea that there is a proper place.

Today's Merriam-Webster Word of the Day was biddable which means "easily led, taught, or controlled; docile".  This does not imply a fawning, mewling sycophant.  Instead, consider the centurion of Messiah's day:

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented."   Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him."  But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it."  

Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 

And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment.  (Matthew 8:5-13)


The centurion was no self-seeking, servile flatterer.  He was a commander of warriors in the Roman Legion... but he also understood authority and his place in the world.

Merriam-Webster provided this information about the word biddable:

"The twins are well-behaved children, biddable, meek, neat about their clothes, and always mindful of the proprieties they have learned at summer hotels." — From Willa Cather's 1915 novel The Song of the Lark

A biddable individual is someone you can issue an order to—that is, someone who will do your bidding. The word dates to the late 18th century, and our earliest evidence for it is a quote in the Scottish National Dictionary. There are a number of words in English that do what "biddable" does. "Tractable," "amenable," and "docile" are three of them. As in the Cather quote above, "biddable" is often applied to children and indicates a ready, constant inclination to follow orders, requests, and suggestions. "Tractable" suggests characteristics that make for easy guiding, leading, ordering, or managing; its antonym "intractable" (as in "intractable problems") is more common. "Amenable" indicates a disposition to be agreeable or complaisant as well as a lack of assertive independence. "Docile" can stress a disposition to submit, either due to guidance and control or to imposition and oppression.


Messiah declares: 

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  (Matthew 11:29-30)


May we be gentle and humble like our Lord and live according to the words of the prophet Micah:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  (Micah 6:8)


When the Lord whistles to call and speaks to guide us, how do we respond?  May we be biddable to the words and instruction of our Master.




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