Boundary_stone photo by Zello

Do not move an ancient boundary stone

There are times when specific Bible passages have more relevance to one’s life than – well just about any other time. Consider Proverbs 22:28: “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.” This admonition occurs in four other places in Scripture, often with dire consequences —

“Judah’s leaders are like those

who move boundary stones.

I will pour out my wrath on them

like a flood of water.”

Hosea 5:10

Back in the 1950s, when I was a youngster on our modest mixed family farm (cows, pigs, and chickens) in north Huron County, our family experienced several months in which this text had fresh relevance.
One year in late June, our neighbour’s cows made a habit of coming for dessert in our oat field.
Our neighbours to the north, also recent immigrants and active in their faith community, were strictly dairy farmers and focussed on building a pedigree herd. Thus, they had more cows than we did and pastured them farther back from the farmstead. My parents grew oats in the fields beyond the crick — a lush sea of green by late June.
I and two younger brothers were sent to shoo the cows back through the gap in the fence — our neighbour’s fence. Concern was expressed to our neighbour. A new piece of barbed wire was draped across the gap.
A few days later the cows were back in the oats – so much more appealing than the close-cropped leftovers on their side of the fence.
“The Boys,” as we were called by our much older sisters, were herders again. Again, another piece of barbed wire adorned the gap.
A few days later — you already know the story.
I think it was after the fourth occurrence, when our father asked us to herd our neighbour’s cows into our barnyard with its wooden stockade — and close the gates. He left the farm on an errand.
In those days, when you bought a farm, it came with a commitment to maintain one-half of the fence between you and your neighbours.
Our responsibility was the front half. Our neighbour’s was the back half, except for the last short stretch through a small bush where a further sharing was documented.
Our father came back from his errand with two gentlemen, who, we later learned, were local farmers and had the official title of Fence Viewer — appointed by our township council for just the kind of boundary dilemma that we were experiencing.
They were driven to the gap and the damaged oats. They stayed until cattle trucks came and loaded up all our neighbour’s cows from our barnyard and drove them away.
The Fence Viewers visited our neighbour. Later we learned our neighbour was told, “You will get your cows back from the pound when:

  • A real fence is built on your half of the boundary.
  • You pay for the damaged oats
  • You pay for the visit by the Fence Viewers
  • You pay for the trucking of the cows and the feeding and milking while in the pound.”

Three days later a real fence was up, and the cows returned to our neighbour’s pasture.
“Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors” has fresh relevance for me today — every time I hear Ukraine, Donetsk, Luhansk or Putin mentioned in the news.
Each time, I think a quiet little prayer: Would that our world community had Fence Viewers that could go in with a strategy to resolve yet another attempt to move an ancient boundary stone set up by ancestors.
I admit — I’m also tempted to pray with Hosea for our Lord to pour out wrath on the perpetrator like a flood of water. But that would be an Old Testament solution, not a Sermon on the Mount solution, not a Jesus solution.
I’m OK with Russia wanting to be great again; but not by taking land and resources from a neighbour; not at the end of a gun, not by taking the lives of cousins — NOT by moving a boundary stone.

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