1 Samuel 6:7-9--Now then, prepare one new cart and two milk cows that have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. Take the ark of the Lord, place it on the cart, and put the gold objects that you’re sending Him as a restitution offering in a box beside the ark. Send it off and let it go its way. Then watch: If it goes up the road to its homeland toward Beth-shemesh, it is the Lord who has made this terrible trouble for us. However, if it doesn’t, we will know that it was not His hand that punished us—it was just something that happened to us by chance.”
Incredible! The Philistines captured the Ark of God but in every city they took it, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron, people were afflicted with tumors and the surrounding areas were rat-ravaged. Finally, the priests and diviners hatched a plan. They told their rulers to make five gold tumors and five gold rats and present them as a guilt offering before God. Then they did something that defied logic. Rather than ask the Israelites to reclaim their sacred possession, they took two recently calved cows that had never been yoked, and hitched them to a cart. If the cows pulled the cart down the road towards Judah, they would know for sure God was responsible for their distress.
Hello! Mama cows do not leave their calves. Cows that have never been yoked to anything don’t suddenly cooperate to pull a cart down a road away from their home. But you can guess what happened. Those bovine beauties traveled straight to Judah and miraculously stopped in Beth Shemesh (a town that belonged to priests) without ever wandering off course. You can imagine the joy of those townspeople at the return of the Ark. Americans like to say, “Don’t have a cow!” In other words, stay calm. The slang in that village surely became “Have a cow!” (May good things come to you.)
Two issues provoke me in this story found in 1 Samuel 5 and 6. First, pagan religious leaders tested God with conditions that clearly required divine intervention. They knew God’s hand was behind their afflictions yet they challenged Him to prove it was really His hand at work. We don’t serve a wimpy Lord. So why are we so afraid to trust God to do the impossible? If we want people to believe in our God they ought to see the incredible work He does through us! We ought to expect Him to do great things. We must quit confining Him to the limits of our eyes and minds. Beware of shackling God according to your reasoning and incontrovertible evidence. The Philistines expected God to fulfill a test worthy of His press. Do we ask God to go beyond our reason or are we afraid He will somehow make us look bad?
Second, the Philistines saw their idol Dagon smashed in his own temple before the ark of the Lord. They experienced plagues and a rodent invasion they knew were orchestrated from heaven. They understood historically what God did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians when they opposed the Israelites. They watched two cows do the unthinkable. So why don’t we read in 1 Samuel 7 about revival breaking out in their land? How come they didn’t leave a decapitated Dagon to follow Yahweh? Perhaps it’s easier to fashion gold rats and send them off as appeasement than give up perversity to obey an unseen Father. Without faith and with a strong fascination for sin it is impossible to follow God. People don’t choose God because of miracles. They follow Him because His Holy Spirit tugs their hearts (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
If our faith or our religion does not help us in the conditions we are in, we have either a further struggle to go through, or we had better abandon that faith and religion.—Oswald Chambers in The Shadow of an Agony
©2004 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)