Walking Through The Word

Watch The Jesus Film In Your Language

Some Great Causes

Books of the Bible

December 2016
S M T W T F S
« Mar    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Tweets

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 379 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 34,748 hits

Visitors (Since 6/1/2014)

Flag Counter

Reciprocal Links



Web Analytics Clicky

All Religions Do Not Lead To God


1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)


After God took the ark of the covenant out of the public eye, the people began to lament after Him. They were under constant harassment from the Philistines at this time in history and with no good-luck charm to rely upon and nowhere else to turn, they turned back to God.

So Samuel confronts all of Israel in today’s passage. They were sorrowful. But Samuel challenges them to determine if they were returning to the Lord with all their heart – whether they simply wished for things to be better or if they were willing to repent – change their thoughts and actions. Doing so would be an admission that they were the cause of their own problems.

Specifically, Samuel commanded them to put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among them and to direct their heart to the Lord and serve him only. If they were willing to do this, then God would deliver them out of the hand of the Philistines.

Ashtaroth was a pagan female deity. She was worshipped by the nations surrounding Israel (Ashtaroth was known as Ishtar by the Assyrians). Worship of Ashtaroth was highly sexual and very pornographic. Ashtaroth poles were common in cities in Israel and her neighbors. These poles were essentially giant phallic symbols.

The worship of these false gods had started in the land before Israel arrived and subsequently was adopted by the Jews. Sadly, this is the exact opposite of what God wanted.

When God gave Israel the land they were now occupying, it was with the intent that they would walk closely with Him, obeying all His commands. As a result, they would be blessed and the nations around Israel would see this and would give up their false gods and submit to the one true God [Deuteronomy 30:11-20]. But this did not happen.

Instead of other nations being influenced by Israel in a positive way, Israel was influenced by the nations around them in a negative way. Israel adopted their neighbor’s false religious practices.

Man-made religions often seem more appealing than the worship of the true God of the Bible because these religions tend to deny sin and instead espouse pleasure in sin. Many churches, for example, refuse to categorize homosexuality as a sin, despite what God says. Or they recognize and perform same-sex marriages. Other religions turn man into the god by professing that man can control God through his actions. We recently studied an example of this earlier in our study of 1 Samuel.

But Samuel told Israel they must direct their hearts to the Lord and serve him only for it is only then that He would deliver them – the gods they were worshiping were non-existent. Likewise, deliverance cannot and will not happen through Islam, Hinduism, or even Catholicism or Mormonism.

Any religion or faith that does not recognize the God of the Bible and does not teach that man is sinful and in need of forgiveness is a false religion. Any religion or faith that does not recognize that such forgiveness is only available through Jesus Christ, who is God on earth, is a false religion. Any religion that puts man in control of his destiny through certain rites or sacraments is a false religion.

It’s very interesting that Israel wanted to turn back to God. This very fact proved that their other gods did not exist. For if they did, they would have been able to help Israel and Israel would have no need to lament after God.

The people of Israel had very likely been praying to these other gods. But to no avail. After a while, they realized that these gods were powerless and did not exist.

Sadly – and dangerously – the world espouses that all religions lead to the same God. They claim that to believe in only one path to God is closed-minded. They claim that everyone can worship God in their own way. This is a very appealing theology as it puts ourselves in control. But it is not true.

Such teaching only accomplishes one thing. It sends anyone who believes in these man-made (and therefore non-existent) gods and religious practices to hell.

This is why Samuel commanded Israel to get rid of the gods they had adopted from foreign lands. Those gods were appealing (especially considering their emphasis on sex) but did not exist.

Belief in these false gods would not only not save Israel, it would destroy them. Man-made gods don’t lead people to God. They keep people from Him.

There is no Allah. There is no Vishnu, Shiva, or Brahma. Haile Selassie is not going to return to earth. There is no Igaluk.

There is only one God. That God is the God of the Bible. And He is the only one who should be worshiped. Anything short of that is a dangerous endeavor that will result in an eternity in hell, as other gods do not exist and therefore have no power to forgive sin.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

God’s Holiness Is Exciting And Frightening


13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron. 17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. 19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
(1 Samuel 6:13-21)


Today we conclude the story of the ark of the covenant being returned to Israel after having been captured by the Philistines in battle some seven months prior. In yesterday’s passage we saw how God’s holiness was not respected by some of the people of Beth-shemesh resulting in God killing seventy men for violating the command not to touch or look into the ark itself.

The response by the men of Beth-shemesh is sad. They had just seen an example of God’s holiness and His desire to maintain that holiness. As such, they did recognize that God was holy.

God is holy because He is separate – He is above all He created, including us. God is not our servant. God is not our peer. He is our superior.

But instead of letting that knowledge draw them closer to God, the people of Beth-shemesh decide to send God (as symbolized by the ark) away. Rather than recognizing their own mistakes, humbling themselves and repenting (changing their attitude and behavior), they blamed God for being too strict with them.

The people of Beth-shemesh knew they were in the wrong and that God was right. But instead of encouraging themselves to raise their behavior to God’s standard they in-effect lowered the standard by removing God from their lives. Without God in their lives, they were the standard and, hence, they didn’t have to find any fault in themselves.

So rather than accept God’s holiness, they decided to distance themselves from Him. Just a few hours before they were delighted to have God back. Now they want nothing to do with Him

This, however, is not the proper reaction to God’s holiness. The holiness of God should draw us closer to Him. Although, admittedly it can be quite startling to encounter it.

God holiness is a double-edged sword. It is simultaneously exciting and frightening.

God’s holiness reveals the evilness and sinfulness of the world. It should, therefore, invite us to leave the world behind in exchange for being a part of God’s family.

But at the same time, God’s holiness is daunting. When we are exposed to it we are made woefully aware that we are a part of the evilness and sinfulness in the world because we are evil and sinful ourselves [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23].

It is man’s natural reaction to want to be removed from the presence from a holy God [Genesis 3:8; Luke 5:8]. But God does not want us to be frightened of Him. He wants us to draw closer to Him so that we too can be holy [Leviticus 20:26; 1 Peter 1:16]. While many people think God is talking about moral purity here, there is much more too it than that.

God’s standard is too high for us. That is a fact that God Himself admits [Isaiah 55:8-9]. We know that none of us can keep God’s laws; we all sin. But keeping the laws was never God’s intention. God’s laws exists for one reason: to reveal our sinfulness [Romans 3:20].

God’s call to holiness is about relationship. God calls us to be like Him – separate from the world. While this does have moral ramifications, it must precede any morality-based behavior change.

God’s holiness is a beacon of light in a dark world. It is a light at the end a dark tunnel. It is not the light of an oncoming train. It is not something to run from, but towards.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

Respect The Holy Things Reserved For God


13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron. 17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. 19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
(1 Samuel 6:13-21)


During the celebration upon the return of the ark of the Lord to Beth-shemesh apparently some of the men looked upon (within) the ark. As a result, God  struck down (killed) these men.

The ark was the most holy object in all of Israel. It was so holy that no one in the country ever saw it except for the high priest. And even then he only saw it once a year on the day of atonement when he went into the innermost part of the tabernacle, where the ark was placed, to sprinkle blood of a sacrificed animal on it to receive forgiveness for the people’s sins.

The lid of the ark, known as the mercy seat, was where God met with the high priest annually to receive the sacrifice. Inside the ark were the two tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments along with a jar of manna and Aaron’s rod [Hebrews 9:4].

The ark itself was only to be handled by the Levties, specifically those of the family of Kohath. But even they were commanded not to touch the ark itself – the ark was always to be carried via poles [Exodus 25:10-16].

The men of Beth-shemesh looked into the ark. But to look into it, they had to touch it to lift the lid. These seventy men treated the ark like a curiosity or possibly as entertainment. Human beings are naturally curious. Sometimes that curiosity can get us into trouble.

Man wants what God has forbidden. Such has been the case since the beginning. God gave everything in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [Genesis 2:17, 3:6]. Yet Adam and Eve weren’t satisfied. They wanted to know what it was like to be like God – to know good and evil. So they ate the forbidden fruit.

The men of Beth-shemesh wanted to know what was in the ark so they looked into it even though they knew they weren’t supposed to. Unlike the mistake the people made in yesterday’s passage, their actions today were intentional. No one accidentally lifts a lid of a box and looks inside.

The ark was holy. The word “holy” means “separate”. God, too, is holy. He is separate from us; He is not like us.

We should not treat Him like our servant. He is not beneath us. Nor should we treat Him like our friend. He is not our equal. God is greater than we are and should, therefore, be treated as greater.

We need to keep this in mind. If we treat God as beneath us or as our equal we will lose our reverence for Him. We will raise ourselves up to be the authority in our lives. And this is clearly not true.

This also means that we should treat the things of God likewise. We should take them seriously and honor and revere them without trying to understand more about them than we are able.

While God has shared much knowledge with us, there are many subjects that exceed the capacity of the human mind: free-will, election, hell, just to name a few. We cannot understand these things in their entirety. Therefore, we should not try.

Just like Adam and Eve and the men of Beth-shemesh found out, trying to be like God and looking into the things reserved for Him will only bring trouble.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

Non Believers Will Take Notice At Our Joy In The Lord


13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron. 17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. 19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
(1 Samuel 6:13-21)


Yesterday we read about the public worship conducted by the people of Beth-shemesh upon receiving the ark of the Lord back into Israeli territory.

Notice that the five lords (or leaders) of the Philistines were watching. It would have taken quite some time for the Israelites to perform all these sacrifices. These leaders clearly sat and watched for quite a while with no small amount of interest in what the people of Beth-shemesh were doing. Eventually they returned to Ekron, one of their own cities.

The leaders of the Philistines witnessed the great joy the people of Israel had in their God. Then they returned home. I’m sure they told their friends what they saw. And their friends told their friends, and so on. When people see the joy that God’s children have in their God, they will notice. And they will talk about it.

During their celebration the Israelites set the ark of the Lord upon a great stone. And that great stone was a witness to all that took place on that day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. When people saw that stone they were reminded of the events of that day and of God’s grace and love.

We’d be inclined to think that the stone was a reminder to the people of Beth-shemesh, and it certainly was. But Beth-shemesh was a border town. It bordered the land of the Philistines. So its also true that the stone was a reminder to them as well. When the Philistines saw the stone they, too, were reminded of the great joy of the people of Israel when they were in the presence of God.

The Philistines did not worship God. They worshipped Dagon, a non-existent God [1 Samuel 5:2]. He was a god who had to be appeased. In fact, all man-made gods are like this. When human beings invent a god that god is one who is angry and threatening but who can be appeased through our actions. In other words, man is in ultimate control, not the god.

It’s interesting to think this through. When one does it becomes evident that the human race knows it is evil. Otherwise we wouldn’t invent gods who are angry with us for our behavior. And we wouldn’t think we need to atone for that behavior.

So when people who believe in these false gods (or who don’t believe in any god at all) see God’s children filled with joy and so happy to be in His presence they will pay no small amount of attention as such joy goes against their understanding.

Notice that the people of Beth-shemesh made some mistakes. They sacrificed female cows when God commanded only male cows be sacrificed [Leviticus 1:3; 22:19]. They also apparently displayed the ark for all to see when God commanded that the ark be covered when in public.

Nevertheless, their actions spoke to the Philistine leaders. These leaders didn’t know the Israelites had gotten some things wrong. And the Israelites didn’t worry about getting everything right. They did their best.

If you have willingly joined God’s eternal family by having your sins forgiven through the blood of Jesus [Acts 4:12, 15:11; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7], then you should be filled with joy. And the most important thing you can do is to outwardly express that joy, even if it isn’t done perfectly, so that those who are not a part of God’s eternal family take notice.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

Don’t Worry About Getting Some Things Wrong


13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron. 17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. 19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
(1 Samuel 6:13-21)


The other day we read about the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Israel from the Philistines. In today’s passage we read how the Israelites dealt with the return of the ark.

When the cart came into the field of a certain man named Joshua of Beth-shemesh, it stopped. The people of the town split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering (sacrifice) to the Lord. The men of Beth-shemesh offered other burnt offerings and sacrifices to the Lord on that day.

Notice that the Levites took down the ark of the Lord from the cart. Only Levites were to handle the ark [Numbers 4:1-15] and the people of Beth-shemesh apparently knew this. This isn’t too surprising since Beth-shemesh was a Levitical town [Joshua 21:13-16;1 Chronicles 6:57-59] and Levites were there to do this. Despite the times the people were living in – when they weren’t very close to God – they got this right.

But also notice that the people of Beth-shemesh made some mistakes. They sacrificed female cows when God commanded only male cows be sacrificed [Leviticus 1:3; 22:19]. They made a burnt offering to the Lord away from the tabernacle [Deuteronomy 12:5-6]. They also apparently displayed the ark for all to see when God commanded that the ark be covered when in public [Numbers 4:5].

In yesterday’s passage we learned that those of us who are God’s adopted children through faith in Jesus [John 1:12-13], should be filled with joy because of God’s grace and love for us. When we are internally joyous, despite our troubles, life will be better.

But that joy should also be expressed. In fact, God commands us to be joyous because of His love for us [John 15:11; Romans 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:8 et. al]. So we should express that joy through public worship, as the people of Beth-shemesh did in today’s passage.

The leaders of the Philistines were watching the people and their celebration [1 Samuel 6:16]. No mention is made as to whether the people knew this or not, but it doesn’t matter if they did or didn’t. Their public worship was the correct response, even though they made some mistakes.

God calls on us to be public witnesses to Him in our unbelieving world. Sometimes we do that intentionally when we talk to someone else about Jesus. Mostly we do that simply in living out our daily lives; we worship Him by living in a way that is consistent with His design for life.

People might be watching us. Or maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Regardless of whether they are or aren’t, our worship should be like that of the people of Beth-shemesh – from the heart.

We should not worry about whether we get things right nor not. Too often we stop short of full worship of God because we’re afraid we don’t know enough or can’t do enough. We don’t sing with all our heart in church because we don’t know the words to the song or we don’t think we have a good voice. We don’t talk to someone about Jesus because we’re afraid they’ll ask us a question we don’t know the answer to. None of this matters.

Now, obviously, when talking to someone about Jesus we must know the proper foundational truth: that we are sinners who need to be forgiven and that forgiveness can only be found in Jesus [John 3:16; Acts 4:12 et. al]. But we don’t have to know everything. And we shouldn’t let our worry about making a mistake stop us.

We should do our best to live right and not say something we aren’t sure of. But even if we mess up, God can handle it; He can correct our mistakes. God isn’t expecting us to be perfect. His primary goal for us is to have our focus on Him, even if we get some things wrong along the way (and we will).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

God Loves To Provide For People


13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron. 17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. 19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
(1 Samuel 6:13-21)


After the Philistines captured the ark, they kept it for seven months [1 Samuel 6:1-2]. After enduring all kinds of problems from God for taking it in the first place they sent the ark back to Israel via a convoluted plan [1 Samuel 6:7-9].

When the ark, carried on a cart by two milk cows, crossed the border into the town of Beth-shemeshthe people were busy reaping their wheat harvest. This places these events around May or June – the usual time to reap wheat in Israel.

Notice that even though God had brought a serious judgment upon Israel by allowing the Philistines to kill 34,000 of their soldiers and to capture the ark, He still provided for His people. He still blessed them with a fertile harvest.

God does discipline people, especially those who are His adopted children as Israel was and as those today who have been born again are [John 1:12-13, 3:3]. But God’s discipline has a purpose. His goal in disciplining us is not to get back at us but to win us back to Him.

Israel had fallen far away from God. Very far. At this time in their history the people were not communicating with God or honoring Him with their lives [Judges 21:25]. So God had to get their attention. He had to prod them to return to Him.

But God never removed His presence from Israel, even though some had thought He had [1 Samuel 4:19-22]. God continued to demonstrate His love for Israel by providing for them – like giving them a continuing wheat harvest.

God is a God of grace. God loves people and loves to provide for them. He is a generous giver, the source of all good things [Psalm 84:11; John 3:16; Romans 8:32; James 1:17 et. al].

Sadly, though, too many people misunderstand God’s discipline just as Israel did. They think that just because God brings some trouble upon our lives that He must be out to get us. Or worse, they think such things are proof that God does not exist.

God is not out to get us. He is out to draw us back to Him for it is only in His presence that we can have true joy. Just like parents discipline their children because they love them, so too does God [Hebrews 12:6].

Notice the Israelites reaction when saw the ark: they rejoiced to see it. They were glad. They had been living their lives for seven months apart from God (or so they thought) but when He “returned” to them, they couldn’t have been happier.

This reminds me of the disciples after Jesus was crucified. Jesus – who was God in human flesh – was taken from them. And they thought He was no longer with them. But three days later He returned. And they were ecstatic [John 20:19-20].

The reason why so many people – including some Christians who are part of God’s eternal family – don’t live lives of joy is because they misunderstand the problems in their lives. They see their problems not for what they are – a calling by God to change and mature – but as a punishment.

In order to see God in our lives we must look to Him, just as the Israelites lifted up their eyes and took their focus off of their work.

As we learned in our study of Ecclesiastes, life is filled with problems and each day seems to be more difficult than the one before. When we look at life this way – as if this is all there is – we will be unfulfilled; we will not be filled with joy.

But when we accept God’s discipline in the manner in which He intends, we can become better people, which is exactly God’s goal for us. And when our eyes are on God, not our problems, we can see Him for who He is and we will be filled with joy.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

There’s A Lot Of Strange Things In The Bible


1 When the ark of the Lord had been in Philistine territory seven months, 2 the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.” 3 They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it back to him without a gift; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.” 4 The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?” They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers. 5 Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and give glory to Israel’s god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land. 6 Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? 7 “Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, 9 but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” 10 So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11 They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. 12 Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
(1 Samuel 6:1-12)


In today’s passage we see that the Philistine’s plan actually worked. The cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road; they did not turn to the right or to the left.

This, of course, should not have happened. Milking cows don’t know how to pull a cart. Even cows that are trained to do so would need to be driven by a driver or follow a human leader; they wouldn’t instinctually stay on a road.

But these cows were sent on their way without any training, going directly to their destination. Obviously this is a miracle. God was controlling these animals in a way that goes against nature and common sense. This isn’t the only example of such a thing in the Bible.

When Balaam mistreated his donkey, the donkey spoke to him [Numbers 22:21-30]. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem He rode on a colt no one had ever sat on [Mark 11:1-11]. Moses saw a bush that was on fire but which did not burn up [Exodus 3:1-15]. The Red Sea parted [Exodus 14:21-29]. The sun stood still [Joshua 10:12-14]. Hungry lions did not eat Daniel [Daniel 6:16-23].

Let’s be honest… there’s a lot of strange stuff in the Bible.

Donkeys don’t speak. Unbroken animals can’t be ridden. The sun does not stand still. Such things go against nature. Many critics will claim, therefore, that these aren’t true stories; they must be fables. But not so fast.

While these things go against what we as humans understand they are not beyond what God can do. If there is a God then none of these things are out the question.

We are the creation. We were created by God [Isaiah 43:7; Ephesians 2:10 et. al]. We are, therefore, limited in what we can do and understand. But God is not. He is greater than us.

So the question isn’t, “Are these things possible?”. The question is “Is there a God?”. If the answer to the second question is “Yes” then so must be the answer to the first question.

It’s interesting that the author of our passage today tells us that the cows were lowing all the way. Some commentators suggest the cows were crying for their calves. Obviously, we don’t know what they were thinking. But I like to think that they were actually praising God here.

Nature praises God. The sun, the moon, and the stars all praise God [Psalm 148:1-6]. The birds praise Him [Psalm 84:1-4]. The creatures in the sea and the mountains praise Him [Psalm 148:7-10].

So there’s no reason why these cows could not praise Him also. In fact, animals may very well understand more about God than we do.

Notice that the rulers of the Philistines followed the cows as far as the border of Beth Shemesh. They were curious. They wanted to know if these cows would actually go, unguided, to Beth Shemesh. They knew that if they did, it would be miraculous. And they did. This miracle was proof to the Philistines that God exists (although we are given no evidence that they acted upon this proof).

God created the universe and all that is in it [Genesis 1:1; Psalm 24:1-2; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11 et. al]. So obviously, He is in control of all nature [Psalm 65:9-13; Jeremiah 10:13; Mark 4:35-41].

We – the human race – are God’s ultimate creation [Ephesians 2:10]. God is always trying to communicate to us of His existence as well as His love for us.

As He did in today’s passage, it’s not out of the question for God to supernaturally use the natural world to communicate those truths to us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

People Look For Reasons To Ignore God


1 When the ark of the Lord had been in Philistine territory seven months, 2 the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.” 3 They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it back to him without a gift; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.” 4 The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?” They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers. 5 Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and give glory to Israel’s god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land. 6 Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? 7 “Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, 9 but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” 10 So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11 They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. 12 Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
(1 Samuel 6:1-12)


Yesterday we read of the Philistines’ convoluted plan to return the ark to Israel. As we study it we see that they really would have preferred to keep the ark and still weren’t 100% sure that it was God’s hand that had struck them.

If the Philistines really wanted to give the ark back they simply could have carried it over to Israel themselves. Or summoned Israel to come get it. They didn’t have to build a new cart, hitch up milking cows to it, and have them deliver it. The entire plan was nothing more than a test. The Philistines were testing God to see if it was really He who had brought all the calamity upon their people.

The Philistines were hoping that the cows would not go to Beth Shemesh, thereby proving that God was not the source of the tumors they had and the rats that infested their land. This would allow them to keep the gold-covered ark – a valuable spoil of war.

I think a lot of us do similar things in our lives. We wonder if God exists so we come up with some scenario that would prove He does. But that scenario is so far fetched that it likely won’t come true. And when it doesn’t, we breath a sigh of relief because we didn’t want to believe in God anyway.

Even those of us who are God’s children can do things like this. Perhaps we feel a tug to do something that we really don’t want to do – like donate a large sum of money to our church or talk to a non-believing friend about Jesus. So we look for some “sign” to occur, thinking that if it does then the tugging we feel is from God. If it doesn’t occur then we breath a sigh of relief because we really didn’t want to donate money or talk to our friend anyway.

According to the Philistines’ plan, if the driverless cart did not go to Beth Shemesh, then they would conclude that the tumors and rats had happened by chance.

But nothing happens by chance. Chance is not a power. Chance is simply probability. If we flip a coin there is a 50% chance that it lands on heads and a 50% chance it lands on tails. But chance is not controlling the outcome. Gravity, friction, and a host of other factors determine how the coin lands.

We live in a cause-and-effect world. Things happen that cause other things to happen. And everything that happens happens because of the things that happened before it. Nothing happens in isolation. There is a cause for everything and an effect of everything.

The Philistines knew this. Yet, they are looking for a reason to deny it. Much the same way as people today still look for reasons not to believe in God. They know God exists. Maybe that knowledge is deep down in their minds, suppressed in favor of alternate theories that allow them to be the gods of their own lives. But its there.

Or the way Christians look for reasons not to obey God and serve Him. They know they should. But they’d rather not. It takes too much time. Or it involves too much risk.

People look for reasons to ignore God. Even worse, we find them; almost always because we’ve stacked the odds in our favor.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

God Is Willing To Cut Us Some Slack


1 When the ark of the Lord had been in Philistine territory seven months, 2 the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.” 3 They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it back to him without a gift; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.” 4 The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?” They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers. 5 Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and give glory to Israel’s god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land. 6 Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? 7 “Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, 9 but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” 10 So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11 They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. 12 Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
(1 Samuel 6:1-12)


Today we read of the Philistines’ plan to return the ark to Israel. The plan consisted of building a new cart and hitching up to it two cows that have recently calved (given birth) and have never been yokedTheir calves were to be taken away and penned up.

The ark of the Lord was to be put on the cart with a chest beside it containing the gold objects (the tumors and rats) the Philistines were sending back to God as a guilt offering.

The Philistines knew they were guilty of stealing something that did not belong to them. They also knew they were guilty of not returning the ark sooner – after God had let them know many times, through their tumors and rat infestation, that they needed to return it.

The point of this plan was simple. These cows would pull the cart with the ark on it. There would be no human driving the cart or leading them. If they went to Beth Shemesh, the closest Israeli town to Ekron, then the Philistines would know that the Lord of Israel had brought the tumors and rats upon them.

These cows had never worn a yoke before – they were milking cows – and they didn’t know how to pull a cart while wearing one. Animals have to be trained to wear a yoke – a yoke can’t simply be placed on them with the expectation that the animal will be able to handle it. Farmers train their animals to wear yokes by hitching an experienced animal – one which has worn a yoke – with an inexperienced one. In this way the inexperienced animal learns how to be yoked to another and to do its job.

Also, these cows had recently given birth and would have been very attached to their babies. They would not be naturally inclined to go in the opposite direction from their children. Their maternal instincts would want to lead them back to them.

If all this seems rather convoluted, it is. There was really no reason to go through all these complications. As we’ll see tomorrow, the reason that the Philistines went to all this trouble is because they really didn’t want to give the ark back to Israel.

The Philistines’ plan would essentially “force” God to perform a miracle to demonstrate that it was really He who was the cause of all their recent problems. Interestingly, God performs the exact miracle this plan was meant to bring about as the cows went straight to Beth Shemesh [1 Samuel 6:12].

God commands us not to put Him to the test. Jesus told us this Himself when He said “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” [Luke 4:12]. Yet God accedes to the Philistine’s plan. Some may claim that the Philistines were able to manipulate God. But this isn’t really true because, as we’ll learn tomorrow, the Philistines were actually hoping that the cows would not take the ark to Israel.

God was not being controlled here. God is sovereign. He is not bridled by any man or angel. He chooses His own actions for Himself. And while He does have rules, He is willing to suspend them when those who violate them do so out of ignorance.

For example, God commanded that the ark only be transported by poles set in rings on the side of the ark [Exodus 25:14-15]. The ark was never to be transported on a cart. But the Philistines didn’t know this. So God did not punish them.

God is not unreasonable. He doesn’t hold people who are ignorant of His law accountable to that law. The Philistines didn’t know any better so God cut them some slack. As we’ll see in a few days, the Israelites mishandle the ark themselves upon its return and God does hold them accountable because they – being Jews who had been taught God’s law – should have known better.

Those who are outside of God’s family cannot be expected to know His rules. For that reason God will not hold them to the same standard He holds His own children to. This makes sense. Parents expect their own children to obey their rules and if they don’t, they’ll pay the consequences. Parents don’t hold their neighbors’ kids to the same standard because they aren’t part of their family and don’t know their rules.

Some may wonder then, why do people who don’t know God end up in hell for all eternity? How can those who claim not to know God be held accountable? The answer is simple. We are all created, by God, with a knowledge of Him. While we may not know all of His commands, we all do know that He exists. There is no one who doesn’t believe in God.

But, we need to remember that we are not condemned by God because of our unbelief. We are condemned because of our sin. No one ends up in hell because of unbelief. We end up there because of sin.

And all of us are sinners. And all of us know it.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

There Is Much To Be Learned From The Bible


1 When the ark of the Lord had been in Philistine territory seven months, 2 the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.” 3 They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it back to him without a gift; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.” 4 The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?” They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers. 5 Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and give glory to Israel’s god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land. 6 Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? 7 “Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, 9 but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” 10 So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11 They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. 12 Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
(1 Samuel 6:1-12)


Yesterday we saw the Philistines consult their priests and diviners about what to do with the ark of the Lord. The priests and diviners mistakenly thought they needed to appease God with golden trinkets. They were wrong about this, as we learned. However, in today’s passage we see that they got something right.

The Philistines had heard how Israel’s God dealt harshly with the Egyptians who had hardened their hearts towards Him. Eventually they (the Egyptians) sent the Israelites out of their land.

This, of course, refers back to the ten plagues which God sent upon Egypt after Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave that country to go to their new homeland, which God had set aside for them [Exodus 7:14-11:10]. Pharaoh was exceedingly stubborn, allowing he and his country to be devastated by trouble after trouble until he finally relented, finally realizing that he could not defeat God.

The Philistines looked at their situation and realized that it was similar to that of Egypt. Their spiritual leaders, for all their faults and misunderstandings, wisely advised the people not to repeat Egypt’s mistakes.

It is always a good idea to learn from other people’s experiences rather than from your own. But to do that, we have to know some history.

Certainly people do this all the time. We learn about good or bad experiences our friends have at restaurants. We see news reports of people getting arrested for various crimes and (hopefully) we realize that we should not engage in similar behavior.

In the world of sports, teams use scouts to learn about another players’ tendencies by studying what that player did in the past. So when they find themselves on the other side of the field from him, they have an idea of what to expect and can plan accordingly.

Likewise, if we want to understand God we can look at His history. That history is found in the Bible.

We can learn all we need to know about God – but not all there is not know about Him – from the Bible. That is one of the reasons why God gave us the Bible: so we could learn about Him and use that knowledge to guide our lives.

By studying the Bible – which is what this blog is all about – we can see the attitudes and behaviors that will make our lives go well. We can also see which attitudes and behaviors will make our lives go poorly.

For example, God tells us to honor our father and mother so that it may go well with you. If we honor our parents God will honor us [Ephesians 6:2-3]. Just a few days ago, we learned that God will also honor those who honor Him [1 Samuel 2:30].

These are specific verses that tell us how we should live. To be sure, there are a lot of “do” and “don’t” verses in the Bible that tell us exactly what do to or not to do.

But there are also a lot of stories in the Bible from which we can learn. By studying the story of Joseph, for example, we can learn (among other things) how to conduct ourselves when confronted by a tempting, sinful situation [Genesis 39]. Although not a real-life story, by studying the various characters in the parable of the prodigal son we can learn how not to live [Luke 15:11-30].

The lives of people like Moses, David, and Jonah teach us a lot. Earlier in our study of 1 Samuel we saw a great example of a godly mother in Hannah that should teach us how to raise and love our children. There are dozens of such stories in the Bible.

And, of course, by studying the life of Jesus in the four gospels, we can learn the exact kind of humble, servant-oriented life God wants all His children to live.

God gave us the Bible so we could learn from it. If we study it – and the Bible should be studied, not simply read – we can live lives that avoid trouble and instead result in the joy that God wants for us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Facebook Twitter Google+

%d bloggers like this: