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)
When the Philistines captured the ark of the Lord, they thought it was a great victory. They thought capturing the ark from Israel proved that their god, Dagon, was greater than Israel’s God.
But as time went on the Philistines came to realize just the opposite was true. Instead of being a trophy to be displayed proudly, the ark became a burden.
While the ark was in Philistia, God caused devastation in the land and afflicted the people with tumors [1 Samuel 5:6]. This happened every where the ark was moved to.
People today have the same philosophy. They think that they can “conquer” God. They mainly do this through man-made laws that legalize behaviors He had declared to be sin. Laws that legalize abortion, pornography, and same-sex marriage, for example, are man’s way of “conquering” God.
Just like happened in Philistia, our lives have not been made better by these actions. Over the past several decades as man has pushed God out of their lives life has gotten undeniably more difficult.
The world is clearly a less safe place than it was just a few decades ago. Corruption in business and government has increased and continues to increase. The very act of “conquering” God has increased our problems.
But notice how long it took the Philistines to realize this. They were suffering physical maladies for seven months before they decided to do something about it. Now if you or I had a physical problem we likely wouldn’t wait seven months before we made a doctor’s appointment. We’d go as soon as we realized the problem wasn’t going away.
But people who don’t know God and who don’t want to know God draw out their own pain by obstinately refusing to submit to Him. The plagues of Egypt would have been fewer than ten if Pharaoh hadn’t been so stubborn. But his defiant attitude towards God made the problems of his country much worse than they could have been otherwise.
After seven months the Philistines finally cried “Uncle!” and decided to send the ark back. Unfortunately, no such cry seems to be coming from people today.
The world continues to think that God – specifically the God of the Bible – is the cause of our problems. They associate Christians’ opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion as “hate” so they go to great lengths to remove God from society not realizing that doing so only makes things worse.
God sent devastation and plagues on the Philistines in order to get their attention so they’d give the ark back to Israel, its rightful owner. God gives us problems today for the very same reason. He’s trying to get our attention so that we turn to Him instead of turning to other human beings to lead us, such a politicians and business leaders.
God is not out to get us. His goal is not to make our lives more difficult. He doesn’t want to see us unhappy. In fact, just the opposite.
If we want to make the world a better place we should stop trying to “conquer” God. Any attempt to “conquer” God will only backfire. Instead, we should submit to Him.
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