Not By Chance

1 Samuel 6:7-12

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. 8Take 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, 9but 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.”

10So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11They 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. 12Then 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.

Introduction

Have you ever considered if circumstances surrounding your life happened inadvertently not by chance but intentionally? Do you assume that all events or situations have been arranged by the Lord purposely? Did the Lord designate miseries, concerns, pleasures and indulgences to be essential part of life? Yes!?

Responses to every matter that affect us, does it reflect the practice of our faith in the Lord? Should reaction to each incident prove our trust in God?

Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:13-15, 13It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” 

The natural tendency of deplorable people is to grumble and argue about anything they don’t like. But, when God is at work in us, we want to obey Him to fulfill His good purpose for us. God’s purpose for us is to become like Christ perfect, flawless and faultless among corrupt and perverse people of this world. As godly children of God, we should do everything without grumbling or arguing.

Most often, anything that may oppose our preferred lifestyle, our natural tendency to argue or grumble would surface, when we get tired of it. Christ knew it and invites us to find rest in Him. And by faith, we trust that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and called according to His purpose.

The lifestyle of the Israelites, their obedience and disobedience to the Lord’s commands, practically exemplifies how God may deal with us when we obey or disobey Him. The Israelites were chosen people of God. And by faith in Christ, we are adopted into the family of God. As Apostle Paul compared it, we are like wild branches grafted to a cultivated tree in God’s orchard.

It warns us in Romans 11:19-21, 20Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

When the Israelites were disobedient, the Lord allowed them to lose during the war. The Philistines defeated them. And, the Philistines became arrogant. They assumed that their idol Dagon was more powerful than the God of Israel. Why? They captured the Ark of God. They placed the Ark of God in the temple of Dagon, perhaps, as collector’s item. But, Dagon dropped before the Ark of God, not once but twice. Tumors infected them and their cities were damaged by rats.
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They transferred the Ark of God from one Philistine city to another. They assumed that, maybe, it’s by chance that similar disease and disaster happened in cities where the Ark of God was brought into, at first. It took seven months before the Philistines and their rulers agreed to return the Ark of God to Israel.

Their priests instructed to return the Ark of God with gift or guilt offering.

1. Instruction

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. 8Take 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… 

The Philistines have their cultural way of expressing respect to their god. When they returned the Ark of God, they did what they thought best to express their sincerity and reverence to the Lord. They put the Ark of God in a new cart, and the cow they hitched to cart were never been yoked.

What does a new cart and never been yoked cows with calves represent?

The new cart may represent their best means and effort of preparation for guilt offering. It also practically indicated their reverent fear and sincerity of remorse for disrespect to the Lord. It’s their best expression of regret to what they did, when they brought the Ark of God into the temple of Dagon.

The two cows that never been yoked were purposely to determine if the God of Israel had really caused their god Dagon to drop before the Ark of God, if the Lord infected them with tumor and sent rats to destroy the cities where the Ark of God was brought into, and it’s not by chance that those things happened.

9but 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.”

The instruction of their priests was to watch and observe if the Ark of God returns to the territory of Israel without anyone guiding the cows. Cows that never been yoked before are not comfortable to have yoke on their neck. They feel irritated, and they would try to remove the yoke off their neck. If the cows won’t try to remove the yoke, it means that the Lord was in-charge of the situation.

The cows had calves. The Philistines took the calves away from the cows and placed the calves in a corral or pen where cattle were kept. The natural instinct of cows is to search for their calves when their calves cry for milk. The Philistines observed that the cows did not turn back to look for their calves. They tested the Lord with difficult situation, and proved that God caused their affliction.

When the Philistines considered that the Lord may have caused their tragic circumstances, it’s a biblical example that God has been revealing Himself not exclusively just to believers, but also to non-believers as well. Romans 1:17-20 says, 17For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” 18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

The Philistines were regretful of their disrespect to the Ark of God, and they did their best means to express their remorse when they implemented what their priests instructed them to do and give as guilt offerings.

2. Implementation

10So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11They 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. 12Then 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.

The Philistines observed attentively how the cows went straight to Beth Shemesh. Beth Shemesh was located in the boundary between the territory of the Philistines and Israel. The cows followed the road and didn’t try to deviate. They didn’t try to turn around to look for their calves, but they were lowing all the way, which means, they missed their calves. Their calves may have been crying also for milk, and the cows may have heard their crying calves. The cows kept on walking because the Lord made them bring the Ark of God to Israel’s territory.

Such amazing event illustrated how God favored the Israelites over other nations. It is truly great to find favor in the eyes of God.

King David

King David had exemplified his practice of faith in the Lord. When his son Absalom tried to grab the kingdom, David escaped. Zadok the priest brought the Ark of God with them. David told Zadok in 2 Samuel 15:25-26, 25“Take  the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. 26But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”

There are circumstances that may appear to be unfavorable to us that God allows to test how much faith we have. Probably, God allows us to be disturbed sometime for us to evaluate our lifestyle if God approves them. All situations are favorable if we found favor in the eyes of God. By faith, we accept whatever is pleasant with God is good for us. Moreover, it says in Numbers 23:19, 19God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

Can humans do something that would change what God has decreed?

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