Today’s blog post concerns the words of the Philistines in 1 Samuel 6. I have read this passage many times, and not once did it occur to me how absolutely ridiculous the pagans were in response to God’s wrath against them. Check this out!
1.The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months.2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” 3 They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand does not turn away from you.” 4 And they said, “What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him?” They answered, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for the same plague was on all of you and on your lords. 5 So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land. 6 Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed? 7 Now then, take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never come a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. 8 And take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way 9 and watch. If it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm, but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by coincidence.” (ESV)
As it turns out, as soon as they set the cows free, the animals plodded along to Beth-Shemesh, and what a rejoicing it was to the people of that region!
But…why all the protocol in the first place, when all the Philistines had to do was hook up a wagon or whatnot and send it on its way?
So so easy to make fun of those stupid Philistines. What neanderthals. But y’all, if we don’t stop and consider how we do the same thing, then what is the point of this chapter in the Good Book?
Don’t believe me? Then think about how we all ritualize our lives! It doesn’t even have to apply to our relationship with God. What is a ritual if not a series of steps achieved to arrive at a certain goal? For example – we can’t relax if we don’t first complete A,B, and C. Our child isn’t properly Christian if it’s not christened. Our child isn’t properly Christian if it is.
God didn’t make up these rules – man did. And yet we accuse one another of blaspheming the Lord if people don’t do things our way. And yet all this posturing, this false hoping, this process – is putting a golden tumor on a slab of wood and sending it off with desperate prayers to one god or idol or another in hopes of success.
The only success we can possibly have is with God, and He doesn’t require elaborate reinventions of the wheel, y’all! He just wants us.
We don’t have to make Him complicated. He is already so far out of our reach it’s not funny. We will never be able to understand Who and What He is. He just is, and as A.W. Tozer wrote, we should spend time contemplating that. How big and wide and deep His love – His very being, which is love – is. Tozer went on to write that we are secularizing our religion.
By including these tumors, and the elaborate steps the Philistines took to try to please a god they did not know, all they did was add unnecessary work! What were the Philistines, if not Gentiles? And had they stopped for a moment to ponder the implications, they could have found the True God – the Truth – and let go of their pagan ways. But they didn’t, and y’all, even us Christians don’t really do that.
Tozer was SO right when he wrote that we try to compartmentalize God so that we bring Him down to our level. By believing in and worshiping pagan gods, people are able to bring “order” to their lives. But they simply complicate it! There is no order! God is HUGE. He doesn’t operate in a way that we can box in. A way that we can fully understand, and that’s the beautiful mystery of it all!