86 - The Philistines Return the Ark
March 27 - Nº 86 1 Samuel 5 – 6
After capturing the Ark, the Philistines took it to Ashdod and placed it in the temple of their god, Dagon. The next morning, they found their idol face down in front of the Ark! They set it back up, but the following morning the same thing had happened again! This time, Dagon’s head and hands were broken off. Soon, many people in Ashdod began noticing large painful tumors breaking out all over their bodies. Then many Philistines began to die, and rats began overrunning the countryside. It didn’t take long for the people in Ashdod to realize that Israel’s God was not happy that they had stolen the Ark. So, they moved it to Gath. Again, God sent tumors and rats, and the people of Gath panicked. They moved the Ark to Ekron. But the people of Ekron were outraged. They called the Philistine leaders and accused them of trying to kill the people in their city. After seven months of misery, the Philistines went to their priests and sorcerers and demanded a solution. “We need to get rid of the Ark!” they insisted. Tell us how we can send it back to Israel.” Their priests replied, “You must send a guilt offering with it. Then God will remove His judgment and heal you.” They told the people to make five golden images that looked like the tumors and five golden images of the rats that were destroying the land. They said, “Give glory to the God of Israel, and He will stop bringing distress. Don’t harden your hearts against God like Pharaoh did, or you will suffer even more.” Then the priests gave them these instructions: “Build a new cart and put the Ark on it. Place the golden images in a chest beside it. Then choose two cows that recently had calves. These cows must never have been in a yoke before. Put the calves in a pen nearby. Then hitch the cows to the cart. Stand back and watch. If the cows ignore their calves and go up the road toward Israel, you will know that it was the Lord who brought this great disaster. But if they follow their natural maternal instincts and refuse to leave their calves, then you will know that it wasn’t Israel’s God that caused all this suffering—it all just happened by chance.” The men followed the priests’ instructions. Sure enough, when they were hitched to the cart, the cows headed straight up the road toward Israel. They stayed on that road, pulling the cart and mooing as they plodded along. The Philistine rulers from each of the five Philistine cities walked behind them until they reached the border with Israel. The Israelites from the city of Beth Shemesh were harvesting wheat when they noticed the Ark coming toward them. They shouted for joy! The cows pulled the cart near a large rock in the middle of a field and stopped. The Levites came quickly. They removed the ark and the chest and placed them on the rock. Then the people chopped up the wood from the cart, made a fire and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. The five Philistine rulers watched all this and then returned home. Unfortunately, 70 men from Beth Shemesh were curious about what was in the Ark of God. When they opened it, all 70 of them were killed instantly. This caused great fear, but it also caused the Israelites to turn back to God and worship Him as their sovereign, all-powerful Ruler.
Are you aware of God’s holiness? When we get caught up in the routines of life, it is often easy to forget the awesome power of God and to take His holiness for granted. Take time today to read the verses below and reflect on Who God really is.