Friday 30 September, 2106

1 Samuel 10:17-27

17 Samuel sent a message to the Israelites. He told them to meet with the Lord at Mizpah. 18 He said to them, “The Lord is the God of Israel. He says, ‘Israel, I brought you up out of Egypt. I saved you from their power. I also saved you from the power of all the kingdoms that had treated you badly.’ 19 But now you have turned your backs on your God. He saves you out of all your trouble and suffering. In spite of that, you have said, ‘We refuse to listen. Place a king over us.’ So now gather together to meet with the Lord. Do it tribe by tribe and family group by family group.” 20 Then Samuel had each tribe of Israel come forward. The tribe of Benjamin was chosen by casting lots. 21 Next he had the tribe of Benjamin come forward, family group by family group. Matri’s group was chosen. Finally Saul, the son of Kish, was chosen. But when people looked for him, they realized he wasn’t there. 22 They needed more help from the Lord. So they asked him, “Has the man come here yet?” The Lord said, “Yes. He has hidden himself among the supplies.” 23 So they ran over there and brought him out. When he stood up, the people saw that he was a head taller than any of them. 24 Samuel spoke to all the people. He said, “Look at the man the Lord has chosen! There isn’t anyone like him among all the people.” Then the people shouted, “May the king live a long time!” 25 Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of the king who ruled over them. He wrote them down in a book. He placed it in front of the Lord in the holy tent. Then he sent the people away. He sent each of them to their own homes. 26 Saul also went to his home in Gibeah. Some brave men whose hearts God had touched went with Saul. 27 But some people who wanted to stir up trouble said, “How can this fellow save us?” They looked down on him. They didn’t bring him any gifts. But Saul kept quiet about it.

In order to be like the nations around them, God’s people called on him to give them a king. A leader, and as verse 27 suggests many looked to this king to be their savior. So God calls them through Samuel to Mizpah, a place of discipline and intercession. Yahweh, the I am, confronts his people with his covenant promises. He is their God, who has delivered them, time and time again. Then come the chilling words – “But you have rejected your God who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses.” By calling for a king, God’s people were rejecting the covenant, when God had chosen them and promised to be their Lord forever. They were rejecting his leadership and governance over them.

And incredibly this faithful, covenant God accedes to their request. Not half heartedly but with the best, a man unique amongst God’s people, and a man in whom God had placed his Spirit. Saul.

Two things speak to me in this passage: where is my salvation found, and who is my King?

God has promised salvation for me and everyone who believes in him. Why then am I tempted to replace him with other things to “save” me like money, education, career? Why do I want to replace him with something I have achieved myself? Isn’t he enough for me to know my present and future is secure?

Rejecting God. It is ultimately displayed in people putting Jesus on trial and killing him. Our covenant God who saves, saved us all, by blameless, sinless Jesus dying in our place. God has appointed Jesus King and he sits at his right hand in glory. He is the King I want to lead my life!

Written by Claire Moore

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Thursday 29 September, 2016

1 Samuel‬ ‭10:9-16‬

9 As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart. All these things happened that day. 10 When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a group of prophets met Saul. Then the Spirit of God came powerfully on him. He prophesied along with them. 11 Those who had known Saul before saw him prophesying with the prophets. They asked one another, “What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also one of the prophets?” 12 A man who lived in Gibeah answered, “Yes, he is. In fact, he’s their leader.” That’s why people say, “Is Saul also one of the prophets?” 13 After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place to worship. 14 Later, Saul’s uncle spoke to him and his servant. He asked, “Where have you been?” “Looking for the donkeys,” Saul said. “But we couldn’t find them. So we went to Samuel.” 15 Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16 Saul replied, “He told us the donkeys had been found.” But Saul didn’t tell his uncle that Samuel had said he would become king.

Sometimes when a restaurant gets a bad reputation the owners will eventually have to sell. A sign goes up that says “under new management”. This can be a sign of hope and often the reputation can completely turn around. Alternative a great chef might retire and a restaurant with a great reputation puts up a sign “under new management”. This time round this sign is a warning, the food might not be the same, it might be a lot worse.

Saul is under new management; the Spirit of God has taken over. This is good news for Him and good news for Israel. The effect is swift! And the Spirit makes his mark quickly on Saul and everyone around notices.

I was put under new management decades ago, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t plan to retire. People can see the difference and I want people to continue to experience God quality when they meet me. I know another manager eventually took control of Saul’s life… And it wasn’t good.

Lord, Spirit of God! I am under your management! With you in charge I know I will serve up love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control that is of God quality!! Have your way in me!

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Wednesday 28 September, 2016

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8

27 As they were on their way down to the edge of town, Samuel spoke to Saul. He said, “Tell the servant to go ahead of us.” So the servant went on ahead. Then Samuel continued, “Stay here for a while. I’ll give you a message from God.” 10 Then Samuel took a bottle of olive oil. He poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him. He said, “The Lord has anointed you to be the king of his people. 2 When you leave me today, you will meet two men. They will be near Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They’ll say to you, ‘The donkeys you have been looking for have been found. Now your father has stopped thinking about them. Instead, he’s worried about you. He’s asking, “What can I do to find my son?” ’ 3 “You will go on from Zelzah until you come to the large tree at Tabor. Three men will meet you there. They’ll be on their way up to Bethel to worship God. One of them will be carrying three young goats. Another will be carrying three loaves of bread. A third will be carrying a bottle of wine. It will be a bottle made out of animal skin. 4 The men will greet you. They’ll offer you two loaves of bread. You will accept the loaves from them. 5 “After that, you will go to Gibeah of God. Some Philistine soldiers are stationed there. As you approach the town, you will meet a group of prophets. They’ll be coming down from the high place where they worship. People will be playing lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps at the head of the group. The prophets will be prophesying. 6 The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully on you. Then you will prophesy along with them. You will become a different person. 7 All these things will happen. Then do what you want to do. God is with you. 8 “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. You can be sure that I’ll come down to you there. I’ll come and sacrifice burnt offerings and friendship offerings. But you must wait there for seven days until I come to you. Then I’ll tell you what to do.”

Samuel tells Saul that he has a special message for him. He anoints Saul and tells him that the Lord as appointed him as ruler over Israel.

That would be very surprising news as Israel had never had a king before. But to help Saul know that this really was from God, Samuel then told him three signs that would happen immediately to remove any doubt. Samuel says to Saul, “After these signs take place, do what must be done, for God is with you”.

These three signs happened exactly as Samuel told him, confirming to Saul that God was really with him. (Years later, the kingdom was taken from Saul basically because he doubted that God was actually with him).

Why? Perhaps Saul forgot about the signs.

Jesus resisted giving a sign to the crowds who demanded one, except the only sign that truly matters – his resurrection. Jesus resurrection is the one sign that separates Christianity from all other faiths, and it is this that answers all doubts that we will ever have. It is this sign that proves who Jesus is who he said he is.

Whenever I doubt, which includes worry and being anxious, it’s really because I have forgotten what Jesus has said he would do, that he will never leave me or abandon me. It is at those times that I really need to remind myself of the sign that Jesus gave, his death and resurrection. That is proof that what Jesus has said is true. Then, I can overcome my doubts.

Thank you Jesus for the greatest sign of all – your death and resurrection. You truly are King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and all your words are true. Help me never to forget them, and to believe them.

Written by Andrew Martin

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Tuesday 27 September, 2016

1 Samuel 9:11-26

11 They were going up the hill toward the town. Along the way they met some young women who were coming out to get water from the well. Saul and his servant asked them, “Is the seer here?” 12 “Yes, he is,” they answered. “In fact, he’s just up ahead of you. So hurry along. He has just come to our town today. The people are going to offer a sacrifice at the high place where they worship. 13 As soon as you enter the town, you will find him. He’ll be there until he goes up to the high place to eat. The people won’t start eating until he gets there. He must bless the sacrifice first. After that, those who are invited will eat. So go on up. You should find him there just about now.” 14 They went up to the town. As they were entering it, they saw Samuel. He was coming toward them. He was on his way up to the high place. 15 The Lord had spoken to Samuel the day before Saul came. He had said, 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man. He is from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him to be the king of my people Israel. He will save them from the power of the Philistines. I have seen how much my people are suffering. Their cry for help has reached me.” 17 When Samuel saw a man coming toward him, the Lord spoke to Samuel again. He said, “He is the man I told you about. His name is Saul. He will govern my people.” 18 Saul approached Samuel at the gate of the town. He asked Samuel, “Can you please show me the seer’s house?” 19 “I’m the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go on up to the high place ahead of me. I want you and your servant to eat with me today. Tomorrow morning I’ll tell you what’s on your mind. Then I’ll send you on your way. 20 Don’t worry about the donkeys you lost three days ago. They’ve already been found. But who do all the Israelites want? You and your father’s whole family!” 21 Saul answered, “But I’m from the tribe of Benjamin. It’s the smallest tribe in Israel. And my family group is the least important in the whole tribe of Benjamin. So why are you saying that to me?” 22 Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the room where they would be eating. He seated them at the head table. About 30 people had been invited. 23 Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the piece of meat I gave you. It’s the one I told you to put to one side.” 24 So the cook went and got a choice piece of thigh. He set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, “Here is what has been kept for you. Eat it. It was put to one side for you for this special occasion. We’ve saved it for you ever since I invited the guests.” And Saul ate with Samuel that day. 25 They came down from the high place to the town. After that, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of Samuel’s house. 26 The next day they got up at about the time the sun was rising. Samuel called out to Saul on the roof. He said, “Get ready. Then I’ll send you on your way.” So Saul got ready. And he and Samuel went outside together.

Saul and his servant have spent 3 days looking for lost donkeys and decide to visit a nearby prophet for help. They ask for directions and find the Prophet Samuel. But before Saul approaches, God has already revealed to Samuel that he was to anoint Saul leader over Israel.

Saul, completely overwhelmed, will end up leaving Samuel with the kingship of Israel, having only come looking for donkey’s.

The challenge of this passage to me is:

  1. Who I am in Christ? (How do I see myself?)
  2. Do I 100% believe what God says to me by His servant?
  3. Do I always give the right advice to my boss/friends/people?

Dear Lord, you are the king of kings, lord of lords. You knew everything before it happens. You knew me before I was formed in the womb. And even the very hairs of my head are all numbered. Thank you for choosing me as your child.

Help me to think of myself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith You have distributed to me. Amen.

Written by Allen Leu

1 (reply)
  1. Richard says:

    It is too easy to read this story with hindsight, where we know that Saul has fallen. Yet here he is being anointed for his kingship. He is humble, in a sense disbelieving that he could be chosen to lead the nation.

    He is seeking the seer, Samuel, but in fact Samuel is seeking. Him at the behest of God.

    Samuel is obedient to the Lord. He pulls Saul aside and has a meal with him. God had set this up and Samuel remains attentive to the Lord’s voice listening to ensure that it is indeed Saul that the Lord has chosen.

    What do I do when I sense the Lord has spoken to me? Do I remain attentive for what next He may say? Do I just go ahead, because God told me so? Clearly their are times I need to simply strike out, but there are other times he has given me information not instructions and I need to discern the difference. When the Lord gives information I need to ask for His instructions about the tin formation, it may be to speak to some, it may be to pray for someone, it may be…

    Father help me to understand Your voice to me that I may walk the walk of faith.

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Monday 26 September, 2016

1 Samuel 9:1-10

9 There was a man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. Kish was a very important person. He was the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror. Zeror was the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 Kish had a son named Saul. Saul was a handsome young man. He was more handsome than anyone in Israel. And he was a head taller than anyone else. 3 The donkeys that belonged to Saul’s father Kish were lost. So Kish spoke to his son Saul. He said, “Go and look for the donkeys. Take one of the servants with you.” 4 Saul and his servant went through the hill country of Ephraim. They also went through the area around Shalisha. But they didn’t find the donkeys. So they went on into the area of Shaalim. But the donkeys weren’t there either. Then Saul went through the territory of Benjamin. But they still didn’t find the donkeys. 5 When Saul and the servant with him reached the area of Zuph, Saul spoke to the servant. He said, “Come on. Let’s go back. If we don’t, my father will stop thinking about the donkeys. Instead, he’ll start worrying about us.” 6 But the servant replied, “There’s a man of God here in Ramah. People have a lot of respect for him. Everything he says comes true. So let’s go and see him now. Perhaps he’ll tell us which way to go.” 7 Saul said to his servant, “If we go to see the man, what can we give him? There isn’t any food in our sacks. We don’t have a gift for the man of God. So what can we give him?” 8 The servant answered Saul again. “Look,” he said. “I’ve got a tenth of an ounce of silver. I’ll give it to the man of God. Then maybe he’ll tell us which way to go.” 9 In Israel, prophets used to be called seers. So if someone wanted to ask God for advice, they would say, “Come on. Let’s go to the seer.” 10 Saul said to his servant, “That’s a good idea. Come on. Let’s go and ask the seer.” So they started out for the town where the man of God lived.

Saul and his companion end up in Zuph by way of a search for lost livestock. We see a gentler, more considerate character than we come to know later in Saul’s story. Tall and handsome; thoughtful and clever – Saul becomes transformed over the course of his life into a tragic and wretched figure… but this is getting ahead of ourselves.

Our lives are laid out in front of God. We do well to seek God’s wisdom as we conduct our daily business. Whether we are involved in humble nonsense ‘donkey-work’ or moving amidst the lofty halls of ‘royalty’ and power, let us end as we have begun, in Jesus. Put in other words: I want to move in the direction and into the full completion of my potential in God.

“…he can shew us our way that we should go.” (v6 KJV)

Lord, my life is in your hands. May my story be the story that you write – a story that ends in you, as it was begun in you: full of potential, full of promise. Guide my steps. I open my life to good spiritual council. In faith, I receive the fullness of the good future you have prepared for me. Amen.

Written by Sam Stewart

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Sunday 25 September, 2016

1 Samuel 8:1-22

8 When Samuel became old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his oldest son was Joel. The name of his second son was Abijah. They served as judges at Beersheba. 3 But his sons didn’t live as he did. They were only interested in making money. They accepted money from people who wanted special favors. They made things that were wrong appear to be right. 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together. They came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old. Your sons don’t live as you do. So appoint a king to lead us. We want a king just like the kings all the other nations have.” 6 Samuel wasn’t pleased when they said, “Give us a king to lead us.” So he prayed to the Lord. 7 The Lord told him, “Listen to everything the people are saying to you. You are not the one they have turned their backs on. I am the one they do not want as their king. 8 They are doing just as they have always done. They have deserted me and served other gods. They have done that from the time I brought them up out of Egypt until this day. Now they are deserting you too. 9 Let them have what they want. But give them a strong warning. Let them know what the king who rules over them will expect to be done for him.” 10 Samuel told the people who were asking him for a king everything the Lord had said. 11 Samuel told them, “Here’s what the king who rules over you will expect to be done for him. He will take your sons. He’ll make them serve with his chariots and horses. They will run in front of his chariots. 12 He’ll choose some of your sons to be commanders of thousands of men. Some will be commanders of fifties. Others will have to plow his fields and gather his crops. Still others will have to make weapons of war and parts for his chariots. 13 He’ll also take your daughters. Some will have to make perfume. Others will be forced to cook and bake. 14 He will take away your best fields and vineyards and olive groves. He’ll give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and a tenth of your grapes. He’ll give it to his officials and attendants. 16 He will also take your male and female servants. He’ll take your best cattle and donkeys. He’ll use all of them any way he wants to. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep and goats. You yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that time comes, you will cry out for help because of the king you have chosen. But the Lord won’t answer you at that time.” 19 In spite of what Samuel said, the people refused to listen to him. “No!” they said. “We want a king to rule over us. 20 Then we’ll be like all the other nations. We’ll have a king to lead us. He’ll go out at the head of our armies and fight our battles.” 21 Samuel heard everything the people said. He told the Lord about it. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them. Give them a king.” Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Each of you go back to your own town.”

This passage makes me sad.  Samuel, an amazing prophet of the land, with a heart and fear of the Lord – yet his sons were not like him “they were greedy for money and accepted bribes and perverted justice”

The leaders reject his sons and ask for a king.  Samuel warns them what life will be like under a king, but they want this – exclaiming “we want to be like the nations around us”.

As I reflect two things come to mind:

  1. No matter what our anointing and gifting might be it does not guarantee that our children will follow.  As a parent, my hope for my children is to know Jesus, to have a heart after God and what His will is for their life rather than what the world can offer.  Helping them develop and grow an active and life giving relationship with Jesus.  I thank God for a church that loves and speaks the same to our children, youth, young adults, adults and champions each of us to walk in relationship with God.
  2. Israel wanted to be like the world.  It is so subtle the influence and ‘gravitational pull’ that the world and its entrapments can have on each of us.  Selfless giving ensures that our heart remains where God would want it.  I am thankful to be part of a generous church that has vision and blesses each other, the world and our local community.

Lord help us not to get trapped and seduced by the world.  Help us to become selfless givers.  Help us to give like you do towards us. Help us to be wise and remain aware of the subtle influences of the world.  We want to walk with you in truth and humility.

Help us Lord.

Written by Ps. Sue Botta

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Saturday 24 September, 2016

1 Samuel 7:3-17

3 So Samuel spoke to all the Israelites. He said, “Do you really want to return to the Lord with all your hearts? If you do, get rid of your false gods. Get rid of your statues of female gods that are named Ashtoreth. Commit yourselves to the Lord. Serve him only. Then he will save you from the power of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their statues of gods that were named Baal. They put away their statues of female gods that were named Ashtoreth. They served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all the Israelites together at Mizpah. I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 When the people had come together at Mizpah, they went to the well and got water. They poured it out in front of the Lord. On that day they didn’t eat any food. They admitted they had sinned. They said, “We’ve sinned against the Lord.” Samuel was serving as the leader of Israel at Mizpah. 7 The Philistines heard that Israel had gathered together at Mizpah. So the Philistine rulers came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard about it, they were afraid. 8 They said to Samuel, “Don’t stop crying out to the Lord our God to help us. Keep praying that he’ll save us from the power of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel got a very young lamb. He sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord to help Israel. And the Lord answered his prayer. 10 The Philistines came near to attack Israel. At that time Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering. But that day the Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines. He threw them into such a panic that the Israelites were able to chase them away. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah. They chased the Philistines all the way to a point below Beth Kar. They killed them all along the way. 12 Then Samuel got a big stone. He set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer. He said, “The Lord has helped us every step of the way.” 13 So the Philistines were brought under Israel’s control. The Philistines didn’t attack their territory again. The Lord used his power against the Philistines as long as Samuel lived. 14 The Philistines had captured many towns between Ekron and Gath. But they had to give all of them back. Israel took back the territories near those towns from the control of the Philistines. During that time Israel and the Amorites were friendly toward each other. 15 Samuel continued to lead Israel all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he traveled from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah. He served Israel as judge in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah. That’s where his home was. He served Israel as judge there too. And he built an altar there to honor the Lord.

As I read the Old Testament more and more, the challenge of “foreign gods” and their distracting and destructive influence on the people of God is a clear constant. We are all worshipers of something – either the real and living God, or something or someone “foreign”. I see from the associations in this passage that what we worship is ultimately what we believe will bring our protection and deliverance. Israel was being encouraged by Samuel to move from holding to their Baals and Ashtoreths as their saving protection, back to God as their saving protection.

This passage makes me question – what alternatives do I look to for protection and deliverance in challenging, hard, or dangerous situations, other than God? For me, the alternative protections tend to be money, certain relationships, and even my own human understanding.  I must respond to such awareness by allowing the Holy Spirit to search my heart for such foreign dependencies, rid myself of these foreign gods and commit myself to God in serving him only.

Lord, search my heart and see if there are any foreign gods that I am worshipping! Who or what am I looking to for my protection and deliverance other than you? I turn back to you with all my heart, ridding myself of these foreign gods and committing myself to serving You only. Amen.

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

1 (reply)
  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    Great Rob, love it. Praying through this now, identifying false gods that will let me down and dishonour the one true God

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Friday 23 September, 2016

1 Samuel 6:19-7:2

19 But some of the people of Beth Shemesh looked into the ark of the Lord. So he struck them down. He put 70 of them to death. The rest of the people were filled with sorrow. That’s because the Lord had killed so many of them. 20 The people of Beth Shemesh said, “The Lord is a holy God. Who can stand in front of him? Where can the ark go up to from here?” 21 Then messengers were sent to the people of Kiriath Jearim. The messengers said, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to your town.” 7 1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and got the ark of the Lord. They brought it up to Abinadab’s house on the hill. They set his son Eleazar apart to guard the ark. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim for a long time. It was there for a full 20 years. Then all the Israelites turned back to the Lord.

“Can’t live with Him, can’t live without Him.” This seems to be the rhetoric of the Israelites in these verses. They’re mourning at first because 70 men have been killed for looking into the Ark of the Lord – they cry out “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” So they decide to send the Ark away, but then mourn for 20 years because it seems the Lord has abandoned them! Their mistake here is in their response to God’s holiness. When they encountered some part of Him that they couldn’t understand, they pushed Him away in fear, rather than reaching out to Him in faith.

It’s often easy to judge the actions of those in the Bible with the benefit of hindsight, but in reality the weakness and struggles they faced are common to humanity. I know that I often get caught in a cyclical push/pull relationship with God, just like the Israelites in this story. I have a crisis and realise my need for God and draw near! Then I experience His holiness and it all seems too much – the call is too great, the sacrifice is too much, His goodness is too overwhelming – so I push Him away. Back and forth, back and forth. But this isn’t how God intended us to live with Him. What we need to do is learn to always switch on our faith, trusting God and pressing in to Him more, no matter what is going on around us.

Jesus, help me to always have faith in You. In every situation – good or bad, easy or hard, simple or complex – help me to learn the way of faith, and not turn to fear. I know You are good, I know You’re always near, I know You love each of us more than we know. Help me to live out of that truth.

Written by Matt Samperi

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Thursday 22 September, 2016

1 Samuel 6:1-18

6 The ark of the Lord had been in Philistine territory for seven months. 2 The Philistines called for the priests and for those who practice evil magic. They wanted their advice. They said to them, “What should 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, don’t send it back to him without a gift. Be sure you send a guilt offering to their god along with it. Then you will be healed. You will find out why his power has continued to be against you.” 4 The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?” Their advisers replied, “There are five Philistine rulers. So send five gold rats. Also send five gold models of the growths in your bodies. Do it because the same plague has struck you and your rulers alike. 5 Make models of the rats and the growths that are destroying the country. Give honor to Israel’s god. Then perhaps his power will no longer be against you, your gods and your land. 6 Why are you stubborn, as Pharaoh and the people of Egypt were? Israel’s god was very hard on them. Only then did they send the Israelites out. Only then did they let them go on their way. 7 “Now then, get a new cart ready. Get two cows that have just had calves. Be sure the cows have never pulled a cart before. Tie the cart to them. But take their calves away and put them in a pen. 8 Then put the ark of the Lord on the cart. Put the gold models in a chest beside the ark. Send them back to the Lord as a guilt offering. Send the cart on its way. 9 But keep an eye on the cart. See if it goes up toward Beth Shemesh to its own territory. If it does, then it’s the Lord who has brought this horrible trouble on us. But if it doesn’t, then we’ll know it wasn’t his hand that struck us. We’ll know it happened to us by chance.” 10 So that’s what they did. They took the two cows and tied the cart to them. They put the calves in a pen. 11 They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart. They put the chest there along with it. The chest held the gold models of the rats and of the growths. 12 Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh. They stayed on the road. They were mooing all the way. They didn’t turn to the right or the left. The Philistine rulers followed them all the way to the border of Beth Shemesh. 13 The people of Beth Shemesh were working in the valley. They were gathering their wheat crop. They looked up and saw the ark. When they saw it, they were filled with joy. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh. It stopped there beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood the cart was made out of. They sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 Some Levites had taken the ark of the Lord off the cart. They had also taken off the chest that held the gold models. They placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings to the Lord. They also made sacrifices to him. 16 The five Philistine rulers saw everything that happened. On that same day they returned to Ekron. 17 The Philistines sent gold models of growths as a guilt offering to the Lord. There was one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18 They also sent five gold models of rats. There was one for each of the Philistine towns that belonged to the five rulers. Each of those towns had high walls around it. The towns also had country villages around them. The Levites set the ark of the Lord on the large rock. To this day the rock is a witness to what happened there. It’s in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.

At the time that this was written, the Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence on earth. When the Philistines first captured the ark, they thought it was a great victory over the God of Israel. They had “captured God” and felt they had power over him. But then God sent plagues to every city where the ark came to rest, and the Philistines became less smug about their prized possession and eventually decided they didn’t want the ark around anymore.

Interestingly, it took the Philistines about 7 months to decide to send it back. Sometimes our in our stubbornness, it can take us a long time to face up to the truth!  In fact, in this instance, the Philistines were still not 100% convinced that the plagues were from God – they still wondered if it was “by chance”.

So the Philistines devised a way to test out their theory by sending the Ark of the Covenant on the backs of cows who had calves. The natural inclination of the cows would be to head back home to their calves, so if the cows headed the other direction it would be an act of God. As it turned out, the cows did go straight to the people of Israel, and in doing so went completely against their natural instincts.

We see here, that the idea of people being able to outsmart God or push God out of your life is not a new concept. At first they tried to tame Him, and when they couldn’t do that, they just wanted to be rid of Him! Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, the Philistines were still not willing to submit to God. Unbelief is generally not a result of lack of evidence – it is a result of stubbornness of heart.

Keeping our hearts soft and humble before God is so important. I cannot “capture” or tame God to make Him do what I want. Anyway, what’s the appeal of having a God who’s that weak? Today I gratefully submit once again to His wisdom, His power and His goodness in my life.

Written by Shelley Witt

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Wednesday 21 September, 2016

1 Samuel 5:1-12

5 The Philistines had captured the ark of God. They took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 They carried the ark into the temple of their god Dagon. They set it down beside the statue of Dagon. 3 The people of Ashdod got up early the next day. They saw the statue of Dagon. There it was, lying on the ground! It had fallen on its face in front of the ark of the Lord. So they picked up the statue of Dagon. They put it back in its place. 4 But the following morning when they got up, they saw the statue of Dagon. There it was, lying on the ground again! It had fallen on its face in front of the ark of the Lord. Its head and hands had been broken off. Only the body of the statue was left. Its head and hands were lying in the doorway of the temple. 5 That’s why to this day no one steps on the bottom part of the doorway of Dagon’s temple at Ashdod. Not even the priests of Dagon step there. 6 The Lord’s power was against the people of Ashdod and the settlements near it. He destroyed them. He made them suffer with growths in their bodies. 7 The people of Ashdod saw what was happening. They said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us. His power is against us and against our god Dagon.” 8 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines. They asked them, “What should we do with the ark of the god of Israel?” The rulers answered, “Have the ark moved to Gath.” So they moved it. 9 But after the people of Ashdod had moved the ark, the Lord’s power was against Gath. That threw its people into a great panic. The Lord made them break out with growths in their bodies. It happened to young people and old people alike. 10 So the ark of God was sent to Ekron. As the ark was entering Ekron, the people of the city cried out. They shouted, “They’ve brought the ark of the god of Israel to us. They want to kill us and our people.” 11 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines. They said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away. Let it go back to its own place. If you don’t, it will kill us and our people.” The death of so many people had filled the city with panic. God’s power was against the city. 12 Those who didn’t die suffered with growths in their bodies. The people of Ekron cried out to heaven for help.

The Philistines won a battle against Israel and captured the Ark of the Covenant (the dwelling place of God). They are pretty pleased with themselves and take it into the temple of their god Dagon and put it next to Him, implying He was now subservient to Dagon. They found Dagon tipped over on the floor the next morning, so the Philistines picked him up again. The next day he was on the floor with his severed head and hands in the doorway. Dagon was dethroned first, then left powerless by the loss of head and hands. The townspeople were plagued by skin growths and the ark became a ‘hot potato’. Their solution is to send it back to the Israelites.

I find it fascinating that the Philistines were terrified and couldn’t wait to get rid of the Ark despite the fact that they saw its power over them and their god Dagon. They are like many people today who see the power of God but refuse to bow down because He threatens the gods of their world. The Philistines knew the story of the Israelite escape from Egypt and the plagues that Egypt suffered. They chose to get rid of the ark real quick to escape the plagues; but they are just a stubborn as the Egyptians in their denial of the sovereignty of God.

Dear Lord, when I see evidence of your power and majesty, may I be moved to worship and obedience. All glory and wisdom and salvation belong to you. You are the only God with power to bless and to save

Written by Dimity Milne

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