Up early this a.m. preparing for the day and while squeezing in my early morning readings, I couldn’t help but jot down a few thoughts on this one.
I had written about a year ago, regarding what the cows knew as they were selected for the privilege of carting the Ark back to Israel. Leaving their stalled calves behind, these young heifers went “lowing all the way.” (I Samuel 6:12 NIV).
This time as I read through this same scripture, my eyes fell on the ridiculous yet strong confidence of the Philistines in the God of Israel. Though their doctrine was somewhat off, their faith was huge.
Faced with the challenge of moving this ancient spiritual box, the Ark of the Covenant, now for at least the third time, they wanted to get it right. The last two cities had suffered greatly, anywhere from the humiliation of their priests, the physical destruction of their gods, rats destroying their county and well, hemorrhoids! You can imagine the challenge facing both their religious and political leadership.
After consulting among themselves, not only did they come up with a new technology for moving the ark, but also a means for appeasing this God in the meanwhile.
This was what moved me to write.
“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. 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. 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?”
(I Sam. 6:4-6 NIV).
I was intrigued by humanity’s image of Jehovah, apparently what the “church” of that day had demonstrated; as well, their knowledge of the history of Israel and the fear in their hearts because of a miraculous exodus from Egypt, which God had centuries earlier provided His people.
God had made “believers” of these leaders! Unfortunately their focus was on relieving themselves of wrath and guilt, rather than desiring a relationship with this awesome Being. In their minds, their sin demanded an offering of appeasement. Yet as Christians today, we see little remedy needed for our personal shortcomings? I found that contrast interesting.
They knew that any offering to a God this powerful should cost them something precious, thus the metal from which they forged both their rats and tumors. They knew the national and spiritual impact of leadership and the consequences of decisions made, cautioning such not to harden their hearts against this God of Israel as history had taught them regarding the Pharaohs’ of Egypt, thus the five rats and five tumors, one for each national leader involved.
I must wonder how the world sees our God and what their response would be in a similar crisis, given what we have taught them based on our current commitment and personal demonstration of the power of this same God? In fact, I have to wonder somewhat about our own theology.