If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Samuel 5–6, Romans 5, Jeremiah 43, Psalm 19. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 1 Samuel 5-6.
The Philistines must have been delighted by their success in 1 Samuel 4. You may remember from reading that chapter yesterday that they were terrified to learn that Israel was bringing the Ark of the Lord into battle with them (4:7-9). Yet the Philistines won that battle and captured the ark. Here in 1 Samuel 5, they brought they ark into the temple of their god Dagon (vv. 1-2), but Dagon kept falling before the Ark of the Lord (vv. 3-4). Furthermore, the people of Ashdod, where Dagon’s temple was, were suffering while the ark was in their town (v. 6). The people readily identified that the Lord was the cause of their suffering (v. 7). It was obvious that Israel’s God was far superior to theirs and that God could defend himself. Though the Philistines won a great victory against Israel, it was not because of a deficiency in God; rather, it was God’s discipline on Israel for their sins and disobedience. But instead of falling before the Lord in faith, it was easier just to move the ark to another town (vv. 7-12). As chapter 6 opened, the Philistines prepared to return the ark to Israel (6:1-8). But despite all the things that had happened—Dagon falling before the ark twice, the afflictions in two different towns, the Philistines are still not convinced that God is at work behind all of this. In 6:9, the Philistines decided to test to see whether or not God was orchestrating these problems or if it was all happening “by chance” (v. 9). Their test was to see whether the oxen pulling the cart would find their way back to Israel alone or if they would just wander away somewhere. If the ark went straight back to Israel, which it did according to verse 12, then the Philistines would conclude that God was behind all of this. If the ark went anywhere else, they could safely conclude that all of these problems were “by chance.”
It is amazing, isn’t it, how must the human heart wants to deny the existence and power of the true God. The Philistines have seen all kinds of evidence that Israel’s God is real and powerful, yet they kept hoping that it wasn’t true. The same is true today. Naturalists around us see the order and beauty in our world and conclude that it must have taken a long time for chance to work out all the coincidences and random changes needed to produce all of this. The idea that there is a personal God who designed it all is too absurd for them to consider, not because it really is absurd but because it makes them all accountable before God.
Not every coincidence is an act of God or a revelation of his will. Sometimes the enemy will use coincidences and seemingly random occurrences to draw us into temptation. But the doctrine of the Providence of God teaches us that everything that happens is either directed by God or allowed by him. More than once my life has turned in a new, important direction based on something that happened “by chance.” As believers, we should see these non-miraculous events as opportunities to see God’s working in our lives.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.