July 3: God’s Unseen Work
1 Samuel 5:1–7:17; James 1:19–27; Psalm 119:33–48
We often fail to discern when and how it happens: God will work something out in our lives that seems virtually impossible. We get an unexpected insight into the workings of God in 1 Sam 5.
After defeating Israel in battle, the Philistines stole the ark of the covenant, recognizing it as a powerful weapon of war. They didn’t realize that it couldn’t be wielded by human hands. They set it up next to the idol of their god, Dagon, unaware that the ark was the representation of Yahweh on earth. Yahweh does what He wills. In this case, He willed the ark to be returned to Israel, so He destroyed the idol and afflicted the people with disease. First Samuel notes, “The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people,” (1 Sam 5:6); in fact, it was so heavy that the Philistines wanted the ark gone. After seven months, they returned it to the Israelites (1 Sam 6:10–16).
If the Philistines could recognize the work of Yahweh among them, you would think the Israelites could do the same. They should have responded to the ark’s return by praising God, rejoicing, and turning back to Him. But in their failure to discern God’s hand in the event, they continued to worship foreign gods until Samuel, their judge and prophet, demanded that they change their actions (1 Sam 7).
This illustrates a problem with our perception of God’s work: We fail to see His work on our behalf and chalk things up to circumstance or coincidence. We stick with our idols because it’s easier than admitting the truth to ourselves—for the moment we acknowledge God is at work, we must turn away from the easy path of selfish ambitions and actions.
When God’s people pray, He answers—often in unexpected and miraculous ways. While we don’t often see His hand at work, we do have an opportunity each day to look for God acting among us and turn away from anything we put in His place. Let’s do so today.
Where have you seen God working in your life? What idols is He asking you to turn away from?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Then the Philistines took the Ark of God and carried it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. Even the Philistines took the Ark of God, and brought it to the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod rose the next day in the morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his on the ground before the Ark of the Lord, and they took up Dagon, and set him in his place again. Also they rose up early in the morning the next day, and behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face on the ground before the Ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and the two palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold: only the stump of Dagon was left to him. Therefore the Priests of Dagon, and all that come into Dagon’s house, tread not on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod, unto this day. But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and destroyed them, and smote them with them with the emrods, both Ashdod, and the coasts thereof. And when the men of Ashdod saw this, they said, Let not the Ark of the God of Israel abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us and upon Dagon our god. They sent therefore, and gathered all the princes of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the Ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the Ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath: and they carried the Ark of the God of Israel about. And when they had carried it about, the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction, and he smote the men of the city both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts. Therefore they sent the Ark of God to Ekron: and as soon as the Ark of God came to Ekron, the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought the Ark of the God of Israel to us to slay us and our people. Therefore they sent, and gathered together all the princes of the Philistines, and said, Send away the Ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to his own place, that it slay us not and our people: for there was a destruction and death throughout all the city, and the hand of God was very sore here. And the men that died not, were smitten with the emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven. So the Ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called the Priests and the Soothsayers, saying, What shall we do with the Ark of the Lord? tell us wherewith we shall send it home again. And they said, If you send away the Ark of the God of Israel, send it not away empty, but give unt it a sin offering: then shall ye be healed, and it shall be known to you, why his hand departeth not from you. Then said they, What shall be the sin offering, which we shall give unto it? And they answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the princes of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your princes. Wherefore ye shall make the similitudes of your emerods, and the similitudes of your mice that destroy the land: so ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel, that he may take his hand from you, and from your gods, and from your princes. Wherefore ye shall make the similarities of your emerods, and the similitudes of your mice that destroy the land: so ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel, that he may take his hand from you, and from your gods, and from your land. Wherefor then shoud ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharoah hardened their hearts, when he wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let them go, and they departed? Now therefore we make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on whom there hath come no yoke: and tie the kine to the cart, and bring the calves home from them. Then take the Ark of the Lord, and set it upon the cart, and put the jewels of gold which ye give it for a sin offering in a coffer by the side thereof, and send it away, that it may go. And take heed, if it go up by the way of his own coast to Beth Shemesh, it is he that did us this great evil: but if not, we shall know then, that it is not his hand that smote us, but it was a chance that happened us. And the men did so: for they took two kine that gave milk, and tied them to the cart, and shut the calves at home. So they set the Ark of the Lord upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold, and with the similtudes of their emerods. And the kine went the straight way to Beth Shemesh, and kept one path, and lowed as they went, and turned neither to the right hand nor to the left: also the princes of the Philistines went after them unto the borders of the Beth Shemesh. Now they of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley, and they lift up their eyes, and spied the Ark, and rejoiced when they saw it. And the cart came into the field of Joshua a Beth Shemite, and stood still there. There was also a great stone, and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine for a burnt offering unto the Lord. And the Levites took down the Ark of the Lord, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone, and the men of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offering, and sacrificed sacrifices that same day unto the Lord. And when the five princes of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day. So these are the golden emerods, which the Philistines gave for a sin offering to the Lord: for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Askelon one, for Gath one, and for Ekron one. And golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Phiistines, belonging to the five princes, both of walled towns, and of towns unwalled unto the great stone of Abel, whereon they set the Ark of the Lord: which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua the Beth Shemite. And he smote of the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked in the Ark of the Lord: he slew even among the people fifty thousand men and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the Lord had slain the people with so great a slaughter. Wherefore the men of Beth Shemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? and to whom shall he go from us? And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath Jearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the Ark of the Lord: come ye down, and take it up to you. Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came, and took up the Ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill: and they sanctified Eleazar his son, to keep the Ark of the Lord. (For while the Ark abode in Kirjath Jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years) and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. Then Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye be come again unto the Lord with all your heart, put away the strange gods from among you, and Ashtoreth, and direct your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only, and he shall deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baal and Ashtoreth, and served the Lord only. And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray for you unto the Lord. And they gathered together to Mizpah, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted the same day, and said there, We have sinned against the Lord. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah. When the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpah, the Princes of the Philistines went up against Israel: and when the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry out unto the Lord our God for us, that he may save us out of the hand of the Philistines. And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he may save us out of the hand of the Philistines. Then Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it all together for a burnt offering unto the Lord, and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel, and the Lord heard him. And [as] Samuel offered the burnt offering, the Philistines came to fight against Israel: but the Lord thundred with a great thunder that day upon the Philistines, and scattered them: so they were slain before Israel. And the men of Israel wnet from Mizpah, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them until they came under Beth Car. Then Samuel took a stone, and pitched it between Mizpah and Shen, and called the name thereof Ebenezer, and he said, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. So the Philistines were brought under, and they came no more again into the coasts of Israel: and the hand of the Lord was agasint the Philistines all the days of Samuel. Also the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel, were restored to Israel, from Ekron even to Gath: and Israel delivered the coasts of the same out of the hands of the Philistines: and there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life, And went about year by year to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpah, and judged Israel in all those places. Afterward he returned to Ramah: for there was his house, and there he judged Israel: also he built an altar unto the Lord. 1 Samuel 5:1–7:17
- Wherefore my dear brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. For the wrath of man doth not accomplish the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness, and superfluity of maliciousness, and receive with meekness the word that is grafted in you, which is able to save our souls. And be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any hear the word, and do it not, he is like unto a man, that beholdeth his natural face in a glass. For when he hath considered himself, he goeth his way, and forgetteth immediately what manner of one he was. But who so looketh in the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he not bieng a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem religious, and refraineth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God, even the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless, and widows in their adversity, and to keep himself unspotted of the world. James 1:19–27
- Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes, and I will keep it unto the end. Give me understanding and I will keep thy Law, yea, I will keep it with my whole haert. Direct me in the path of thy commandments: for therein is my delight. Incline mine heart unto thy testimonies: and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from regarding vanity, and quicken me in thy way. Stablish thy promise to thy servant, because he feareth thee. Take away my rebuke that I fear: for thy judgments are good. And let thy loving kindness come unto me, O Lord, and thy salvation according to thy promise. So shall I make answer unto my blasphemers: for I trust in thy word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth: for I wait for thy judgments. So shall I always keep thy Law forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts. I will speak also fo thy testimonies before Kings, and will not be ashamed. And my delight shall be in thy Commandments, which I have loved. Mine hands also will I lift up unto thy Commandments, which I have loved, and I will meditate in thy statutes. Psalm 119:33–48