1 Samuel 5:2-4
There are not many events in the Bible that I find humorous, but this is one of my favorites.  Would you think this would cause doubt among the Philistines?  How could Dagon, their "victorious" god, fall and be broken before the ark of the LORD since they had just defeated the Israelite army who worshiped YHWH?

I pray every idol of your heart and mine would fall face down, shattered before the one true God.  I eagerly await the day when Christ Jesus returns, and every knee will bow and tongue confess He is LORD of all.  May we bow before Him today as King and Lord of our lives.

1 Samuel 6
These events fascinate me and raise so many questions.  How could the Philistines not acknowledge the LORD of the ark since no matter where they took the ark, it was evident His hand was against them?  Did the priests and diviners think the God of Israel could be bought off with gold?  How was that a guilt offering?  Weren't they just testing the LORD of the ark?

In verse six they ask the questions, "Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their heart?  After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away?"  The Philistine's recollection of God's deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt probably was influenced by the fact that they were descendants of Egypt (Genesis 10:13-14).  But isn't it amazing how generations later, the enemies of Israel remembered the power of God in their deliverance?  Isn't that still the question:  Why do people harden their hearts when what God says will happen comes to pass?

The Philistines did not want to give the ark back.  The plan they put in place was designed to assure it never returned to Israel.  Cows not accustomed to pulling a cart would have torn it to pieces, and for additional insurance, cows do not abandon nursing calves.  As one who has separated cows and calves, I can assure you this is not an easy task.  They hoped that the plagues were just a coincidence.  But just in case it wasn't, they did everything possible to stack the deck in their favor.  YHWH proved Himself to be sovereign as the cows contentedly went to Beth-shemesh.

Just like the people of Beth-shemesh, I fear I do not treat the holiness of God with appropriate reverence and awe.  I can imagine these 70 men being curious about what was in the ark and wanting to ensure it was still okay.  God had given instruction concerning the handling of the ark.  Aaron and his sons were the only ones who could handle the holy things of the tabernacle.  In Numbers 4:15-20, God warned anyone else who touched or looked at the holy things would die.

This episode reminds me of Moses being commanded to remove his sandals because he stood on holy ground.  Carol says some people respond to the "burning bush" with awe, and some start eating the berries.

Sovereign LORD, forgive me for treating You in an unworthy manner.  I see myself in both the Philistines and the men of Beth-shemesh.  I, too, have missed You while eating the berries You alone provide.  Holy Spirit, please convict me when I attempt to put my God to the test or attribute the events of my life to coincidence.