but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” (1 Samuel 6:6, 9 NIV)
These Philistine priests and diviners amaze me.
They speak confidently to their fellow Philistines as if the Lord God is real, powerful and actively involved in their world events. They sound not just like men of faith but men of God. They clearly believe that the Lord is at work on behalf of Israel (if not the only God).
In v. 6 they are still talking about the Exodus with Moses--which happened 500 years earlier! And they even remember the reason the Egyptians were defeated: Their hard hearts. Then they ask the Philistines why they hardened their hearts against the Lord God. I'm left thinking, "As opposed to what? Trusting and following the Lord? Had they?"
Yet, this is what the Lord wanted to do through Israel all along. Be their God so powerfully and faithfully that other nations would see God, be drawn to God, trust and follow God. The Philistines aren't trusting and following God--but they're on that trajectory here.
In v. 9 we see more faith by these Philistine priests and diviners. As a part of their instructions on how to properly return the Ark of the Covenant to Israel, the priests and diviners decide they'll be able to tell if all of this was coincidence or the God of Israel at work.
With confidence, they say, "...but keep watching it (the cart). If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” (1 Samuel 6:9 NIV)
Did you notice it? They never considered it a possibility that if the cart goes to Beth Shemesh that it might also be by chance. They believe that the God of Israel will reveal his activity through the Ark.
I find it interesting that you can have a level of faith in God that doesn't appear to lead to salvation. Faith that God works but not a faith that leads you to reorient your life around a God you can trust with your life.
I think we have these folks around today too.
Now these priests and diviners could have been followers of God. I think it's unlikely, but who knows?
I do think it's possible that these priests and diviners, as well as people today, could have a head faith that doesn't connect with their heart.
In James 2:19, James says that even the demons believe there is a God--and shudder in terror. No doubt there.
Yet we know that the demons don't trust and follow the God they know created them. I guess in a way they don't even have to believe he exists. They've seen him. But I digress...
To me, the question to ask ourselves is, "Do I believe God can do things or do I trust God enough to reorient my life around his good, gracious, and great ways? Do I trust my Creator with my whole life--here and hereafter?"
What is God saying to you today?
What are you going to do about it?