Guided by God


When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim. And the Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away.

And the Philistines came up yet again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” And David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer. II Samuel 5:17-25 ESV

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works. Psalm 73:23-28 ESV


Have you ever wanted to climb a mountain? Climbing a mountain is a great adventure, but it is also a dangerous one. If someone wants to have a mountain adventure, they will usually hire a mountain guide. Mountain guides know how to keep people safe and how to find the best way to go. They know the best routes to take and what the snow and weather conditions are. They know how to climb on rocks and ice and how to use tools like crampons, ropes, and axes. It would be very foolish for someone who doesn’t have this knowledge to try to climb a mountain without a guide.

The Philistines continued to be the enemies of the people of Israel, and they tried to fight David. David knew he needed God’s help to defeat their armies. Before David went into battle, he would asked God for his help. God gave David the guidance he needed to fight his enemies. He told David if he should go into battle or not, and also what his battle plan should be. Most importantly, God fought for David. David could trust God’s guidance and help as he ruled his people.

We also have God’s guidance and help in our lives. God tells us his will in his word, the Bible. We might not get exact answers to our problems the way David did, but God’s laws tell us what we need to know about living God’s way. But when we look at God’s laws, we know that we don’t measure up. We haven’t followed God’s guidance. If people don’t follow the mountain guide’s guidance, they might get badly hurt or even killed. But if someone doesn’t follow God’s law, the penalty is separation from God forever. That’s why God sent his Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and because of him we are God’s people. He is with us every day to give us his help and guidance, and forgiveness for when we go wrong.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the guidance you give us in your law, and for our Savior Jesus who won forgiveness for when we go our own way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Saved by the Bell!


Now the Philistines had gathered all their forces at Aphek. And the Israelites were encamped by the spring that is in Jezreel. As the lords of the Philistines were passing on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were passing on in the rear with Achish, the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, king of Israel, who has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day.” But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances,

‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”

Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the Lord lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign. For I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, the lords do not approve of you. So go back now; and go peaceably, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.” I Samuel 29:1-7 ESV

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7 ESV


Calvin was sitting in the classroom, dreaming about Spaceman Spiff and not paying attention to his teacher. When his teacher called on him to come to the board and demonstrate the next problem, he didn’t know what was going on and didn’t know how to do the problem. He tried to stall by pretending to figure it out, and then the bell rang. Calvin didn’t have to do the problem after all. He was saved by the end of the day coming before he had to do anything.

David was saved from his foolish bind, also. He had been deceptive and disloyal, and now he found himself marching out against his own people Israel with the armies of the Philistines. What did David plan to do? Would he actually kill his own people? Or was he planning to betray King Achish, who trusted him? The Bible doesn’t tell us, and it’s possible David didn’t actually know what he was going to do. David was in a terrible predicament, and there didn’t seem to be an easy way out. But just like Calvin, David was saved from his dilemma before he had to do anything. The officers of the Philistines protested so strongly that king Achish sent David and his men away.

We all were in a terrible bind that we could never have gotten ourselves out of. We were caught in sin and separation from God and had no way out. But we were saved from our dilemma when Jesus came to die for us and set us free from sin and death. Because of Jesus we have a brand new life. We aren’t stuck in sin anymore, but free to love and serve God.


Dear Jesus, thank you for saving us from the trouble of sin and death we were stuck in. Amen.


Watterson, Bill The Revenge of the Baby-Sat Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1991, p. 61.

Stuck in the Middle


And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow.

Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt. And David would strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish. When Achish asked, “Where have you made a raid today?” David would say, “Against the Negeb of Judah,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Kenites.” And David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath, thinking, “lest they should tell about us and say, ‘So David has done.’” Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines. And Achish trusted David, thinking, “He has made himself an utter stench to his people Israel; therefore he shall always be my servant.”

In those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war, to fight against Israel. And Achish said to David, “Understand that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.” David said to Achish, “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.” I Samuel 27:3, 8-12, 28:1-2 ESV

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Psalm 24:3-4, 7-10 ESV


Archie had a serious problem. He had two girlfriends, Betty and Veronica. He liked both of them, and they were very jealous of each other. One day he made a mistake and made a date with both of them at the same time! He didn’t want either one to get mad at him for canceling a date, so he tried to spend time with both of them, running back and forth from one to the other. First he was with Veronica, then he said he had to go check his car for something. But instead he ran to be with Betty. After he was with Betty for a little while, he made some excuse and then ran back to Veronica. He really wasn’t being fair or loyal to either of his girlfriends with his dishonesty!

David got himself into a similar situation, but much worse. He had run away from Saul and gone to live in the land of the Philistines, and made friends with a king of one of the cities. David and his men went on raiding parties against the enemies of Israel, but David always lied to King Achish about what he had been doing. He actually said that he had been raiding his own people of Israel! Achish thought he could trust David to be on his side. When the Philistines mustered their forces against Israel, Achish told David he expected him and his men to join the Philistines in the battle. David promised to do that. How could he promise to fight against his own people? How could he be expected to join the enemies of his people? David’s dishonesty had gotten him into serious trouble.

God expects his people to be fair and honest and pure in heart. Only those who are pure can come into his presence. But we are sometimes like David. We are dishonest or do things to take care of ourselves, even if what we do hurts others. We tell lies to stay out of trouble. We don’t deserve to come into God’s presence any more than David did. There’s only one who is pure enough to come into God’s presence, and that’s Jesus. He is the King of Glory, and he came to pay the price for our sins. After he died for us and rose again from the dead, God received him back into his presence. Jesus is at God’s right hand to plead for us, and because of him we can come into the presence of our Heavenly Father.


Dear Jesus, thank you for dying and rising for us so that we can come into God’s presence through you. Amen.


Gladir, George (w), Fernando Ruiz (p), Rudy Lapick (i) “Role Model” Jughead with Archie Digest Magazine #145, December 1998.

Looking for Help in the Wrong Place


Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.” I Samuel 28:3-7 ESV

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 ESV


Margaret and Ellen were best friends. They played together every day, and talked to each other all the time. They told all their secrets to each other. Then a sad day came when Ellen and her family had to move away to another city. This was before there was email, and there were no cell phones or text messages either. Telephone calls were expensive, and so Margaret and Ellen could only write letters sometimes. It wasn’t the same as talking to each other. Margaret missed her friend so much that she got a doll and named her doll Ellen. She talked to her doll the way she used to talk to her friend, and she pretended that her doll could talk to her. It was very sad, because her doll wasn’t real. The doll named Ellen was only make-believe, and could never replace her best friend.

Saul had moved away from God through his disobedience and not being sorry for his sins. So in the end God moved away from Saul. Samuel was dead, so Saul couldn’t talk to him and get help. Now Saul was in trouble, because the Philistine army had gathered against him. He tried to reach God, but he couldn’t. So Saul decided to do something he knew was wrong. He decided to visit a medium, someone who claims to be able to contact the spirits of dead people. God doesn’t want his people ever to do something like that. God holds all the people who have died in his hands, and it’s not our business to try to talk to them or get a message from them. It’s very dangerous, because an evil spirit can come and pretend to be the spirit of a dead person. Other times, the voice of a dead person might just be a magic trick that the medium does. Saul wanted a medium’s help because he had lost contact with the God who really could help and talk to him.

Some people today move away from God, too. They don’t want to give up their sins, or they don’t like what the Bible teaches. Sometimes when people do that, they get involved with make-believe gods or goddesses or try to talk to spirits. This is very dangerous, and it takes them even further away from God. We never have to lose contact with God. He loves us and sent Jesus to teach us his word, but Jesus did even more than that. He died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could always be close to God. God gives us his word in the Bible, and the Bible tells us everything we will ever need to know about God and his love.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your Word in the Bible, and for sending Jesus to bring us back to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Taunting the Enemy


And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand.” I Samuel 17:41-47 ESV

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV


In the World Series in 1932 the New York Yankees were playing the Chicago Cubs. The players on the two teams taunted each other a lot, telling the other team what they would do to beat them in the games. Babe Ruth was playing for the Yankees. He made fun of the Chicago Cubs’ ballpark when he said, “I’d play for half of my salary, if I could play in a dump like this!” He meant that it would be very easy for him to hit home runs in the Chicago ballpark. In the third game of the World Series, the score was tied 4-4 in the fifth inning. Babe Ruth came to bat for the Yankees while the Chicago Cubs team taunted him. There were two strikes on him when he pointed toward center field. No one knows for sure, but some people think he was saying that he would hit a home run to center field. On the next pitch he actually did hit a home run right where he had pointed. Even though it might not be true that Babe Ruth called his home run, it’s a very famous story.

Before David and Goliath started their combat with each other, they taunted each other. Goliath made fun of David’s sticks, cursed him by his gods, and told David that he would kill him and give him to wild animal scavengers to eat. David taunted Goliath too, but only in the name of the true God of Israel. He knew that he couldn’t possibly win a victory by himself, but he was sure that God would be with him and help him. Goliath had been taunting the whole army of Israel, and in doing that he had been making fun of God and his armies. He said that in God’s name he would defeat Goliath and the whole army of the Philistines.

The greatest battle ever fought was the battle that Jesus fought with sin, death, and the devil when he died on the cross and rose from the dead for us. Because Jesus won the victory for us, we can taunt death now. We don’t have to be afraid to die, because we know we have eternal life with God now and forever. Death isn’t the end for us, but only the beginning of a new life with God. That’s why we can say, “Oh, death, where is your victory?” Jesus fought the battle with death, and he won!


Dear Jesus, thank you for winning the battle with death for us. Help us to trust in your victory always. Amen.


The Called Shot

Looking for a Champion


Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. I Samuel 17:1-11 ESV

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.
He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. Isaiah 59:15b-17 ESV


There’s a story that long ago in Denmark King Hrothgar and his warriors were gathered in the king’s hall when a horrible monster named Grendel came from the swamplands to threaten and kill the king’s warriors. There was no one who was strong enough or willing to try to defeat Grendel, and for many years the Danes were terrorized by him. Finally a champion named Beowulf came to the kingdom, and he was able to defeat Grendel and end the fear and death the monster had caused the Danes.

Something similar happened in Israel. The Philistines had a strong, giant man on their side named Goliath. He was so big and strong that all the men in the army of Israel were afraid of him. Goliath had a simple deal for them. If one of the men of Israel would be able to defeat him in single combat, then the Philistines would admit defeat, but if Goliath killed the champion of the Israelites, then the people of Israel would have to admit defeat and be under the rule of the Philistines. Goliath made the people of Israel so afraid that no one wanted to fight him. There didn’t seem to be a champion in Israel willing to take the risk.

We were also under the terror and control of the evil forces of the world–sin and death and the devil. There was no one in the whole world who could have saved us and set us free, so God himself came to us in Jesus to be our champion. Jesus did battle with sin and death when he died on the cross and rose again from the dead the first Easter. Because of Jesus, we are free from all the dark forces that once had us in their power, and are free to be God’s people, and to love and serve him forever.


Dear Jesus, thank you for being our champion and defeating sin, death, and the devil for us. Amen.

An Amazing Victory


Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.” So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land. And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic. I Samuel 14:6-15 ESV

The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:13-17, 20-22 ESV


In 480 B. C. the king of Persia invaded Greece to conquer the Greek city-states and add them to his empire. There was a famous legendary battle called the Battle of Thermopylae. In this battle, the Persians fought the Greeks at a narrow land pass. The Greeks were terribly outnumbered, but they held the pass by blocking the Persian army at this pass for two days. In the end, though, the Greeks lost this battle, as some Persians came around from behind and attacked the Greeks on both sides. The brave little army was wiped out in the battle.

Jonathan and his armor-bearer engaged in another battle in which they were greatly outnumbered, but in this battle they had God fighting for them. Jonathan, Saul’s son, was a brave and mighty soldier, but he also had great faith. He believed that God could help him win a battle with the Philistines even though it was only two against many. Jonathan let God plan the strategy for him and also let God decide whether or not to go up and attack. God blessed Jonathan’s faith and gave Jonathan the victory in the battle. It was only a small battle, but it threw the camp of the Philistines into a panic. They knew that God’s power was working against them.

Sometimes the forces of evil, of sin and death, seem to be winning the victory in our world and in our lives. We feel hopelessly outnumbered and afraid of losing. But like Jonathan, we have God on our side. God came to us in Jesus to win the final victory. Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil for us on the cross, and he is with us always to help us. We never have to be afraid of the evil that threatens to hurt us, because we have Jesus on our side. He’s already won the victory for now and forever.


Dear Jesus, thank you for winning the victory over sin and death for us. Amen.


Hiding in Fear


Saul chose three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent home, every man to his tent. Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” And all Israel heard it said that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become a stench to the Philistines. And the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal.

And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude. They came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. I Samuel 13:2-7 ESV

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around. Psalm 3:1-6 ESV


Jim and Joanne were visiting their grandparents, and they decided to explore the basement. Their grandparents had a lot of old things stored in the basement. When they went down the stairs, there were eerie shadows in corners and behind piles of boxes. Around one corner they saw something that made both of them shriek with fear. It looked like a monster with a huge head and tentacles! But when they ran upstairs to tell their grandmother, she started laughing. What they had seen was only a birdcage and an old garden hose. It was just the shadows and their imaginations that made it seem like a monster.

The people of Israel were like that. They saw the thousands of troops that the Philistines had, and they were terribly afraid. Their imaginations could only imagine being slaughtered by the Philistine army with their chariots and horses and soldiers. They didn’t see things the way they really were. They were the people of God, and God was ready to help them and fight for them, just as he had done many times before. God was more powerful than the whole Philistine army, and they had no reason to be afraid.

We are often afraid, too. We have problems, and our imaginations make us think of all the terrible things that might happen to us. We forget that God is with us to help us, just as he has always been. We also forget that even if the things that make us most afraid really do happen, God will be there to help us through it all and work things out for our good. We know that because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. When Jesus was dying, it looked like the forces of evil had won. But it was on the cross that Jesus conquered sin and death, and won the forgiveness of our sins. We have Jesus on our side, and we never need to be afraid of anything.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being with us. Help us to trust you and not be afraid. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Coincidence or Not?


“Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed? Now then, take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never come a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. And take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way and watch. If it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm, but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by coincidence.”

The men did so, and took two milk cows and yoked them to the cart and shut up their calves at home. And they put the ark of the Lord on the cart and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumors. And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. I Samuel 6:6-12 ESV

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:33 ESV

When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out. Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 ESV


I was once at a large state fair on a Saturday, along with many thousands of other people. During the morning I ran into some friends of mine that I hadn’t expected to see. The chances of my running into them were pretty low, but the funny thing was I ran into them a second time later in the day. It was a coincidence that I saw them twice in the same day among so many people! A coincidence means that some things unexpectedly happen together in some way. A coincidence happens by chance. There’s no plan or purpose we know about that makes a coincidence happen.

The Philistines had heard about the power of the God of Israel, and they thought it was God who was causing the plague to break out in their towns. They didn’t want to harden their hearts like Pharaoh and the Egyptians had done long ago in the past, and suffer worse punishment from God. On the other hand, they didn’t know for sure that it was God who was causing the plague. It might have been a coincidence that caused the plague to break out wherever the ark of God was. So they made a test by putting the ark on a cart and hitching it up to a couple of milk cows who had never pulled a cart before. If the cows pulled together and went toward Israel, then they would know that it was God who had caused the plague. And that’s what happened.

God is in control of all of life and everything that happens, and to him there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On the other hand, we can’t know why things happen as they do–good things or bad things or just unusual things. It’s not for us to know everything that God is doing in his world, but he’s told us what we need to know. God’s purpose through time and history is to save the people who had turned away from him and become his enemies. He sent Jesus to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could live with God forever. We can trust God with the things that happen in life, even if they don’t always make sense, because we know his purposes will always work out.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being in control of all of life, and for working out your purpose to save us through Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

A Guilt Offering


The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand does not turn away from you.” And they said, “What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him?” They answered, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for the same plague was on all of you and on your lords. So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land.” I Samuel 6:1-5 ESV

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. I John 1:8-10 ESV


During the time of the black death of the middle ages, many people thought that God was punishing them for their sins by sending the plague. A group of people called flagellants tried to help. They thought they could punish themselves and make God stop the plague from causing more death. Flagellants went from town to town, dressed in white, carrying crosses, and whipping themselves. It was their idea that God would accept the work they did and forgive the people their sins.

The Philistines had the same idea during the plague God sent them because of the ark of the covenant. They wanted to get rid of the ark and send it back to Israel, but they thought it would be better if they also sent an offering. They hoped God would accept their offering and forgive their guilt for capturing the ark. They had a strange offering to give God–golden tumors and mice. The mice were what carried the plague and the tumors were one of the symptoms. The Philistines might have thought that sending golden mice and tumors away from them would also carry the real tumors and mice away.

People often think that they can earn God’s mercy or forgiveness or love by doing some kind of good work or giving a gift or punishing themselves in some way. But it’s impossible to buy God’s forgiveness. The good news is that Jesus has already done everything we need to win God’s love and forgiveness for us. He did all the good works we fail to do, and he offered himself as a perfect offering on the cross. When Jesus suffered and died, he paid the price for all our sin and guilt. We don’t have to earn anything from God, because Jesus gives it to us as a free gift.


Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us and dying for us so that we can have God’s love and forgiveness. Amen.