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May 21, Day #142 – Of Mice or Men

Yesterday we stated that the Ark of God had no business in Philistia. As we come to 1 Samuel 5, we see that, after capturing it, the Philistines carried it to Ashdod – one of the five cities of the Philistines (cf., 1 Samuel 6:17). They placed the Ark in the temple of Dagon next to their statue (i.e., idol) of Dagon. Like all idols that man fashions out of his vain imagination and with his hands, Dagon was crafted in a bizarre shape - that of a fish with a human head and hands. In our reading for today, we see God’s divine humor with this serious case of mice or men. The Philistines “rose early the next day, and there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the Ark of the LORD” (verse 3). Significantly, their idol was bowing down before the God to Whom the Ark belonged – emphasizing Dagon’s place before God. They put it back in place, but the next day, Dagon found himself “fallen on his face with his head and hands broken off” (verse 4). Dagon, the so-called god of these powerful Philistines, was fully incapable of managing himself – his “hands” are useless. However, God’s hands are effective. As God brings a plague of tumors and rats (i.e., “devastation,” verse 6) upon the people of Ashdod, they quickly realize that “the LORD’s hand was heavy upon them” (repeated in verses 6, 7, 9, and 11), and they “sent the Ark of God to Gath” … and later to “Ekron” (verses 8 and 10). In chapter 6, we read that after suffering the plague of tumors and rats for seven months, the Philistines decide they’ve had enough and agree to send the Ark back to Israel. The Philistines attempt to “appease” the God of Israel with their gift of gold tumors and rats – a rather strange insult for the symbolic images that they represent. So the Ark finally returns to Israel where it belongs. In chapter 7, we see Samuel’s call for national repentance and his victory over the Philistines “by the LORD’s help” (verse 12). This section of Scripture should challenge us as a nation to realize that our hope for victory rests only in the Lord.

We also come again today to Proverbs 12. This section of Proverbs contains an ongoing contrast between the righteous and the wicked. I especially appreciate verses 21 and 23: “no harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble,” and “the prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but fools blurt out folly.” These verses show us the necessary incentive to live righteously and wisely and to avoid living wickedly and foolishly. Jesus said that each day has enough trouble of its own (cf., Matthew 6:34), so we will always contend with troubles, but the intensity of our troubles can be decreased by living a righteous life. Also, knowledge is a precious resource that we should guard and protect - not squander and blurt out foolishly all over the place. Of course, knowledge should be shared, but it should not be wasted on those who scorn it.

In John 11:45-12:11, we see that the Jews were motivated to hate Jesus by their jealousy and envy for nothing more than their own popularity. His miracles quite naturally drew crowds away from the Jewish leaders who could not rejoice for His “successes” and for the wonderful, uplifting things He did to help people out of their misery and awful predicaments. How ridiculous and self-seeking was the behavior of the Jewish leaders! Several things are revealed here - Mary’s love and appreciation for Jesus; the depth of deceit in the heart of Judas; and the absurd but humorous plans of the Jews “to kill Lazarus as well.” Moreover, Jesus knew well enough to withdraw from the crowds at certain times to avoid being captured before His time. Even Jesus’ death was carried out in God’s perfect timing. Jesus entrusted all this to the Father, and He humbly moved toward His death in trust.

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