In 1 Samuel 4 the Ark of the Covenant, the most significant artifact to all of Israel and to God at the time, was captured in war by the Philistines. The Philistines must have been excited about it at first because this is humiliation to their enemies and they believed this meant that their god triumphed over Israel’s god. They did not know that God is not just another god–He is God Almighty.
While the Philistines have the Ark of the Covenant some strange “coincidences” happen. Their statue of their god Dagon keeps falling before the Ark of the Covenant (1 Sam 5:1-5), the people are plagued with tumors and rats (5:6). The Philistines are smart enough to understand this is the work of God who is plaguing them for having the Ark.
The plan they make to get rid of the Ark is incredibly unique. Additionally, it would only work if God’s hand was behind it. 1 Sam. 6:1-10. The Philistine’s plan was to send a cart containing the Ark of the Covenant and filled with golden tumors and rats as a guilt offering to God. The cart was pulled by two cows that have recently had calves without their calves and have never been yoked. They would point it in the direction toward Beth Shemesh, a city in Israel. They would not drive the cart or steer the cows; they get the cows to go and just let them go in any direction they wanted. If the cows veered to the left or right, then the Ark will stay with the Philistines. If the cows continued straight then the Philistines will allow the Ark to return to Israel.
Understand that cows who have had calves recently do not care being separated from them. Plus, cows who have not been yoked are not trained to go straight forward. The odds that these untrained, irritable cows would go straight is unlikely. So, when the cows did go forward continually for miles from Philistia into Israel everyone was amazed. There was no question this was God’s doing!
What a unique story that shows God’s hand. Israel was mourning their loss of the Ark; to them it was losing their connection with God. This is a sad situation where the only way things get better is if everything falls in line perfectly. Sometimes that is how life feels, isn’t it? The odds are against you in every way. Doubt is the most reasonable reaction to your situation. How could things get better? Well, read this story and notice how God took an astronomically unlikely result and it made it happen.
I imagine my life as that cart with those cows. Going straight forward doesn’t seem natural to me. The world tempts me to go left or right. But by God’s hand he leads me to where I should be.
[Pro 3:5-6] Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
[Pro 4:25-27] Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
[Psa 5:8] Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.
[Heb 12:12-13 ESV] 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.