WEEK 35, Day 4, Thursday, 1 September 2022

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 1 September 2022:

1 Samuel 6:9 — 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 Philistines knew that God controlled nature and would more powerfully influence the milk cows than their natural desire to be with their calves.  The cows would obey God over instinct.  Only man rebels against the Creator; only man requires salvation.  The power of God in a person’s life overpowers all other desires.

1 Samuel 6:20 – Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?  And to whom shall he go up away from us?”

“The Philistines thought that Yahweh, the covenant Lord of Israel, was just one god among many.  When they captured the ark of God at the end of the life of Eli the priest (1 Sam. 4), they set the ark in the temple of their god Dagon, for they believed Dagon had defeated Yahweh and that Yahweh could be worshiped alongside Dagon.  But the Philistines soon learned that Yahweh was no mere rival to their god.  Yahweh displayed His sovereign power while the ark was in Dagon’s temple.  He broke the idol of Dagon and afflicted the Philistines with tumors for treating Him as one god among many (chap. 5), thereby revealing Himself not only as higher than Dagon but as the one, true creator God.

The Philistines had to get rid of the ark if the plague was to be stopped.  Today’s passage tells us how they did this, and it also tells us that God sent rats among the Philistines while the ark was with them.  The Philistine priests told the people to send the ark back with a “guilt offering”—five golden rats and five golden tumors according to the five “Philistine rulers” (1 Sam. 6:1–5).  This references the five major Philistine cities located near the Mediterranean coast, each with its own leader.  Commentators indicate that the Philistine priests were employing a kind of “sympathetic magic.”  By sending the tumors and rats away, the Philistines thought they would send the plague out of their land.

The Philistines set the golden images and the ark on a cart drawn by two cows that had never been yoked and that had some young calves.  Female cows that had never been yoked would instinctively go to their young, so if the oxen were to head for Israel, it would be a sign that Yahweh had brought about the plagues and that He accepted the gold offerings.  Yahweh did direct the cart back to Israel, for the cows were compelled to head for the Israelite town of Beth-shemesh, lowing all the way (vv. 6–16).

But when the ark came to Beth-shemesh, God put seventy inhabitants of the city to death because they “looked into the ark” (vv. 17–21).  They treated the ark with contempt, handling it even though only the Kohathites, from the tribe of Levi, were supposed to touch it (Num. 3:27–32).  That they did so should not surprise us, for the Israelites had lost the ark in the first place by treating it as a magical talisman, trusting in its presence instead of the God whose footstool it was (1 Sam. 4:1–11).

The Bible reveals a God who cannot be manipulated by human beings.  However, God’s people have not always embraced this truth consistently.  In Samuel’s day, they treated the ark as a talisman and looked inside it when they were not supposed to (1 Sam. 4:1–11; 6:17–21).  Such idolatrous and manipulative practices ended poorly for the Israelites. Things will not go well for us either if we try to manipulate the Lord.” (Ligonier Ministries)

1 Timothy 5:1-4 — Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. Honor widows who are truly widows.  But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.

Today’s verses have much to say about the demand for maintaining both the character and competence to build others up and care for the needs of others.  Godly attributes include both purity and hard work as the fruits of love for God and for others.  Today’s instructions to the church by Paul are similar to what he said to the Thessalonians: “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia.  But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-11) Love others; live quietly; work hard; walk properly; glorify God.

It is easy to be critical, but it is harder to be constructive.  Everyone seems to have an opinion, but few seem to come with an offering to personally make the difference.  As the adage goes, “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to help mom do the dishes.” Or as the Afghans say, “Talk doesn’t make flowers grow.”  Two things everyone seems to agree on: Things aren’t right, and it’s someone else’s fault.  Today, Paul encourages us to make the difference in the lives of others – encourage them, set the example in conduct (purity and hard work), and “make some return” for others, starting with your own family.  Don’t just rebuke others for what they aren’t doing, work hard personally to make people and situations better.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) The great commandment of love requires effort for the sake of others; in fact, it requires all of our effort.  We have to have a heart for others, and we have to have a plan to love others (loving with all of your mind), and then we have to do the hard work (loving with all your strength), we have to labor in love.  Good people do good work, and loving people love to work hard for others.  In fact, we were made for work and to have a positive impact on our environment through our work.  The first thing God gave Adam was a job, and the second thing God gave Adam was a “helpmate,” so they could work together to love Him and each other in their mutual work. (Genesis 2) Work was ordained by God as “good.”  Only sin, self-centeredness, made work toilsome and meaningless.  Paul calls us to redeem work by doing the work God intended, fruitful labors of love.

“Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.”  Today, Paul contrasts those who are busy with busybodies, those who work hard to make a difference as opposed who those who just go around gossiping, criticizing, and complaining.  Compare our readings in 1 Timothy today with Proverbs (Proverbs 26):  Notice that Proverbs 26 starts off describing the “fool” who is wise in his own eyes, doesn’t listen, is quick to express his own opinion, doesn’t understand the truth, and only hurts others with his words and opinions; then Proverbs 26 transitions to the “sluggard” who doesn’t work; finally, Proverbs 26 concludes by talking about the quarrelsome gossip, deceiver, and slanderer.  All these attributes are discussed together intentionally in Proverbs as Paul does in 1 Timothy because they are all attributes of a self-centered, unloving person.  Not everyone who works hard is loving, but everyone who is truly loving works hard, and staying busy working hard for others is a great way to avoid sinning.

– Proverbs 18:9 — Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.

– Ephesians 4:28 — Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

– 2 Thessalonians 3:10 — For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

– Colossians 3:22-24 — Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.

– Proverbs 14:23 — In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.

– Psalm 90:17 — Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

– 1 Corinthians 16:14 — Let all that you do be done in love.

– Proverbs 12:11 — Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.

How hard will you work today for the sake of others?  How will your hard work today improve the lives of others and contribute to a more positive environment?  How will you personally make a difference?  How will your family be blessed through your attitude and actions today?  Today is a good day for less complaining and more contribution for God’s glory and for the benefit of others.  Start in your own home.

1 Timothy 5:8 — But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Questions?

1 Timothy 5:21 — I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

Everyone must be held accountable equally and must also be cared for equally.  “Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) –1 September 2022:  Work with all your strength today out of love to take care of the needs of others.  Start with taking care of your own family.  If you have neglected your family in any way, recommit today to taking care of them.  Don’t overthink it.  Just do it.  “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

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