He Who Received in the Word

“Now the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it to its place.” So they said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty; but by all means return it to Him with a trespass offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.” Then they said, “What is the trespass offering which we shall return to Him?” They answered, “Five golden tumors and five golden rats, according to the number of the Lords of the Philistines. For the same plague was on all of you and on your Lords. Therefore you shall make images of your tumors and images of your rats that ravage the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will lighten His hand from you, from your gods, and from your land. Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He did mighty things among them, did they not let the people go, that they might depart? Now therefore, make a new cart, take two milk cows which have never been yoked, and hitch the cows to the cart; and take their calves home, away from them. Then take the ark of the Lord and set it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you are returning to Him as a trespass offering in a chest by its side. Then send it away, and let it go. And watch: if it goes up the road to its own territory, to Beth Shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we shall know that it is not His hand that struck us—it happened to us by chance.” Then the men did so; they took two milk cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. And they set the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the chest with the gold rats and the images of their tumors. Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or the left. And the Lords of the Philistines went after them to the border of Beth Shemesh. Now the people of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted their eyes and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. Then the cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and stood there; a large stone was there. So they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the chest that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone. Then the men of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices the same day to the Lord. So when the five Lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.”

‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭6‬:‭1‬-‭16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

As we are living with people in this world, we are influenced by people and influenced by the world in our lives. Our way of thinking is heavily influenced by people, and as a result, we are struggling to escape from anthropocentrism, although our lips might claim to live a theocentric faith life. In that sense, living as a disciple that is pleading to the Lord is not easy. The mind of man is very different from the mind of God. In fact, they are of different dimensions. When Stephen was dying, people might have thought, ‘It serves him right! He was so fanatical about his faith life. He didn’t have to be so extreme.’ But Jesus, in that moment, stood up and welcomed him. The same was true for the disciples and even John the Baptist.

People might think that he could have served God in a gentle, gracious manner, not aggressively and fanatically. He would not have had any personal life. Since he was a little boy, John the Baptist lived in seclusion, eating locusts and wild honey. He never got to dress in fine clothes. What pleasure in life did he have? He was solely used to prepare the way for Jesus. And if he was used by God in such a way, you would expect him to be blessed and prosperous. But he was beheaded and died. In the eyes of the people, he was wrongfully treated and cursed. People probably said he was cursed.

However, from a spiritual point of view, that is not true. Even with our Master Jesus, He bled and died on the cross when He came to the earth. So, how should we be as His disciples? Although we may think we are fervently living our faith lives, our faith life is actually at a level that our flesh can happily bear. Do you think it is because the times have changed? No, it is not. No matter how much the times have changed, if we are those who draw closer to the Lord in the spirit and obey, we would still be facing the same persecution and suffering as they did in the past and still be called accursed by other people.

Because we see the people around us as we live our faith lives, we tend to compare ourselves with others and without realizing it, we start to resemble them in our way of thinking. Plus, since we compare ourselves to them, we feel as though we are doing quite alright. However, that is only the mind of man.

God is already with us, and we are being used for the greater fulfilment of the promise that He gave Abraham – to be their God and be with them – namely Immanuel. Just as we are in fellowship with God, we are being used to lead more people to join in that fellowship with Him.

God dwells within us. And we are working so that a greater number of people can experience this wonderful fellowship we have. We are working for Immanuel. In the Old Testament times, when God was with them, it was not by the Spirit of God. Rather, they believed that it was by having the ark of the Law in their midst that God was with them. The ark of the Law was in the temple, and the temple was at the centre of the people. Hence, through physical means, they believed that God was with them.

So contrarily, if they lost the ark of the Law, God was not with them. And such happening did occur. During a battle, they lost the ark. Since they believed that if they took the ark with them to war, God would be with them, and they will have victory. They did not think of obeying God’s word but only thought of taking the ark with them to use it for their gain. However, they ended up losing the ark to the Philistines.

The Philistines placed the ark inside their king’s treasure house. But from that day on, tumors broke out on the people, and plagues came upon them. So the Philistines figured that it must be because they took the ark of God. Thus, they called their priests and diviners and asked what they should do. They were told to make golden rats since their land was being plagued and also golden tumors since the people were struck with tumors. Thus, they made them with gold to give as an offering. But another thing was that they had to return the ark. They decided they needed to give back the ark.

The ark belonged to a particular place, and it was not right for it to be with them. Hence, they also thought that it might be because of the ark that they were plagued. They were figuring out a way to return the ark. But just in case that it is not the ark that they were plagued for, they decided to do the following. They took two milk cows, which had never been yoked before. They have to be yoked to do any work in the fields. But these cows had never been yoked. Furthermore, they were not calves but milk cows, meaning they had calves. Hence, they were called milk cows. Those cows were there for the purpose of obtaining milk, not to work in the field. Nose rings are inserted into working cows, and then they are yoked to be put to strenuous work. They do not produce any milk.

But these cows had never been yoked, nor were they ever used for such work. They never pulled a cart before. It was not just one but two of those cows. If they are yoked together and pulling the same cart, they have to be in accord with each other. Otherwise, they cannot pull the cart. But these cows had calves also. They had baby cows. But their calves were left at home. So what would be on the cow’s mind? She would only be thinking of her calves at home, wanting to return home and feed them. And the calves would also be looking for their mother. They had never been separated before. This is a natural instinct that is given to all animals, and even humans have it too. It is natural for reproduction. It is similar to morals and ethics. Morals and ethics are imperative for people to reproduce and increase in number on earth. These are essential in a world where many people are living together.

These cows were made to pull a cart which had the ark on top of it, and they were sent away on the road. Once they climbed up the hill, if they headed towards Beth Shemesh, that is, towards the people of Israel, it would be astounding. It would be preposterous that these cows, not just one but two, that are full of milk and whose calves are in Philistine, were to move towards Israel with one accord irrespective of their natural instincts.

So, if the cows went towards Beth Shemesh, it would be completely against the laws of nature. It is impossible for that to happen. In a normal situation, those cows will turn around and head back home. Perhaps these cows shed tears because they longed to see their calves. Sometimes cows shed tears, as you know. But even so, they went in the direction that is opposite to the way they want to go. If any one of the two had other ideas, they probably could not go anywhere but get lost. But they headed towards Beth Shemesh together as if they had made a promise to each other.

Therefore, this was undoubtedly God’s doing. Those priests and diviners also said that if the cows did go on their own to Beth Shemesh, it is God’s will, and we cannot hinder it. So that is what they did. The cows headed for Beth Shemesh, lowing as they went and finally arrived at the place where the ark originally belonged.

When the people of Israel found them, they were probably overjoyed. And they placed the ark in its rightful place. But what did they do with the milk cows? They slaughtered them and sacrificed them as burnt offerings. The cows that were used by God in transporting the ark of God could not be used for anything else afterwards.

Do you know the incense that is made to be burned in the temple for God? That incense is for God and has a pleasant aroma. If anybody made that incense to use at home for personal use, he would die. He is not permitted to do so because it is sacred. Similarly, when the cows had done their part in the sacred work of transporting the ark of God, which is the most important part of Immanuel, the cows were not sent back home. Instead, they were slaughtered and butchered on the spot, burned as a burnt offering. So what about the calves? They will live without their mother all their lives. But that is the way it is. That is the rightful duty of a creature used for the transporting of God’s ark.

From man’s perspective, it seems unfair, wrong and disputable. But this is rightful in terms of serving God. The cows might feel unjustly treated. Today, as we are being used in the fulfilment of God’s Immanuel like those cows, unless we leave our family, wife and children, homes, fields and everything else to follow Jesus, we will not be worthy of Him, Jesus said. So we are being used like those milk cows.

People might call us pitiful or speak regretfully about us. However, this is the way Jesus went, and we are not as pitiable as those cows of the past because we have a greater hope. We sow with perishable things to reap the imperishable. We sow very little but will reap 30, 60, 100 times fruit. In heaven, we will receive an incomparable reward. We will gain incomparably more than what we gave up on the earth.

He promised that. Everything we have to enjoy on earth is limited and can only be had for a number of decades. However, what we will receive in heaven is everlasting. Thus, when God makes us do this work, which appears unfair, He is doing so because He is completely confident He can give us greater happiness. He can tell us to sacrifice because He will repay us for everything.

Therefore, even if we are unjustly and unreasonably treated on this earth, we have hope and joy when we look unto heaven. If we regard ourselves highly, we would not be able to do that. However, we are mere creatures, no different from those milk cows. We are nothing more than those cows. We were originally sinners. Which is better between the two: a sinner or a cow? The cow. A sinner is God’s enemy, detestable to God. A cow, on the other hand, is just a creation that is nothing after death. In that sense, the cow is better. From God’s perspective, the cow did more according to God’s will. If we did according to our original deeds, we are the devil. The devil. For this reason, we ought to do far more than the cows did, even though we are still falling short of that.

To us who are serving God Immanuel, God gave the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God’s blood. Therefore, it is befitting that we say, “God, I will gladly work like a cow.” When we do that, humbling ourselves, God will give a great reward and exalt us, for He promised so. Let us pray, asking to be filled in our spirits with such humility and hope.

God our Father, thank You that we have come to know You out of the countless sinners and be used for Your work, just as those cows out of many were used for that precious work. Since we have received a great grace, help us to never forget who we were no matter what trials or unfair treatment we face, and be filled with gratitude, joy and happiness in our hearts. We realize that the hardships and unjust treatment we face on earth cannot be compared to the rewards in heaven. Help us to overcome this world by having the fullness of hope in heaven. Help us not to quarrel over the things of this world so that we can display true faith. Father God, despite the many ordeals we may have in the flesh, help us to be filled with happiness and joy in our spirits by the fact that our God is with us. Help us to have many deep fellowships with God. God gave up His Son for us and thus understands the heart of those cows that shed tears as they went. Since even God has done this, help us to do more so before You, Father God. Fill us by the Holy Spirit that we may fulfil Your work. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on November 13, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team