Posts Tagged ‘bargaining with God’

1 Samuel 6:1-18
The Philistines Return the Ark

Last night, at the dinner table, as has been our practice here lately, we read one of the Psalms. We have been reading through them consecutively for about two months. Not every night but most nights where we are home for dinner. We read it and then we discuss what the Psalm means (using the footnotes in our study Bible to make sure that we are not too far off course as to the true meaning of the passage) and how that affects us. Last night, we read Psalm 35. In that psalm, David laments about being under attack. David laments about the difference between evil and righteous people. David calls out to the Lord to deliver him. Elena mentioned something that I kind of thought myself but was afraid to verbalize it was that toward the end of the psalm, it almost sounds like David is bargaining with God. God if you do this, then I will praise you. We both discussed out that would seem so out of character for David. Though David was a flawed man in many ways (particularly when it comes to family relationships and women), he was a man after God’s own heart. He loved the Lord. He respected the Lord. He is greatest joy was in the Lord and following the Lord’s commands. How then, can he in that psalm seem as though he is expecting God to do so something as if it is almost a demand – that he is somehow equal to the Lord such that he can demand things from Him.

But is that really what David was doing? Was he really bargaining with God? Or was he a godly man simply asking and pleading with God to demonstrate His power to David’s enemies. Sure, David would benefit from that, but the most important thing to David was that God be glorified in the process. I don’t think that David was being inconsistent with his understanding of and his deep and abiding relationship with God. He was not like us after a hard night of drinking and now making offerings to the porcelain god from the very depths of our stomach and bargaining with God about how we will never drink again if God will just make it stop. David was being pursued for the threat that he posed to the kingship of Saul. David was God’s anointed future king. It is similar to say a Christian in an Islamic prison for being a Christian and being tortured for it. It is not bargaining. It is calling out to God to end our suffering. It is calling out to God to show and demonstrate His power to our enemies. To say that we will praise him for that is not so much bargaining as it is promising God that we will celebrate Him so mightily when He delivers us from the clutches of evil that has been forced upon us. David is asking God to show His power and that He will celebrate Him when He does. David had a firm faith that God would deliver and vindicate those who chased after God’s heart.

That idea of the difference between bargaining with God and promising God to celebrate Him when we are delivered by His power is what I thought about again this morning when I read this passage, 1 Samuel 6:1-18. Let’s read it together now:

Chapter 6

1The Ark of the Lord remained in Philistine territory seven months in all. 2 Then the Philistines called in their priests and diviners and asked them, “What should we do about the Ark of the Lord? Tell us how to return it to its own country.”

3 “Send the Ark of the God of Israel back with a gift,” they were told. “Send a guilt offering so the plague will stop. Then, if you are healed, you will know it was his hand that caused the plague.”

4 “What sort of guilt offering should we send?” they asked.

And they were told, “Since the plague has struck both you and your five rulers, make five gold tumors and five gold rats, just like those that have ravaged your land. 5 Make these things to show honor to the God of Israel. Perhaps then he will stop afflicting you, your gods, and your land. 6 Don’t be stubborn and rebellious as Pharaoh and the Egyptians were. By the time God was finished with them, they were eager to let Israel go.

7 “Now build a new cart, and find two cows that have just given birth to calves. Make sure the cows have never been yoked to a cart. Hitch the cows to the cart, but shut their calves away from them in a pen. 8 Put the Ark of the Lord on the cart, and beside it place a chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors you are sending as a guilt offering. Then let the cows go wherever they want. 9 If they cross the border of our land and go to Beth-shemesh, we will know it was the Lord who brought this great disaster upon us. If they don’t, we will know it was not his hand that caused the plague. It came simply by chance.”

10 So these instructions were carried out. Two cows were hitched to the cart, and their newborn calves were shut up in a pen. 11 Then the Ark of the Lord and the chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors were placed on the cart. 12 And sure enough, without veering off in other directions, the cows went straight along the road toward Beth-shemesh, lowing as they went. The Philistine rulers followed them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.

13 The people of Beth-shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley, and when they saw the Ark, they were overjoyed! 14 The cart came into the field of a man named Joshua and stopped beside a large rock. So the people broke up the wood of the cart for a fire and killed the cows and sacrificed them to the Lord as a burnt offering. 15 Several men of the tribe of Levi lifted the Ark of the Lord and the chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors from the cart and placed them on the large rock. Many sacrifices and burnt offerings were offered to the Lord that day by the people of Beth-shemesh. 16 The five Philistine rulers watched all this and then returned to Ekron that same day.

17 The five gold tumors sent by the Philistines as a guilt offering to the Lord were gifts from the rulers of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 The five gold rats represented the five Philistine towns and their surrounding villages, which were controlled by the five rulers. The large rock[a] at Beth-shemesh, where they set the Ark of the Lord, still stands in the field of Joshua as a witness to what happened there.

In this passage, we see the Philistine priests of their false gods and diviners devised a test to see if God was really the One who had caused all their recent troubles. Two cows who had just given birth and had never previously been yoked were hitched to a cart and sent toward Israel’s border carry the Ark of the Covenant. This was significant in that (1) a mother cow leaving her nursing calf would go against her very nature as a mother (her nature would have been to search and find her nursing calf) and (2) the fact that the cows had never been yoked would have most likely caused the cows to work against each other and wander around aimlessly if they got anywhere at all. Only God, who has the power of the natural order of the universe could cause this to happen. God sent the cows directly toward Israel. God did not do this to pass some test that the Philistines had devised but rather to show them His mighty power. How often do we devise tests for God…if you do this then I will do that? How often should we be asking God simply to show His mighty power in our lives?

Do you know the difference between bargaining with God and praising God for His deliverance? Here the Philistines were basically bargaining with the God of Israel. If you do this Lord, then, we will know that it was you that caused our plague. So, they put God to the test. If this happens, then this God of Israel is real. If not it’s just chance. How often do we play this game? God, I need a sign from you before I will believe in you. If you do this, then, I will believe in you. If you get me out of this jam, I will give my life to you. If you get me out of this financial trouble, I will believe in you. If you find me a boyfriend or a girlfriend, I will believe in you. If you find me a husband or a wife, I will believe in you.

There is a big difference between that kind of “if…then” temporary life changes like the Philistines and the real deal like David. Let us be a people that pray to God to have His way in our lives. Let us be a people who firmly believe and have faith that God will deliver us from times of trouble not because we deserve it but because God is that powerful. We have faith in Him and one who is faithful to us. We have confidence that no matter how bad a situation gets that God will deliver us and set us on high ground. We want to celebrate that. Bargaining with God is selfish and prideful. Celebrating God’s power to deliver and trust that He will do it. We have no doubt about it. We believe in Him that firmly. Not just when we get in a jam. We believe that God will deliver because we believe in how powerful He is. We do not have the Philistinic “if…then” kind of faith. We have the Davidic faith that God will deliver and man how we will celebrate that when He does it. That’s a big difference don’t you think?

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 4)

The Levites Dedicated

Have you ever made a promise to God that you would do something for Him or stop doing something if he gets you out of jam? Many of us do that. Whether it be as crass as a person who, as they say, is “john-hugging drunk” and is, as they say, “making offerings to the porcelain god” where a person swears to God they will never drink again (only to renege on the promise a week later). There are times when we are sober that make deals with God too. If God will stop the pain of a situation such as a broken relationship, where it is simply hard for us to get out of bed in the morning, we may make deals with God if He will just stop the emotional pain that we are experiencing. Other times, we have situations where our lives may be physically in danger and there is seemingly no way out of the situation where we bargain with God. In a lot of this bargaining, we promise to do better. We promise to curtail our bad behaviors. We promise to go to church more often. We promise to read our Bibles more. We generally promise to dedicate ourselves to the Lord in ways that are impossible to maintain. After the crisis, we find it is difficult to be as good as we thought we could be during the time of crisis when we made the promise. When things don’t improve or the situation does not go away, we become disillusioned with the promise that we made to God because we think He did not keep up his end of the bargain. We get angry with God because He did not change our circumstances or we simply find this “churchy” lifestyle more than we are willing to do. Have you ever been there, done that? I know that I have before Jesus became my Savior and Lord.


Another example is when we go to church are hear the great music that touches a chord in our souls and the sermon is truly convicting to us and then that final song just creates a well of emotion within us. So much so that we are drawn to come down to the altar at the church during the altar call at the end of the service. We have full intentions of becoming a believer in Jesus Christ but after we leave the church on a spiritual high we find that life is the same. We have the same friends. We have the same lifestyle. Problems still exist. It’s still hard to pay the bills. Your husband, wife, or kids are acting no better. You seem to make the same choices and end up in the same situations. You end up doing the same behaviors over and over again. When nothing seems to have changed you fall away from this spiritual high that you had and the internal promises to do better. These “spiritual warm fuzzies” as I call them are similar to the bargains with God discussed above. The spiritual warm fuzzies are bargains with God as well. It is not a crisis situation often. It’s just a desire to be better and do better. When life doesn’t change the way we expect it to, the bargain we made does not pan out the way we want, we fall away from the Lord.


When we go to church for what church can do for us is another example. When we go to church because it is the cool church to be at. When we go to church so that we can work our way into being buddies with the pastor so that it seems that we are holy. When we go to church for the political connections that we can make. When we go to church so that we can get patted on the back for our talents and ingenuity. When we go to church to get praise for the amount of money that we give to the church. When we go to church to have power that we do not have in our non-church life. When we go to church because our best friend goes there. When go to church because the church has programs to that meet the need of my kids. When we go to church because we get to be on a committee or the chairman of a committee. We are bargaining with God. We are wanting payback for living a certain way. We want our needs met. We will always be disappointed when we bargain with God. We have the relationship all out of whack when we bargain with God.


It is this idea of making bargains with God that struck me this morning. It was the wave offering that was mentioned in this passage that brought the idea to mind because I got to wondering what’s the difference between bargains we make with God and the wave offerings in the Old Testament. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on v. 11 for today after we have read through it:


5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.


12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.


15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”


20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.


23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”


It is the wave offering that caught my attention this morning. What is it? I had never really noticed this concept before when reading in the Old Testament even though it is there in other Old Testament books that I have studied. So, let’s find out what it is and what it means. According to, a wave offering is:


The wave offering, part of the offerings of the Mosaic Law, was the symbolic act indicating that the offering was for the Lord. Portions of the things offered were literally waved in the air before the Lord. The wave offering is first seen in Exodus 29:19-28 in the description of the ordination ceremony of Aaron and his sons… A wave offering was a portion of a sacrifice presented to God, then released by God for the use of those involved in the sacrifice. The meat fed the families of the priests. The Levites served first the tabernacle and then the temple, fulfilling the obligation of the rest of the Israelites. Both were God’s provision for those who sacrificed themselves in service to Him.


I guess then the difference between our bargains with God and the wave offerings is then a matter of intent. A wave offering was offered up to the Lord when a true dedication was made, when a real sacrifice was made. The Levites gave up all rights to land and the fruits of it to be dedicated to the service of the Lord. That’s the difference to me between bargaining with the Lord and a wave offering. When we are willing to give up those things that are important to us, the gods of our own making, to be dedicated to the Lord it is different. When we do not see salvation as giving something up but rather gaining something, then we are wave offerings. When we see that we have gained eternity and are willing to follow the Lord and not romanticize our pre-salvation past, then, we are wave offerings. When we realize that we are sinners before a just and righteous God and are willing to follow Him and obey His Word willingly no matter what happens, no matter the cost to us, then we are wave offerings. When we experience real life change where we are in love with God, then, we are wave offerings. When we see life in Jesus as the beginning of a new and better life rather than trying to maintain a life of do’s and don’ts, then, we are wave offering.


When we get down on our knees in realization that we are destined for hell and that there is no amount of good stuff that we can do, no amount of service that we can bring, no amount of money we can give, no committee chairmanship great enough, no goody-two-shoe behavior excellent enough, no being friends with the right people at church enough, no being close friends with the preacher enough, no bargains big enough that we can make, to make us right with God and we fall at the feet of Jesus and beg Him to grant us peace and ask Him to be the Lord of our lives and change us from the inside out, we are wave offerings. It only through true salvation, knowing that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace and that in the absence of Jesus Christ we are simply hypocrites playing a game, that we can become fully dedicated to the Lord. It is only then that we are truly a wave offering. Anything less is just a bargain that we can’t keep. When we sacrifice our desires and make Christ’s desires our desire, we are wave offerings. When there is humility before the Lord, we are wave offerings. When we place God first and seek His ways and not our own, we are wave offerings. When we realize that we are not in a position to bargain with the Creator of the Universe and that we are not on equal footing to Him and simply fall before His feet and beg His grace and seek His face and humbly serve Him because He granted us grace, then, and only then are we wave offerings to the Lord. All-in. Fully dedicated. Seeing the sacrifices that we made of our old life as gain rather than loss. Understanding who God really is for the first time through the changing power of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Understanding how lucky we are to have Jesus Christ as our Savior. And we jump full-in, all-out into this life dedicated to the will of God (and realizing that we will still make tons of mistakes and that life will not be perfect), we are wave offerings then and not bargainers who have no leverage to bargain but falsely believe that we do.


Amen and Amen.