So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
1 Samuel 6:10-12
In I Samuel 4 & 5 we read how the Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant and bring it back to their land. In anger God smites them with plagues of rats and tumors. After quite a bit of heartache, the Philistine priests and diviners suggest a solution. They decide to make a new cart and place the ark on it. Then they will take two nursing cows away from their calves and hitch them to this cart. These cows had never been in a yoke or pulled a cart before. They had never been to Israel before. By nature everything in these cows would compel them to return to their calves immediately. The Philistines reasoned that if the cows were to return the Ark of the Covenant to Israel then they could be certain that it was indeed God who had been plaguing them. If not, then perhaps it was just a coincidence.
An amazing thing happened. Those two cows pulled the cart away from their calves and went straight up to Israel without turning to the right or to the left lowing all the way. Now, I don't know a lot about cows so I asked someone who does whether cows low when they are happy or sad. He told me that cows low when they are sad. And without knowing why I was asking the question, he added that when you take their calves away to wean them, cows will low and bawl for days.
You and I can learn a lot about how we should serve God from these two cows. Though it meant leaving their calves behind (possibly to die without their mother's milk), and though it meant that they themselves would be sacrificed to the Lord (I Samuel 6:14), these cows obeyed the Lord's leading and went straight up toward Israel. Oh that we would serve God with such faithfulness! Though the cows bawled over the sacrifice God was asking them to make, they still went straight up after God's will without wavering or turning to the right or left.
Now, one could argue that the cows didn't have a say in the matter. Who knows whether cows have some form of free will. Somehow I missed that class in seminary. But I do know this: when I stand before God and am judged for how obedient I was to Him and His word, I don't want to be showed up by any cows! So regardless of whether or not cows have free will before God, the simple truth is they followed God's bidding. And if a cow can do it, then I can too.
I know that there will be times when you and I mourn over what God asks us to sacrifice on the altar of His glory. Yet, even in our mourning let us go straight up after His will. Even if it means laying down our very lives, let's not stray to the right or to the left.
For further reading...
- I Samuel 4-6: Get the whole story.