The Doubters. Facing unimaginable Odds Series, part 12

Train station in Amsterdam

We were prepared. We had looked online and found all the train schedules that went from Schiphol, Netherlands to the coast of Belgium, and now that we were in the Netherland with this information at hand, we approached the TV screen announcing train departures with a smile.

Unfortunately, that smile quickly changed to a frown. All the cities displayed on the bulletin board were located in the Netherlands. There was no mention of cities in Belgium, nor any other foreign country!

We scratched our heads as we began to doubt which train to take. There were no train personnel around, and the only way to get our tickets was through a machine. Aha! Surely the train ticket would tell us which train to take!

Those machines indeed let us book our tickets to Belgium, but because the tickets were good for the entire day, they didn't mention specifically which train to take! So much for my impeccable reasoning! (To tell you the truth, it has been gone for a long time!)

Doubt makes us question our decisions and the more we doubt, the more confused we will become. This has been the norm since the beginning of the fall of mankind. Let's take for example, the battle at Aphek, between the Israelites and the Philistines. The Israelites went into battle with a smile on their faces. God was, after all, their God!

When events didn't turn out the way they expected, however, and they lost "four thousand of them (Israelite soldiers) on the battlefield." (1 Samuel 4:2, NIV2), they started to doubt as well: "Why did the LORD bring defeat on us today before the Philistines?" (1 Samuel 4:3b, NIV2)

Sooner or later we all begin to depend on our ingenuity to find solutions to our problems. This happened when we expected our train tickets to indicate which train to take, and it happened to Israel. In Israel's case they decided: "Let us bring the ark of the LORD's covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies." (1 Samuel 4:3c, NIV2)

The only problem in both cases is that both Israel and I failed to ask God directly for guidance! Is it any wonder that we couldn't find our train? Is it any wonder that the unthinkable occurred for Israel, 30 000 Israelite foot soldiers lost and the ark of God was captured by the enemy (See 1 Samuel 4: 10)?

I can easily imagined how discouraged these Israelites had become. They had lost everything! Who would stand for God?

But then, does God need anyone to stand for Him? Isn't He in control after all?

To add insult to injure, the Ark of the Covenant was transported into the temple of the Philistines' god, Dagon, in the city of Ashdod. But God knows how to take care of Himself, and a surprise awaited the inhabitants of Ashdod the very next morning: "When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place." (1 Samuel 5:3, NIV2)

They must have concluded that some unknown natural accident had happened to Dagon's statue during the night as they put it back into place. However the very next morning a bigger surprise awaited them: "But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained." (1 Samuel 5:4, NIV2)

Now the people of Ashdod started to doubt. They couldn't help but wonder: "What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?" (1 Samuel 5:8, NIV2)

When tumors started to afflict them, they send the Ark of the Covenant to another town, and when the people of that town began experiencing the same thing, it was again sent to yet another town! And when the people of the third town began experiencing virulent tumors, the Philistine priests came up with a solution: Let's send it back to Israel!

Still doubt persisted, even though God had clearly demonstrated who was in charge. The Philistines put the ark in a cart. They attached the cart to two cows, and they kept watching these cows diligently. They even filled the ark with golden gifts. They knew that "probably" everything that had happened in regards to that ark could not have happened by chance, and they wanted to appease Israel's God in case He was at the source of the epidemic! Still they doubted, so . . .

". . . Keep watching it (The cart driven by two cows). If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the LORD has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance." (1 Samuel 6:9, NIV2)

To the dismay of all these Philistines, those cows went straight to Beth Shemesh, thus erasing all doubt.

How much doubt could be avoided if we went straight to God for direction! The battle between the Philistines and the Israelites could have been won by Israel if they had been prepared to rely on God. Prayers take only nanoseconds to arrive in Heaven, and they can be uttered at any time. If we follow where God leads, peace will follow. But if we make our own decisions without consulting God, only doubt and confusion will result.

How often do we have to face unnecessary trials before we realize that our God is way greater than any of our adversities (See 1 John 4:4)! He can see us through anything, if only we will listen to Him.

Once we decided to let God lead us to the Belgian seacoast, we had no trouble getting on the right train. Our God is in control after all!

Why doubt?

Rob Chaffart

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