I often think of them as big, dumb oafs. Goliath is probably the most well-known of this Cromagnum race. I picture him as a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Hulk with a little Andrae the Giant thrown in for good measure.
The sixth chapter of 1 Samuel tells us about them. The Philistines and the Israelites were at war. God wasn’t about to bless the Israelites in battle while they were dead-set (pun intended) on handling the war in their own strength. When things got dicey and it looked like they might lose, the wicked sons of Eli the priest pulled out their lucky rabbit’s foot—the ark of God—and carried it into battle. The Philistines defeated the Israelites and captured the revered Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of Israel’s might and power.
This is when the story really gets interesting. In every city where the ark was housed, plagues broke out. Thousands died from painful tumors, and cities were overrun with rats (probably carrying the Bubonic plague.)
And while the Philistines were known more for their brawn than their brains, it didn’t take them long to connect the dots. “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is harsh toward us and Dagon our god” (1 Sam 5:7). Even their wise men agreed—the ark had to go. To continue to deny that the true God, the God of Israel, was behind these events was simply foolish. “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 . . . ?” (1 Sam. 6:6).
Unfortunately, even though the light bulb turned on for the Philistines, they didn’t apply their understanding to their personal lives. Although they acknowledged that the God of Israel had done mighty things among them, they didn’t take the next logical step and place their faith in Him for their salvation.
In contrast, citizens of another pagan city, Jericho, also had the opportunity to hear of and see the God of Israel at work. Listen to the testimony of Rahab, one of the city’s less-than-upstanding citizens, “I know that the Lord has given you the land. . . For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt. . . and as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted.”
Unlike the Philistines, however, Rahab didn’t just acknowledge that God was mighty, powerful, and able to do miracles, she went a step further. She applied the truth about God to her own life: “. . . For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”
She heard and saw what God could do, and she acknowledged him as her Savior. She moved from head knowledge to heart knowledge, from intellectual assent to wholehearted acceptance.
And then, as is always the case with a true faith experience, she staked her life on the truth she had accepted. She tied the scarlet cord the spies gave her to her window, turned her back on her pagan lifestyle, and waited with her family in faith and trust for God’s deliverance.
Today, which type of hearer are you?
Are you a Philistine—one who has heard about God and acknowledged his work in the world, but has never wholeheartedly committed your life to him? Or are you a Rahab—one who has seen what God has done in the world, repented of your sins, and placed your faith and trust in him for your salvation?
The Philistines were eventually annihilated as a race. In contrast, one of the descendants of Rahab became the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Saving faith always demonstrates itself by action. What would your actions demonstrate about the state of your faith? Don’t be a Philistine – one who watches God work from a distance but never knows him personally. Be a Rahab—one who experiences how God wants to use us, change us, and give us life and purpose.
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