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Free will offers choice to obey or rebel

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They didn’t have a choice.

We read in I Samuel about how God allowed the Philistines to capture the Israelites’ most important possession — the Ark of the Covenant. However, after seven months of dealing with boils, tumors and death, the enemies of God were desperately ready to send the ark back to its rightful place.

The suggestion was made. Here, I’ll just let you read it.

“7 Now therefore, take and prepare a new cart and two milch (milk) cows on which there has never been a yoke; and hitch the cows to the cart and take their calves home, away from them. 8 Take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you return to Him as a guilt offering in a box by its side. Then send it away that it may go. 9 Watch, if it goes up by the way of its own territory to Beth-shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we will know that it was not His hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance,” — 1 Samuel 6:7-9.

What happened? Well, Scripture says the cows headed straight for the Israelite city — lowing all the way — never turning to the right or the left. These creatures had no idea how to pull a cart or even work together. They were milk cows, not plow cows. And add to the impossibility of the situation by remembering that these were “mama cows” with trapped young.

Everything in them — physically and naturally — was telling them to go home, not the direction of Beth Shemesh. The probability of the ark actually returning to Israel was about the same as a 2-year-old being able to fill out the financial statement for a multi-billion-dollar company.

It just shouldn’t have happened. Yet, it did. Against all odds, the cows pushed forward, and the ark returned to its rightful place.

“How?” you might ask. Well, you see, the cows had to go to Beth Shemesh. The creatures had to obey their Creator. They couldn’t just put off the trip and return home.

They didn’t have a choice. But we do.

We have a choice to obey the directives of God. His commandments are very plain and clearly outlined in Scripture. However, we have a choice of whether to ignore what He says about how we use our words for kindness or for anger. We have a choice whether or not we respect our spouse. We have a choice that we will be honest and forthright with our business associates. We have a choice not to embitter our children. We have a choice whether or not to actively belong to a Bible-believing Body of Christ.

God has given us the ability to choose, even if that means we choose to disobey.

There is so much wisdom to be gained here, but for the sake of the length of this column, let’s just stick with one “take-home.” Choose to follow the way of Christ. Stand firm on Joshua 24:15: “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

The choice is yours — choose wisely, my friend. Choose to obey Christ.

Prayer: “Father, You know all. You know my rising up and my lying down. You know everything about me. You know me, and because of that, You also know my frailties. Please help me today to listen to You, to seek out my path in Your Word. Then like the cows, help me to obey and not become distracted. Help me to choose wisely. Thank You, Father. I love You.”

Steve and Belinda Kirk write the “Everyday Grace” devotional for the Johnstonian News. Reach them at 919-449-5745 and