God's Unseen Work

John D. Barry

We often fail to discern when and how it happens: God will work something out in our lives that seems virtually impossible. We get an unexpected insight into the workings of God in 1 Sam 5.

After defeating Israel in battle, the Philistines stole the ark of the covenant, recognizing it as a powerful weapon of war. They didn’t realize that it couldn’t be wielded by human hands. They set it up next to the idol of their god, Dagon, unaware that the ark was the representation of Yahweh on earth. Yahweh does what He wills. In this case, He willed the ark to be returned to Israel, so He destroyed the idol and afflicted the people with disease. First Samuel notes, “The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people,” (1 Sam 5:6); in fact, it was so heavy that the Philistines wanted the ark gone. After seven months, they returned it to the Israelites (1 Sam 6:10–16).

If the Philistines could recognize the work of Yahweh among them, you would think the Israelites could do the same. They should have responded to the ark’s return by praising God, rejoicing, and turning back to Him. But in their failure to discern God’s hand in the event, they continued to worship foreign gods until Samuel, their judge and prophet, demanded that they change their actions (1 Sam 7).

This illustrates a problem with our perception of God’s work: We fail to see His work on our behalf and chalk things up to circumstance or coincidence. We stick with our idols because it’s easier than admitting the truth to ourselves—for the moment we acknowledge God is at work, we must turn away from the easy path of selfish ambitions and actions.

When God’s people pray, He answers—often in unexpected and miraculous ways. While we don’t often see His hand at work, we do have an opportunity each day to look for God acting among us and turn away from anything we put in His place. Let’s do so today.

Where have you seen God working in your life? What idols is He asking you to turn away from?

This article was originally published in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.