In my last post, we saw how God used the defeat of Israel to provide an opening for the Israelites to escape from idolatry. Since the Jews had turned the Ark of the Covenant into an idol that they trusted rather than God, God allowed the Ark to be taken from them. In doing so, He showed them that the Ark itself is nothing but a symbol of His greatness with the goal that they return to Him. Sometimes it is the most painful lessons from God that are filled with the most mercy. God Tears Down Our Idols
In our reading of the Old Testament, we can sometimes be tempted to think that God only provides mercy to the Jewish people. It can seem that way sometimes as the story centers around Israel. The surrounding peoples are generally a very bad bunch. But if we continue through the account of the capture of the Ark that we started yesterday, we will see that God speaks to all peoples, not just the Israelites. It may be in a different context, but God even provides a way of escape for even the most determined enemies.
After capturing the Ark, the Philistines put it in the Temple of Dagon, the place where they worship the false god of prosperity Dagon. They set it before a statue of this false god as a statement that Dagon has led them to defeat the God of Israel. It is a trophy of their victory over the Israelites and their God. The Philistines would have seen this as an affirmation of their choice to worship this idol of prosperity. We serve Dagon, therefore, we get the victory is their belief.
We have already established that the Ark of the Covenant is just a box and that God allowed it to fall into their hands to give clarity to Israel. God knows this and their offense becomes clear to the Israelites. So God could have left the Ark where it was, knowing that its placement reflected ignorance or rebellion on the part of the Philistines. They are pagans doing what pagans do. But God is not content to leave anyone in idol worship. He makes Himself known and provides a way of escape if they want to take it.
In 1 Samuel 5, an interesting thing happens to the statue of Dagon after the Ark is set in place. It is put before the statue of Dagon to show off Dagon’s power over the God of Israel. It is supposed to be a position of inferiority. Yet, when the Philistines come back to the Temple the following morning they find the statue of Dagon has fallen on its face before the Ark of the Lord.
Dagon is the god of the Philistines. He is the one source of fertility and abundance according to their idolatry. And the statue depicting this supposedly powerful deity is prostrate in a posture of submission and worship before the symbolic dwelling place of the Lord Most High. It is quite a picture.
It might be just a gold box, but it is God’s gold box and even fake gods are made to bow to it.
In response to this very clear picture, what do you think the Philistines do? Admit their idolatry and fall on their knees before the Most High God? No way, that would be way too easy. They pick up the statue and put in back in its place. It must have been a mistake, possibly a localized earthquake they rationalize. Let’s prop this piece of rock back up and worship it some more.
When they come back the following morning, the statue is again on its face before the Ark and God has resolved any ambiguity about His message. The statues head and hands were cut off and were lying separately from the statue on the threshold of the Temple. God has literally torn down and crushed their idol right before their faces. Can He get any more clear?
The supposed god of the Philistines is broken in pieces before the Ark of the Lord. Though God allowed the Ark to be captured as a lesson to the Israelites, He is not subject to anyone much less a fake fish god.
It is an awesome statement to all man of God’s power!
The Philistines are caught up in a pagan idolatry that is leading them to destruction. They have rejected God and are in a state of constant warfare with God’s people, the Israelites. They are really far away from the Lord by their own choice. Yet, when they capture the symbol of God’s dwelling place and try to defile it by putting it before a false god, God does not instantly strike them all down dead. Rather, God first takes on their idol and emphatically and symbolically destroys it.
Can the Philistines get a clearer picture that they are on the wrong team than the statue of their god bowing before the Ark? It is a flashing neon sign to them that they are doing it wrong. REPENT…REPENT…REPENT!
They are shown that Dagon can do absolutely nothing to save himself much less help them and God still doesn’t strike them down.
God speaks through this act and shows them who He really is and why they are wrong to serve anything else…and then waits.
He doesn’t destroy them like Dagon. He gives them the information, seems to offer them a choice and waits to see what they did.
Sadly, the Philistines make the wrong choice. They take the Ark return it to the Israelites. They then get out the Crazy Glue and begin piecing Dagon back together. When they get him standing up again, they go back to worshipping him.
When we read it in the Bible it seems crazy. Why in the world do they not see it?
But people do it every day, believers and non-believers alike. God exposes their false religion, reliance and idolatry. He tears down all things that are holding them captive. He sets them free. Rather than rejoice, their response is to fight against the exposure, shut their eyes and push the agents of truth away from them. They then rebuild their altars and idols and return to worshipping them. If a favorite politician they have been relying upon is shown to be a crook and a swindler, rather then turn to the next man up rather than the God who can really fix their problems.
If people don’t want to see the truth, they will do everything possible to not see it. Like a military stronghold on wartime, idols are heavily defended.
What about us as Christians? Are we elevating anything above our Lord in this life? God will strike it down or expose it.
When God has that idol come crashing down, are we ready to flee from it?
If anything gets in the way of God in our lives, what should we do? It could be as obvious as drugs or as innocuos as soccer games on Sunday.
What is our choice – God or Dagon?