1 Samuel 5
5 After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. 3 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. 4 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. 5 That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.
6 The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors. 7 When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god.” 8 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?”
They answered, “Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath.” So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.
9 But after they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. 10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron.
As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.” 11 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy on it. 12 Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.
The victorious Philistines take the ark of the Lord’s covenant to the temple of their deity Dagon and set it by the side of their idol. The account that follows is almost comical as the idol Dagon is found the next day, fallen on its face, even though the practice of such worshippers was to fasten their idols so they would be secure (Isaiah 41:7). What foolishness to pray for help to an idol that needed their help to stand up. How could they attribute their victory to the power of Dagon when Dagon hadn’t enough power to hold his own ground?
Still, the Philistines continue to revere their Dagon, and they’re in fact content to worship a multitude of gods, so the ark of the covenant is added to the collection. But, the God of Israel does not want worship if He is not worshipped alone. The power of God’s heavy hand of judgment on the Philistines must have stood in sharp contrast to the powerless (and finally dismembered) Dagon, yet they would not give up their worthless idols and turn to the living God.
When it is portrayed this way, the worship of idols looks so obviously foolish, but we too have our idols, the subtle 21st Century kind. Let us take the warnings of this passage to once more consider whether there is anything in our lives that we’ve set up next to God.
Prayer: Father, You are the great God of highest heaven, maker of all things seen and unseen. You are infinite in Your perfections, majestic in Your holiness, and glorious in Your love, Your mercy, and Your grace. O Lord, help us to see You in the wonder of who You are, so far beyond all we can imagine, but so close that You call us Your children. We stand in awe that You came in human likeness in Jesus Christ Your son, and we praise You, Lord Jesus, that in humility You did for us what we could never have done for ourselves. As we reflect on these things, may our ultimate trust, our love, our joy, and our hope be in You, and in nothing else.