From 1 Samuel 4-8
First Samuel records the establishment of Israel’s monarchy, about 1050 B.C. Samuel led Israel for many years in the combined roles of prophet, priest, and judge. After the people demanded a king like those of the other nations (ch. 8), God directed Samuel to anoint Saul as Israel’s first king. When Saul turned from God, David was anointed by Samuel to succeed him. After David killed the giant Goliath, he was brought to Saul’s court, eventually becoming the leader of Saul’s armies. Saul’s subsequent violent jealousy forced David to flee. The book closes with Saul’s death in battle, and looks forward to David’s reign. First Samuel’s author is unknown, but Samuel himself may have written portions of the book (see 1 Chron. 29:29). (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Sa). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)
Israel dropped the ball so to speak and lost the ark of the covenant to the Philistines. But the LORD is still mighty. With and without Israel the LORD wins victories and spiritual battles over his enemies. Today’s message is a reminder the LORD does not need us.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Israel had rejected the LORD, but they still thought by bringing the ark of the covenant into battle with them they could win over the Philistines. They were mistaken. The ark was taken and when Eli heard his sons were killed in the battle and the ark was taken he fell over and broke his neck (1 Sam 4).
Our passage today describes what happened to the Philistines who took the ark.
5 When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon.
3 And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place.
4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him.
5 This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day. (1 Sam 5.1-5)
What we see here is a spiritual battle and the LORD is much greater and stronger than Dagon. It’s clear as well, that Israel may be unfaithful. But that does not impede the LORD. He acts on his own, with or without his people.
Over two nights the LORD defeated Dagon. The last battle left Dagon beyond repair and this left a lasting impression on their priests.
The LORD is the true God. He is mighty.
6 The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. 7 And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said,
“The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.”
8 So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said,
“What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?”
“Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.”
So they brought the ark of the God of Israel there. (1 Sam 5.6-8)
The Philistines repeatedly acknowledge God – ‘the ark of the God of Israel’. The LORD was not only in battle with the false gods. He afflicted the Philistine people as well. So they decided to move the ark somewhere else.
9 But after they had brought it around, the hand of the LORD was against the city, causing a very great panic, and he afflicted the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them.
10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. (1 Sam 5.9-10)
They keep moving the ark around as if it were a hot potato. Everyone who has it suffers.
But as soon as the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out,
“They have brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people.”
11 They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said,
“Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.”
For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there. 12 The men who did not die were struck with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven. (1 Sam 5.10-12)
The Philistines realise they cannot keep moving the ark of the God of Israel around. The LORD will eventually wipe them out.
The brief story lets us know that with or without Israel, the LORD is mighty and should be respected.
“Dagon is derived by Philo from dagan, “corn,” and is explained by him as an emblem of the earth’s fertility; but as the shape of this national deity of the Philistines was certainly that of a man to the waist, ending in the body and tail of a fish, the true deriveation is doubtless that from dag, “a fish.” It represented, however, not so much the sea, on which the Philistines trafficked, as the fruitfulness of water, which in the East is looked upon as the active principle of life.” (Spence-Jones, H.D.M. ed., 1909. 1 Samuel, London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)
Dagon was shown to be weak and pitiful compared to the one true God. In Israel’s history they continually struggled with idolatry. The worship of foreign gods.
Who is the one true and mighty God?
The LORD a number of times executed judgments on various gods (e.g. Ex 12.12; Num 33.4; 1 Ki 18) and demonstrated his power and authority over Israel. Authority Israel should have respected.
In the gospel, the demons and unclean spirits immediately recognised Jesus for who he is.
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him.
9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.
11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. (Mk 3.7-12)
The LORD and Jesus have repeatedly demonstrated they have power and authority over demonic powers. They win spiritual battles with or without us.
This should give us a bit of assurance. The LORD doesn’t need us to win over his kingdom.
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