Thursday, May 12, 2011

meeting the God of the ark

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.
1 Samuel 5:11

In chapter 4, the Israelites learn to not worship the ark of God. They had drifted into superstitious worship, and the result was a tragedy on the battlefield with defeat by the Philistine army. There was also spiritual tragedy with the death of Eli and resulting national malaise that swept through the nation at news of the ark's capture by their enemies. In a way, this was a chance for Israel to refocus on the God of the ark, rather than the ark of God.

The Philistines also get this lesson. When they take the ark into the temple of Dagon as a spoil of war in pagan worship, they get a rude awakening. First, the idol of Dagon falls from its perch. The next morning they reset their idol in its place only to find it fallen again the very next day. This time it is broken with its head and hands strewn in front of the threshold of the temple. Clearly something supernatural is going on!

The leaders of the Philistines wind up housing the ark of the covenant of God in three different cities. In each city (Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron), a mob panic breaks out as the men of the city are afflicted with tumors. It is not a pretty site. The irony of the whole thing is that by the end of their ordeal, the Philistines were focusing on the God of Israel as He got their attention in the afflictions that came to them in the wake of this ordeal. They still had a superstitious awe of the ark, but they knew that the circumstances came from some other source: the God of Israel.

So once again I am reminded that God will get the worship He deserves. He will not be content with letting me ever put any object or practice in place of Him. He may even use the object of my misplaced values to get my attention focused back upon Him. That is the lesson of Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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