I read through 1 Samuel 5 & 6 this morning in order to stay on track. Together they tell the story of the Philistines taking Ark of the Covenant into their land, its effect upon their people and land, and their ultimate return of it to Israel.
I didn’t really understand the part about Dagon in the beginning of chapter 5, so I did a little research. Dagon was a god of the Philistines and in bringing the Ark back to their land they brought it to a temple of Dagon’s where they left it by a statue of the god. This makes more sense as then the next day they find the statue of Dagon face down in front of the ark and they “put him back in his place (v 3).”
I cannot imagine what they thought upon seeing this scene; a statue of a god they worshipped looking as if it was worshipping a symbol of a God from another land. Perhaps, at first, they thought it an accident, for they just picked the statue up and put it back. But the next day it had fallen again, this time its head and hands cut off. Not broken off from having fallen, but cut off, intentionally so. This shook them up more as so they began to move the Ark around their land to different cities. In each place its effects were felt; tumors, death, mice infesting the land.
The Philistines had heard about what happened in Egypt, they knew all about the plagues and the hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart. They also attributed this to the God of the Israelites, and so they learned from those mistakes and sent the Ark back to Israel, not on its own, but with guilt offerings to this God as well.
I find it so interesting that the Philistines were aware of God, they had heard of what He had done in Egypt and yet they waged war against Israel. God allowed them to win, perhaps to the purpose of showing the Philistines His power directly. In sending the Ark back, they watched the cows pulling it in a cart go right back to the land of Israel; a sure sign that it was this God who worked these things against them. And while many Israelites died in the battle with the Philistines, God ultimately won that battle, by no help, really, from them.
It doesn’t say that the Philistines then came to worship Israel’s God, though they had evidence that He was higher than one of their own. They paid Him tribute, offering sacrifices, in the hope that He would cure them of the ailments He inflicted upon them. But they did not then follow Him, though they had come to see the truth.
How many people see evidence of God’s existence and still refuse to acknowledge Him for who He is? How many times do we, half-heartedly, pray or do things that we think will “placate” God without really trusting in who His is and what He is capable of?
When the Ark makes it back to Israel, there are people there, even, who die (God’s own people) because they looked upon the Ark and were not worthy to do so. Those around said,”Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (6:20a). A holy God cannot abide sin. No one can stand before Him, be they other “gods”, or even His own people. That was true then. It is true now, as God doesn’t change. He still cannot abide sin.
God, Himself, took on sin. Jesus Christ came to earth. He lived a perfect life that we could not. Being fully God and fully man, He was able to stand before the Father, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Because of Him, we are able to stand before the Father and not be struck down, for He sees Christ’s righteousness upon us.
Now, whether I think we’ll actually be able to stand on our feet before God Almighty, that’s another conversation altogether. I, myself, think I’ll be on my knees or, more likely, on my face, before Him; knowing the great gift I’ve been given but such a loving and unobligated giver. Knowing I’ve been saved, by no merit of my own.
I pray you know of the great gift God has given us, through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. And not only that you know of it, but that you are living it out daily. Because of it, we are able to stand before Him justified, Non-guilty. And while we will all bow before Him one day, those who find themselves in Christ will not perish.
If you’re unsure about all of this, I highly encourage you to do some investigating. Pick up a Bible and read the book of John. Talk to someone you know and trust who is a believer. Visit churches near you to learn more about it all. I pray the LORD will reveal Himself to you so that you may see Him, truly see Him, all He has done for you, and your great need of Him.
Love & Blessings,