1 Samuel 5:1-12 Even when God’s people fail, God’s purposes do not
1 Samuel 5:1-12
Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. 3 When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. 4 But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor all who enter Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day. 6 Now the hand of the Lord was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories. 7 When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god.” 8 So they sent and gathered all the lords of the Philistines to them and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” And they said, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” And they brought the ark of the God of Israel around. 9 After they had brought it around, the hand of the Lord was against the city with very great confusion; and He smote 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. And as the ark of God came to Ekron the Ekronites cried out, saying, “They have brought the ark of the God of Israel around to us, to kill us and our people.” 11 They sent therefore and gathered 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, so that it will not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly confusion throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. 12 And the men who did not die were smitten with tumors and the cry of the city went up to heaven.
The Philistines having defeated Israel and captured the Ark and placed the Ark in the temple of Dagon thinking that the god of Dagon had achieved victory over the God of Israel. However, God manifested His supreme power by single-handedly crushing the idol of Dagon and plaguing the Philistine cities. This episode taught us that even though God’s people fail, God’s purposes do not; He will accomplish His purpose and manifest His glory despite the failure of man. Hence, believers need not fear when finances and manpower resources are lacking, but understand His divine providence. For God is still able to accomplish His purposes through a few men/women who are fully devoted to Him.
Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon – The Philistines captured the Ark thinking that they have “subdued” the God of Israel by the power of Dagon. Hence, they brought the Ark into the temple of Dagon supposing to substantiate their arsenal of gods. To their surprise, when they visited the temple the next day, Dagon was found prostrated before the Ark of God. The Philistines did not think much of the incident until the following day when Dagon was found face down on the ground with its head and palms of its hands cut off by the threshold of the door. It laid in a posture as if being destroyed and evicted from its own temple.
The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god – At the arrival of the Ark of God, the locals found themselves inflicted with tumors. Thinking that it might be caused by the presence of the Ark, they intended on sending the Ark away. The Philistines have shown contempt of God by placing the Ark in the temple of Dagon. God display His supremacy by prostrating the statue of Dagon on the first day and breaking it on the second. By striking the Philistines and inflicting them with tumors, He displays His holiness and supremacy that demands reverence and worship. The Philistines being steep in the culture of idolatry and evil are not able to accept God as their Lord and adopt His values system.
Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people – The Philistines were looking for a way to contain the plague by moving the Ark from place to place. They supposed by changing the Ark’s location might appease God and avoid more casualties. From Ashdod to Gath, and to Ekron, none of the local residence gave God the honor and glory that is due Him. By this time, the Philistines had realized that the God of Israel is the supreme God of all. But their hardness of heart would not allow them to acknowledge God as Lord and to worship Him; they were still intended on “containing” the Ark’s power and using it as an idol.
- Man can never hold God’s plans hostage, for He alone will accomplish His purposes. God is not dependent on any man to do His work, if man detracts from His purposes, He manifest His own glory and accomplish His purposes. When the Israelites were defeated and the Ark fell into the enemy’s possession, God manifest His own glory and overcame the enemy. He prostrated and crushed the idol of Dagon and plagued the Philistine cities with tumors and rats. Thus, the Philistines witnessed first hand the supremacy of the God of Israel over all other gods; even when God’s people fail, God’s purposes do not. When Israel fails to manifest God’s glory, He sends His own Son Jesus Christ to reveal His glory to the world. Therefore, the reluctance of man does not hold captive the salvation plans of God. As ministers, our work is not held captive by the reluctance of church members, for God will personally fight for His glory. Ministers and leaders of the church and the nation must rest in God’s unchanging purposes and understand what His plans are and work with Him. Although God can single-handedly accomplish His will on earth, He is patiently waiting for believers to respond to His call to partnership. The lack of finances or manpower will not hinder His gospel work, for He will personally provide to accomplish His purposes and manifest His glory.
- Man alliance himself with others along cultural and tribal lines but God draw close to anyone who honors Him as God regardless of their religious/cultural heritage or moral condition. The mindset of the natural man supposed that God is equally biased as man is and will not accept those who are different. The Philistines having witnessed the supremacy of God would not realign themselves with Him but sent the Ark away to other cities and eventually back to Israel. They thought that the God of the Ark wanted to be returned to His own land and people: Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people. It had never dawned on them to honor God and make Him their Lord even though God exhibited His mercies by not wiping out their entire cities. Similarly, many non-believers after experiencing the power and the love of God still could not bring themselves to pledge their allegiance to Him. God has no cultural, relational or religious baggage, He seeks out those who endeavor to live with a clear conscience and who are willing acknowledge Him as Lord.
- Are you in a state of lack in your finances and manpower resources? If you are willing to put God’s purposes above all priorities and lay outside your cares of life and self-centered living, He will cause you to experience His miracles and provision like never before.
- Do you sometimes feel that God is biased towards some, especially those who seem to know the word well and who is well acquainted with God? God is not biased! He seeks out those with pure hearts, who are gracious and who acknowledge Him as Lord. If you would make a decision today, to honor God and love those who are weak, He will work miracles in your life in amazing ways.
Dear Lord, I feel comforted knowing that your purposes will be accomplished regardless of my circumstances. I endeavor to have your purposes fulfilled in my life. Manifest your power and wisdom through me to bring your love and salvation to the people around me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.