Wednesday, June 14, 2017

EmmDev 2017-06-14 [Lessons from Samuel] Presumption


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.      (1Samuel5:1-4)

In the previous chapter after Eli dies, there is the sad account of his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phineas, giving birth to a son and, just before she dies in labour, she calls her son "Ichabod" which means "the glory of the Lord has departed." (This was because the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant.)

On the flip side, the Philistines put the Ark of the Covenant (A gold covered box containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments and Aaron's rod which had budded) inside the temple of their god Dagon as a trophy of battle.

Both the Israelites and the Philistines were guilty of gross presumption:

  • The Israelites presumed that God's presence was tied up in the box and that whoever had the box "had" God. They treated the Ark like a remote control. They also presumed that losing the box meant that all was lost.
  • The Philistines presumed too. They presumed that their victory and capturing of the box meant that Israel's God was "done and dusted". They put the box at the feet of a statue of Dagon their god as a symbol of his victory.

But everyone is in for a rude awakening...!

The statue of Dagon collapses before the ark and, when they put it back on its stand, it collapses again, with the head and hands broken off. Dagon is basically rendered powerless before God.

In the rest of the chapter we see the Philistines passing the Ark like a hot-potato from one city to another until it has been to all five Philistine strongholds and has caused illness and pandemonium wherever it goes. After seven desperate months the Philistines place the ark and gifts of gold tribute on a cart and yoke two new calved cows who have never been yoked and these cows leave their calves behind and dociley pull the cart all the way to the nearest Israelite town.

The lesson is clear:
The Ark is not a remote control for God, but it is a powerful symbol of His independent presence. It is a reminder of His majesty and power and a reminder that He is king above all. The fact that things happen around the ark, without anyone "wielding" it reminds us that God can work independently of human intervention. A remote needs a human hand to "wield" it, but the Ark doesn't - The Lion of Judah is not a tame lion.