Call to Worship April 18, 2021
Expository Thoughts on 1 Samuel 5 & 6:1-12
After the Israelites lost their battle to the Philistines in Ch. 4, and those Gentiles captured the Ark of God, it would be natural to think that the next chapter will consider the plan of the Israelites to retrieve the Ark of God. Yet, the scripture reveals that God made known His presence, power, and dominion over all situations, nations, and people. God Himself would punish the Philistine cities. The Philistines thought the Israelite God was similar to their god Dagon. So they took the Ark of God and placed it subserviently in the presence of their idol in a temple. After the first morning, the statue they worshipped was face down on the ground. So naturally they did what you do with all fallen gods; they hoisted it back in place. The next day was even worse. The statue was headless and handless with only its torso left standing and its parts laying on the ground. Who was the subservient one?
What kind of god was this Dagon? According to historians and archeologists all of its specific and exact identifications are not conclusive, but Dagon is thought to have been a god of agriculture. Apparently whatever its exact purpose, it could not stand up to the LORD Almighty. The Philistines worshipped an idol with no power, whom they did not know, and they could not know. He had no sovereignty and was simply a figment of their imagination as a good luck charm. Here we see how the Israelites had a disposition connection to the Philistines. The Philistines and Israelites both viewed God as some entity that was for their pleasure and was somewhat in need of them. At least the Philistines had vaguely remembered the work of God against the Egyptians (1Samuel 4:8). The Israelites had forgotten these powerful covenantal acts of God. He would soon remind them of His power over His creation and His people, but not until He deals with the Philistines first. His heavy hand, which brought anxiety and fear, was made known to them in an awful display (1 Samuel 5:6).
God chose to deal with the Philistines and their cities by His measure and purpose. He revealed His power and authority over their bodies in tumors and death. Each city where the Ark was placed was ravaged by this plague. Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron each bowed to the sovereignty of the one true living God. Furthermore, He publicized He did not need the Israelites to free Him from anyone (Gen. 1:1, 26, Jer. 32:17, Matt. 19:26). The Philistines cried out to their religious leaders and they devised a plan to get rid of the Ark. Their scheme proved that the LORD of Israel brought physical and mental distress and death to them. They sent the Ark by cart, led by two cows who were separated from their young calves. The cows went on the road to Beth-Shemesh instead of returning to their young, which would have been most natural direction. God used nature in an unnatural way to further display His authority over all things.
God’s power is so great He made His enemies return the Ark, which was only a symbol of His presence, power, and dominion, to the Israelites. The Israelites did nothing in the return of the Ark. They only walked in shame and doubt while it was gone. God worked His purpose to reveal Himself to the Philistines and Israel. The Philistines knew they and their idol were defeated by the God of Israel, but they only retreated from Him without repenting before Him. They did not recognize Him for He is, as John wrote , “the Alpha and the Omega… who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8 NAU). He is the most-free God and no person, government, philosophy, or thing has dominion over Him. He alone is God Almighty! He does not need us to accomplish anything. May we praise Him for who He is and not what we want Him to be or do. Soli Deo Gloria! (Rev. 19:6)