Read 1 Samuel 5
The Ark in Ashdod and Ekron
1 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. 5 That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.
6 The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors. 7 When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god.” 8 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?”
They answered, “Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath.” So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.
9 But after they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. 10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron.
As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.” 11 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy on it. 12 Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.
Life’s great adventure is to serve God in every facet of our lives. And it is not a child’s game. How do we know? In every age of history, including in today’s chapter, idols wreak havoc. Idols take the place of God and steal our worship. Idol worship leads to deceit, destruction, and death. The most sinister part of idolatry, though, is it often goes undetected. 1 Samuel 5 shows us just how idolatry leads to death.
Sure, some idols shout. For example, the thirst for sex, money, or fame is loud. When we seek these things, it is apparent to those who know us or follow us online. Loud idols are like Dagon, highly visible on the “altars” of our lives. Other idols are sneaky or slow, but just as dangerous. They are more like an iceberg a meter wide but a mile deep, a boa constrictor that takes an inch at a time, or a single cancer cell. Evil does not always shout from the rooftops. Sometimes it slowly lives and grows in our basement.
What are the sneaky idols? At work, they might be the promotion, the person, or the process that begins to capture our affection. At home, they might be our car, kitchen, or computer. We can find them on TV or even among our family and friends. They sneakily consume our minds—from priority #5 to #4 to #1. But God has a zero-tolerance policy for idols – the Ten Commandments make that clear. And as we see in today’s chapter, idols cannot stand in God’s presence.
God guides us away from idols and towards Himself with His Word – the Bible. God also guides us with the Word that took on flesh – Jesus. And the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. God’s presence dwells with us and is our Counselor, convicting and enlightening us. Other Christians can encourage us to turn from idols and instead to fix our eyes on Jesus as well.
When we choose to follow God, then we can avoid idols. A life free of idols is rich in love and joy. We’ll be on the greatest adventure of our lives. Idols will lay waste in our lives when they shout or sneak into our hearts and homes. A life spent pursuing idols won’t be a great adventure; it will be a destruction tour. Don’t think Dagon isn’t nearby. Take steps away from idols and toward God.
- What is a “loud” idol that you know is bad but is still tempting?
- What is a “sneaky” idol that may not seem bad, but could be?
- Are you listening for God to guide you, or are you avoiding His promptings?
Listen to this reflection from today’s author on 1 Samuel 5.
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