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.
(1 Samuel 5:1-12)
In yesterday’s passage, we saw God afflict the people of Ashdod with tumors. The people recognized that it was God who was afflicting them yet they decided the best thing to do was not to submit themselves to Him and replace their god Dagon with Him. They decided the best thing to do was to send God away.
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?”. Notice that the people turned to their leaders – human leaders – for guidance. They didn’t turn to God and ask Him what they should do. They relied on the same leaders who caused their problems in the first place by making the mistaken decision to bring the ark to their town.
Predictably, the leaders come up with a solution that doesn’t help. It only made the situation worse.
They decide to have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath. Gath was one of the five city-states of the Philistines. Each of these city-states had it’s own leader and these five leaders are apparently the rulers who were asked to decide what to do with the ark.
There was no temple to Dagon in Gath, which might be why they chose it. For whatever reason, the Philistine leaders thought that the problems they had been facing would be abated by moving the ark. So they moved the ark of the God of Israel. Bad idea.
Moving the ark to Gath only made the situation worse. After they moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city. Notice that we are not told that things got better in Ashdod. Perhaps they did. But there is no reason to think that was the case.
Not only did God afflict the people of the city of Gath with an outbreak of tumors, the city was thrown into a great panic. In addition to suffering physically, they were now suffering emotionally. And the entire town was in chaos.
Such is the case when leaders doesn’t know God. They, of course, don’t turn to Him for answers. They instead turn to their own wisdom and to so-called experts. But those people, being human, are not going to make good decisions [Proverbs 3:7]. Not only will their solutions not solve anything, they almost assuredly will make things worse.
The entire point of problems is to make us aware of God and His benevolent wisdom. God allows problems in our lives to draw us closer to Him [Psalm 55:22; Matthew 11:28; Thessalonians 1:5]. But that only works if we believe God exists and actually turn to Him in our times of need.
Those who do not fear God cannot be wise [Proverbs 1:7]. For it is through His discipline that He teaches [Proverbs 19:20]. If we don’t recognize God’s discipline for what it is – as the Philistines did not – then we cannot learn. And if we cannot learn, then we will continue to make bad decision after bad decision.
All those compounding bad decisions – the ones that we think will make life better – will actually keep making life more difficult.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.