Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 4-7
Today’s Reflection: 1 Samuel 5:1-5
1) When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2) Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. 3) And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4) But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5) This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
Much of the Bible chronicles God’s relationship with His chosen people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, the children of Israel. Though Israel chose to accept God as their Lord, to follow Him and to walk in His ways, God makes it clear His relationship with Israel began because God pursued them first. God sought relationships with other peoples as well, but most often they rejected Him and chose to worship idols. Because of this God had to use unconventional methods to reach other peoples like the Philistines.
Because of the disobedience of Israel’s people, their chief priests in particular (1 Samuel 2:27-36), the Philistines defeated Israel in battle and were able to capture the Ark of the Covenant, which represented the presence of God (1 Samuel 4:10-11). As idol worshipers, the Philistines assumed their victory meant their god was stronger than the God of Israel, so they placed the Ark in the presence of their god, Dagon, as a sign of its supremacy. In truth God was using these circumstances as an opportunity to open a dialogue with the Philistines. But how would God reach these people, who had rejected Him and chosen to worship an idol? How would He get their attention?
Well, supernaturally defiling their god was a start, proving He was God above all gods. This started the Philistines down a path of accepting that the God of Israel was real. By 1 Samuel chapter 6, the leaders of the Philistines were hatching a desperate plan to return the Ark back to Israel. What they once mocked as a trophy of victory over their enemies was now treated as a reverent icon of a God more powerful than anything they had encountered. As unconventional as it was, this episode gave the Philistines an experience with God–one that changed them forever, as verse 5 makes clear. This also gave the Philistines an opportunity to accept the true God of Israel (whether they took that opportunity or not).
Too often we assume people living overtly un-Godly lives could never be the recipients of a message from God. But the truth is God has a message to reach everyone. Sometimes it’s a message of His supremacy as the one and only God, as it was in this case. Sometimes it’s a message of His mercy, as in Ninevah during the time of Jonah (Jonah 3:6-10). Sometimes it’s a message of His acceptance regardless of past sins, as in the case of Rahab of Jericho (Joshua 6:22-25). And sometimes God is trying to use us to help reach those living lives apart from Him.
Remember God’s Word is for everyone. Ask God what you can do to be used to reach someone for Him today.
Romans 15:8-12 (NCV) – 8) I tell you that Christ became a servant of the Jews to show that God’s promises to the Jewish ancestors are true. 9) And he also did this so that those who are not Jews could give glory to God for the mercy he gives to them. It is written in the Scriptures: “So I will praise you among the non-Jewish people. I will sing praises to your name.” 10) The Scripture also says, “Be happy, you who are not Jews, together with his people.” 11) Again the Scripture says, “All you who are not Jews, praise the Lord. All you people, sing praises to him.” 12) And Isaiah says, “A new king will come from the family of Jesse. He will come to rule over the non-Jewish people, and they will have hope because of him.”