‘Our Hearts are idol factories’ John Calvin
1 Samuel 5:1-12
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[c] 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.
Our hearts will always find something or someone to worship. Here we see two world views collide. According to the practices of ancient warfare, a battle had more to do with the deity then it did the army. The strongest deity would provide victory to its subjects. What the Philistines didn’t understand is that Yahweh was fulfilling a prophecy due to Israel’s failure to listen. The Philistines, assumed Yahweh, Israel’s God was weaker compared to Dagon their god.
So the Philistines place the captured deity of Israel (represented by the ‘ark’) in the same room as their deity Dagon, who they assumed had given them victory. However, when they check in the next day their deity had fallen ‘face down before the ark of the Lord’ (a posture of submission). One time could of been an accident, but twice and now the Philistine deity lay shattered in pieces before the ark, you see Dagon is not so strong. Imagine the fear as the priests come in to find their deity shattered before the deity of their enemy.
There is some irony here, Israel God’s chosen people are being punished for not listening and refusing to be lead by Yahweh. On the other hand, you have the pagans listening, being attentive and trying to follow the God of Israel. Their world view believed Dagon was stronger, but here is Dagon lying helplessly on the floor — in pieces — requiring human assistance to be stuck back together like a broken vase. It also requires human assistance to get up in order for them to keep worshiping the god they had created. The very god that they are making, helping and repairing is the god that they are asking to help them.
I might feel more advanced than these Philistines, because I don’t visit a temple and bow down to some statue, but the reality is that I hide my idols better. Paul Tripp helpfully defines an idol as ‘something in creation that claims the place in my heart that only God should have.’ When I consider an idol in this light there are many hidden statues I bow down to. Replace the temple with a stadium and a statue with my team mascot, I find myself in a pretty similar situation, I even tithe with my membership fees! Whether my team wins or loses my emotions are up or down. But that is part of human nature. We were made for worship, we love to worship! In the end, anything created will always need our help and never be able to give us the help we need. Idols will always let us down, because we try to get from them something that only God can give us.
Head: How have I been lead astray by an Idol?
Heart: How have my idols (things or people) let me down, because I put them in a position they were never meant to be in?
Hands: Meet up with someone to help identify and talk through overcoming the idols in your life.
Prayer: Thank you Lord that you are the creator, that you are all powerful and that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that you are Lord. Lord, please help me to identify the idols in my life. Help me to identify the things or people that I have tried to replace you with or put in place that only you belong. Help me to make you the center of my life, the center of everything that I do. Help me to worship you my creator and to not worship the creation.
A song to listen to: Bring Us Back
Ben Harvey- Adelaide Presbyterian Church