Truth shown through story is something I rarely forget. It’s one of the reasons I love the Old Testament books. Story. Imagery. It helps me take in truth and make it my own.
So the other day I re-read one of my favorite truth-illustrating stories. It’s found in I Samuel 5. Here’s the gist:
Israel couldn’t figure out why they’d been defeated in their battle with the Philistines, so instead of asking God why (and dealing with their sin), they took the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them, thinking that the presence of God alone (without repentance on their part) would provide victory .
Not only was Israel defeated, they lost 10s of 1000s of men in the process–and the Philistine army captured the Ark of the Covenant! The very presence of God taken from Israel to a pagan nation. What to do? Especially since the Ark’s capture also left the people leaderless with the ensuing death of the chief priest, Eli, and both of his (very sinful) sons.
And then we hit chapter 5. The Ark, the place of God’s presence, was taken into the temple of the god Dagon and left there.
The next morning, the statue of Dagon was found on his face before the Ark. The Philistines set up their god again, but found him again prostate before the Ark, but this time the statue’s head and hands had broken from the body. The Philistines freaked out, fearing this God who had power over Dagon. They carried the Ark to another city, where the inhabitants were immediately stricken with tumors. They moved it again with the same result. Finally, they decided the only solution was to return the Ark to Israel. (This presented its own problems, but here the chapter and our story stops for now.)
So what truth does the idol Dagon on his face before the Ark of the Covenant illustrate for my life today? It says that my God can defend His own glory. That He is more powerful that anything the world sets up as an idol. That He will make His presence known when and how He so chooses. In this day and age, I find this truth of God’s greatness over everything else quite comforting. When I feel powerless, He is still powerful. More powerful than the enemies gloating over their “victory.”
The New Testament gives us the same truth in a bit more straightforward way in Philippians 2:9-11: Therefore God exalted Him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And if our God is that powerful, if everything and everyone else must bow to him, how can we doubt that any of His plans for us will come to pass? Next time you find yourself thinking God isn’t big enough for your situation, think of Dagon, in his own temple, on his face before God. If that truth doesn’t bolster your faith, little else will!