When gods Fall
March 30, 2020

When gods Fall
1 Samuel 5:1-5

{Audio: https://mega.nz/#!WJ8jyCCD!MQ1ezq95mWV4EG9ta63rxpa3hoo2g5tjCbzDkRJG0wM}

How many of you remember Steve Urkel’s signature phrase from the TV series, Family Matters? “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Well, I think that’s the signature phrase of the false gods of this world.

Several days ago I received a text that had the following.

“In three short month, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God as taken away everything we worship. God said, ‘you want to worship athletes; I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians; I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors; I will shut down theaters. You want to worship money; I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You don’t want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it where you can’t go to church.”

Now the issue of the sin of idolatry is present in this statement, but for me there is some aspects that I think goes against God’s word, which makes me think that this isn’t a “Thus says the Lord,” but more from someone’s point of view, and possesses a little bit of a spirit of religiosity.

And while I could be wrong, what I do believe is that this is a teaching moment.

Now, there’s a Japanese proverb says a man learns little from victory, but much more from defeat, and someone else said, “There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.”

Now, on the surface it sounds like these statements are more defeatist than they are. But their truth is graphically played out throughout history and science, and is particularly seen in today’s story from the life of Israel in the Old Testament.

Today’s story is set in the time frame of Israel’s history that was sad indeed, because it was a time of Israel’s continual disobedience to God and how God’s grace and mercy had to rescue them time and again from the consequences of their disobedience.

At the time of our story, Israel was in a state of spiritual decline; and the Lord had been all but forgotten and relegated to religious traditions and to a piece of property known as the tabernacle where He lived inside a box known as the Ark of the Covenant.

And at the time of this story, Israel felt that it was now the time to get rid of their pesky neighbors and constant enemy, the Philistines. So they gathered together an army and challenged the Philistines to battle, which they ended up losing, to the toon of 4,000 men. Afterwards they gathered together trying to figure out what went wrong, and someone came up with the brilliant idea “Let’s go get the Ark at Shiloh, and then God will come and fight for us and defeat our enemy.”

Now this was just the start of their problems, because they didn’t have a clue as to who God was, and that He wasn’t someone to be relegated to a box. But there was another problem and that was their not going to God in the first place, instead they thought that they could bring God to them, or that they could insert God when and where they needed Him. They never asked God “Why did we get our rear ends handed to us?” Instead they just jumped at the first thing they thought of.

And I truly believe this is the beginning point of many of our own problems. We don’t go and ask God what is the cause of the problems we are facing. Instead we go to others and ask them for their advice, and some of these people don’t even know God, or they know Him about as well as we do. And that’s not all that encouraging.

Instead, we need to be going to God and His word to find the solutions to whatever is plaguing us today.

But here they are, and now they have the Ark of God with them; taken from the tabernacle, something that should never have been contemplated in the first place, and done in the second place. And even worse, they took with them two corrupted priests, Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s, the high priest, sons.

With such an action on the part of the people, what we see is that they regarded God and the Ark as some sort of lucky rabbit’s foot. In other words, if you took it with you, you’ll probably have good luck. You’ll probably succeed in your quest.

This happens a lot today as people think that they can take God with them in such things as crosses around the neck, or beads in their pockets or on the rearview mirror or their car. Many think if they have a Bible on the table, a picture of Jesus on the wall, or a crucifix hanging over their beds that God is there with them. But that is an attempt on our part to bring God with us, that is, we believe that God is in this or that item or religious relic.

So, the Israelites went to war again with the Philistines, and again they were defeated, but not just defeated, they were routed, where over 30,000 Israelites lost their lives, but even worse, the Ark of God was taken captive by God’s enemies.

Now, the text that we are going to look at tells us what happened immediately afterwards.

Read Text 1 Samuel 5:1-5

When the Philistines captured the Ark, they didn’t destroy it, instead they kept it as a trophy because they had seen it bring great success to Israel in the past, and there may come a time when it could help them out as well.

So, they put it in the temple of their own god, Dagon. They probably thought they were paying the Lord God of Israel some sort of complement, but they were also probably thinking that they were merely installing another god alongside the ones they already had.

In their minds, it really couldn’t get any better than this. Their enemy, Israel, was defeated, and they had captured its God, and so let the party begin. Life was good, and it was because of their god, Dagon. But, the next morning, when they entered into Dagon’s temple, the statue of Dagon had fallen and was lying prostrate before the Ark of God. Such a thing could never be! So they put Dagon back up on his pedestal and went about their day as if nothing happened, only to come to the temple the next day to find Dagon had not just fallen off his pedestal and again lying prostrate before the Ark of God, but now with his head and hands broken off. In other words, nothing was left of their god but a stump of its former self.

You see, what this story represents how bad of a spiritual decline God’s people were actually in. For others, however, it became a story of how God’s people were apparently defeated by the enemy, and that the cause of God had been routed in the process. They were more than likely thinking that God was now with the Philistines, and that He left Israel.

It is the “God in a box” theology. And unfortunately, it is the theology of much of the church today, as they see the cause of God defeated time and time again; that the modern day Philistines have triumphed once again over God and the church.

Take for instance the rise in human intellect and understanding. It is where human intellect has triumphed over biblical revelation, that is, people no longer believe that the Bible is the uniquely inspired and inerrant Word of God. It is where philosophy and psychology have taken the place of God’s word in dealing with the problems and emotional upheavals that occur in a person’s life.

But the attack doesn’t stop there. We see it in humanity’s overall take on science. It is where Evolution, a theory mind you, that is, something that isn’t based cold hard facts, and this has taken the place of Creationism in our schools. It is where humanity views biological knowledge over that of biblical knowledge.

And we see it in the social and political arenas as well. Prayer has been banned from our schools, the Ten Commandments have been banned from our government, and they are trying to take God out of the pledge of allegiance and off our monetary currency. They are also rewriting our nation’s Christian heritage, and have instituted a policy where we can no longer disagree with someone else’s religion, making it an act of intolerance.

And so, on the surface there are those who might very well come to the conclusion that the modern Philistines have been just as successful as their counterparts in ancient Israel.

The modern day Philistines, or can I say, the world, is trying to make use of God the same way as the Philistines did in ancient days. It’s as if they’re saying, “We’ll put the Christian God alongside our own gods, and if ever there is a time that we need Him then we’ll pull Him down from the shelf and employ His services, and then return Him back once the need is met.”

This is exactly what the world is doing with God today. Even though they have ceased to believe in the God of the Bible, they are not altogether finished with Him. They make use of God when it fits their needs and when they feel inclined to give to Him their lip service. We see it in modern day politics when they use a Bible verse here and there when it supports their cause.

People still want God in their marriage vows, but refuse to follow His definition of what a marriage should be or whom a marriage should be between. Or they like to have a religious service at a funeral, even though the person or the family don’t believe and have no use for God while they are living.

In our government it is no different, we have our president and elected officials put their hand on the Bible to swear them into office, or even in our courts of law. where we raise our hand and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and then ask for God’s help to do so: “So help us God.”

In essence the world pays lip service to the Lord, and only wants Him when it suits their purposes. The Lord clearly speaks to this very thing through the prophet Isaiah saying, “These people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.” (Isaiah 29:13 NKJV)

But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Israel, God’s very own people, were just as guilty as the Philistines at making use of God. They paid little if any respect to the Lord or to His house prior to this battle, and then they thought that by taking the Ark God would help them win the war. A war, by the way, that God never told them to make.

And don’t we do the same thing as Christians.

What this reveals is that we’re not interested in God as a person, all we are interested in is what He can do for us. Many don’t desire Him, but they do desire His help in times of need, like in our present pandemic, in other words, the only interest they have in God is what He can do for them.

Now, before we move on as to what we can learn from this story, we need to ask, “Why did Israel suffer defeat,” and then why are we apparently following suit? Now, the reason we need to ask and examine our hearts in this matter is because the Bible says, “If God be for us, who can be against us”

Was the Philistine army too strong? I don’t believe so; rather it was that Israel had turned her back upon God. They wouldn’t obey His commandments, and refused to lean upon the Lord for strength and guidance. In essence they were saying to God, we can do it ourselves, and so God let them try, and Israel found out just what they could do without God.

It is no different with the church. We are in a somewhat weak and powerless position, seeing how much of our land the enemy has conquered, and the reason is because we are repeating Israel’s mistakes.

We are trusting in our own abilities, our own ability to organize and plan, and we have forgotten in some instances that it’s the Lord’s church and not ours. And what’s sad is that the Lord is allowing us to continue so that we can see just how far we can get on our own.

We have trusted in our learning and in our theology. We have trusted in our denominations and in our organizations. And through it all we have forgotten that we are wholly dependent upon the Lord. So I believe that the Lord is calling us back to Himself.

Now, even in defeat, and the fact that the Ark of God was now held captive by the Philistines, what can we take from this story?

God Interrupts and Erupts Our Plans

Consider the Philistines; all was well in their world. They defeated Israel and took captive the God of Israel and have put Him into the house of their god, Dagon. It really doesn’t get any better than that. But then the Lord broke into their celebration and put their god on the floor, bowed in submission to Him.

But instead of getting the hint, instead of changing their plans and procedures, they just put him back up on his pedestal, and carry on as if nothing happened, that is until the next day when Dagon hit the floor again, but this time with more disastrous results.

You see, we keep doing the same thing with the gods that we serve. We place the Lord God along side our gods, and when God knocks them down, we just keep on putting them back up.

When the tragedy of 9-11 happened, everyone was worried, so they flooded the churches seeking answers. But it didn’t last very long until we just put the god of comfort back upon its pedestal and continued on with our lives. Dagon fell, but we just put him back.

This happens all the time. At funerals, our worldview is shaken as we realize that we all must die, but then we just get sucked back into the daily routine of life and we forget and put Dagon back in his place. And then, a sudden pain in our chest, or a doctor’s report saying cancer brings the world crashing in around us.

You see, God is interrupting our plans and literally erupting into our lives in order to get our attention so that we stop putting the Dagon’s of our lives back up.

And He does so by humbling and humiliating our gods.

That is what happened there in the house of Dagon; Dagon was humbled and humiliated, crashed down before the god of a conquered people.

In the same way God is humbling and humiliating all these gods that the world serves. The world serves the god of higher education. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I believe in education, but not at the expense of God and of His word. We educate our kids about safe sex, only to see sexual promiscuity increase, along with teen pregnancies and an increase in sexual transmitted diseases. Whereas God’s sexual program is abstinence until marriage, and when this is taught we see a decrease in these same areas.

The world flaunts the fact that our children our better educated than in times past, yet instead of greater peace and understanding there is greater violence, drug and alcohol use, and greater sexual immorality.

There is also the god of evolution, where it is believed that life came into existence in and through chance. Yet, every time they say something proves evolution’s case, it comes tumbling down as either a hoax or that it wasn’t true to begin with. And so the god of higher education and science is being humbled before our eyes. But we keep putting them back up.

Now, what all this is doing is allowing God to pronounce judgment on all these false gods.

What God was doing was giving both Israel and the Philistines the message that He could not be dealt with in such a casual and offhanded manner. So, he began to show them His judgment, which continued into the other Philistine cities as they experienced a bout of terrible tumors.

For all those who have eyes to see what is happening in our world today, it is clear that we are experiencing God’s judgment against our disobedience. Can there truly be any other explanation?

It’s as if the Lord is saying, “Go ahead, see how far you can get on your own, put me in your box, place me in heaven distant from the goings on upon earth, and in the end, what you are reaping is exactly what you have sowed.”

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 NKJV)

And through the prophet Hosea, the Lord said, “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7a NKJV)

A lot of what we are experiencing we attribute to the attacks of Satan, but it very well may be that God allowing us to reap what we have sown in our own disobedience to the Lord.

What we must understand is that God is active and alive, and He doesn’t reside in some box to be forgotten or pulled out when and where we need Him. That was the mistake Israel made, and by what happened thereafter, it was the mistake the Philistines made as well.

But what God is teaching us, I believe, is that He cannot be man handled is these ways. Instead He is the Almighty, Eternal, All-Powerful God in whose hands our lives reside. God is not defeated, nor can He be held captive, instead He pronounces judgment and knocks down all of our false gods that we have set up in His place, or have set alongside Him. He is the Lord who cannot be restrained or limited; rather He is without limit and without equal, for there is only one God.

In the very first commandment given by God He said, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3 NKJV)

And then through the prophet Isaiah the Lord said, “Understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.” (Isaiah 43:10b NKJV)

And in Isaiah 45:5, the Lord said, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” (Isaiah 45:5 NKJV)

The Philistines thought that they were paying the Lord God a compliment by placing Him amongst their own gods. But it was in Dagon’s own house that God demonstrated that there can be but one God, both in a nation, and in our lives. And if we put Him beside any other god, then the Lord God will throw that false god to the ground to silence it.

Anything we place beside or in front of the Lord God will come tumbling down. Even if it is our country, our political system, race, nationality, they will all face the same fate. They’re coming down.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV)

It’s that little word “all” that teaches us this lessen that we are to have nothing else but the Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit residing in that special place of honor in our hearts.

Today, God is calling for us to handle Him rightly. And there is but one way that this is to be done, that that is through Jesus Christ, as Jesus Himself said,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one can come unto the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

The message today is that God is not defeated. He is still on the throne, and He will destroy every enemy. If we would be blessed by Him, then we need to learn this lesson, and no longer rely upon ourselves, upon our knowledge and understanding, or upon our institutions. Instead we need to go to God completely helpless and receive strength and fullness from the Holy Spirit. It is only then that we can meet and defeat the challenges that present themselves in our lives, in our nation, and in the world.

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