WITHOUT ANY military confrontation or International diplomacy and negotiation, the Ark of Covenant was returned to Israel. It was a seven months of so many lessons that demonstrate the humiliation of the Philistine after their great but short triumph over God’s people. Going through the story, episodes after episodes during the seven months, I see some traits in the Philistines, which find home with us as Christians. The traits further confirm that one can share common boundary and identity with ones enemy. I see the Philistines in us in many ways of our daily lives. Even though we have the Ark in our possession, we allow the Philistine in us to direct our steps, inadvertently being the enemy of our progress and incurring the wrath of God.

Giving credit to our self-made god

The Philistines were never in doubt of the might of the “god of Israel”. They knew he is a “mighty god”, who plagued the Egyptians. The battle seemed impossible to them, but whether they deserve it or not, God gave them victory over His own people. Amid wild jubilation of triumph, they saw the Ark of Covenant as not being mighty after all. They didn’t see its silence to the call of the Israelites as a prayer answered for them. The Ark of God became a trophy of triumph and they were simply going to present it to their god – Dagon. The people of Israel will be their subjects, while their “god”, as being idolized in the Ark of the Covenant, will be the subject of Dagon.

From Ebenezer to Ashdod, the Ark of God was silent. The reign of evil was flourishing, but the Ark was silent and patient. It didn’t strike the hands that were carrying it. The Ark of the Covenant was satisfied to be led to, what Jesus will later tell us in parable, the “Strongman’s house”. In Mark, Chapter 3, verse 27, Jesus said “ In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house”

While God, in His Ark was silent, the Philistines were giving credit to their god of war, Dagon. They forgot their initial fear of doom; not remembering the plague that visited the Egyptians. The only god on their mind was Dagon, and they avail it all credits and adoration.

Like the Philistines, like us, we often, in words and deeds give credit to our prowess, jobs, husbands, wives, children, professional skills and other gods that take the place of God. We carve them into stones, woods or gold, and begin to worship them. We make Dagon out of them believing that the victory and success we record are results of a creation of our imagination. In doing that, we put God on a pedestal lower than that of Dagon. We may send gifts of gold to our bosses, but shun any form of befitting thanksgiving to God in church. Whatever creation occupies the place of God in our mind, taking the credit for God’s providence, will not only be tied, but its land and reach will be plundered!

The sin of not paying attention to things of the spirit

“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” I can imagine the hidden shock on the faces of people who had woken up early to worship and praise their god for their victory at Aphek. Finding their god lying prostrate before its captive, the Ark of the “mighty God of Israel”, was never going to be in the script. The other way around would give them more joy, but never this. Rather than paying attention to the significance of the event, they must have glossed over it finding a thousand and one physical reasons for the action. Their priests must have dowsed the suspicion with a smile, providing simple reasons for the fall. “It must have been knocked down by rodents”, “ Oh! I guess our god was not well rooted to its pedestal”, “never mind, shit happens”, you can imagine the excuses, though not plausible, but good enough to make them sleep at night. To them, seeing some of the happenings around them through the spiritual prism would be suicidal. Many times, events and occurrences forebear what is to happen, but do we pay attention? A gentle slap on the wrist, God calling us to attention, but we always choose to ignore. We convince ourselves that it was not God’s hand calling us to attention, but just an act of chance. After all, mathematically, the probability of Dagon falling in a random sample of event is half. We live in a world of excuses. Politics, economics, science, technology, and history offer us a wide range of defense to events better understood having recourse to spiritual realm. -To be continued

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