Read – 1 Samuel 5
Focus v. 3-4
My wife often relates how when she was growing up the family always went to church together, and when she and her brother got old enough to ask whether they had to go to church, his reply was “you don’t HAVE to — you WANT to” and that would be the end of it. The implication was, that it would be much easier on them if they decided to go of their own volition, than it would be to challenge the idea only to be convinced in the final analysis that going along was really the only option.
In today’s reading we find the Philistines in a similar situation with the God of Israel.
God has a way of establishing that He is the only true God of the universe. In this case the Philistines believe that they have not only defeated the armies of Israel, but that their god Dagon has defeated the God of Israel. This is why they place the ark of God in the temple of Dagon. To their horror they discover that their Dagon is no match for God.
Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. 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. 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. (v. 2–4)
When they realize that Dagon is no match for the God of Israel, they correctly attribute the outbreak of disease on the presence of the ark of God and they send it from city to city until the entire nation of the Philistines is breaking out in tumors and living in fear of the God of Israel. It is not until they decide to send the ark back to Israel that the plagues on the Philistine people begin to be lifted.
The Philistines here are experiencing what people who choose to reject Jesus Christ will experience when He returns. We are told in the New Testament that the day will come when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. It would seem to me that it would be a better scenario for those who choose voluntarily to bend the knee before Him than for those who are forced to do so on judgment day. Fortunately, we are still at a point in human history where we can bow our knee and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord because we WANT to. It would be unfortunate if we put that off until we HAVE to.