Scripture Reading: I Samuel 5:1-12

“The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and He terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. And when the men in Ashdod saw how things were, they said, ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is against us and against Dagon our god.'” (I Samuel 5:6,7)

After the Philistines defeated Israel, they took the ark of the covenant and placed it it one of the pagan temples in Ashdod, which was one of the major cities of the Philistines. It is almost comical to read what happened when the ark was placed next to the statue of the Philistine god Dagon. On two occasions, the people of Ashdod went into Dagon’s temple and found the statue face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord (v. 3). The second time the head and hands of the statue had been cut off and were lying on the floor (v. 4).

Then the hand of the Lord was heavy on the people of Ashdod. He “terrified and afflicted them with tumors” (v. 6). God not only afflicted the people of Ashdod but also all who were in that territory.

Two things stand out to me in this passage. First, God alone dealt with the Philistines. He did not need anyone else’s help. God is fully capable of defending Himself. He doesn’t need us to do it for Him. The Philistines concluded that they needed to get rid of the ark of the covenant as soon as they could.

Second, God’s hand can be heavy. God does not tolerate idolatry and blasphemy. That is precisely what the Philistines were guilty of. God terrified and afflicted them severely. This is why the writer to the Hebrews wrote — “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

We must never take lightly the holiness of God. We are to honor Him above all and keep ourselves from all forms of idolatry. He alone is to be worshiped.

Holy God, forgive me when I do not take Your holiness serious. Forgive me when I love and serve other things more than I love and serve You. I know this is idolatry and I seek Your forgiveness. Thank You for sending Jesus who took my sins upon Himself and died for them so that I could be forgiven. Your hand was heavy upon Him because of my sins. He was afflicted because of me. I can never thank You enough for Your grace and mercy through Your Son Jesus Christ.


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