"The ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months." - 1 Samuel 6:1 ESV
I love reading 1 Samuel chapter 5 and 6. It is the account of when the Philistines 'captured' the ark of God. The scenario is so rich with meaning to me. In one sense it is a picture of God withdrawing His presence from Israel and creating a hunger in them. On the other hand the enemies of God think that they have won a prize but that prize ends up making them miserable.
"When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 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. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day." - 1 Samuel 5:1-5 ESV
What a picture. I remember when grace did this in my life. I was mostly moral guy who felt I needed to earn and deserve things. Then God came into my life and the hands and the head came off of my idol. Grace ruined that fantasy. My idol fell down and then eventually it broke. I follow Christ and so I don't care what thresholds I tread upon but if I didn't I imagine I would care. I would need to rationalize what had happened and package it so that I could live with myself.
The problem is that the bed is too short (see Isaiah 28:20) and the cover is too narrow when we do that.
"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 of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, "The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god." - 1 Samuel 5:6-7 ESV
"So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land. Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed?" - 1 Samuel 6:5-6 ESV
"And take the ark of the LORD and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way" - 1 Samuel 6:8 ESV
This response is also interesting. The people had tumors and the mice were eating up their fields so they made golden mouse figurines and golden tumor figurines (gross). How weird. But also how human. Don't we see people glorify their suffering? They don't see an eternal purpose to it so they think that by glorifying it will please a God (that they don't know) somehow. There is nothing golden about a tumor or a pestilence that ravages. People turn survivors into heroes for surviving but that isn't eternal perspective.
Heaven sees only faith heroes. Faith pleases God. Those golden figurines mean less than nothing to Him... He will use them though as we are about to see.
"Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the LORD." - 1 Samuel 6:13-15 ESV
The cart got used. The cows got eaten. Those figurines got put on a rock.
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." - Matthew 7:24-27 ESV
It is a symbolic picture of resources that are used to further God's cause.
There is more of course... the milking cows (see 1 Samuel 6:7) shouldn't have walking away from their hungry young... they went where God wanting them to go but they voiced their suffering as they went. Miraculous... any many more things for someone who will look and ask God to reveal them.
I love the Bible.
The presence of God is like that ark isn't it? It is blessing to those who believe and a curse to those who don't. It feeds one group with the resources of their enemies and it causes Dagon's head to roll on the floor.
Thank You God. Please bust off some arms today and feed those who need a provision and are working in Your fields to bring in Your harvest. You are the One true God... the God of all grace... The King immortal and dwelling in the Highest Heaven and in the lowliest person on Earth. Thank You God... we worship You.