I Samuel 5&6: Raiders of the Lost Ark
In 1981, America was introduced to a fictional character developed by Stephen Spielberg named Indiana Jones. The first in the series of movies was a search which has fascinated men for centuries, a search for the Lost Ark of God. The Ark which is described in detail in the Book of Exodus was lost when the Babylonians destroyed the temple in 586BC. Scholars believe when the Temple was destroyed and plundered, the Ark was either taken by King Nebuchadnezzar and destroyed or hidden by the Levites. Its existence and location remain uncertain and mystery to this day.
It is interesting to note, when the second temple was built, there was no Ark in the Holy of Holies. The only thing in the Holy of Holies was the foundation stone on which set the Ark originally. This rock is the rock referred to in the Dome of the Rock which now sits on the Temple Mount.
In I Samuel 5 & 6 we read of what happened when the Ark of God was taken by the Philistine raiders. A series of disasters fell upon the Philistines which are recorded here in these two chapters.
It is interesting to note the Philistines knew about the God of Israel and what He had done on their behalf in Egypt. They feared this God for the reason He might be more powerful than their god, Dagon. Mankind has been marching into war behind symbols of power and honor symbolized in flags, banners, standards, etc. Those symbols were used to motivate people to sacrifice and fight for the glory of their cause.
For Israel, the Ark of the Covenant was much more than a symbol, it represented the very presence of the God in their midst. When the Philistines defeated them in the two battles we read about in I Samuel 4 and t killed 4,000 and 30,000 respectively in those battles and took the Ark of God as a trophy of victory, Israel must have believed Dagon had defeated their God. Or else why did they not go after the Ark?
But God had a plan, He always does .And His plan cannot be thwarted. In battle after battle since the rebellion in heaven, Lucifer has been defeated in every encounter. He has battles he has appeared to win, but things are not what they seem. If it appears in your life, you are losing a battle, rest assured, God has already won, but the path to victory sometimes travels in unexpected ways, for His Ways are higher than ours. We must remind ourselves He is working all things together for good for those who love Him. When you look at our culture today, our country’s journey into spiritual darkness, it may seem as if we are losing. But things are not what they seem.
The Philistines must be as gleeful as the devil and his demonic forces were at the death of Jesus on that fateful Good Friday. But not for long, within 24 hours, what a difference a day makes. They bring home the Ark of the Covenant, that which represented the presence and power of Israel’s God and place in in the temple of Dagon.
God needs no army of men to protect Him. He does not need our strength, or might or power. The threats and denouncements we hear of those who march in the streets and belittle our faith and our God are no problem for God. We read the Ark of God sat next to Dagon. Dagon is a stone idol, carved from stone by man’s hand. He dwells in a temple built by human hands. Our God does not dwell in a temple built by human hands.
“Why do nations say: “Where is your God????” Our God is in heaven; He does what pleases Him. But their idols are silver and gold made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell; they have hands but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them.” ( Psalm 115)
Watch what happens in the first 24 hours: When they arose the next morning, they found Dagon fallen on his face before the Ark of the Covenant. They quickly put Dagon upright. ( I imagine they spent a restless night and tried to reason with natural reasoning, there was a sensible explanation for this – perhaps an earthquake had caused their Dagon to fall on his face.) The next morning, it was worse. Dagon had fallen before the Ark again and his head and hands were broken off. No head- no wisdom. No hands- no power, no protection, no prayers heard for he was stone deaf.
God also struck them with tumors. The priest calls in the leaders. Alliances between religion and politics is nothing new. The political leaders do what they always do, ‘kick the can down the road.’ Send it to Gath. So they carried it away to Gath. God struck the men of the city with tumors there also. They then sent the Ark to Ekron. By now it has become a virtual “ hot potato” , no one wants. Another meeting is held- for this is what natural man does, he holds meeting to find solutions. But unless one is meeting with God, man -made solutions will not work or will only provide temporary relief. Men labor in vain. God is dealing with these heathens. He wants to break through to them to see the truth of who He is.
THE RETURN OF THE ARK
Now in I Samuel 6, we read this had been going on for seven months. The leaders call in the priest and inquire how should we go about sending this back to Israel. After all, they must not admit the God of Israel is superior to their god. Notice in I Samuel 6: 6- the knowledge these people have of the God of Israel and what their God did in Egypt. A plan is devised, an offering to the God of Israel is made and a method for returning the Ark is laid out with a convoluted plan of return involving a new cart, two cows who had just had calves.
Man devises his plans, but God directs his steps we read in Proverbs 16. The Ark is thus returned to Israel. The people reaping wheat in the field lift their eyes and see the Ark has been returned and rejoice. They offer the cows as a sacrifice and set the Ark of the Lord on a stone in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
After seven months in which no one from Israel came to rescue the Ark, God has returned it Himself. The army of Philistines which had defeated the armies of Israel was brought to its knees, its precious stone idol, Dagon, shattered; the people ravished by disease until they sent the Ark of the Covenant back with a guilt offering of gold. God does not need an army to bring an enemy to its knees. One day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess He is Lord.
God said there would be no other gods before Him. He caused the stone idol of Dagon to fall prone on its face before Him. When they set Dagon upright the next morning, the next night, God brought Dagon face down again, head decapitated, hands off, only a torso left. God was saying, “ Now stay down!” Dagon does not rise on the third day.
What happened? What made Dagon bow down? Before Dagon was carved by man’s hand, Dagon was a stone. This stone from which Dagon was carved was quarried by man, transported by cart by man, and carved and used in many different ways. But the stone was created by God.
Stone is stone. It has no life in it. It is stone and will not stop being stone because man has made for himself an image out of the stone. Do you remember the story of Samson? Blind and old, Samson was brought into the temple of Dagon. There Samson who had lost his physical sight, regained his spiritual sight and pushed against the stone pillar which was mighty enough to hold the roof of a building which could contain 3,000 people at one time and Samson pushed it and the power of the Lord entered Samson and the roof came down and killed 3,000 people plus destroyed their temple and their stone idol, Dagon. A stone pillar brought down the temple and killed all those in it.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on that last Holy week, on Palm Sunday, the people worshipped Him and lay down their cloaks and palms and said “ Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Pharisees demanded that Jesus tell the people to stop worshipping him immediately.
Do you remember what Jesus said? “ If these people are silent, the very stones will cry out.”
Stones do what stones do. They are used in building, cornerstones; they are used in paving roads, building houses, foundations, etc. But here Jesus tells us stones will worship. All creation worships its Creator. Paul tells us in Romans 8, creation groans for its Creator to return and set things aright once again.
Jesus, God in flesh, tells us if we do not worship Him, all of creation will. Every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess He is Lord. For some the confession will come too late to allow them to live in the presence of God for eternity.
Man is creative because we were created in the image of our Creator. Man can form things from other things, from stone, metals, wood, etc. Remember our hearts were stone. And God gave us a new heart in which He placed His Spirit.
God broke their stone idol, but I believe He wanted to break their stone hearts. God is not willing that any should perish, but all would come to repentance. These people were visited by God for seven months. He wanted them to know Him and worship Him. He showed them even the stones worship Him and fall on their face before Him.
It is interesting the Ark of the Covenant and its contents went missing after the destruction of the Solomon’s temple in 586BC. To this day, its whereabouts are still unknown. Although we know the Ark of the Covenant which was the pattern for which Moses made the Ark in the Tabernacle is safe and secure in heaven.
When the second temple was rebuilt, there was no Ark of the Covenant behind the Veil, only a stone upon which it sat.
When Jesus died, he proclaimed with a loud voice: “ It is finished!” He had fulfilled the first covenant, every jot and tittle. He said the old way to have your sins forgiven was finished, completed. A new way to have your sins had now surpassed the old way. He did away with the old by fulfilling in order to establish the new covenant. When Jesus proclaimed it was finished, a great earthquake shook Jerusalem. The Veil in the Temple was rent from top to bottom. The Holy of Holies was empty. And empty place where only a stone of prideful tradition dwelt. For the Glory of God which was once in Temple of Solomon no longer dwelt.
The Glory of God had come down and dwelt,( tabernacled ) among men. He was veiled in flesh, His glory was veiled.
The Glory of God had come among men. He came unto His own, but His own receive Him not.
“Therefore, brethren , having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is His flesh. “
God does not dwell in a temple made by human hands. God dwells in the new heart He placed in us when we believed in His Name, the Name above all Names, the only Name under heaven by which men can be saved. He came to dwell in our new hearts, in which He placed His Spirit. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you bought with a price therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s. “
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
We have in these earthly bodies this excellent treasure, the Glory of God. And it will not depart from us.
We know there will be a third temple built during the Great Tribulation. I believe the temple will be a place where all religions worship, the peace which was established by the Anti-Christ in the first years of his reign in the Tribulation were achieved by a One World Government with a One World Religion which adapted all components and rituals of all religions.
We see this movement today, where Muslims are being welcomed to worship with Christians. Where the Gospel is being watered down to adapt to social whims. Where certain sins are being accepted in the Post Modern Christian era which is saying it is time to ‘ re-think’ our theology and move away from the exclusivity of Christianity as the only way to redemption.
Time to revise what is considered sin, to redefine marriage, family, and religion.
It may appear Christianity is doomed, defeated and on its way out. But God has told us these things would happen. He told us to watch and pray. The signs are evident. And I believe for such a time as this we came into the kingdom.
I believe we are living in a time of fulfilled prophecies before our very eyes. Read the Bible if you want to understand the headlines and the movement of our culture.