God and idols

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Samuel 5:1-7:17; Psalms 126:1-6

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
1 Samuel 5:4 “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.”

Due to the evil that Eli’s sons had done in the house of the Lord as well as the failure of Eli to discipline his sons, God told Eli that Israel will suffer failure. Israel shall fall to the hands of her enemies and both of his sons will die. By the fifth chapter of 1 Samuel, the prophetic words were fulfilled. Israel fell to the hands of the Philistines and the enemies even managed to capture the ark of the Lord. Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas also died on the same day.

Basked in battle victory, the Philistines might have thought that it was their own god Dagon who defeated the God of Israel. Therefore, they brought the ark of the Lord into their temple which housed Dagon. According to various books of the Old Testament, Dagon was an important god of fertility to the Philistines. Yet, such a seemingly powerful god could not hold its own against the Lord Almighty. The first time, the Philistines found the statue of Dagon fallen face-ward before the ark of the Lord. The second time, the Philistines found the statue fallen face-ward and even had his head and hands cut off. The idolatrous Dagon was found humbled and destroyed before God Almighty represented by the ark.

Even as the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines, the ark could not be housed in a temple built for idol worship. In fact, what happened later was that as long as the ark resided in the nation of the Philistines, bad things happened. So much so that the Philistines would urgently return the ark to Israel. God is all-powerful and holy. What is holy cannot co-exist with what is unholy and idolatrous. Therefore, whatever that is idolatrous before God shall be cleansed and destroyed.

We who are in Jesus Christ; our body is the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 6:19). Therefore, even as we have been saved by the grace of God, our new life cannot allow “Dagon” to linger in us. We must, through the power and grace of God, get rid of all forms of idolatry in our lives. Otherwise, we might only increase our worship of these idols and would eventually suffer a broken relationship with the Holy One.

What are idols? Timothy Keller in his book “Counterfeit gods” defined idols as “whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I ‘ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’ There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.” Hence idols could be our work, possessions we dream of having, online games or the things we watch on our TV or mobile phones, or even our children. Some of these things / persons might not be harmful on their own, but our wants for them could be so great that it is causing great damage to our relationship with God.

We know what these idols are in our lives. May God help us to do away with these idols and tune our desires for Him, for the Lord Almighty want us to have nothing to do with them.

Lord God, help us to be cleansed of the idols in our lives. Help us, in Your power to remove all these things that are hindering our relationship with You. Amen.