Crisis reigns in Israel. Not only have they lost the Philistine war, the ark of the covenant, Israel’s one great treasure, has been captured. Now, it lies deep within enemy territory, in their temple, a tribute to their god, a mockery to the one true God. True believers are in disgrace.
But when there is absolutely no hope, God’s not panicked. Instead, He uses the hopelessness to glorify Himself. The first night His holy ark is in a pagan temple, he makes the idol Dagon bow before it.
When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. — 1 Sam. 5:3 NIV. The Philistines don’t get. They think it’s a fluke.
A replica of the ark
But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. — 1 Sam. 5:4 NIV.
Things are about to get worse, and the Philistines grow terrified. The message is clear: You don’t make a trophy of the one true God to honor false gods. That is what the Philistines learn.
They sent it back on a cart pulled by cattle, who with no guiding, took it straight back to Israel.
The Israelites learn that God can act alone, without any human intervention. At the end of the story, the Philistines send the ark back to Israel voluntarily. There is no military raid to recover it. No high-level diplomatic negotiations. No agreement to exchange war prisoners. To the Israelite perspective, it is starkly an Act of God.
Maybe you need an Act of God for your desperate circumstances today. Instead of wringing your hands, fold them in prayer. Instead of anxiety, let quiet trust reign in your heart.
God doesn’t need you. He needs only your prayers.