Today I am honored to feature guest writer Anna Koeppe! Be sure to check out more of her amazing posts at Without Hindrance.
Sometimes God is funny. Actually, He’s funny a lot of the time. He often proves both His power and His points in humorous ways. Today’s Bible story about idolatry is no exception.
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First, some quick background on the issue. I’ve noticed idolatry becoming a more widespread topic in Christian articles and conversations lately. So, you probably know the kind of idolatry I’ll be discussing today doesn’t involve chanting to ancient golden statues or meditating before eerie fish gods.
Idolatry today is dangerous in a very different way because it’s deeply ingrained in our everyday lives in ways we normally don’t notice. Things like comfort, self, romantic relationships, beauty, technology, coffee, and wealth are getting more authentic, daily worship than our Creator and Savior. This is the sad yet undeniable truth for many Christians.
So now on to the story!
In the Old Testament, the ark of the covenant (also referred to as the ark of God) was a golden structure where God’s very presence met with the Israelites—even speaking audibly to them at times. Also, in times of obedience, the ark seemed to have brought the Israelites victory in battles they very well should have lost.
However, in 1 Samuel 4, they bring it into battle with the Philistines as simply a magic ticket to victory. And guess what? This time the Philistines win the battle, actually stealing the ark and carrying it off. They place the ark in their pagan temple next to Dagon (the idol father of their central idol, Baal). What happens next is quite hilarious to me:
After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. 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. 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 Samuel 5:1-4 (NIV)
God’s like “nope,” and flicks the highly esteemed idol right down onto its face in worship of the presence of the one true Lord. The second time this happens, Dagon’s head and hands snap clean off.
This can apply very clearly to our lives today. When we hold up our worldly loves in comparison to our holy God, there should be absolutely no competition. Why even prop up our unstable idols next to a God whose holiness will always triumph? Nevertheless, we try. There are even times when our idols get knocked over and we scramble to set them upright again, only to find them failing us once again. Idols will never satisfy a human heart made for its Maker.
So the way I see it, why not knock them over ourselves? And if their hands and heads break off, so be it. Isn’t it better that way anyway?
In the end, we must choose one or the other: God or our idols.
They simply cannot coexist. We’re going to have to give up one if we want to keep the other. In the case of the Philistines, they were stubborn and kept standing their idol back up. Therefore, God’s presence brought judgment and suffering. They ended up sending the ark back to the Israelites, tired of having their idol challenged.
So what’s the main point? An idol can never stand peacefully and successfully next to God. Either the idol will fall on its face and break into pieces, or God will have to leave the picture. One path brings ultimate joy and fulfillment. The other is empty pursuit. Which will you choose?
Anna Koeppe is a college student living in the Midwest, studying to become a speech pathologist. She posts weekly on her Christian living blog, Without Hindrance, where she writes about practical, joy-filled ways to live with and for God daily. She’s a believer in the power of eloquent words, uncontrollable laughter, and the love and grace of Jesus.
*Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations taken from the NASB.