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 5:7 ESV)
The men of Ashdod saw how things were. They saw that their lame god kept getting knocked over by the real God. And so, seeing the weakness of their own god in the face of the God of Israel, they did the only logical thing: sent the presence of God away so that they could live in their delusion, feeling safe with a piece of rock.
Can we talk about how crazy this is? God comes along and reveals that your god is a fraud – unable to even protect himself, let alone you. So your solution is – send the better God away before He hurts your god.
You see displayed before you that the real God has the power to crush the idol you have chosen to worship. And your response is not to fall down and worship the real God – but to send the real God away to protect your lame idol.
These people are insane.
These people are us.
We have these idols that we worship: things that we turn to for salvation; gods we trust to deliver us from our anxiety and fear. When we feel panicked and afraid, they are where we run: the comfort of our couch, the amount of money in our bank account, our health, the health of our spouses and children, the approval of our boss, the control of our schedules. And we know God is the real God, but we still tuck away our own personal Dagon who makes us feel safe.
And we are happy to have God near to us, happy to follow Him, happy to place Him right next to our idol in our heart, even hoping that maybe God’s presence in our lives will help build up our false god. We ask the real God to keep our idols safe and warm.
But the more we get to know the real God the more uneasy we become. We begin to understand what it means that our God is jealous. He will not share our hearts with our other god any more than He would share a temple with Dagon. We get a hint of what He’s up to: He’s committed to revealing the insufficiency of our idol and dedicated to its destruction so that we might trust in Him alone.
We realize that the created things we treasure as gods are at risk as long as God is near. So we run. Like the men of Ashdod, we push Him away.
We stop going to church so that we can continue dating an unbeliever without feeling threatened. We stop confessing our porn addiction to our community in case one of them suggests covenant eyes on our computer. We stop talking about the way that watching that certain show makes us covet because God forbid someone challenge us to stop watching. We don’t want to talk about how much we had to drink last night. We convince ourselves that it’s not a problem, because we are terrified that if we let God in to all of our hearts, He will wreck shop and topple our idols.
We are willing to follow God as long as He promises to leave our idols alone, and when He doesn’t, just like the men of Ashdod, we say that the hand of God is hard against us. We conclude that God is not for us, because how could He be for us when He is wiling to take what we treasure most? How can He love us when the He knocks over our gods knowing it will hurt? In fear, we flee the one who actually offers security to be near something that makes us feel safe.
We are blind to His true love that is so deep and real and wide that it is willing to do war with our gods to win us.
There is only one God who is real. Only one worthy of worship. Delight in His presence while it may be found, and ask Him to make Himself at home in your heart. Invite Him to topple the empty idols of your heart – no matter the cost.