IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: THE UNFATHOMABLE POWER OF CHRIST VERSUS OKE-ITE AND OTHER POWERLESS gODS
Rev. Innocent Chukwudi Peace-Udochukwu President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing? People who do that will be put to shame; such craftsmen are only human beings. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and shame. The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint. The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in human form, human form in all its glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!” They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”
Orthodox Israelite religion stood out in the ancient Near East because of its fierce monotheism (Isa. 45:5–6). The religions of other nations were polytheistic, and as we have seen, these religions believed that a particular god was sovereign only over the territory where it was worshiped. When nations went into battle, the gods of each nation would fight as well, and the god of the victorious nation was then seen as stronger than the god of the defeated nation. In many cases, the defeated god was added to the pantheon of the victorious nation, often signified by bringing an idol of the defeated god into the temple of the victorious god. Even though the defeated god was weaker than the victorious god, the deity who lost was still a supernatural being, so the winning nation thought it valuable to have him on its side as well.
That explains why the Philistines took the ark of the covenant to the temple of their god Dagon in Ashdod, the leading Philistine city, after they defeated Israel and captured the ark (1 Sam. 5:1). The ark of the covenant was no idol, but the Philistines knew enough that it was associated with Jehovah, the God of Israel, so they put it beside the idol of Dagon in Dagon’s temple (v. 2). But the Philistines had no idea what they were getting into. They thought Dagon had defeated the God of Israel, but Jehovah would prove who is the true Almighty.
“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands.”
“They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.”
“Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”
Psalm 135: 15-18
Scripture strongly advises against the following of idols other than God. Idolatry, in this sense, means abandoning the way of God for another aim. The Bible says we should put living in a righteous manner above all other pursuits of the flesh and mind.
Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. “And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set it in its place again. And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon’s torso was left of it.”
Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.But the hand of the Lord was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. And when the men of Ashdod saw how it was, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is harsh toward us and Dagon our god.” Therefore they sent and gathered to themselves all the lords of the Philistines, and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?”And they answered, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried away to Gath.” So they carried the ark of the God of Israel away”.
This is the account of the epic battle between JEHOVAH the God of Israel vs Dagon known to be the father of Baal, the god of storms.
Dagon may have been the god of grain and agriculture to the Philistines.
There is some suggestion that it wasn’t until the 13th century AD that a Hebrew scholar named David Kimhi said that Dagon was a fish-man.
“Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the LORD your God.”
THE idols of the heathen represent demons who are their accepted gods, just as the Ark was the symbol of the presence of Jehovah. In the one case there was a material representation of the demon; but in the case of the Ark there was only a throne, the Mercy Seat; and no attempt was made to represent the appearance of the God of Israel. When placed in the Holy of Holies, the Shekinah shone between the cherubim; this alone spoke of the Divine Spirit who filled the apparently vacant throne. When the effigy of the fish god was confronted by the Sacred Ark, it was as though the demon spirit and the Divine Spirit had come into contact, with the inevitable result that the inferiority of the one ensured the crash of its effigy to the ground.
“Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.”
What a lesson this must have been to the Philistines similar to that given Pharaoh in the plagues of Egypt, and with the same object of leading them to see the superior greatness of Jehovah! How great the encouragement to Israel to know that God could defend his superiority!
And how striking the prognostication for the future, when all the Dagons of the world shall be broken before the symbol of Divine power and love!
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
I can imagine the elation and jubilant celebration the Philistines momentarily enjoy over their apparent victory as they carry the Ark of God from Ebenezer to Ashdod, the northern most of their five principle cities. In their minds, defeating the Israelites and capturing the Ark was defeating God. It is probably with great ceremony that the Philistines carry the Ark of God into the house of one of their principle gods, Dagon. Here, placed before Dagon in some symbolically subordinate position, is the Ark of God. Dagon now prevails over God as the Philistines prevailed over Israel — or so the Philistines suppose. They are in for a rude awakening.
“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.”
What a shock they have early the next morning when people arrive to praise and worship their god, Dagon, for the victory it has given over Israel. There, in its own temple, their idol lies prostrate in the dirt before the Ark of God. Imagine the excuses and explanations made in defense of their “god.” It must not have been properly positioned. Could it have been an earthquake? Whatever the reason, one can be sure that their god is now securely anchored in its “house” when the Philistine priests leave that day. There will be no more falling on its face, that is for sure.
Does a larger than usual group assemble at the house of Dagon the following day? Do the Philistines want to convince themselves that the previous morning was some kind of fluke? Is this nothing but an “act of God” (as insurance adjusters say)? When they arrive early the next morning, things are even worse than the previous day. Dagon has fallen before God once again, but this time its hands and head are broken off as the idol strikes the threshold. Do the Philistines still think the God of Israel is in their hands? The hands of their god are in the dirt, as well as its head. The Ark of God may be in Philistine hands, but the god of the Philistines is in the hands of the only true God, the God of Israel.
“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.”
Bring the Ark of God into your life. Set it down in your heart, and forthwith the Dagons which have held sway for so long will one after another succumb. “The idols He will utterly abolish.” Let Christ in, that is the one need of the soul; and let Him take full possession of you. Then He will do his own work. Darkness cannot abide light.
“Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save”.
Now, then, whenever at any time infidelity or superstition shall so prevail as to discourage your minds, take you comfort out of this— that in all these God’s honour is compromised. Have they blasphemed his name? Then he will protect that name. Have they gone further than they used to do in foul utterances against him? Then they will provoke him, and he will make bare his holy arm. I pray that they may so provoke him! All his church will say “Amen!” to that, so that he may arise and perform the glorious works of his strength and of his love among the sons of men, and put the adversary to confusion by proving that he is still with his people, and still the same mighty God as he was in the days of yore. Say you to yourselves, then, “Our Lord will not always endure this idolatrous popery, which is multiplying its priests within our national church. His people cannot bear it; much less will he. He will not always tolerate these blasphemous theories, by which self-conceited, learned men and vainglorious sceptics seek to get rid of God out of the world. They will provoke him. He will bestir himself; he will show himself strong on the behalf of his truth, he will roll back the waves of sin, and let the ages know that he is still the great I AM, the victorious God over all, blessed for ever.”
Today believers can be tempted to engage in a religious syncretism that is not much different from what the Philistines practiced. How many professing Christians make sure they have all their religious “bases covered” by consulting horoscopes, believing in superstitions, and engaging in other religious and quasi-religious practices alongside biblical Christianity? Let us take care not to mix our faith with falsehood.
Today, we worship this Jehovah through His Son Jesus Christ (John 14:6). In Christ, we serve the one God who cannot be defeated.
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