Bible Readings for August 15th
If the Israelites had treated Yahweh’s glory with contempt in 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines do so much more in 1 Samuel 5. When the Philistines capture the ark of the covenant in battle, they set it next to their god Dagon as a trophy of war (1 Sam. 5:2)—a situation that does not please Yahweh.
This whole story is written humorously, so we should feel free to laugh as we read about Dagon twice falling facedown before the ark of Yahweh in the night (1 Sam. 5:3–5)—even the false gods must bow down to Yahweh! The second time Dagon falls down is powerfully symbolic. Dagon’s head and his hands break off of the carved image, representing the fact that Dagon has no power actually to think, say, or do anything for the Philistines (1 Sam. 5:4). Then, Yahweh causes the people of Ashdod to break out in tumors (1 Sam. 5:6), killing many Philistines and inciting a “deathly panic throughout the whole city” (1 Sam. 5:11). Here, Yahweh’s wrath falls more heavily on the Philistines than on the Israelites in 1 Samuel 4, so that the Philistines recognize that they absolutely must get the ark out of their country: “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 Sam. 5:7).
The cows, lowing as they beeline straight toward Israel (1 Sam. 6:12), have more sense than the Philistines—and even more than the Israelites, who do not learn their lesson when the ark returns. When some Israelites further treat Yahweh’s glory with contempt by peeking into the ark of the covenant, Yahweh strikes them dead without hesitation (1 Sam. 6:19). Finally, the people exclaim, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (1 Sam. 6:20).
Today, we continue to struggle with the same fundamental misunderstanding of Yahweh’s glory and holiness, although our struggle looks a little different. We believe we can control Yahweh by ordering him into our battles or that we can tame Yahweh by keeping him as one God in the midst of our idols or that we can use Yahweh for our entertainment by studying his mysteries with cold detachment and without reverence.
The free grace of Jesus, however, does not give us license to live any way that we want. Put another way, Jesus came not because God had abandoned his consuming-fire holiness but in order to uphold it. Jesus faced the hard-handed wrath of his Father for our sin, not so that we might continue to treat God’s glory with contempt, but so that we might learn to worship and honor him as he deserves.
How do you treat the glory of God in light of his mercy toward you?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.