1 Samuel 5-6:9 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary Church is dedicated to doctrine. And we want you to experience the life change that comes from knowing God's word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible verse by verse, every chapter, every book. This is Expound.
I love this song that we sang about the faithfulness of God. I had the thought that it's my hope and prayer that you are experiencing that in your life this week. The Bible says that God's faithfulness extends to every generation. And it tells us in the Book of Psalms, dwell in the land and feed on his faithfulness. So I'm hoping and praying that that has been your experience so far throughout this week, that that's your testimony, that no matter what you have gone through, God has been faithful to you.
And now we're here. We're gathered again together, and we are in 1 Samuel, chapter 5. By God's grace, we're going to look at chapter 5 and chapter 6. This is my intention. This is what I plan to do, hope to do, aim to do, and working on doing.
But you know the drill. We will go until our time is up. And then when our time is up, we close the book. Because we'll always have, Lord willing, next week to come back to it and pick up where we left off and plow through the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation. So let's have just another time of prayer to ask that our hearts would be in tune with him.
Father, we now want to open up the bread of life, the bread of your word. We pray that you would feed us. You are a good shepherd, and we pray that we your sheep would feed, not only on your faithfulness, but on your faithful promises and your faithful warnings, that we would give heed to these things, that we would become so familiar with the scriptures, the text of the Bible, the stories of the Bible, that as life unfolds for us, these things would come to mind and would readily appear in our memories, so that we can make application at that time, claim a promise, claim a principle, use a principle, and see you work powerfully in us. We ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
So according to the second law of thermodynamics, which is entropy, energy in a closed system over time diminishes. It is lost. Things tend toward decay. Things tend toward disintegration, deterioration. That's a physical law. Well, we know that everywhere we look in the physical realm.
It's also a principle in the spiritual realm, that if you just let your spiritual life go, you're not going to go anywhere. In fact, it's sort of like riding a bicycle uphill. The minute you stop pedaling, you go backwards. So the fire of your heart and my heart needs to be tended. If the fire of your heart kindled by the Holy Spirit at that point of salvation isn't attended to, and tended by you, it's going to burn out, and you're going to find difficulty.
The Church of Ephesus, Jesus said, had left their first love. One translation says, you don't love me like you did at first. Their love began to diminish. The fire was left unattended.
Now, I say that as sort of an introduction, because we are dealing with a period of time in the nation of Israel's history, where they had left their own fires of worship and devotion to God unattended. In fact, they had become apathetic. Every man was doing what was right in his own eyes.
But even those it seems closer to the Lord and closer to his plan and will, like Eli the priest, was just letting things slide, letting things go, apathetic. His sons were committing a trespass. He didn't want to expend the energy to make the correction that was necessary-- just let them go, do their own thing, hope that God will wink and overlook it, when he could have expended a little more energy to keep that place and his own heart on target.
I remember reading about a couple whose dream it was to drive across America coast to coast in a motor home. So they sold their home. They bought a really nice motor home. They started on the East Coast. They were heading out toward the West. They had gotten their lessons on how to maneuver, how to back up, how to park, how to get the sliders in and out of the campgrounds. And just they were so excited.
And the husband started driving across country, drove for a long period of time, got tired, and told his wife, look, I'm going to go take a nap. It's going to be your turn to drive. So she got into the driver's seat, put it on cruise control, which it had. And it was driving down the road, she's sitting behind the wheel just steering nicely and watching life go by.
About an hour in to her turn at the wheel, while it was in cruise control, she decided to get up and use the restroom. Her husband, I remind you, was taking a nap. At least, that is what she said to the officer after the motor home was in an accident and completely totaled. She mistakenly thought that cruise control meant autopilot, that somehow it was the same thing. It was like an airplane. You put it on autopilot, and you just can walk away for a moment.
So the motor home was totaled, although the husband and wife made it through without a severe injury, amazingly. If you think that your spiritual life can be lived in cruise control, then you need a revival. You're at that place where you need God to revive your heart. You've just put it on auto. You've just put it on cruise control. You're just managing through.
Now, I have a hunch that I'm not talking to many of those who are here tonight. It's Wednesday night. You could be in a lot of places. You could be hanging out. You could be having a meal somewhere. You could be with your friends. You could be at home. You could be relaxing.
But you've decided to take time out, that it was important enough for you to make the effort to come here to gather together in fellowship and to go through a section of scripture with your church. That's commendable. I commend you for that.
The children of Israel put their life for generations on cruise control. So what we saw in the book of Judges, just as a quick reminder, was they went through a series of events that were the same events, just with different names, just with different oppressors, just with different outsiders. We've called it the sin cycle.
And the first phase of the sin cycle is the people abandon God. They walk away from God. They leave the fire so unattended, that they basically just walk away from the worship of the one true God.
The second phase of that sin cycle, after they walk away from God, is God walks away from them. He abandons them. He allows the enemy to come in, take control, do destruction, ruin their lives, ruin their land.
And then the third phase of the sin cycle kicks in. They cry to God. They pray to God. They repent of their sin-- oh God, please. They plead with Him, ask God to forgive them, which, amazingly, He does over and over and over and over and over again, several cycles throughout the book of Judges, as every one is doing what is right in his own eyes.
And then that final phase, that we just touched on, just mentioned, just alluded to-- deliverance and restoration. God delivers them. God restores them. Then after a period of time, a new generation is born, and that cycle starts all over again.
And so we believe that the setting for 1 Samuel occurs basically during the second phase of that sin cycle. The period is the same. In one of the last segments of that period, while an oppression is taking place, God has allowed the incursion of the Philistines to come in from the Aegean Sea, and sweep into the lower coast of Israel, and settle in that land, and for a period of a few hundred years, will oppress the children of Israel, really until the time of David, when they will be delivered.
So what we saw last time in chapter 4 is that the Philistines, in the battle with Israel, had stolen the one item that was central to the worship of the Israelite nation. That was the Ark of the Covenant. It was stolen by the Philistines, taken into their camp. The old man, the priest Eli, heard about it. He was 98 years old at the time, and he was a pretty fat guy. And when he heard that the Ark of God was captured, he just [GASPS] sort of sat up and shifted his weight a little too much, fell backwards, either broke his neck or hit his head, subdural hematoma-- who knows what he got-- and he died.
Also, the wife of Phineas, one of the sons of Eli, heard what had happened as well. She was pregnant with a child, with the son. She went into premature labor and delivered a boy and decided to call his name Ichabod-- not Ichabod Crane, just Ichabod, which means in Hebrew no glory, or the glory has left, the glory has departed. And it was not just in mourning over her husband's death, but the fact that this item central to the worship of the people, the Ark of the Covenant, had been taken away.
Now, the question is how did that Ark get stolen by the Phili-- I was going to say the Philippines-- the Philistines? Well, the children of Israel decided that they would go to Shiloh, the place where the Tabernacle at that time was, and the Ark was stationed, and bring the Ark of God into their camp. Because they knew that the Ark was the symbol of the presence of God among his people. For God had said in the law, I will dwell with you, and I will meet with you there, on the mercy seat, the lid, that was on top of that box, the Ark of the Covenant.
So they had now begun to place, invest, power into an object and see the presence of God as an icon, as an image, as an it, rather than as Him. They weren't worshipping Him. They were very superstitious about the it. And so they brought the Ark into the camp, thinking, Oh, man, this is going to make-- assure us a victory over the Philistine army.
But it had the opposite effect. The Philistine army heard the children of Israel getting all stoked, all excited, throwing up a big shout, stomping the ground. The earth moved. The Philistine army was scared, and they said, what is that? And somebody said, that's the Ark of God in the camp of Israel.
And instead of saying, we're doomed-- let's fold and go home, the commander said to the Philistine army, act like man. Man up. Get a backbone. And it actually challenged the Philistine army to fight harder. And because it did, it had the opposite effect for the children of Israel. The children of Israel lost the battle two days in a row. And the Ark of God was captured and now is in Philistine hands.
The children of Israel were superstitious. You will discover also, the Philistines are also superstitious. Both of them have a belief system that is not based upon the revelation of God. The children of Israel should, but they acted superstitiously by bringing in this amulet, this talisman, this symbol, that would assure them victory. All it did is cause them defeat. And now their sacred object has been taken by their enemies.
You'll find also, that the Philistine army is also very, very superstitious. It was Edmund Burke, the British author, who said, superstition is the religion of fools. And you'll see how foolish they are. Or actually, it's the religion of feeble minds. And we'll find out how superstitious and feeble-minded they are.
You know, I've discovered that people are, in many cases, superstitious. And the more Biblically illiterate a person is, the more superstitious they become. They think, I need to have a picture of Jesus somewhere in my house, even though we don't know what Jesus looked like. A photograph has never been taken of him. We don't have a likeness.
Or if I have a crucifix hanging over my dining room table, it's going to do something for my house; or a statue of some kind; or a relic. But many cultures, for many years, have suffered under superstitious beliefs. Let me give you an example of how even today, some of these superstitions work their way into our culture.
So let's go back 1,000 years to ancient Germany or Holland. And a couple of buddies are in the forest, and they meet up one day. And one is named Hans, and the other is named Franz--
--just for the sake of the story. So Hans and Franz are talking. And Franz says, hey, Hans, good news-- I just bought a new house. And he goes, you did? Ya, for a good price, too. And they get all excited to rejoice.
Suddenly, they realize the error of their ways, and they let out a collective gasp. [GASPS] And Hans rushes to a tree and starts pounding on the tree. Because they both suddenly realize that they shouldn't have uttered the blessing that had occurred to one of them. Because they had a belief system, a superstition, that the gods lived in the forest, lived in the trees, and the gods hated if any human beings got blessed, or got happy, or got some joyful thing or experience. Because the gods were petty and angry and foolish and jealous.
So the only way to get rid of that curse is to knock on wood. And so you'll hear a person today saying, Oh, man, life's been good. Knock on wood. Where did that come from? An ancient pagan superstition that says, I believe there are gods and goddesses that live in the forest, and they're going to get mad, because they know that I'm blessed. So a lot of these silly things get passed down, and we hold on to them.
Well, let's get into the story. I told you my aim, my desire, my design, for these two chapters. We haven't even begun the first verse. "Then the Philistines took the Ark of God and brought it from Ebeneezer to Ashdod." Let me just remind you about the Ark. The Ark was a box. That's all it was, physically speaking. It was a box made out of wood, overlaid with gold.
The box was about 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, 27 inches tall. Inside the box were three items. There were the two tablets of the law, or the Ten Commandments. There was a pot, an omer of manna from the wilderness march that was kept in the Ark. And there was a stick, a rod, that belonged to Aaron, Aaron's that had budded.
You remember, back in the rebellion of Korah, in the wilderness, when Korah said, you take too much on yourself. And the earth opened up and swallowed he and his other rebels. And the very next chapter, the leader Moses took the rods of all the tribal leaders. And one of them was Aaron for the tribe of Levi, and his rod budded, showing that God had selected and affirmed that tribe for the priesthood. That was God's answer to the uprising of Korah in the previous chapter.
So a reminder of that was placed in the Ark of the Covenant. And the Ark was a symbol of the presence of God. It accompanied them through the wilderness march. The priests bore the Ark on their shoulders, when they went across the Jordan River, after the wilderness, into the promised land. And the Ark remained in the Tabernacle at Shiloh.
On top of the Ark of the Covenant was a lid. The lid was not wood covered with gold. The lid was pure gold. So I'm imagining the Ark of the Covenant was quite heavy. It took four strong priests to carry it.
The lid of the mercy seat was the place where atonement took place, where forgiveness took place. Blood was sprinkled on top of the mercy seat once a year on Yom Kippur by the high priest. So that sacred relic, that place where God would meet, that place where sin was forgiven, was removed. And it was taken to Ashdod, one of the five Philistine cities.
"When the Philistines took the Ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon and sat it-- or set it-- by Dagon." To the Philistines, it was a trophy. We won. We won the battle, and we have their god. And their god is subservient to our god. Who was their god? Dagon.
Who was Dagon? Dagon was a god that had been worshipped since 2500 BC. That's where he first appears. It was a god whose likeness-- the upper part was the torso of a man. The bottom part was the body of a fish. So it is an unusual god. It was said in the Ugaritic texts, the myths that were from Mesopotamia, that Dagon was the father of Ba'al, the storm god. And so he was the principal deity that was worshipped by the Philistines in these five cities.
Now, just another little note linguistically-- in Hebrew, the word for fish is dag. And in Hebrew, the word for grain or corn is Dagon. So it is believed that this is a Hebrew representation or a Hebrew word to describe the Philistine Mesopotamian god that was worshipped, the father of Ba'al, the god of fertility, the god of the sea, the god of the land, the god of the corn. So that is the god that they worshipped.
Now, they took the Ark. And either the idea was we're going to place him on-- it says next to Dagon, that is, they're sort of presenting him to Dagon, to say, look, Dagon, you won the battle. You are now in charge of the Ark. This is your trophy.
Or the idea was to say that the God Yahweh is equal to the god Dagon. Just he's of a different area. Remember, in those days, they believed that there were different gods for different area-- gods of hills, gods of valleys. And those gods were respected.
And so when people worshipped a god, they would often worship many other gods. Because they would have the god of the hills, god of the valleys, god of the river, god of this, god of that. And that's where polytheism came from. And that's eventually what the children of Israel did.
The problem with Israel isn't that they stopped worshipping Yahweh, it's that they worshipped Yahweh plus other deities. It wasn't monotheism. It was polytheism. In fact, it was syncretism. They worshipped a confluence of many deities.
So in this Philistine story, they bring the Ark of God in to say, Yahweh is equal to Dagon. Now, you will soon find out, God doesn't think so. In fact, in Isaiah chapter 40, He says, who can you liken me to? What God is there, or what likeness is there in earth that you can compare me with? And He says, look at these people, these idol worshippers. They make a god with their own hands, and then they worship what they made-- stupid, mindless.
I, Yahweh, made you. You should worship Me, because you didn't make me. I made you. You can't compare me to anyone. But in setting the Ark next to Dagon, that was the statement that they were making.
"And when the people of Ashdod rose early in the morning, there was Dagon fallen on its face to the earth before the Ark of the Lord." Now, you would think, they would go, OK, wow, that's never happened before. Something's up.
Remember, they believe in superstition. And God is speaking to them in the language they understand. You understand superstition. I'll speak to you in a language you can understand. So their god falls down. You would think they'd go, OK, that's never happened before. I think we should worship Yahweh. Look what they did.
"So they took Dagon and set it in its place again." This is what the religious person does. They just hold fast, dig the heels in. I'm not going to change. My mother and father raised me this way. Their parents raised them this way. I don't care if it's not logical. I don't care if it's not Biblical. I don't care if it's not right. I'm going to set up Dagon again.
So they did. They set him up in his 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." But there's something different. Something happened. "The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold. Only the torso of Dagon was left of it." So just that fishy part, that lower part, was left, the stump. Now, they should have thought at this point, you know, there's something fishy going on.
Right? Right? You would think that, on a scale of 1 to 10, they would have done that. But they didn't. It just says, "therefore, neither the priests"-- sorry. I-- no, I don't know if I'm really sorry. So I don't want to lie. It'd just make it worse. It is what it is.
"Therefore, neither the priests of Dagon nor any who came into Dagon's house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day." Now, again, God is speaking to them in the language they understand. They speak superstition. God speaks superstition to them.
Now their God has no head. He's a headless God. Head speaks of wisdom. You're saying, your god is stupid. It has no wisdom. He's headless. And their god is handless. The hand was always a representation of power. Your god has no wisdom. Your God has no power. God was speaking to them in the language they should understand.
Do you remember-- and we haven't even gotten to 1 Kings yet. But I trust that you remember, in previous readings of your Old Testament story, when Elijah the prophet met with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. And if you come with us to Israel, we'll take you to the spot where this happened.
But he had a contest with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. The profits of Baal were worshipping and crying out to Baal from morning until noon, cutting themselves, dancing like lunatics, yelling. And right at mid-day, when the sun was at its peak strength, Elijah decided, I'm going to mock these prophets.
He wasn't deferential. He wasn't polite, like, well, you have your belief system, and I have my belief system. He just said, you guys should call louder. Maybe your god is sleeping or meditating or busy. After all, he's a god, and he's a busy guy. So just, come on, yell louder. Speak louder.
So they got louder and more dramatic. And then he finally said, enough is enough. Get out of here. And he just prayed a very short, simple prayer, just a few words. And fired fell down from heaven and destroyed the sacrifice. And he went down to the brook Kishon and ended the lives of those false prophets. It's one of these kind of situations here, where only the torso of Dagon was left, because there's no power whatsoever.
"Therefore"-- this is interesting in verse t-- "the priest of Dagon or any who come into Dagon's house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day." It was believed in ancient times that the threshold of a temple was special, was sacred, because it was the demarcation line between the sacred and the profane. The profane is outside. The holy is inside. The threshold is the marking point. The fact that this happened on the threshold, ' they would hop over. They would step over it.
Instead of realizing, this God is worth a second look. Maybe we should think this through. Maybe we've been following a false god, who has no head and no hands now. And so maybe we should worship the one who made people's heads and hands, whose hand is strong and who himself is wise.
"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. 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." Ha. Really? You now have to defend your god. Now you're worried about your poor, little god got hurt.
If you have to defend your god, if your god needs you to step in for him, you have a lousy god. You have a worthless worship system. If your god can't take care of himself, how is he going to take care of you?
"The Ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us." Now, It says they were struck with tumors. If you have an old King James version, it uses the word emerods. And that doesn't help, because you go, what's an emerod? Am emerod is a hemorrhoid.
And many English translations just come right out and say, the Lord struck them with hemorrhoids. In a sense-- well--
I want to be careful here. It is some kind of tumor. It is some kind of boil, probably a bleeding boil. But because the next chapter will mention the presence of rats, that perhaps caused the tumors, it is thought by some Bible scholars that this was the bubonic plague. We know that the bubonic plague was spread in Europe by rats that carried the disease and got into the human population.
And in the Philistine territory, this plague, perhaps the bubonic plague-- but what's interesting about it is it caused this swelling, these boils, these buboes-- that's where bubonic comes from, these little tumors-- on, it says, the secret parts of people. I find God fascinating.
I find Him interesting. I don't find him boring at all. I even think God has a sense of humor. I mean it's like, of all the uncomfortable things you could experience as a punishment from God, I guess bleeding piles would be one of them. So they got these hemorrhoids.
"Therefore, they sent and gathered to themselves"-- verse 8-- "all the lords of the Philistines and said, what shall we do with the Ark of the God of Israel?" Wrong question. They should have said, what shall we do with the God of Israel? And somebody should have said, worship Him. Turn to Him. He's gotten our attention. We understand His power.
"And they answered, let the Ark of the God of Israel be carried away to Gath." Wow, they must not like the people of Gath. It's one of their own towns. There's five cities the Philistines occupy-- Gath, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron. It's in Ashdod, they go, what should we do? Let's send it to Gath.
"So they carried the Ark of God away." This is what unsaved people do. When there's the evidence of God's judgment upon them or upon others, rather than gravitating toward God, they push God away. Get rid of God. Let's move Him away.
"And so it was, after they had carried it away, that the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction. And he struck the men of the city, both small and great, and tumors"-- emerods, hemorrhoids-- "broke out on them. Therefore, they sent the Ark of God to Ekron." Ekron is another Philistine city. I mean, these guys aren't the smartest of the bunch.
If this is happening, you want to send it to your enemies, not your friends in the neighboring town. But they said, let's send it to Ekron. That was another Philistine city. "So it was the Ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, they've brought the Ark of the God of Israel to us to kill us and our people."
Now, just a note about something that I just read to you-- you see back in verse 9, you see the words "broke out on them"? It is the only time this word is used in the Hebrew text of the entire Old Testament. And when it is translated from the Hebrew into the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint version, it adds the note that these tumors broke out in the groin area.
Again, it's amazing. God is interesting to me. Josephus, the Jewish historian, says that the symptoms that accompanied this disease were vomiting and dysentery. So it does sound like the bubonic plague brought on by rats. It became an epidemic in that area, kind of a local pandemic in that region. People didn't understand what was going on. They just sent it off to Ekron. And the Ekronites were not too stoked about that.
Verse 11-- "So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, send away the Ark of the God of Israel and let it go back to its own place, so that it does not kill us and our people. For there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city. The hand of God was very heavy there. And all the men who did not die were stricken with tumors. And the cry of the city went up to heaven."
That's an interesting description of their pain. Their cry went up to heaven. And I say it's interesting, because it reminds me-- what my mind goes back to, it's reminiscent to me of what happened in Egypt the night of the Passover. It says, there was such a great cry among the Egyptians for the death of the firstborn, that the cry went up to heaven. It was a wailing over what-- or the judgment that God had brought.
So Here. Comes the Ark of God. It is meant to be a blessing. It is meant to signify the presence of God. But that's not what the men in Gath thought. That's not what the people of Ekron thought. It was a blasting, not a blessing.
Now, think about that. For the children of Israel, especially those who are right with God, in covenant with God, it would be a blessing. For the enemies of God, it would be a blasting. It would be a curse.
Do you realize that you and I are the same way to this world? You and I, the children of God, the children of Yahweh, the worshippers of the one true and living God, in covenant relationship with Him through Jesus Christ's work on the cross, when you come into the company of worldly people, or you come into the company of believing people, to one group, you are a blessing. To another group, you're not so much a blessing.
Listen to what the apostle Paul writes. See if this rings a bell. I think it fits what we're talking about. This is 2 Corinthians, chapter 2. "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death until death; and to the other the aroma of life to life. And who is sufficient for these things?"
To some people, you're a breath of fresh air. You're the life of the party in the truest, most righteous sense. To others, you're the smell of death. Oh, here comes that Christian. Oh, he's going to give me that gospel junk again. It's like the people of Ekron. You come here to torment us, to kill us.
So what we've learned so far in chapters 4 and 5 is that God cannot be manipulated. The children of Israel tried to manipulate Him by bringing the Ark in. The Philistines tried to manipulate the children of Israel by the use of the Ark in their temple. God cannot be manipulated. God will not be a talisman, and God will not be a trophy. He was a trophy to the Philistines. He was an amulet, or a talisman, to the children of Israel.
Now, I just have to give you this note, because I think it's important. We talk about the Philistines, right? You know the term. You know about this people group. I've told you where they have come from. The term Philistine is where we get the term Palestine.
When people say, are you going to Palestine? I say, no, I'm going on a tour to Israel. And in the old days, 100 years ago, it was referred to as Palestine. Ever since May 14th of 1948, when the United Nations gave to the Jewish state the sovereign control of that Jewish state, it was henceforth called Israel, like its ancient term.
I want to be fair, but I want to be honest. I believe the Palestinians have suffered horribly over the years. I think that they have been in the middle of a political firestorm. But they're not just located in Israel. There are more Palestinians in the country of Jordan then in the nation of Israel.
And they're ill-treated, they feel, by the Jordanians, just like they feel they're ill-treated by the people of Israel. And I'm not here to talk about that. I could go into that whole geopolitical thing a little bit deeper. I don't want to detract from this except to say this. You're not getting the full story on the news channels. You are dealing with factions, groups, among these poor Palestinian people who are-- not the people, but these fascist groups-- who are out and out terrorists.
They have been called terrorists by the United Nations. They have been named terrorists by the government of the United States. They're funded by Iran. They're given weapons by Iran, smuggled across the border from Egypt and the Sea. And Hamas, in Palestine, Hezbollah, in Lebanon, are firing rockets indiscriminately at populations, not caring where they land. They have fired over 4,000 rockets before the ceasefire, 4,000, hoping that they land and destroy all sorts of things, all sorts of people. They don't care who.
Israel will retaliate, but they're very surgical in their retaliation. They pinpoint the source of it. Now, what makes it difficult is that the people of Hamas in the Palestinian territories are-- and it's been their practice forever. Everybody knows this. This is not news. This is not maybe they are. They are, in every case, using human shields.
They're firing these from hospitals. They're firing these from mosques. They're firing these from office buildings. And so to make a pinpoint accurate strike-- not an indiscriminate, let's-just-kill-everybody-- a pinpoint retaliation makes it difficult. But as even the United Nations has said, Israel has the right to defend itself.
Now, all of that aside, because we're going to be talking more about this. I'm going to have a couple of Israelis coming, a couple of interesting people, a friend of mine who's a tour guide, who will be here sometime in the fall, and another guy who's a friend of mine, who's an author of a book, and who is a believer. And both will fill you in. And I'll tell you on the Wednesday night when they're going to come. They'll bring a very special report of what's going on in the Middle East. You're going to find it very enlightening and very engaging.
But here's what you need to know about the Philistines. In 135 AD, Hadrian was the Roman emperor who decided, I want to erase all of the memory of Judaism from Jerusalem and Judea. I want to steal the identity of the Jewish people. So he opted to use the old name, or Philistia, or Palestinian, to call the area Palestine, as a way to defame the Jewish state.
So that happened in 135 AD by the Roman emperor Hadrian. And that is why, up until most recent history, the whole area, even Israel, was known as Palestine. But the Israeli will say, no, we're the state of Israel. That's the Biblical name. OK, enough of that. I hope that was somehow helpful and not too detracting.
Now, verse 1-- oh, my goodness. "Now the Ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines for seven months." I announced my intent when we started our study tonight. Yeah, I could read through it, and we could just go through it. But that's probably not going to happen. So let's just see how far we get in the next nine minutes.
"Now the Ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months." Now, hold on right there. OK, if you've got people dying in Ekron, if you got hemorrhoids--
--going off in Ashdod and Gath, I'm not waiting seven months. If the problem is get the Ark of God out of town because of these hemorrhoids, these tumors, and this curse, get it out today. I find it crazy that it says, and the Ark of God was in this country of the Philistines seven months. What a bunch of nincompoops. Why wait seven months?
All I can figure is to them, it was such a trophy. They were so proud of the trophy. They had captured this sacred relic of Israel, that they wanted to hang onto it until they could do it no more.
Here's what it reminds me of. You remember the plagues of Egypt, right? Moses stands before Pharaoh. There's a series of plagues that happened, 10 plagues that happens. The second plague in Exodus, chapter 8, was a plague of frogs.
So Moses goes out there, lifts his rod. Frogs cover the land. And the frogs are everywhere. The frogs are on the kitchen table, in people's beds. So you undo the sheets at night. You're going to go to bed. Rivet. There's frogs in there. You've got to shoo the frogs out. There's frogs in the kneading trough, where people make bread, in your cereal bowl, in your microwave. They're everywhere.
And then the diviners of Pharaoh come out, and they lift their rod up to bring more frogs on the land. Idiots. If you're going to lift your staff up, don't bring more frogs. Get rid of the ones that are cursing you. So there's a problem.
And then finally, Pharaoh calls Moses, says, Moses, call on the name of your God to get rid of these frogs. Smart. Moses said, great, Pharaoh, I'll do that. When would you like them gone? Now, a thinking person, I'm guessing, I'm thinking, a smart person would say, now, right now, immediately. Pharaoh said, tomorrow. Tomorrow? Hello, Pharaoh? Tomorrow?
I don't understand that, just like I don't understand the Ark was in the country of the Philistines seven months. "And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, what shall we do with the Ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it to its place. So they said, if you send away the Ark of God of Israel, do not send it away empty. But by all means, return it to him with a trespass offering. And then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.
So they said, what is the trespass offering that we should return to Him? So they answered, five golden hemorrhoids."
OK, this is weird. Am I the only one who thinks this is a weird story? OK, maybe you don't prefer the translation, because you think it's a bubonic plague-- although, it was selective bubonic plague. And you just like the word tumors. Still, five-- "make five golden tumors."
Now, what artist do you get to do that? Well, what kind of tumor would you like? You want an adenoma? You want a benign, or do you want a metastatic? Or I mean, what shape? Five golden tumors and five golden rats-- aha, probably that is the clue that we're looking for that leads us to believe the bubonic plague was responsible-- again, though it was selective. It hit just the private parts, the secret parts of people, we're told.
I'm not making this up. This is Bible, OK? "Five golden tumors, five golden rats, according to the number of the lord of the Philistines. For the same plague was on all of you and your lords. Therefore, you shall make images of your tumors and images of your rats that ravaged the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from you, from your gods, and from your land."
Believe it or not, part of the superstition of people is that, if you can make an icon, an image of the thing that is causing the problem, it will go away. That I discovered is why they made the rats and the tumors. So rats, they just needed to get it done, and they did.
So verse 6 says, "Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians, and Pharaoh hardened their hearts when he did mighty things among them and did not let the people go, that they might depart? Now therefore, make a new cart. Take two milk cows which have never been yoked, and hitch the cows to the cart. Take their calves home away from them, and then take the Ark of the Lord, set it on the cart, and put the articles of gold which are returning to him as a trespass offering in a chest by its side.
Then send it away and let it go and watch. If it goes up the road to its own territory, to Bet Shemesh, then he"-- that's Yahweh-- "he has done us this great evil. But if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us. It was by chance that it happened to us."
I know they're superstitious. But this is rather ingenious, in that they are making Yahweh, if he's real, perform a miracle. And I'll explain why next time we meet. It's a fascinating passage, but the time's up. So let's pray together, and we'll close in the song of worship.
Father, thank you for the opportunity to gather midweek to consider this story, to consider this text, this the part of the Bible that is unfamiliar to some of us. But it was the Bible to Jesus, to the first apostles, the early church, until the New Testament was written. It was part of the scriptures that they looked to and referred to and trusted in.
And you said, all of those things written in the Old Testament were written for our admonition, for our instruction.
And so thank you, Lord, that we can gather together. And I thank you for a church that is committed to learning all of the counsel of God, all of the scripture, Old and New Testament. Thank you for this time. We pray, Father, that we would experience your faithfulness as we march through the rest of the week, in Jesus' name.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching in our series Exposed.