The Lord’s Hand

1 Samuel 5:6-12

6The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors. 7When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god.” 8So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?” They answered, “Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath.” So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.

9But after they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. 10So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.”

11So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy on it. 12Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.

Introduction

What has been bothering you lately? All of us have certainly experienced some sort of difficulties, troubles, problems, or heavy burdens. When things were tough in your life, have you ever considered or assumed that the Lord has done something about it? Have you ever blamed God when you have problems?

Many people believe that God loves them despite of their sinful lifestyle. They argue that Christ hanged out and even ate with sinners. Their knowledge of God’s love is partial. It says in 2 Peter 3:9, 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Wait! Does God not wanting anyone to perish equal to love of sinners? Has God proclaimed literally that He loves sinners? Faith in God transforms us to desire to be holy like Christ, despise sinfulness and not to defend sinful lifestyle.

Well, John 3:16 says, that God loved the world. The Lord Jesus instructed us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-28). And, one may argue, “Does not the Lord who commands us to love our enemies love His enemies?” Interestingly, Christ who orders to love our enemies has also declared in Luke 12:51, 51Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

By faith, we can accept that God is merciful, and He is also just. God’s love is understood by personal experience much deeper than by reasons. God did not literally stated that He loves sinners. In contrast, there are many passages that described how God hates sinners. The Psalmist proclaimed in Psalm 5:5-6, 5The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; 6you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest.

The Lord told the Israelites in Leviticus 20:23 that He strongly dislike sinful lifestyle, 23You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them.

God decides what He deems right in His eyes. It’s futile to argue what He does? The Philistines have experienced the heavy hand of God against them.

1. Reject

6The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors. 7When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god.” 8So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?” They answered, “Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath.” So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.

When the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites, they placed it next to their idol god Dagon. They may have assumed that they can have the Ark of the Covenant in addition to their god. The following morning, their god Dagon has fallen on its face on the ground before the Ark of God. The Philistines returned Dagon to its place but the next day, Dagon has fallen again before the Ark of God, but that time, its head and hands were broken.

The Philistines concluded that the God of Israel is powerful God. Their idol god Dagon cannot defend itself from God’s wrath. Additionally, an epidemic of tumor has devastated the residents of Ashdod, the city where they brought the Ark of God. The Philistines interpreted that the God of Israel did not want to stay at the temple of Dagon so that they moved it to the city of Gath.

9But after they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. 10So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.”

The epidemic of tumor did not remain in Ashdod after the Ark of God was brought to Gath from Ashdod. The Philistines have interpreted that the Ark of God brought damage not just among them but also to their idol Dagon. When it mentioned ‘young and old were afflicted,’ it implied that nobody was spared from the epidemic of tumor that has devastated the people of Gath.

Again, the Philistines sent the Ark of God to Ekron but the residents of Ekron resisted. They may have heard of what happened to the people of Ashdod and Gath. They were afraid that they may die if the Ark of God enters their city.

When the Ark of God was captured and brought to the temple of Dagon, it is possible that that people were curious what was in it. Perhaps, the Philistines touched it. The Ark of God was covered with gold, so that it attracted curiosity.

Uzzah

There was a time when King David ordered to bring the Ark of God up to Jerusalem. They set the Ark of God in a new cart attached to an ox. It narrated in 2 Samuel 6:6-7, 6Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died.

Uzzah may have good intention to assist the Ark of God. He did not want the Ark of God to fall on the ground or it might be damaged. His instinct told Him to move quickly but his good motive was irreverent act before God.

Since there were no Israelites who saw what the Philistines did, it’s very sensible that there was no description of their irreverent act before the Ark of God. Nonetheless, Israel heard of what happened that’s why it was recorded.

The Philistines did what was proper when they returned the Ark of God.

2. Return

11So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy on it. 12Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.

The Lord did not destroy all the Philistines. Perhaps, only those who touched or looked at the Ark of God died but still an epidemic had spread among them. And, they believed that the disease was caused by the God of Israel.

It’s interesting that the Philistines were unified in their suggestion. Did God give them the idea to return the Ark of God? They respected the decision of their rulers. Dagon did not give power to the Philistines. They were unified to let their rulers made decisions and might have helped them win against their enemies.

The Lord Jesus said in Mark 3:24-24, 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

Before the Ark of God was captured, the Israelites were ruled by Eli the Priest. Eli may have been a faithful priest of God but his sons did whatever they wished to do. There were Israelites who were faithful to the Lord, just like Elkanah the father of Samuel who regularly brought an offering to the Lord.

However, it was possible that there were Israelites who were influenced by the wicked sons of Eli so that they also did whatever they thought best for themselves. Additionally, Eli had grown old and he could not see. The Lord allowed the Israelites to be defeated by the Philistines to put an end to the wickedness of the sons of Eli who were bad influence to the Israelites.

The Psalmist confessed in Psalm 73:3-4, 3For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

He also said Psalm 73:16-17, 27-28, 16When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply 17till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny…  27Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

We can be influenced by people around us, possibly, envy their lifestyle.

We’ve got to intentionally reject sinful lifestyle and return to the very basic of seeking the will of God. What’s God’s will for us?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, 16Rejoice always, 17pray continually, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Troubles, problems, concerns still exist but by God’s grace we can thank Him.

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