Israel’s army went to battle against the Philistines, and the result was a Philistine victory in which approximately 4,000 of Israel’s soldiers were killed (1 Samuel 4:1- 2). Fearing a similar result from a second battle, Israel’s elders had the fabled Ark of the Covenant brought from the Tabernacle in Shiloh to the site where Israel’s army was encamped near Ebenezar (1 Samuel 4:3-9). The elders believed that Israel’s army was invincible as long as it carried the Ark of the Covenant into battle.
What they didn’t realize was that God was using the Philistine army to chastise Israel for the corruption and wickedness of Eli (Israel’s high priest) and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:12-17; 2:22-36). So, the second battle went even worse for Israel than the first one had as this time 30,000 of Israel’s soldiers died, including Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 4:10). Even more devastating to Israel as a nation was the fact that the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and took it with them back to Philistia (1 Samuel 4:11).
The Philistines took the Ark to Ashdod, one of their five major cities, and placed it inside the temple of their god Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1). As a matter of fact, they placed it right next to a graven image of Dagon (1 Samuel 5:2). However, the next morning they found the Dagon image fallen on its face to the ground before the Ark (1 Samuel 5:3). They set the image back in its place, but the following morning they found it again fallen on its face to the ground before the Ark. To make matters worse, this time the image’s head and the palms of its hands were broken off (1 Samuel 5:4).
Furthermore, God struck the people of Ashdod and its surrounding territory with tumors (1 Samuel 5:6). The plague was so great that it convinced the Philistines to return the Ark to Israel. They had held the Ark in great respect even before all these events (1 Samuel 4:5-8), but now they were absolutely terrified of it and couldn’t get it out of their land fast enough.
While there are many spiritual lessons that we can glean from this story, the one I’d like to focus upon has to do with God refusing to share space with a false god in your life. If you have some “Dagon” (false god, idol) to which you devote the bulk of your time, energy, resources, and money, you needn’t bother trying to set God alongside it for a peaceful coexistence. Remember that God Himself has said that He is jealous enough to be called by the name “Jealous” (Exodus 34:14) and that the first of the famous ten commandments is: You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:2).
What all this means is that God isn’t going to share space with any false god. Whether that false god is work, money, power, popularity, fame, success, sports, sex, etc., He won’t share your worship with it. He’s far too jealous for that. So if you have some “Dagon” in your life, whatever or whoever it is, don’t be surprised if God knocks it down. And if you erect it again, don’t be surprised if He just go ahead and breaks it altogether.