Monday, June 22, 2015

When Your God Falls Apart

Monday, June 22, 2015
After the Philistines captured the Ark of God, they took it from the battleground at Ebenezer to the town of Ashdod.  They carried the Ark of God into the temple of Dagon and placed it beside an idol of Dagon.  But when the citizens of Ashdod went to see it the next morning, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground in front of the Ark of the Lord! So they took Dagon and put him in his place again.  But the next morning the same thing happened—Dagon had fallen face down before the Ark of the Lord again.  This time his head and hands had broken off and were lying in the doorway.  Only the trunk of his body was left intact.   1 Samuel 5:1-4(NLT)
It was a common thought in Samuel’s day that if you could possess the god (idol) of your enemy, you held the power to control your enemy.  The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant and they put it at the foot of their fish god, Dagon, in the temple of Nimrod – the same ancient king who had tried to build a tower to heaven; they called it the tower of Babel.  God wouldn’t have any of that, and He scrambled their languages.

The newer generation of Israel’s enemies didn’t have any better luck with the stolen Ark.  This time God scrambled the parts of their idol-god, Dagon, dismembering and tumbling the fish god night after night. 

On top of it all the people developed tumors, causing the enemies of Israel to realize their sin, and pass the Ark of the Covenant around like a hot potato in their hands; it was trouble everywhere, and nobody wanted it.  Finally, they just gave it back.

Fast forward to the current century –

Somewhere along the line, the church of Jesus Christ has adopted the mindset of Nimrod’s offspring.  I’m not suggesting we have set up “fish gods” in our temples (although the way some people choose the bass boat over the Sunday School, it would stretching the truth in some cases).

Rather I want to point to an analogy of having your god fall apart.  With the Philistines it was a stone idol that could not stand or hold together in the presence of the power of Jehovah, the one true God.  For us in the 21st century the church seems to be tripping all over itself as we attempt to hold the gods of Nimrod close.

And the potato is just as hot now as it was for the Philistines.

I had a front row seat this past week as the annual conference of United Methodists (in which I serve) wrangled and politicized to send delegates to next year’s quadrennial worldwide gathering of Methodists.  Of course, the big issue (as it is every four years) is if we will rewrite our bylaws (and, in my opinion Scripture) so as to allow practicing homosexuals to serve as clergy.

The analogy to Nimrod’s temple is that we have largely become like the Philistines, wanting the power of holding our enemies captive, and not knowing what it will do to our souls as we fail to reverence the Lord God.  The god we think we serve with this power-grab mentality is masked; we are really serving our own self-determination, self-rule and self-satisfaction.  Somehow we believe we can have it all – “serving” god and serving self.

And in such misguided thought our god will crumble and fall apart every night.  And in the morning we pick up our shattered pieces of theology and start all over again.

Who are we kidding?  A church like that has no power, only an illusion of power.

We (this church which invites every ungodly attitude and practice of our godless society to become parts of lives), are headed, runaway-train-style toward a collision with the Rock of Ages.  It will not be a pretty picture for the morning tabloids!

If the church stands for anything it ought to stand for repentance – naked open confession of our sin and willfulness, and our need for utter dependence on the Christ of Calvary.  

It’s time to get back to that, leaving the powers that be to fumble with Dagon’s pieces.

For You Today

Do you ever see yourself as “pretty good” and hardly in need of forgiveness?

Fish gods don’t, you know.

[1] By Vignette by Loutherbourg for the Macklin Bible 12 of 134. Bowyer Bible Old Testament  Headpiece to 1 Samuel: Phillip Medhurst derivative work: St Anselm, via Wikimedia Commons

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