1 Samuel 5:1 When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod; 2 then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon (Dagon was the god of the Philistines) and placed it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But when they rose early on the next morning, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him…. 6 The hand of the LORD was heavy upon the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and struck them with tumors, both in Ashdod and in its territory.
The Philistines had defeated the Israelites in battle and had taken the ark of God (the special receptacle made to hold the tablets upon which Moses wrote the commandments) as spoils of war. If you read the rest of this chapter you will see that the Philistines kept moving the ark of God . But each time they moved the ark, bad things happened to the residents. Eventually the Philistine people became so afraid of the ark they had no choice but to send it back to Israel, which they did. But they suffered mightily before doing so.
It strikes me how vigorously God often (but not always) protected the Israelites in their time of need, particularly when battling an enemy with superior numbers. Why doesn’t God do this sort or thing today? Christians are persecuted all over the world. Churches are damaged or destroyed on a regular basis. Why the “hands-off” posture by God? I realize there may be less visible ways God intervenes on peoples’ behalf today, but visibility was one of the most important elements of God’s method as revealed in the Old Testament. When God was protecting his people, he made sure enemies knew who was acting – and what would happen to them if they continued to oppose Israel. Overt actions by God served as a deterrent for other would-be enemies.
Lord, today I call upon you. Intervene where Christians are persecuted. Make it known that you are the God of all things on heaven and earth. Advocate on behalf of your people as you did in former days. Amen.