Posted by: arieliondotcom | March 19, 2013

Stupor-stition (1 Samuel 4-6)

“Stupor-stition” (1 Samuel 4-6)

Stupor-stition. That’s what happens when you become so wrapped up in a false belief that the Truth never occurs to you. It results on being so comfortable with the wrong that it seems right. And even when you know it doesn’t help you cling to the wrong and the failing anyway for fear of what the Truth will cost you. GOD is Truth. And as our reading today will show, He will not allow His Name to be dishonored as a lie.

That is where we find both Israel and the Philistines in our reading today. They are in battles as they have been and will be for generations. The Israelites who are worshipping other gods besides the LORD decide they’re losing their battle against the Philistines so they get what has become for them the ultimate good luck charm, the Ark of the Covenant, from where it is in Shiloh and bring it into their camp. Remember, the Ark of the Covenant is the gold-covered box with gold cherubim (heavenly creatures) on top of it which are facing each other and above which the LORD would speak, so it was said to be His throne. The LORD had given instructions on how it was to be made and it was kept in the holy of holies hidden inside the Tabernacle tent where only specially appointed priests could go at appointed times. It had long handles which the people could see while worshipping though the rest of it was hidden behind a curtain in the Tabernacle. These handles were for the appointed people to use while carrying it when the LORD told the people to move. But now, without consulting GOD, the people of Israel take their good luck charm with them into battle. Not only do thousands of their people die but the Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant.

Eli, who we learned in previous chapters was a lazy judge and priest who never disciplined his sons, also priests, for their sins is so shocked when he hears the Ark has been taken that it kills him. He is told his wicked sons are dead as GOD had warned him earlier they’d be but the shock from the Ark being gone had him fall off his stool and break his neck. Yet it’s not from mourning or repentance, but like others around him, just superstition that the enemies have their best weapon.

Israel thinks their glory is gone, as if GOD is an idol in a box. They had forgotten GOD Himself is their Glory and they were ignoring Him. They are stuck in “stupor-stition.”

The Philistines are no better, and maybe worse. They, too, think they have captured the idol of Israel and put the captured Ark into the building where they kept their idol Dagon. You might remember this was the idol of the temple Samson destroyed.

Now, here the story gets ironic and funny, in a disgusting kind of way. I’m going to be graphic, so forgive me. But there’s a point.

Dagon was the god for fertility of crops and grain. His image was the hands and head of a man and body of a fish. You can see the connection that fish need water and so if the fish thrive the crops thrive. Even though they’re at war they don’t want to anger him so they have a special place for Dagon and put the Ark beside it. Actually putting the Ark beside Dagon was considered a compliment to the LORD’s power.

But when they came in the morning to worship Dagon they find the statue face down in front of the Ark as if worshipping GOD.

So they pick their “god” Dagon back up, presumably dust him off, and put him back standing beside the ark again. Stupor-stition. The fact that their idol has been made to worship the symbol of the LORD doesn’t phase them. Next morning they find the fishy body laying in front of the Ark but the human statue head and human statue hands have been carefully put on the threshold of the door to show it’s intentionally done by Someone. What’s their reaction? Stupor-stition. They don’t stop worshipping their idol. They make a rule not to step on the threshold. (Like the “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” sick game children play.)

But that wasn’t all. The Philistines began to die. Thousands of them in all five of their great cities. Not from Israel but from plagues. And here’s where it gets disgusting. Dagon was the idol of grain. And if you’ve ever been on a farm you know where you have grain you have mice. Scripture mentions tumors or sores and suddenly mention mice at the end. The connection may have been a plague from the mice. But some Jewish commentators are very graphic and say the mice entered the bodies of the Philistines through their bottoms (presumably while they slept or were otherwise occupied where they couldn’t stop it) and caused hemorrhoids. We’ll avoid jokes about stupor-stition being a pain anywhere and simoly say there’s a reason for this detail. If true, it shows the LORD disgracing the Philistines. He disgraced their idol they trusted for grain. He brought death by the thousands. And their five princes had this same disgusting thing happen to them from mice and hemmorrhoids that all other Philistines had from the grain the god they trusted in provided. And still they kept their idols.

But they tried to get rid of the Ark. Fast. Rather than worshipping the LORD Who was demonstrating His power they sent Him away. Stupor-stition. This same thing happened when JESUS healed the demon-possessed man. Rather than worshipping JESUS they sent Him away. And the Jewish leaders turned Him over to the Romans rather than lose their position of power by admitting what they recognized: He really was Messiah. Stupor-stition.

The Philistines sent the Ark from one city to another among themselves like a game of “hot potato” until they came up with a plan: send it back to Israel where it belonged. They put the Ark on a cart with milch cows to pull it. This was an experiment. Milch cows don’t usually pull carts. And they were easily distracted. If the cart went back to the people of Israel it would be a sign that the mice and sores were from the GOD of Israel. If not, they had nothing to fear from Him.

The cows pulled the cart with the Ark straight to the Israelites as if someone were pulling them. Alongside the Ark the Philistines had sent five gold hemorrhoids and five gold mice. There’s even some hint that the mice were symbols of the princes of the five Philistine cities. Remember what the mice may have done. Now think of the embarrassment to the Philistines those gold objects must have caused when Israel discovered what they represented.

Yet even though the Israelites offered a sacrifice of praise for receiving the Ark back more of them died. They still treated it disrespectfully as a magic luck charm instead and were punished for it.

Stupor-stition.

Beware that in your piety you don’t worship a deity who is not the Christ of reality.

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