Have you ever received a gift you couldn’t wait to open, only to be surprised by something you really didn’t want? Perhaps it was that ugly sweater at Christmas. That’s kind of what happens to these Philistines in 1 Samuel 5-6 who captured the Ark of the Covenant and placed it as a trophy in the house of their god Dagon. They find out they really don’t want it, and cannot get rid of it fast enough.
Beyond the little analogy, this narrative tells us particularly why they didn’t want it: it brought judgment upon them and their worldview. And why so? Because the Ark did not belong there. This was an idolatrous nation at enmity with God, unfit to have His presence among them. God used the Ark to demonstrate this truth. Their reaction proved it true.
And reaction is again our focus. Our last sermon was about three reactions to God’s judgment. Here we see three reactions to God’s presence. First, the Philistines cannot rid themselves of it fast enough, but being ignorant of true worship and true theology, they react in various superstitious ways. Their reactions reveal that they are self-serving, have little love for their brethren, and yet for all of their efforts to the contrary, they are completely at the mercy of Almighty God.
Second, we see the reaction of the Israelites when the Ark returns. Still walking in the unbelief that characterized the administration of Eli, they react with entitlement to the things of God. God punishes them far harsher than he did the Philistines. We’ll talk about why.
Third, we once again see the patient and dutiful “reaction” of Samuel. Very much like in the last sermon, Samuel is not actually mentioned in this narrative. But the silence is revealing. We’ll discuss why.
Finally, there are bonus characters in this story. They are silent, too, but they are the “heroes” of faith. Like Samuel, they work quietly, faithfully, sacrificially, and against the grain of cultural expectations. You may perceive who they are before I tell you, but be prepared for a little typological surprise (the kind you will want to keep).
Superstition, Bad and Worse
The bulk of these two chapters relates the story of the Philistines and of the Israelites in relation to the presence of the Ark. Both fail, although the failure of the Israelites is much more to be blamed, and much more greatly punished, as I said. This is a tale of two nations’ superstitions—one bad, one worse.
A Fishy Situation
It was a great celebratory occasion for the Philistines. They had captured the shrine of their enemy’s God—the gilded box so revered by the Hebrews that they gave a great shout when it entered their war camp. They thought it meant God’s immediate favor and their sure salvation. The Philistines seemed to believe the Ark had such power also, but were resolute and ready to die to preserve what they saw as their freedom (1 Sam. 4:5–9). They thought the odds were against them. So you can imagine what a roar of victory went up when they slaughtered the Israelites and that very Ark fell into their hands. Apparently, their god had prevailed over the vaunted Yaweh of the Hebrews.
The first thing the Philistines did was mount the Ark as a trophy for their god Dagon: When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they . . . brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. Little did they know, that victory would turn to great and confounding woe.
What followed is quite comical from our perspective:
And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place.
Now the Ashdodites should have gotten the message from this alone. All else being equal, they should have noticed that Dagon’s fall corresponded with the presence of the Ark, and that his new position was prostrate before the Ark—an unmistakable posture of worship before Yaweh. Statues do not just fall by themselves, and what Philistine would secretly have done such a thing in the night? God Almighty was sending a message to the Philistines: their god bows before Him. In this message was actually grace; God was giving these idolatrous people space to repent. At this moment it was conceivable that the Ashdodites could turn and repent and be spared like Nineveh would later at the preaching of Jonah. In fact, with the message displayed before them, there was no excuse not to. Yet through dullness or rebellion, they acted otherwise. They propped helpless Dagon back up in his previous exalted spot.
But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him.
To answer the Philistine’s stubborn idolatry, God sent a stronger message: Yaweh has no rival. He does not share space with any other god, and He made it clear that Dagon had not triumphed over Him. This time, Dagon was not only fallen, but his hands were cut off. Further, his head was lopped off—yet another biblical head-crushing of the enemy (Gen. 3:15).
But the text is even more powerful than this. The phrase Only the trunk of Dagon was left in the Hebrew literally reads “Only Dagon was left.” This puzzles the translators a bit. They almost all seem to add “stump of” or “trunk of” in order to make sense of this. But this obscures the word-play in the Hebrew. The root word dag- simply means “fish.” The Philistines were a sea-faring, maritime civilization. Dagon was a fish-god: portrayed on coins as half man, half fish. He had the head and hands of a man, but the body of a fish. When the text says “only Dagon was left,” the Hebrew is playing on the word for “fish”: the head and hands were gone, and “only the fish was left.” Long story short, God not only bowed Dagon before him, but by removing the human features, He reduced Dagon to the level of the creature that he was.
The attack on pagan idolatry here parallels nicely with what Paul would teach later:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen (Rom. 1:21–25).
The Philistines still didn’t get the point, perhaps because, as Paul taught, He had given them over to their “reprobate mind” (Rom. 1:28) and had determined judgment upon them. Here they had clear evidence that Dagon was a joke and that Yaweh was not to be rivaled. Thus they stood without excuse (Rom. 1:20). Yet when they should have repented and fallen down to worship the one true God, they instead turned to yet another superstition. Since Dagon had fallen and been broken on the threshold, they attributed supernatural power to the threshold.
So God began judgment: The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. The text retains a sense of irony: whereas Dagon was left without hands the hand of the Lord was heavy upon on the whole territory.
And here’s where the reaction of blind superstition manifests as an open rejection of God. God had moved from humbling their God, to destroying him, and now to vexing the whole territory. If this is not clear evidence that God Almighty was in charge, nothing could be. It was so clear that the Philistines finally recognized and acknowledged the source of their trouble: the God of Israel . . . his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god (5:7). And yet their reprobate minds continued suppressing the truth, and thus their only reaction to the presence of God among them was not to repent, but to remove that presence from among them: The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us. In their minds, it was not they who needed to change anything; God needed to move out.
So what do you do with that gift that you don’t really want after all? You do what anyone with any good holiday spirit does: you re-gift it. So the Philistines sent the Ark up the road to another Philistine city, Gath (5:8). Now, again, stop and think. If the hand of God is upon you because of the presence of the Ark, and you’re smitten with painful tumors (5:6), what kind of person would you have to be to relieve yourself of that burden by shifting it to your neighbors and brothers? The move revealed not only superstition and rebellion against God, but a lack of love and concern for neighbor as well.
Sure enough, Gath fared no better. So what to do? Send the Ark up the road again, this time to Ekron (5:10). But apparently word had reached Ekron before the Ark did, and the Ekronites received it terror: “They have brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people” (5:10). And in fact, some did die (5:12). At this point, all the elders of the Philistines got together and decided to rid themselves of the thing completely. In verse 11, they say, let it return to its own place.
But they did not do so immediately. They procrastinated for the better part of seven months (6:1). Why? I suspect there was also an ulterior motive that caused the delay. After all, if there are plagues and judgments and people are dying, why would you wait for seven long months? Only if there were some kind of nationalistic or theological pride involved. The Philistines had yet to acknowledge the reality and meaning of the overthrow of Dagon, although they knew who was behind it. If they simply gave up and sent the Ark back directly and immediately, it would be an open admission of Dagon’s defeat. Perhaps they could endure, or perhaps they would think of something better.
There was obviously a theological battle behind all of this, and so the deliberating Philistine elders called in their professional theologians and seminary professors (6:2), asking them how best to dispose of the Ark. The priests and the diviners responded with a plan that both cut their losses and stacked the deck against the God of Israel (6:3–9). In brief, the plan was to send out the Ark on an oxcart along with a box of offerings of gold. This offering, the priests said, was for guilt (6:3) and should be offered in the form of five golden tumors and five golden mice—one each for the five lords (representative heads) of the Philistines. The five golden tumors have an obvious reference. The five golden mice is a bit more obscure because they were not mentioned before, but it is said that they ravage the land (6:5), so they were probably part of the judgment. They very well could have been in reference to the plague upon Egypt also (for the Philistines have now referenced the Egyptian judgment twice—4:8; 6:6). The point, then, was that this was an offering that pictorially represented the afflictions the Philistines were suffering from the hand of the God of Israel.
But it was not so simple. The priests ordered that the cart be pulled by two milk cows—mamas who had baby calves. But the calves were locked up back at the stalls. I’m sure the cattlemen among us can explain how strong would be the instincts of the mamas in this situation. There would be an irrepressible maternal urge to return to those calves. In other words, the priests were leveraging the forces of nature in order to rig this test. And thus the Philistines would only have to admit defeat upon the slim chance (as they saw it) that the cart returned to Israel. If it did not, the priests determined the plagues happened by chance (6:9 KJV). There’s only one way that cart would actually return to Israel, and that’s if there was divine intervention from the God of Israel. Even then, they were not prepared to renounce Dagon, they were only prepared to give up a little gold.
In the end, the milk cows defied all odds. They defied nature and chance, reason and instinct. Only one conclusion could be drawn: the God of Israel was in control. And there was no mistake about this outcome either, it was perfectly clear: the cows turned neither to the right nor to the left (1Sam. 6:12).
The elders of the Philistines followed it to make sure the thing was gone for good. Perhaps they were shocked at what just happened, but they were also certainly relieved, at least for the moment. They thought that they had gotten off with only the loss of some gold, and yet would be healed. But God was not finished judging them. In chapter 7, we will see a greater outpouring of judgment. But for now, the greater judgment was laid up for God’s people.
A people not yet ready
Whereas the Philistines reacted to God’s presence with bumbling superstition, the Israelites received it with a presumptuousness for which they should have known better. The Philistines reacted with ignorant idolatry (although still inexcusable), but the Israelites with religious entitlement. Both are filled with pride: the pagan with ignorant pride, the “elect” with highly informed pride. And since the highly informed man, holding the very oracles of God, should certainly have known better, he will suffer the greater judgment.
The Ark returns to the border town of Beth-shemesh. The name means “House of the Sun.” This is certainly a sunrise for the gloomy and despondent Israelites. They are harvesting wheat in the fields. They react with joy to the Ark. At this point the biblical theology of the story becomes pretty clear, and it reaches all the way back to the battle in chapter 4. The big picture here is a replay of the captivity and Exodus of Israel: the Ark is taken captive, God sends plagues upon the Philistines (and reference is made to the plagues of Egypt just to make sure we make the connection), the pagan priests try to outwit God but can’t, then the Ark “spoils the Egyptians” by leaving town with their gold. And God accomplished this all on His own, with no help from any man. God alone gets the glory. But the story’s not done.
The story concurs interestingly with the Hebrew calendar. The wheat harvest is the middle of spring. This would likely have been somewhere between Passover and the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), nearing the latter. The Feast of Weeks was also the Feast of Firstfruits (Deut. 16:9–12; Ex. 23:16). It was at this time that the Ark appears from the captivity, and at the House of the Sun no less (see Mal. 4:1–4). Any of this ring any bells? The whole picture is about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. But he was raised from the dead—brought back from captivity—and became the “firstfruits of them that slept” (Acts 26:23; 1 Cor. 15:20). The whole plan was outlined in the festal calendar of the Jews, lived out in Israel’s history, forms a thread in this historical drama, and is realized ultimately in what all these things symbolized, the person and work of Christ. In 1 Samuel 6, this replaying of that story is essentially God telling His people, “I am the same God who brought your fathers out of the land of Egypt, the same Presence that was with you in the wilderness.”
The joyous Jews rejoiced and prepared to make a sacrifice to God. It was an appropriate response on the surface, but their further handling of the matter revealed presumption. The Levites—who of all people should have known better—picked up and moved the Ark, sitting it on a stone. As if that were not handling the Ark a little too casually already, they apparently lifted the top and looked into it. This was sacrilege. They had no right to inspect God’s space so. It was God who inspected and judged them. For this, again, seemingly minor infraction, God punishes the Israelites harshly—He kills 50,070 males. Compared to the plagues and few deaths among the Philistines, this seems massive. But this was God’s people; they knew better. To whom much is given, much is required.
If we consider that the Ark had been in the land of the Philistines seven months (6:1), it means the battle of chapter 4 occurred within a month or so of the Day of Atonement the previous fall. Remember that the great sin of Eli and his sons was of perverting the sacrifices. They had turned the memorials of the forgiveness of sin into occasions for flaunting sin. They had profaned God’s holiness and mercy—God’s presence, even—and presumed upon it for their own self-indulgence. Then 34,000 of them died in battle, and God’s presence departed. So, especially in light of the great judgment that had just previously fallen upon them for the very reason of profaning sacrifices in God’s presence, these Levites should have known better. You would have thought they would have learned something. This time, an even greater number of thousands were left as widows and orphans. This was like the generation delivered from Egypt, who fell in the wilderness for their rebellion.
At least, however, this instance of judgment finally got the attention of the Israelites. They realized they had no hope in themselves: “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (6:20). And unlike the Philistines, at least they had enough care for their neighbors to consider them before they sent the Ark away: “to whom shall he go up away from us?” (6:20). And at least the sent messengers to ask their neighbors if they would come take the Ark (6:21). But they still did not know what to do with it exactly. Their presumption of entitlement to look into the Ark had burned them. They were now humbled, but they were also confused.
The first two verses of chapter 7 tell the final bit of this narrative. The most important point for today is that once the Ark found a resting place in Kiriath-Jearim, it sat there for twenty years. This means the people were nowhere near ready for revival. They needed a Word from God. They needed to receive His presence among them with repentance and restoration, but they were not ready for it yet. There was much spiritual growth and formation still needed before their hearts would be ready for a national revival.
But there is much grace in time and patience.
Just as in the last sermon, Samuel is not mentioned throughout this whole time. He will show up in the first verse in the next sermon, beginning at 7:3. Yet we find a very similar lesson as last time, only this time in relation to God’s renewed presence, and not just judgment alone. What we learn is that Samuel’s reaction is built on the same qualities: faithful, dutiful, patience. In the former time, we saw these manifest in faithful preaching to a rebellious people. But in this time, we see it in just the opposite action: silence.
The suggestion from the text is that there was no major Word from the Lord this whole time—no instruction for revival, repentance, or holy warfare, for that whole twenty year period. Imagine that. Imagine preaching and worship services stopped, and many churches closing their doors for that span. But this is the point. In regard to these things, Samuel surely went about his daily routines—whatever that would have entailed at the time. But whatever it was, it did not include bringing the Ark back to Shiloh and restoring the kingdom to the “norm” that existed before the great slaughters Israel had just endured. This was to be a time of silent contemplation. God would let them meditate upon the gravity of their sins and their helplessness before Him in all things. Whatever he was doing, Samuel certainly remained faithful to the Lord. For when 7:3 rolls around, we’ll find him call the nation back to repentance. Apparently, Samuel had been thinking about this the whole time, and was likely preparing for it as well.
A Type of Christ
Whatever we may presume about Samuel to the side, there is a party mentioned directly in this story which acts perfectly as a type of Christ and of the faithful Christian. Remember those bonus characters I mentioned, the silent ones who turn out to be “heroes” of faith. Did you notice them?
They are the cows.
Don’t be surprised. It is not unheard-of for God to use animals as faithful servants when men fail. Think of Balaam’s donkey.
These cows are chosen as servants to bring God’s presence to Israel. They are specifically chosen by the enemies of God so that their fleshly instincts would override the possibility of faithfulness to God. Yet what happens? By the power of the Holy Spirit (we can only assume), they deny their most primal and powerful instincts in order to obey the Lord. We are specifically told that they turned neither to the right nor to the left (6:12). This phrase is a common biblical figure of speech for unfailing loyalty specifically to God’s Law (Deut. 2:27; Deut. 5:32; 17:20; 28:14; Josh. 1:7; 23:6; 2 Kings 2:22; Prov. 4:27). Yet when they finish their service without having strayed from the strait and narrow path in the slightest—perfect righteousness, so to speak—the people kill them and use them as a sacrifice to God. Yet these people had no real understanding or appreciation of the sacrifice they just made. The sacrificial blood was spilt for a thankless people. Nevertheless, they plodded along faithfully to their fate.
1. Stop making excuses for idolatry
It would be easy to criticize personal idolatry on the level of the heart: we all have pet idolatries there. That is a necessary area of preaching, don’t get me wrong; but it’s a bit cheap for my task of preaching on biblical worldview. I don’t intend to speak about merely “what this means for ‘me’ or ‘you.’” Instead, what does idolatry mean in the various social spheres? In family, in Church, in education (oh!), in business, markets, money, politics, government, and the list goes on? The point here is: if it’s dishonoring to God, stop making excuses for it. Repent, and change your behavior.
Without fail, when I publish articles on certain controversial subjects, I get responses from people who work in related fields. Some blast me for daring to speak against fiat money, central banking, government contracts, government schools, political parties, social security, welfare, warfare, etc. The common denominator, almost always, is that the people who excuse such things are currently benefiting from them in some way, often in the form of pay. So often is consistent faith compromised by the unspoken justification of more money, or even just dependable income. There need be no further discussion of the subject after this point. If the issue and/or social structure is unbiblical, and you’re being paid for it, then you have marginalized God and adopted a pagan priority (when we get to 1 Samuel 8, we’ll see Scripture explain this choice as the outright rejection of God). I notice that people are quite willing to apply this criticism to other people and groups of people (especially a rival political party or religious tradition), but often leave exceptions for their own personal involvement with groups doing essentially the same thing. This is how social idolatry persists: it hooks in thousands of people through state agencies, benefits, promises, contracts, schools, etc. Once dependent, they defend the system as morally acceptable. No, morally necessary. You’d have to be crazy to oppose it—or you must hate children, and grandma, and puppies. Coupled with passive churches, this ethic becomes a socialist death grip on society.
The Philistine narrative here shows us how blind and stubborn we can be in pursuing our idols and refusing the true God. Despite repeated evidence that God had bowed and crushed Dagon, the Philistines kept propping up and defending their fish god. Likewise, our fallen nature is to pursue our choice remedies, no matter how they may fail us and dishonor God. We’ll pick up idols from the floor and pose them as viable alternatives once again. We pick up their crumbled pieces and pretend. In a final desperate effort, we’ll sell out the one true God by sending Him out of town before we’ll admit the failure of our own proud allegiances.
Keep in mind, this was done socially. Cities were involved, rulers were involved, and the priests were involved. What may have been dismissed as ludicrous were it just the actions of a single individual, is accepted and unquestioned when enough of society countenances it. Once a measure of state, such provisions are soon promoted and enforced with threats of ridicule and even violence by Christians. Things we may have never considered doing or endorsing we end up promoting. Consider once again so many Christians’ dogged defense of government schools, despite the fact that secular humanism and socialism are foundational to that institution and systematic throughout it. There is no compatibility with the Christian faith, and there was never meant to be. And just as the Philistines kept pushing God’s presence out of their social spheres, so has this institution done all it can to “remove God from our schools.” Christians act shocked when these things happen, and yet the whole system was designed as a secular replacement for the church in society to begin with. And since Christians have grown dependent upon it, they join the pagan defense of it and demand other Christians’ property be taxed to pay for it. They prop up the idol that fails them, and push the presence of God down the road. In short, they lend their children to the worship of a Dagon instead of Christ, and approve of it themselves.
Finally, an idolatrous allegiance will manifest in your life in all sorts of falsehood and cheating. Despite all the miracles and displays of power God showed in destroying Dagon and plaguing the Philistine people, they ignored, shifted, redefined, and eventually attempted to rig their scientific experiments in favor of their superstition. We can do similar things. For example, our pet beliefs often have us redefining biblical terms, often diluting their potency with secularized agendas. We can find ourselves defending the indefensible, the unbiblical, and yet doing so in the name of the Bible, Christ, or the faith—whatever works best at the time. My suggestion is this: if you intend to speak about biblical worldview, then have a solid biblical basis and argument for the position you’re trying to advance. Repeating Republican or Democrat platform talking points alone won’t cut it. Debates in which God’s Word does not firmly set the standard for at least one side can only represent a compromised position at best, and two fully humanistic ones at worst. This means debates become polarized in such a way that neither side represents God’s Word or God’s people. This is not just the lesser of two evils; it is a choice between two sins. Yet because we invest ourselves in the debate, we end up choosing a side anyway. We end up calling our side moral and the other side insane, when in reality, both are godless. In reality, a biblical worldview often cuts across the issues in such a way as to find merit on both sides of the argument, while requiring a whole other set of conditions. In reality, the biblical position would often lead conservatives and Christians to focus their efforts on family and church solutions, not coercive state measures for such an issue at all. Yet because we pursue the political discourse first, and leave the Bible for later (and private), we end up arguing in pagan terms. This usually mean arguing over which government programs to have in areas where the Bible says the government’s presence signals a rejection of God. What results is the subjection of the Bible to truly worldly standards, and the interpretation of the Word through those standards. Whatever you want to call this charade, don’t call it biblical worldview, and don’t call it Christian leadership.
Moreover, we can end up “rigging” our tests of how we discern God’s approval in our lives. We lower our standards of what is “Christian” or “biblical,” in order to send our children to this or that college, or to accept this or that job. We lower the standards in order to convince ourselves that beloved historical figures or documents are truly “Christian”; that certain preachers or theologians are worth following; that a certain politicians is really a “fine man” despite socialistic voting records and outright blasphemy. What in the world does “fine” mean when we allow things like this to pass for it. We rig our standards to favor and vindicate ourselves, and yet the true sacrificial oxen of God walk on, follow the strait and narrow, follow God’s law unwaveringly, walk right into the company of God’s people. And they don’t care that when the day is through, the reward for all of their faithfulness is to be hacked and sacrificed by the very people they have served with nothing but pure truth and utmost faithfulness. Little do the hewers and sacrificers know that a massive judgment awaits their behavior of religious presumption.
Idolatry (the second commandment) is the symptom-sin of breaking the first commandment. Often, the real idol is self. Christian leaders who indulge in such sins at length grow cunning at how to endear themselves with groups of Christians by looking the look and saying the right things. But inwardly their ultimate motivation is self-promotion and envy. Well did St, Paul warn the Ephesian elders of wolves in sheeps’ clothing (Acts. 20:29–30), for these are the most dangerous idols in our church: not leaders who speak the truth in such a way as to cross a few socially-accepted lines of decorum in the process, but those wonderfully aesthetic, apparently meek and wise souls who know how to say the right things while sowing discord in the name of things like “leadership,” “education,” and “culture.” Inwardly, as Paul says, their only goal is “to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). The wise will be quick to discern these motives in advance, and avoid abetting the enemies of God because of appearances or affections. So often has the devil—dressed as an angel of light—entered the sheepfold through the door of aesthetics and professionalism.
2. We need sacrificial service
We need more Samuels, and we need more selfless, work-horse servants like those cows. Samuel’s silent service through this time was not a failure of leadership on his part. He knew the people were not ready for godly leadership yet. It was a time of mourning and soul-searching after the loss of the Ark, and even more so after its devastating return. But Samuel did not rush in and try to seize the opportunity to advance his ministry, or save the nation. It was a time for silence. A wise leader will know that sometimes, silence is the most profound communication. Repentance is silent. Awe is silent. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps. 46:10). As individuals, this applies to all Christians standing before God. As leaders, this applies to elders and rulers, but also parents. Sometimes, healing and growth require silence. Let us give it when it is needed.
Silence does not mean sitting to gaze at your umbilicus. Silence means ceasing your voice in order to listen—primarily to God, but also to other people. Silence means refocusing priorities. This means refocused action—often new actions, the fruits of repentance. One practical outworking of this is to turn off the TV. It’s the source of so much of our clouded and compromised values and politics to begin with. Many prefer the noise because they’re secretly afraid of sitting silently and hearing the plain truth of God’s Word. They know what changes it will require when they understand it, and they don’t want to change. The noise is a distraction and a justification for remaining in a life of compromise and sin. If we seek a biblical worldview, we have to tear away from such distractions and seek solitude in God’s Word, no matter how uncomfortable the prospect may seem.
The discipline of this kind of silence is the fruit of patience, and patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Indeed, Samuel watched, listened, and worked quietly while the nation contemplated the frightening Ark for twenty years. Your Christian walk is not a sprint. Raising children is not a sprint. Building godly families, churches, societies is not either. It takes time. Just the preliminary step of refocusing and repentance may take half a generation in itself. This means patience on the part of those who already understand, but who know that the rest of the world, including masses of God’s people, are not yet ready for God’s presence in this way.
In the meantime, our work is to remain faithful and sacrificial. Sacrifice comes in many ways. Sometimes this means simply working until you drop. Sometimes this means being a faithful servant, even if taken advantage of by others. It may mean other things depending upon your situation. But it will always mean serving God according to His Law, not turning to the right hand nor to the left, no matter how the world treats you for doing so. And we continue throughout life, doing so in all the areas in which we can. Indeed, we base our lives on such faithfulness until death. So we continue raising our children in intimate instruction with Christ and His teaching. We continue fellowshipping as an organic body of people who sincerely care for each other. Let us eat together, help one another, pray for one another, give to one another, serve the body, uphold our families. Let the older support and lend experience to our younger families and their burgeoning homeschools. Let us be encouraged not to give into the temptations of the world’s easier ways of life, though we may be wearied with the early mornings and late nights that accompany young children, though we may be frustrated with discipline. Let us rather meet the axes and fires of daily life calmly and dutifully, and use the opportunity to present to our children, our elders, our brethren, or church, or society, the Gospel of Christ via sacrificial living.
That is the proper reaction to the presence of God: to embrace Him boldly in Christ (Heb. 4:14–16), and to present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him (Rom. 12:1). We don’t try to remove God’s presence from us like the Philistines, and we don’t dare act with careless presumption like the Israelites. God deliver us from the power of delusion and superstition. As we come to the Lord’s table and feast in His presence, let us remember that His sacrifice is for us: both to benefit by His mercy and grace, and to live sacrificially ourselves by His example and by the power of His Spirit.
 From him very likely comes our tradition of mermen and mermaids.
 There is a textual issue which suggests the Hebrew for “tumors” may actually be referring to abscesses of the anus. Thus the KJV translates the word as “emerods,” meaning “hemorrhoids.”
 On the passage see Gary North, Disobedience and Defeat: An Economic Commentary on the Historical Books (Dallas, GA: Point Five Press, 2012), 99–102.
 The ESV uses the minority reading among of Hebrew manuscripts, and says only “seventy men,” apparently because the majority reading of 50,070 seems too large.
 A couple of other instances refer to unwavering personal loyalty (Gen. 24:49; Num. 20:17), still a closely-related virtue.