Battle of the Gods (1 Samuel 5)

I eagerly clicked ‘Add to List’ on the latest #booktok suggestion that had caught my fancy. If you’re familiar with TikTok, you know the kind: fluffy, fun reading, light on depth and meaning, heavy on smut.

I was excited. I’m reading these books for the plot! I want to see what happens, I told myself. But deep down, I knew myself. The graphic descriptions of romantic, intimate encounters (aka “smut”) were more attractive to me than I wanted to admit.

I tried not to think very hard about whether or not God was pleased with this kind of reading. These books would take up such a small corner of my life, it wouldn’t even matter that much, right?

There can only be one

The Philistines might have had an answer for me.

They were also in a multiple gods type of predicament. They had just soundly defeated the Israelites in battle and taken captive the Ark of the Covenant, which they probably considered to be an image of Israel’s god. The more gods, the more protection, the more happiness, they assumed.

Proudly and promptly, they set up the Ark in the temple of Dagon, one of their gods. They patted themselves on the back and then went home for the night.

Soon, they discovered that having a foreign god wasn’t going to be as easy as they thought. Upon entering the temple the next morning, they found the image of Dagon tipped over, as if bowing to the ground before the Ark of the Covenant.

Rattled, they righted their god and went about their day.

But this was only the beginning.

Weeks later, after finding their image of Dagon decapitated and destroyed, suffering through multiple outbreaks of tumors, and fighting off a plague of mice, the Philistines could only come to one conclusion:

It was the God of Israel’s way or the highway.

“You shall not have any other gods before me.”

You and I play the same game the Philistines played, and we do it all the time.

It starts off innocuously – a book or song or TV show that makes us feel a little weird, but we ignore it. Skipping our time with God just this once to see a person or a show or go to this event. A deliberate sin that we promise to ask forgiveness for later.

But whether it’s a person, place, thing, or even ourselves, God will not cede control of our lives to anything else. Eventually, we will have to make a decision that will alter the course of our lives.

The sexy books on my Amazon wish list soon met the fate of Dagon – they were decapitated, chopped off, and although it was painful in the moment, I felt much better afterward.

I could have gone the other route. Like the Philistines, I could have tried to move God from corner to corner in my heart, before finally pushing Him out and shipping Him off once and for all.

But I would have suffered for it.

I would have lost a Friend. I would have lost a Refuge to turn to in painful times. I would have lost the Hope that anchored me when life got hard. I would have lost the joy and peace that comes from knowing God is in charge of your life. I would have lost the privilege of looking forward to Jesus’s Second Coming, freedom from earth, and the wonder of heaven.

No book or person or habit or vice is worth that.

So instead of pushing Jesus away, let’s decapitate our gods, until only the true, loving, everlasting God remains.

What do you think? Are there other gods in your life that need to be pushed out?

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