“When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. 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 (5:1-3). And so begins the ongoing story of the conflict between Israel and the Philistines who thought they could co-opt the things of God (the ark of the covenant) and turn them into pagan totems. “But as soon as the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, ‘They have brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people.’ They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, ‘Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people’” (5:10-11).
The Philistines suffered terribly because of their transgressions. Israel, and we, must not live so: “Samuel said to all the house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’ So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only” (7:5). Not the idols of the nations, but with the help of the Lord must Israel, and we, live.
The Lord hath helped me hitherto
By His surpassing favor;
His mercies ev’ry morn were new,
His kindness did not waver.
God hitherto hath been my Guide,
Hath pleasures hitherto supplied,
And hitherto hath helped me. -- Aemilie Juliane & Gräfin von Schwarzburg Rudolstadt (1912)