All idols, false gods, and false provision will fall before the glory of God. When the Presence of God begins to invade our lives, the things we used to worship will be cut off. 2018 is a year that God will cut off false idols in our lives that keep us captive, as we fully embrace the glory and presence of God in our lives.
In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to build an Ark that would house His Presence among them. There were specific rules and regulations about how the Ark could be carried and stored, because God's great power was manifest through it.
On one occasion, the Philistines, enemies of the Israelites, captured the Ark. In 1 Samuel, the author narrates the story like this:
"After the Philistines captured the Ark of God...They carried the Ark of God into the temple of Dagon and placed it beside an idol of Dagon. But when the citizens of Ashdod went to see it the next morning, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground in front of the Ark of the Lord! So they took Dagon and put him in his place again.
But the next morning the same thing happened—Dagon had fallen face down before the Ark of the Lord again. This time his head and hands had broken off and were lying in the doorway. Only the trunk of his body was left intact." (1 Samuel 5:1-5, NLT)
In the story, the Ark was put next to a statue of Dagon. Dagon was the Philistine's national god, who symbolized fertility and agriculture. In other words, the Philistines worshipped Dagon to guarantee provision of two essential things: food and family.
Though we don't necessarily worship statues of gods today, there are plenty of things we depend on to provide for us besides God. We depend on social media for friends and reputation. We depend on careers or college education for security. We depend on our own abilities, talents, and good looks for our next opportunity. We depend on people and relationships (often bad relationships) to affirm that we are funny, cool, worthy of love, gifted, or chosen.
However-- lean in here -- what is interesting is that the Philistines did not destroy the Ark, the god of their enemies. Why? The Philistines believed that this was another god they could capture and make their own. They wanted to have both the power of Dagon and the power of the Hebrew God in their favor. So they housed the Ark of God in their temple--right next to the statue of Dagon.
Think about that -- many of us, or people that we know and minister to, believe that we can have both God "and" other idols in our lives. We want the power and favor of God, AND a worldly, wealthy lifestyle. We want the presence of God, AND unequally yoked relationships. In the temple of our hearts, we set up God's presence to stand side by side with the other things we depend on to provide for us. We want to have the Presence of God, without cutting out anything else that consumes our hearts.
How did this work out for the Philistines? Simply put, the presence of God cannot coexist with the presence of an idol.The power of God completely overshadowed the power of the Philistines' god! The first night, the power of God made Dagon fall over on its face. The people had to prop it back up, but the second night, the idol once again fell. In scripture, to fall on one's face is a sign of complete surrender. This false god had been made completely defenseless, useless, and submissive when the true Presence of God showed up.
How sad that the Philistines' still sought to "prop up" their most powerful god after it fell that first night. Over and over again many of the things we depend to provide for us outside of God fail us and fall. Yet we keep on pursuing them, propping them up in our own strength, afraid of what our lives would look like without them. We get into a bad relationship, we know it's bad and wrong, yet we work tirelessly to make it work. We pursue a position and ignore the call of god on our lives, end up frazzled and miserable, yet do whatever it takes to stay on. We ignore the fact that we are killing ourselves trying to maintain the very things we rely on to provide life for us!
But like I said before -- the presence of God cannot coexist with an idol. The very nature of God is all-consuming. He is a jealous God. That means He loves us too much to have part of us -- He wants all of us and He wont' stop working in our lives until He gets all of us. In Luke 16:13, Jesus taught it is impossible for two things that we serve and worship to coexist in our hearts. "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other."
Since the Philistines kept on propping up the image of Dagon, God responded by breaking the idol itself. On the third day, the Philistines entered the temple only to find that Dagon's hands and head had been completely severed!
The symbolism is breathtaking.
God cut off the idol's hands to show that this false god had no power to save or provide. God cut off the idol's head to show that this false god was deaf, dumb, and mute -- ultimately, lifeless. In opposition, God shows himself time and time again a God who is mighty to save His people, and able to provide more than we can ask or image. In opposition, God shows himself a living, powerful God, who actively works in our lives and circumstances.
When we become Christian, at first it can be hard to grasp what the Presence of God in our lives really means. Sometimes we believe or act as if being a Christian means we can have God, "AND." We can keep propping up the other things we falsely worship, and still believe that we will get to Heaven.
I think many of us have experienced a point in our own faith where we realize that God won't coexist. We cannot live through faith and through flesh simultaneously; eventually, one will break.
The process of sanctification is to continually search the temple of our hearts and ask if we are allowing the fullness of God's presence and glory to knock down and sever all the other things we could rely on falsely. Because of the changing nature of human hearts, this is not a one time thing, but a lifestyle of continuous submission and honesty before God. David prayed:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." -Psalm 139:23-24
So I challenge you today -- get honest before God about the present state of your heart. And if you know there is something in your heart that you can't seem to let go of -- the cure is often the power of Presence. Get with God aggressively, and saturate your life with godly influences, worship, and things that stir your affections for Jesus. We can't change our hearts through willpower-- only the Presence of God can ultimately knock down idols. All others will fall before Him.