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The Heavy Hand of God (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
February 25, 2022 3:00 am

The Heavy Hand of God (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 25, 2022 3:00 am

When you seek refuge from a storm, you search for shelter that will keep you safe and protected until the threat passes. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg explains why the only refuge from God’s wrath is in God Himself.


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Music playing Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains why the only refuge from God's wrath is in God himself. Here's Alistair with the conclusion of a message titled, The Heavy Hand of God. We're in 1 Samuel chapter 5.

The ark has been captured, but now Luke Dagen has been toppled. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, something had happened during the night. We have no description of what happened during the night. But the fact that something happened during the night is obvious in the morning.

Keep that thought in mind. I'm going to come back to it. What we could not see during the night becomes revealed in the morning. So they took Dagen, because he had fallen face downward on the ground, before the ark of the LORD, and they put him back in his place.

There's something kind of pathetically comedic about this, isn't there? Thanks for coming by to see our latest exhibit. If you just hold it there at the rope for a moment or two, we're just getting Dagen. He's had a bad evening, and we're going to put him… We just put him back up where he belongs. There he is.

You'll see he's slightly above the box that we've brought from the battlefield, but there you are. There you are. And the day ends. And verse 4, a new day dawns. But when they rose early on the next morning, things were even worse, because Dagen had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagen and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold, only the trunk of Dagen was left to him.

Wow! Incidentally, I wonder if Isaiah has this picture in his mind when, centuries later, addressing the issue of idolatry, he says of the idols, they lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there. It cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it doesn't answer. It's pathetic. The notion of idolatry is pathetic. When God says, You're not supposed to have idols. You're only supposed to worship me. He says that because he wants us to live as he created us. Every idol that we are tempted to set up is self-depleting. It offers, but it cannot satisfy. It says, Here is peace, and it only leads to chaos.

You can follow it through on your own. Look at this now. No hands. No head. Just a trunk. Just a stump.

Wow! Now, remember when, in these brutal days in warfare, captives would be taken, one of the ways in which they describe the fact that they had vanquished the enemy, was to cut off their hands and to cut off their feet, and in certain cases, to decapitate them. Think later on. David to Goliath of Gath. You come before me and defy the armies of the living God, I will cut your head off. The way your god Dagon had his head cut off.

That's the point that's being made. And as a result of that, they make a decision. The priests of Dagon have decided that since the only way they could get into the house of Dagon was somehow or another to navigate their way over the bits and pieces of him that was lying around—you know, when you're with your grandchildren, and they do that thing in the street, and you can't step on a line. If you step on the thing, then something happens to you.

I don't know what it is. But that's now what they've decided. They think about it. They're idolized on the ground. Instead of it becoming the occasion of a reappraisal, let's just think about this for a minute.

No. Instead of a reappraisal, they turn it into a ritual. What we'll do is we'll make this. This is what we'll do.

When we come to the threshold, to the point of departure between the secular and the sacred, we will always do this. What a strange thing to put in as a ritual, so that you could remember for years to come the fact that your thing was lying on the ground. No head. Couldn't think. Never could.

No hands. For everybody and all to see. Now, as I worked through this, I said to myself, I'm not sure I still can't get this yet, so I thought of it in terms of a split screen. What I'm thinking is, verse 11 of chapter 4, and the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas died. Right? That's where it all comes to a collapse.

Okay? Now, so one side of the screen, which is verse 12 of 4 to verse 22, gives to us the scene in Shiloh. So the ark has been captured, and as we said, there is despair in Shiloh.

It is epitomized by the cry of a dying mother and her assessment of the situation. As far as she's concerned, the glory is gone. It is over. We've been defeated.

Ichabod is the only name for a boy being born in these circumstances. That's half the screen. The other half of the screen is chapter 5, verses 1–5, where actually, although in Shiloh it appears that the glory has departed, in Ashdod the glory is being revealed. The hand of God which is heavy—and that word for heavy, which we noted before, is the same word that is used for glory—the heaviness of God establishes his glory. So here, superficially, the wife of Phinehas says, It looks to me like it's finished.

That's on half the screen. But on the other half of the screen, the Word of God is making clear that, no, that is not ultimately the case. The ark is captured, Dagon is toppled, and notice, thirdly, the Philistines are terrified and afflicted. And the reason they are, verse 6, is because the hand of the Lord was heavy against them.

Now, let's not miss this. The God, Yahweh, is a terrible God. He terrifies them. And he deals with them in immediate retribution, so that they are able—and this is an expression of his mercy, you see—they are able then immediately to realize cause and effect. If God just says, It doesn't matter what you do to the ark, it doesn't matter, we're all in the game together, there's no ultimate consequences to this, then people would all continue on the way they were going. But no, there is immediate retribution. The person wakes up in the morning, has tumors.

The possibility that it is somehow or other to do with mice or with rats, a kind of form of the bubonic plague or whatever it might be—whatever this thing is, it is unmistakable. Now, it is for this reason that people often get off the bus in terms of Old Testament studies. And I find that people say to me things like this, you know, I don't like it when you mention that, Alistair. I'm not really keen on the God of the Old Testament. I'm not keen on the God who terrifies and afflicts and produces tumors and chaos. I much prefer the God of the New Testament—far nicer, far easier to deal with.

Well, here's the deal. It's the same God. It's the same law. You see, the New Testament doesn't contradict the Old Testament. The New Testament completes the Old Testament.

It takes the New Testament, if you like, to fill out an adequate understanding of God. It is clear in this day of grace that God does not operate on the basis of immediate retribution. In the infancy, he does. That's why, incidentally, you're supposed to deal with your children in their infancy despite what the culture says in terms of immediate retribution.

You're supposed to pow, and they wow—irrespective of what the Scottish Parliament says this past week, where they are going to make the slapping of a child punishable as a crime. In my same newspaper—incidentally, this is parenthetical now, I wish I hadn't started it, but I'm here—in the same newspaper, it carries the story of a man in his sixties, similar age to myself, who took a pillow and suffocated his wife as a quote's act of mercy. She had cancer. So he decided that the best thing he could do for her was to kill her. The judge said to punish this man would be tragedy on tragedy. So here you kill your wife with a pillow, and you go free, and here you smack your son's bottom and you go to jail.

Now tell me the world isn't upside down. But the immediate retribution of childhood does not continue all the way through adulthood. You don't treat your teenagers in the same way.

You don't treat them into young adulthood in the same way. No, those early days are there in order that the days that follow might then be exercised in light of the same parameters, so that the same parameters exist when you go into the New Testament. There is a broad road, and it leads to destruction. And so the terrible nature of God's intervention, which is meted out to us in time but ultimately when we face him in eternity, is consistent with who and what God is. Do you know, when the book of Revelation describes the circumstances, this is what it says, In that day the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful and everyone, slave and free, they hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?

Now he intervenes, eleventh centuries BC, in immediate retribution. And the people are aware of this. And they are able to put two and two together as pagans and understand. It is the hand of the Lord that is heavy upon them. You will notice there in verse 7, the ark of the God of Israel mustn't remain with us, for his hand is against us and against Dagon our God. They came to the right conclusion. Fascinatingly, they came to the same conclusion that the Israelites had come to back at the beginning of chapter 4. Remember, when they had been defeated by the Philistines, they said, This is because God has done this, his hand is against us. They figured that the presence of the ark would be their solution.

They were wrong. The Philistines realized that the presence of the ark is their problem, and they were right. The Israelites were presuming on God's power. The Philistines were defying God's power. And so, in verse 8, they gathered all the lords of the Philistines and said, What then will we do with the ark of God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath. What an interesting decision!

They said, Talking about political passing the buck, this is fantastic! Let's just ship it off to one of the other cities. Now, remember, there were five cities.

The other two were Gaza and Ashkelon. Well, send it off to Gath. Now, presumably, the person who said, Send it off to Gath had no relatives living in Gath. Because after they had brought it there, the whole city was in an amazing panic.

You will see that in verse 9. And so they didn't have a meeting again. They just shipped it further on. They said, Well, let's send it to Ekron. It's almost funny, isn't it? It's a traveling road show.

They said, Why don't you come and see our great acquisition? And then, that's not going so well. Well, let's just move it over to Gath. Same thing—a lot of tumors in Gath, not going well in Gath. Let's just flip it off to Ekron. Off to Ekron they send it. And they have brought around to us, said the people of Ekron, the ark of the God of Israel, he's gonna kill us and our people. And so they gathered all the lords of the Philistines.

Let's get the whole five cities together, all the bright boys. And then what we'll do is we'll send away the ark of the God of Israel. We'll let it return to its own place that it may not kill us and our people, for there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city.

Why? Because the hand of God was very heavy there. And the survivors who were not—who did not die suffering from the tumors—cried out to heaven.

Which is exactly what the Israelites did in the bondage of Egypt, in Exodus chapter 2, in the face of the hand of God being heavy against them. They cried out to heaven. Can I ask you this morning, have you ever cried out to heaven? Have you ever cried out to the God who made you, designed you, loves you, sustains you, is gracious to you? There has to be a test at the end of life.

There has to be an exam, because God is a righteous God. God cannot simply overlook these things. Now, we began by saying, It was written in the past so that we might have endurance and encouragement. Let me come full circle and end in this way, by reminding us, yes, it was written as something of a pattern for us, so that we might understand a number of things, at least this—that without the power and presence of God, the people of God are powerless. You say, Well, there's nothing like stating the obvious.

Yes, but think about it. They were powerless. They were defeated by the Philistines, not because the Philistines were strong but because they were weak. Why were they weak?

Because they began to turn the things of God into lucky charms and mascots. They began to say, We don't have to do what's right. We just take this with us. If you have this with you, then you're okay.

You're in the clear. Nothing could be further from the truth. That's why they were soundly defeated. Also, as I began to say earlier, the defeat of God's people is not the defeat of God. It's not the defeat of God. They were defeated because they were weak. Eli was weak. He might have been kind for a while, but he wasn't the best, was he?

And alongside him, he had his boys, who were corrupt and immoral. When the people of God—whether it is the people of God, 11 BC, or whether it's the people of God, 21 AD—when the church of Jesus Christ tolerates inept, corrupt, immoral leadership, there is a reason for its defeat. There is a reason for the empty buildings. There is a reason for its decline. There is a reason for the absence of its attendance. There is a reason for the loss of its credibility. Of course there is!

And meanwhile, those same people will be saying, You see, the problem is the opposition, the secularism. All of this on the outside. No! No!

Never! However fierce that may be, the problem is always on the inside, as it was here. The Philistines themselves defied God, thinking, As people do today, I can defy him and get away with it.

But their triumph was fleeting. What a surprise they had when the morning came. And what a surprise, what a shocking surprise, it will be when the morning comes for those who have defied God, standing there with nothing to offer in my defense. When he inquires of me, Why did you ignore my word? Why did you deny my presence? Why did you live as you lived? Because I wanted to. Because I thought I could get away with it.

And I did get away with it for a long time. But now I wish the mountains would fall on me and save me. You see, because there is no refuge from this terrible God except the refuge that is found in this terrible God. Remember I said to you, There's no indication of what was happening during the night.

The evidence is all in the morning. Think Jerusalem. Think Good Friday. Think the ultimate expression of man's defiance against God. He saved others. He can't even save himself. If he's the Christ, he should come down from the cross.

The same kind of thing people say. If he shows up on Carnegie Avenue, I'll believe in him, but not until then. Careful. He's a terrible God. He's patient.

But his patience isn't limitless. And in the morning, the evidence was there of what had happened during the night. See what a morning. Gloriously bright. He had been nailed to a cross in the classic expression of and celebration of man's defiance and his apparent defeat. It surely must be that the glory has departed.

Oh. And then Mary. And then the rest. Paul tells us what was happening. He disarmed the rulers and the authorities, and he put them to open shame by triumphing over them in the cross.

Ark captured, Dagon toppled, Philistines terrified, God glorified. And so may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you his peace today and forevermore. Amen. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg explaining that the heavy hand of God is a merciful hand, but his patience is not limitless. He will not be defeated.

He will be glorified. If you are a regular listener to Truth for Life, you are aware that all of Alistair's teaching can be accessed through our website and our mobile app for free, and that we provide resources making them available to you at our cost. The reason for this is because we're passionate about giving unlimited access to all of the teaching we have available online. This is a passion we share with a large group of people we refer to as Truth Partners. It is their generous and faithful giving that makes it possible for us to download or listen to more than 2,000 messages from Alistair for free. Truth Partner Giving also makes it possible for you to be able to buy high quality books and audio studies for just a few dollars from Truth for Life. So if you are one of our Truth Partners, thank you. If you're not yet a Truth Partner, you can join this important team today. Go to slash truthpartner. When you do, we'll invite you to request both of our monthly book recommendations as a way of saying thank you for your support. We're in the final days of offering a book written by Alistair and his friend Sinclair Ferguson titled Name Above All Names. If you haven't already requested your copy, please do so today when you sign up to be a Truth Partner. You can also request a copy when you give a one-time donation to support the teaching you hear on this program. Just visit slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Enjoy your weekend as you worship with your local church, and then be sure to listen again Monday as we continue our study in 1 Samuel. You'll hear how the Ark of God quickly became a problem for Israel's enemy, the Philistines, and the desperate measures the Philistines took to appease God in response. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-30 01:01:41 / 2023-05-30 01:09:57 / 8

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