‘I Am The One Who Knocks’
“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. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 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” (1 Samuel 5:1-4)
Breaking Bad charts the meteoric rise of Walter White from a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher with cancer to a callous and ruthless crystal meth cook, boasting an unparalleled drug empire. One of the most noteworthy scenes of the entire story takes place in Walter’s bedroom, as his wife, Skylar, pleads with him to go to the police. She’s terrified and begs Walter to end his involvement before he gets killed. This exasperates Walter until he finally explodes:
“Who are you talking to right now?”
Walter is aggrieved that his wife still pictures him as this weak, frail man, afraid of danger at every turn. And he cannot stand for her to continue another second visualising him in that way. Walter furiously portrays who he truly is:
“A guy opens his door and gets shot. You think that of me? No, I AM the one who knocks”
In 1 Samuel we see a similar declaration by God, though the action is unparalleled in magnitude. The Philistines have defeated Israel and have stolen the ark of the Lord. This contains the pieces of the stone tablets given to Moses by God at Mt Sinai, a symbol of the presence and power and glory of the Almighty. They then decide to place the ark in the house of Dagon, the god whom the Philistines worshipped. They place the ark right beside Dagon. They didn’t have the same view of deity as the Israelities, they didn’t say “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”. They were polytheists, as far as they were concerned, the more the merrier. In fact, to place the ark beside Dagon may have been their way of trying to show respect to the God of Israel, esteeming him as on par with their god.
But Yahweh will not let the Philistines make him play second fiddle.
In the morning, the Philistines find Dagon lying face down before the ark. There is vicious sarcasm in this divine act, is there not? Its laughable! And the Philistines are clueless, they just set him right back up there! And so, the next morning, they find Dagon lying prostrate before the ark again. With no hands. Or a head.
This is God’s ‘Heisenberg’ moment. God ruthlessly crushes any notion that Dagon is like him. “Holy, holy, holy the Lord God Almighty”. There is none like him. He’s separate. He’s distinct. The most beautiful, awe-inspiring, praise-worthy offering of this universe is a mere shadow to what He is truly like. He crushes all pretenders to His throne to show their weakness and inadequacy. His response is the same, no matter what the idol looks like. Anything that we look to for our safety, security or happiness other than God is met with exactly the same disdain. Relationships, financial security, sex, career fulfilment – if these are what you lean on as your support in life, they will buckle under that weight. They are ineffective in bringing peace and joy.
Dagon is dismembered. His ‘deity’ is laughed at by Yahweh. He is crushed. This is God’s universal response to the cosmic treason that is idolatry. When good things that God has made are worshipped as gods, there must be swift, holy justice. God will not be mocked. Yet we do not feel it. We are somehow not incinerated in the blazing fury of His perfection.
Because Jesus was beaten, whipped and stabbed. His kingship was mocked by a crudely painted sign and the cruel barbs of a wholly offensive crown. He is crushed, physically and emotionally and spiritually. Jesus’ destruction is a resounding proclamation that God is holy and just. The echo is that God is love, for He does all this to welcome the guilty offenders into His loving embrace.
Its all about Jesus. This steadfast love of God, constant through our inconsistency has the power to change us, to wrestle from us the idols our hearts cling to and bring us close into the presence of God, where there is fullness of joy. Pray that God would be gracious enough to illuminate the idols that lurk menacingly in our souls.
Soli Deo Gloria