Beware the Freaky Foyer

December 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Posted in The Fives | 2 Comments
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The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence on earth among His people. They placed the Ark in their temple before a statue of their false god, Dagon. However:

…when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again.

I Samuel 5:3

The next day, not only was the statue of Dagon lying prostrate before the Ark, but nearby were its chopped-off hands and head! You might think that these incidents would have given them pause to consider that Yahweh was real and that Dagon was just an idol. Or at least that Yahweh was way more powerful than this pathetic “merman” statue they had been worshiping.

dagon before the ark

But, no, superstition can be a powerful thing.

Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon’s house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day.

I Samuel 5:5

Instead of acknowledging the one true God, it appears that the Philistines attributed special power to the entryway area of Dagon’s temple. Before we laugh at their foolishness, however, are we enlightened Christians that much better? Do you shiver at the sight of a black cat? Do you call in sick on Friday the 13th? Will you be eating black-eyed peas and cabbage this New Year’s Day in the hopes of obtaining some good luck and extra cash? If you are a Roman Catholic, do you have a special statue of the Virgin Mary that you venerate, or perhaps an anointed relic, some rosary beads, or a figure of St. Joseph buried upside down in your yard? From the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to the American flag that we stand and salute, Christians need to take care and remember that we are not saved by an object or a place. We are saved by Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

Trouble at the Threshold

January 11, 2010 at 10:16 am | Posted in Zephaniah | 4 Comments
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I have a pet peeve about people stepping on the thresholds of doorways in my home. Normally, there is some sort of rubberized weather seal in the doorways that lead outdoors, and the more these seals are stepped on, the more they are damaged and the more drafts of air they let in and out of the house, driving up my heating and cooling costs. Normally, when someone steps on the seals going in or out (and people almost always do it), I will just let it slide. However, there are a certain group of people who visit my home fairly regularly, and these particular people absolutely LOVE going in and out of the house constantly. Not only that, but they make it a point to ALWAYS give a good stomp down on the weather seals in my doorways. And – I kid you not – their favorite place to STAND while they are visiting my home is RIGHT IN the doorways. They will get a cup of coffee or a snack, and mosey on over to the door, open it up, place their feet squarely on the weather seal, and just rock contently back and forth with their full weight pressing down. Sometimes I joke with my wife that I’m going to post Verse 9 of Zephaniah Chapter 1 on the wall by the doors when these folks come to visit: “In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.”

Actually, though, the phrase “leap on the threshold” in that verse really means “jump over the doorway.” There was a Philistine tradition against doing this in the place where the false god Dagon was worshiped because of what had happened in I Samuel 5. Zephaniah 1:9 also means that the ungodly Jewish priests leaped at the chance to confiscate lands from the poor, and to give them to the temples of the false gods.

Understanding that helps us better understand Zephaniah 1:11: “Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.”

The howling in pain would not just be because the market district would be destroyed. “Maktesh” has a double meaning. It also means “mortar,” which is a bowl, or a conclave in the ground near Jerusalem, and a place where things are ground to bits. The bowl just holds objects. God does the grinding, the crushing.

Zephaniah Chapter 2 goes on to describe the day of judgment against the gentiles.

Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.

Zephaniah 2:5

This is God’s way of saying, “I have a warrant out for you.” We want to warn the lost that the Word of the Lord will be against them if they do not repent.

Zephaniah closes out his prophecy in Chapter 3 with words of comfort, which is common with the Old Testament prophets. God never leaves His people without comfort.

The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

Zephaniah 3:13

God tells the people that, when He has removed their sin, they will find comfort in fearing Him – and no one else will make them afraid. This applies not only to the Jews, but also to gentiles. God’s people will be converted into “one people” – truly one nation under Christ.

For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.

Zephaniah 3:9

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