Dagon and Elijah. An unlikely pair. One a false god, the other a prophet of the God. Together, their stories offer two truths of hope that gods (little “g”) don’t stand a chance against God (big “G”).

Truth #1: Idols can’t survive the presence of God!

The people of Ashdod learn this when they capture the Ark of the Lord and set it by their god, Dagon, in its temple. The next morning, Dagon is lying prostrate before the Ark of the Lord (I Samuel 5:3).

They set it in its place again, and the next morning, Dagon is “face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon’s torso was left of it” (verse 4).

You see, the Ark contained the presence of God. They brought His presence into an idol’s temple, and the idol could not survive His presence.

When we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. There can only be one God on the throne of our hearts; the more we’re in His presence, the fewer idols will survive or even take up residence where only God belongs.

More God, less gods.

His presence equals their absence.

When we try to have both, we suffer, like the people of Ashdod: “The hand of the Lord was heavy upon the people of Ashdod;” His hand was harsh toward them and Dagon their god (verses 6-7).

Truth #2: God will deal with our idols, and He will always win.

Elijah witnesses this first hand in I Kings 18. There is severe drought and famine in the land of Samaria, and God tells the prophet to have Ahab gather to him on Mount Carmel all Israel, the 450 prophets of Baal, a false god, and the 400 prophets of Asherah, another false god (I Kings 18:19).   

When everyone arrives, Elijah confronts them with words meant for me today and perhaps for you: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (verse 21).

The people answer Elijah “not a word,” so Elijah issues a challenge that each build an altar with no fire under it; whoever’s god or God answers by fire will be established as God (verses 22-24).  

The prophets of Baal go first, calling on the name of Baal from morning until noon:

But there was no voice; no one answered.

Then they leaped about the altar which they had made.

And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.”

So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention (verses 26-29).

Our idols will do the same thing: answer with silence!

With emptiness.

With the demand for more and more while giving nothing in exchange.

When it’s Elijah’s turn, he repairs the Lord’s altar using twelve stones according to the tribes of Israel. He digs a trench around it, adds wood and the sacrificial bull. Then he instructs the people to pour water on the altar, not once, but three times, soaking it and filling the trench with water (verses 30-35).

“And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again’” (verse 36-37).

The fire of the Lord consumes the sacrifice, the wet wood, and the drenched trench.

“When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’” (verse 39). Per Elijah’s orders, they seized and executed the prophets of Baal, and Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain” (verses 39-41).

They destroy everything that has anything to do with their idols, and there is heavy rain.

There is breakthrough.

When we hang on to the things we think are going to solve in our hearts what only total surrender and obedience to God will solve, we have trouble. When we destroy everything having to do with our idols, our breakthrough will come, too.

But it takes an altared heart, which we’ll do together next Thursday.

Lord, You are so good to demand our total dedication. Thank You that You don’t tolerate idols in our lives. Turn our hearts back to You again, fully and completely, as we become more wholly Yours today.

For other blogs in this series:

Spare the Best, Lose the Rest

The Squid in My Heart