When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 1 Samuel 5:1
There were many remarkable stories about the ark, stories of God’s power breaking out and extraordinary things happening.
On one occasion, after a battle in which they had been defeated, God’s people decided that it might help if next time they went into battle, they took the ark with them (1 Sam. 4:3). That was pure superstition. Here were people who didn’t want God in their lives trying to invoke his help in times of trouble.
It didn’t work. God’s people were defeated again. The Philistines captured their ark and put it in the temple at Ashdod where they had built an idol of their god Dagon (5:2). The Philistines were delighted. Not only had they defeated God’s people, they had “captured” their God. But God is never captured. The following morning when the attendants opened the doors of Dagon’s temple, their idol had fallen and lay smashed on the floor.
The people of Ashdod decided they had better get rid of the ark, so they sent it to the people in the next town, Gath (5:8). When the ark arrived there, the people got sick, and so they sent it on to the next town, Ekron, where the same thing happened.
“What shall we do with the ark of the Lord?” the Philistines cried (6:2). Their counselors advised them not to harden their hearts as Pharaoh did (6:6). If you try to fight this God, you can never win.
So they put the ark on a cart, tied it to two cows, and sent them off in the direction of the border with Israel (6:11-12). It ended up in the house of a man called Abinadab. And there it remained, neglected for a generation (7:2).
Have you ever tried to “capture” God and use him for your own purposes?