1 Samuel 5:1-12 – I Cannot Co-Exist with The Co-Exist Bumper Stickers

Posted: December 6, 2017 in 09-1 Samuel
Tags: , ,

1 Samuel 5:1-12
The Ark in Philistia

There are some things in life that, as we say in the South, “gets your goat!” For the under-educated folks not having been blessed by God by being born and raised in the South, when something “gets your goat”, it means that something has really irritated you, made you mad to the point of exasperation because they is nothing that you can do about it. Like when somebody cuts you off in traffic, that act can “get your goat”. Just because of the nature of driving, you don’t really know the person, often, that cuts you off in traffic and you will probably never see them again. And, it’s not like you can stop traffic and hop out and have it out with them. So it’s just something that gets your goat and you just have to live with it and move on.

Something that gets my goat these days is those bumper stickers that say, “Co-exist” and it is spelled with the symbols of the world’s major religions. These symbols are as follows:

The ‘C’ is a symbol for Islam.

The ‘O’ is a symbol for Pacifism.

The ‘E’ is a symbol for gay rights/gender equality, depending on whom you ask.

The ‘X’ is a symbol for Judaism.

The ‘I’ is a symbol for Paganism.

The ‘S’ is a symbol for Taoism.

The ‘T’ is a symbol for Christianity.

These bumper stickers basically saying that there is no one belief system that is better than another and that they all have kernels of truth in them so, therefore, we should be tolerant of all belief systems. It espouses the liberal theology of tolerance. It espouses that all religions are man-made and thus are our attempts to achieve some oneness with a higher power or that oneness with the force of the universe or whatever you want to call it. This liberal theology says that all religions are attempts by us to reach a higher level of consciousness and none of these religions are in and of themselves superior to another. They are all after the same thing, a purity of heart that leads to higher consciousness that leads to self-improvement which leads to loving others which leads to spending the afterlife in some pleasurable state. And, if you don’t want to believe in a belief system, just believe in yourself. Just believe in man. Just belief that man is innately good and can achieve the highest levels of morality, integrity and honesty if we just focus our energies in that direction. It’s the all roads lead to heaven, nirvana, supreme consciousness, or union with the fabric of the universe, or being positive energy, or ending life (without an afterlife) with a good feeling about yourself (if you are an atheist). That’s the essence of the “Co-Exist” bumper sticker. It is the outward and visible sign of tolerance theology, the cooler way to think in today’s world.

This theology of tolerance of all religions is a cop-out. It gets my goat. In tolerance theology, people can be lazy. Whatever they believe in can be true for them. They do not have to make choices. And it relieves the world and even us Christians from having to evangelize the world. Everything’s ok so you don’t have to bother. You can pick and choose what you want to believe from this religion and that religion. You know! Whatever works for you. It’s OK! Create your own religion. Heck, that tolerance theology means too that even if you are anatomically one sex but you just feel like another sex, you can be the sex that your heart desires and not what the absolute true evidence of what you gender is. In the religion of tolerance of all religions to say that your religion is superior to another is blasphemy of the highest order. To not believe that we all have a right for ourselves to choose what we want to believe is true and define for as true for ourselves is the most grievous sin of all in the bland, mix it all together, everything’s ok religion of tolerance.

As Christians, we believe that we believe in the one true God and that all other religions whether they say they believe in the one true God or not all false or at the very least incomplete and thus ultimately false. Critics often ask why Christianity is any better than any other religion in the world. Of all the religions that exist, how can it be that only Christianity is true? If God exists, why can’t God use different religions? Don’t all paths lead to God? Skeptics ask these kinds of questions all the time; and unfortunately, few Christians have the answers.

That trying to hedge our bets with all religions being equal and picking and choosing what we want to believe that is so prevalent today and so evidenced by the popularity of the flawed “Co-Exist” stickers is what I thought of this morning when I read this passage. In this passage, the Philistines just added the God of Israel to their pantheon of gods. It is not unlike the tolerance theology that has overtaken the world today. Let’s read this passage, 1 Samuel 5:1-12, with that idea in mind:

5 After the Philistines captured the Ark of God, they took it from the battleground at Ebenezer to the town of Ashdod. 2 They carried the Ark of God into the temple of Dagon and placed it beside an idol of Dagon. 3 But when the citizens of Ashdod went to see it the next morning, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground in front of the Ark of the Lord! So they took Dagon and put him in his place again. 4 But the next morning the same thing happened—Dagon had fallen face down before the Ark of the Lord again. This time his head and hands had broken off and were lying in the doorway. Only the trunk of his body was left intact. 5 That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor anyone who enters the temple of Dagon in Ashdod will step on its threshold.

6 Then the Lord’s heavy hand struck the people of Ashdod and the nearby villages with a plague of tumors.[a] 7 When the people realized what was happening, they cried out, “We can’t keep the Ark of the God of Israel here any longer! He is against us! We will all be destroyed along with Dagon, our god.” 8 So they called together the rulers of the Philistine towns and asked, “What should we do with the Ark of the God of Israel?”

The rulers discussed it and replied, “Move it to the town of Gath.” So they moved the Ark of the God of Israel to Gath. 9 But when the Ark arrived at Gath, the Lord’s heavy hand fell on its men, young and old; he struck them with a plague of tumors, and there was a great panic.

10 So they sent the Ark of God to the town of Ekron, but when the people of Ekron saw it coming they cried out, “They are bringing the Ark of the God of Israel here to kill us, too!” 11 The people summoned the Philistine rulers again and begged them, “Please send the Ark of the God of Israel back to its own country, or it[b] will kill us all.” For the deadly plague from God had already begun, and great fear was sweeping across the town. 12 Those who didn’t die were afflicted with tumors; and the cry from the town rose to heaven.

In this passage, we meet the Philistinian god, Dagon. Dagon was the chief god the Philistines, whom they believed sent rain and a bountiful harvest when the people pleased him and would withhold the same if they did not. In addition to Dagon, the Philistines worshiped many more gods, just as did most the other surrounding pagan nations. The more gods they could have on their side, the more secure they felt. That was why they wanted the Ark. Their thought process was that the God of Israel was like any of their man-made gods and that if it helped the Israelites, it could help them too. When the people living nearby began to get sick and die, the Philistines realized the Ark was not a good omen. It was a source of greater power than they had ever seen. Although the Philistines had just witnessed the power of God over their man-made god, Dagon, they did not act upon that insight until they were afflicted with tumors. Today, many people want to hedge their bets by believing in as many religions as possible so that they can feel secure that all roads lead to heaven.

This tolerance theology of all religions and belief systems or lack of belief is all ok because ultimately all roads lead to heaven is just plain flawed and here’s why (thanks to http://www.carm.org):

If truth is relative, then the statement that truth is relative is an absolute truth and would be a self-defeating statement by proving that truth is not relative. But, if truth is absolute, then the statement “truth is absolute” is true and not self-defeating. It is true that truth exists. It is true that truth will not contradict itself as we have just seen. In fact, it is absolutely true that you are reading this paper.

If we can see that there is such a thing as truth in the world, then we could also see that there can be spiritual truth as well. It is not absurd to believe in spiritual absolutes anymore than physical or logical absolutes. Even the statement that all religions lead to God is a statement held to be a spiritual absolute by many people. This simply demonstrates that people do believe in spiritual truth. Why? Because truth exists. However, not all that is believed to be true actually is true. Furthermore, all belief systems cannot be true since they often contradict each other in profound ways–and truth is not self-contradictory.
Religions contradict each other; therefore, they cannot all be true.

Mormonism teaches that there are many gods in existence, and that you can become a god. Christianity teaches that there is only one God, and you cannot become a god. Islam teaches that Jesus is not God in flesh–where Christianity does. Jesus cannot be both God and not God at the same time. Some religions teach that we reincarnate, while others do not. Some teach there is a hell, and others do not. They cannot all be true. If they cannot all be true, it cannot be true that all religions lead to God. Furthermore, it means that some religions are, at the very least, false in their claims to reveal the true God (or gods). Remember, truth does not contradict itself. If God exists, He will not institute mutually exclusive and contradictory belief systems in an attempt to get people to believe in Him. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that there can be an absolute spiritual truth, and that not all systems can be true regardless of whether or not they claim to be true. There must be more than a mere claim.
Fulfilled Prophecy concerning Jesus

Though there are other religions that have prophecies in them, none are 100% accurate as is the Bible; and none of them point to someone like Jesus who made incredible claims and performed incredible deeds. The Old Testament was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, yet the Old Testament prophesied many things about Jesus. This is undoubtedly evidence of divine influence upon the Bible.

Please consider some of the many prophecies of Jesus in the following chart:
Prophecy Old Testament Prophecy New Testament Fulfillment
Born of a virgin Isaiah 7:14 Matt. 1:18, 25
Born at Bethlehem Micah 5:2 Matt. 2:1
He would be preceded by a Messenger Isaiah 40:3 Matt. 3:1-2
Rejected by His own people Isaiah 53:3 John 7:5; 7:48
Betrayed by a close friend Psalm 41:9 John 13:26-30
His side pierced Zech. 12:10 John 19:34
Crucifixion Psalm 22:1,
Psalm 22:11-18 Luke 23:33;
John 19:23-24
Resurrection of Christ Psalm 16:10 Acts 13:34-37

Fulfillment of prophecy can have different explanations. Some state that the New Testament was written and altered to make it look as if Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (but there is no evidence of that). Others state that the prophecies are so vague that they do not count (but many of the prophecies are not vague at all). Of course, it is possible that God inspired the writers; and Jesus, who is God in flesh, fulfilled these prophecies as a further demonstration of the validity of Christianity.
The Claims and Deeds of Christ

Christianity claims to be authored by God. Of course, merely making such a claim does not make it true. Anyone can make claims, but backing up those claims is entirely different. Jesus used the Divine Name for Himself (John 8:58), the same Divine Name used by God when Moses asked God what His name was in Exodus 3:14. Jesus said He could do whatever He saw God the Father do (John 5:19), and He claimed to be one with God the Father (John 10:30; 10:38). Likewise, the disciples also called Him God (John 1:1, 14; John 10:27; Col. 2:9). By default, if Jesus is God in flesh, then whatever He said and did would be true. Since Jesus said that He alone was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one can find God without Him (John 14:6), His words become incredibly important.

Again, making a claim is one thing. Backing it up is another. Did Jesus also back up His fantastic words with miraculous deeds? Yes, He did.

Jesus changed water into wine (John 2:6-10).
Jesus cast out demons (Matt. 8:28-32; 15:22-28).
Jesus healed lepers (Matt. 8:3; Luke 17:14).
Jesus healed diseases (Matt. 4:23, 24; Luke 6:17-19).
Jesus healed the paralytic (Mark 2:3-12).
Jesus raised the dead (Matt. 9:25; John 11:43-44).
Jesus restored sight to the blind (Matt. 9:27-30; John 9:1-7).
Jesus restored/cured deafness (Mark 7:32-35).
Jesus fed the multitude (Matt. 14:15-21; Matt. 15:32-38).
Jesus walked on water (Matt. 14:25-27).
Jesus calmed a storm with a command (Matt. 8:22-27; Mark 4:39).
Jesus rose from the dead (Luke 24:39; John 20:27).
Jesus appeared to disciples after resurrection (John 20:19).

The eyewitnesses recorded the miracles of Jesus, and the gospels have been reliably transmitted to us. Therefore, we can believe what Jesus said about Himself for two reasons: one, because what He said and did agrees with the Old Testament; and two, because Jesus performed many convincing miracles in front of people who testified and wrote about what they saw Him do and even his enemies living at the time of these published writings could not and did not contradict the eyewitness testimony of others.


Christ’s resurrection

Within Christianity, the resurrection is vitally important. Without the resurrection, our faith is useless (1 Cor. 15:14). It was Jesus’ resurrection that changed the lives of the disciples. After Jesus was crucified, the disciples ran and hid. But when they saw the risen Lord, they knew that what Jesus had said and done proved that He was indeed God in flesh, the Savior.

No other religious leader has died in full view of trained executioners, had a guarded tomb, and then risen three days later to appear to many many people. This resurrection is proof of who Jesus is, and that He did accomplish what He set out to do: provide the only means of redemption for mankind.

Buddha did not rise from the dead. Muhammad did not rise from the dead. Confucius did not rise from the dead. Krishna did not rise from the dead, etc. Only Jesus has physically risen from the dead, walked on water, claimed to be God, and raised others from the dead. He has conquered death. Why trust anyone else? Why trust anyone who can be held by physical death when we have a Messiah who is greater than death itself?

Why should anyone trust in Christianity over Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism, or anything else? It is because there are absolute truths. Only in Christianity are there accurately fulfilled prophecies of a coming Messiah. Only in Christianity do we have the extremely accurate transmission of the eyewitness documents (gospels), so we can trust what was originally written. Only in Christianity do we have the person of Christ who claimed to be God, performed many miracles to prove His claim of divinity, who died and rose from the dead, and who said that He alone was the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). All this adds to the legitimacy and credibility of Christianity above all other religions–all based on the person of Jesus. It could not be that Jesus is the only Truth, and other religions also be the truth.

Either Jesus is true and all other religions are false, or other religions are true, and Jesus is false. There are no other options. I choose to follow the risen Lord Jesus. What’s your choice? You cannot Co-Exist.

Amen and Amen.

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