A Battle for the Ages
Have you ever heard that term before? I remember the night of March 8th, 1971 when that term was used in promoting a heavyweight title match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. This event captivated a world-wide audience long before the advent of social media.
I was with my dad, listening to the round by round summaries by radio until Joe Frazier was declared the winner. The match lived up to the hype. This bout laid the foundation for future over-hyped events which today has become the norm.
The true battle for the Ages is going to take place at the time of the 2nd coming of Christ. It represents the time when the Lord assumes the kingdoms of this world from the dominion of the evil one. (Rev 11:15) Did you know we have an opportunity to be part of that company? This study on the Presence of God should prove instructive in helping to show us how. There is another true Battle for the Ages found in scripture that you might not be aware of. Let’s uncover this battle while seeking to make an application for our day. It’s best to first view the previous articles on this subject to gain context.
You may recall that the children of Israel had lost their battle against the Philistines; worse still they lost the Ark. This was unprecedented and it resulted in the death of the corrupted priesthood consisting of Hophni, Phinehas and their father Eli. (1 Sam 4:11, 18) This sad chapter ended with the birth of a child to the wife of Phinehas; a son who was given the name of Ichabod. The meaning of his name is “the glory of the Lord has departed” which is both appropriate and sad. Let’s review what had just taken place.
The children of Israel became lax and casual during the reign of the Judges. They were living under a false sense of security as they took the presence of the Lord for granted. Where was the Ark at this time? It was located in the holy of Holies in Moses Tabernacle at Shiloh. Once again, Israel came under siege resulting in the priests (Hophni and Phinehas) casually and inappropriately presuming upon God by taking the Ark out of the Tabernacle and into the midst of battle. (1 Sam 4:3) It was a formula and method that had worked in times past. Not this time! God was no longer going to allow his holy presence to be represented by a perverse and corrupted priesthood. He was no longer going to allow His presence to be represented by a people who only served Him on their terms.
This was the primary reason why Hannah paid a terrific price in bringing forth a “man-child”, a Samuel who would later be used to prepare a true order of priest and king; men who would know and implement the heart of God. (1 Sam 2:35, 1 Sam 13:14) There is a transition now underway as the Ark of God is about to begin a journey. The Ark has now come out from Moses Tabernacle at Shiloh where it begins a journey towards Zion. The Ark will never again return to Shiloh even though Moses Tabernacle will continue to function. Think about that for a moment! The Ark of the Covenant, which speaks of the Presence of God, is no longer going to be part of a functional temple. This makes one wonder about the condition of many of our churches today. This event is referenced on several occasions throughout scripture to serve as a reminder of what took place; it is a timely reminder for our day.
Psa_78:60 So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men;
Jer_7:14 Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.
Jer_26:6 Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.
It is important to reinforce this portion of history seeing we are living in a very similar environment. Is God’s presence and His ways revered and honoured; do we approach Him in circumspection knowing that He is a Holy God? On the other hand are we becoming too casual in our relating to God? One of my greatest concerns is in the area of presumption where we assume to know what God is doing. The Bible itself is fast becoming a retooled instrument in moving the hand of God in accordance to one’s preference. Make no mistake; the sad state of the church as seen in Eli’s priesthood is alive and well today. We would do well to remember Shiloh and to learn its lessons.
So what about this Battle for the Ages and what does it signify to us? The Philistines were greatly emboldened in their triumph over Israel; especially seeing that the Ark was now in their hands. At first glance it appeared that the God of Israel succumbed to the god of the Philistines. After their victory, the Philistines returned to Ashdod, which served as their base. Interestingly, the name Ashdod means stronghold. The Philistines brought the Ark to their stronghold and placed it before their chief god who went by the name of Dagon. The God of Israel as represented by the Ark is now confronting Dagon, the god of the Philistines. This battle took place in the house of Dagon. The first night passes by and we see that Dagon is fallen before the Ark of the Lord. (1 Sam 5:2-3) The Philistines were perplexed but still made another attempt to prop up Dagon for a second opportunity. The next day Dagon is broken in his head and hands. The power of God’s presence was all too real in this enemy stronghold. God was not yet finished as He went on to judge the priests and people of Ashdod with diseases. God never lost His power but He did choose to allow His presence to be captured by enemy forces. He also chose to not be represented by a corrupted and perverse group of priests; He would not let them share in His glory and power. This privilege was to be given to those who would later know his heart, ways and thoughts. This was a true Battle for the Ages as the Philistines, along with their god dared to square off before the God of Israel. It was a total annihilation over the enemies of God.
Remember, it is God’s intent that all His people would become true priests and kings in these last days. (Rev 1:6, 5:10) It is a role and privilege that cannot be assumed; there is a price to pay as seen in the 15 qualifications that are conveyed in Psalm 15 and 24 for those whose sights are set on Zion. How many are willing to press into God’s best? If our heart is not settled in seeking him with fervency it will settle for an inferior message at best. Those who love the presence of God are those who know His heart and love His ways. They can be likened to Peter and the others who saw Jesus as alone having the Words of eternal life. (John 6:68-69) Why is this important and what meaning can it have for us? Let’s see what happens after the Lord’s destructive judgement in Ashdod.
The people of Ashdod quickly determined to have the Ark removed from their city due to the destruction it brought. It was brought to another one of their prominent cities named Gath. (1 Sam 5:8-9) In like manner the presence of God brought destruction and diseases upon their people prompting them to have the Ark move onwards towards another destination. The name Gath means “winepress”; signifying the stronghold of the will. Do you remember our Lord as he struggled in the area of his will while in the Garden of Gethsemane? (Luke 22:42) The next destination for the Ark is Ekron; it did not last long there seeing that the people were terrified at the prospects of destruction coming to their city. At this point the people in the Philistine territories had had enough. It was abundantly clear that the Ark brought death and destruction in all of the major centres of the Philistines. What was missing were an accompanying group of priests of Israel to share in this great campaign. God would not allow it due to their corruptible ways; He thrashed the Philistines on His own. Can we appreciate the privilege and opportunity God seeks to give to His people? He longs for us to participate with Him in these great victories. What is seen in this account of Biblical history is a picture of what it will be like in the last days.
Psa 149:6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand;
Psa 149:7 To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people;
Psa 149:8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron;
Psa 149:9 To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD.
Let’s Make this Personal
OK, we have looked at the historical account of the Journey’s exit from Shiloh into the land of the Philistines. We also saw how the Ark of God’s presence brought annihilation to the strongholds of the enemy bringing them to the place of exhaustive regret in possessing the Ark. How can we make a modern day application from this example in history?
First, let’s consider the three cities where the Ark journeyed. Ashdod was the Philistine base and it was where Dagon, their chief god resided. We noted earlier the meaning of Ashdod as being interpreted as a “stronghold”. God did not waste any time in rendering absolute judgement upon their god. He took the battle to their stronghold! The Apostle Paul speaks of our bodies as being temples of the Holy Spirit.
1Co 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
What if we were willing to open our temple and our heart for the Lord to come in; what would He find? Do we respond to His overtures when he comes knocking?
Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
It is no secret that we have strongholds within us that we struggle and contend against. What would happen if the Ark of God had access to the enemy strongholds within us? Is it possible that our personal Dagon’s can be broken and destroyed by His presence? Is there a stronghold you have been battling against? This is what the battle at Ashdod represents; it is God coming face to face with the chief stronghold of the adversary. It requires on our part a willingness of heart to let the Presence of God come in.
The next destination for the Ark was Gath. One of the greatest gifts God has given to man is that of a free will to make choices. The primary problem is man constantly seeks to assert his will against God. This is the heart of Satan which can be seen at his fall. (Isa 14:13-14) Jesus battled in the area of His will as He was about to become the sin sacrifice. He pleaded with His father for a potential alternative to His designated period of separation. In the end He was able to make the following statement to His Father:
Luk 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
The area of our will is another stronghold where we must obtain victory. There will be seasons when God may lead us into difficult places for the purpose of dealing with our will and personal ambitions. Do not forget the Lord’s instruction in how we should pray; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus will is likened to an “olive press” while in Gethsemane; it was a battle of the greatest intensity; another True Battle for the Ages. In relinquishing Himself to the will of His Father He was fulfilling the plan that was established before the foundations of the world. (Rev 13:8) Can we come to that place where we can say “I delight to do thy will O my God? (Psa 40:8) A love for the presence of God can help bring our will into alignment with that of the heavenly Father.
The final Philistine Destination is a city called Ekron. By now the reputation of the Ark’s journey throughout the land of the Philistine’s was well known. The people of Ekron wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Ark. The name Ekron can be interpreted to be “elimination”. It is a noteworthy description when noting the damage that the Ark was doing throughout enemy territory. Does this not conjure up thoughts of a similar work being done within our own lives? It is a picture of the Holy Spirit working mightily within our temples to “eliminate” anything that is foreign and offensive to God. Once again the question is whether we choose to allow Him to do so.
I have always enjoyed the story of when the Lord approached the fig tree while he was in Bethany. (Mark 11:11-13) The tree appeared to be fruitful from a distance but upon closer inspection it was found to have no fruit. This speaks to a problem seen in much of today’s Christianity. There is an appearance of fruitfulness on the surface but what is actually beneath the veneer? What did Jesus do immediately after He saw there was no fruit? In my opinion, He demonstrated the future ministry of the person of the Holy Spirit in the overturning of the tables in the temple. This was no ordinary feat; it required the Spirit of Might to cleanse the temple. This was to be a place for prayer and the worship of God; it was anything but. Does this scene sound a bit familiar to what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his 2nd letter?
2Co 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Can you see Jesus presenting a picture of the future ministry of the Holy Spirit as He went about cleansing the temple? Do we carry the same indignation towards the idols and untoward elements within our own temples? What if we allow the Ark of God’s Presence to have greater access into our lives, to bring “elimination” to these sin issues? This is what Ekron represents.
In the Old Testament the territories to be taken were typically physical lands through natural warfare. Our warfare is spiritual and needs to be internalized in the matters of the heart. We are living in a day where the presence of God is looking to gain a greater access into the hearts of believers. It is a choice that needs to be made. The Ark of God in our account is in a period of transition. It has been removed from Moses Tabernacle at Shiloh never again to return. The corrupted priesthood which had the custodial care of the Ark has been extinguished leaving the Ark unattended by any company of priests. The Ark was captured by enemy forces and brought into their domain and areas of influence. The presence of God wrought destruction to the enemy everywhere it sojourned resulting in it being sent away.
It is God’s desire to have a company of priests who can capably represent Him and His presence. It’s a priesthood that will embrace Truth and Holiness while walking in the Fear of the Lord. It is a priesthood that will allow the Presence of God full and unhindered access into their hearts and lives. If this is your desire then be prepared for forthcoming battles that will take place within; the kind of battles the Apostle Paul came to know as expressed in Romans 7. (Rom 7:22-25) It is a Battle for the Ages that can result in triumphant victory.
In the next segment we will continue to chart the journey of the Ark in its journey towards Zion. This will include the preparation and formation of a true priest.