One of the subjects I’m studying at the moment has us reading through the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. The passage for class yesterday was 1 Sam. 5 which was about the capture of God’s ark by the Philistines. They had walloped Israel in battle, slaying Eli’s 2 sons, causing Samuel to break his neck and his daughter in law to die in childbirth. Israel was a glutton for punishment so the Philistines compounded their victory by seizing God’s ark from Israel and transporting it back to their territories.
Both nations expected Israel to win since they had the ark of God’s presence with them. And this guy had a reputation of smoting some nasty Egyptians with all sorts of stuff – frogs, boils, you name it. But God’s backhand to Israel meant that he allowed himself to be captured. So you’d forgive the Philistines for thinking that God was on their side. They even wanted to honor him by propping him up next to their local deity Dagon. It doesn’t quite end well for him.
Nor does it seem like God takes compliments very well. According to the Masoretic text of 1 Sam. 5 it reads, ”The hand of the Lord lay heavy upon the Ashdodites, and he wrought havoc among them: He struck Ashdod and its territory with hemorrhoids. When the men of Ashdod saw how matters stood, they said, “The Ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand has dealt harshly with us and with our god Dagon.””
Their answer of course in this irony of ironies is that instead of sending the ark of the God of Israel back to Israel, they send it to other Philistine cities. Misery loves company and this only spreads the damage. The ark makes a tour until Ekron where “…the panic of death pervaded the whole city, so heavily had the hand of God fallen there; and the men who did not die were stricken with hemorrhoids. The outcry of the city went up to heaven.”
Have you ever had hemorrhoids? I have. It’s not long before your cries start reaching heaven. Why am I writing all his? I guess it’s to say that God has a sense of humor. I can’t imagine another way of wrath breaking out other than blood vessels breaking out against your bum skin. Hemorrhoids are painful. And sometimes God speaks to us in ways that only look funny backwards. It’s painful for a time but necessary. Because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. And life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.