Summary: A message focusing in on the lost Ark in the temple of Dagon.
1 Samuel 5:1-5 KJV And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod.  When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.  And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again.  And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.  Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day.
I. INTRODUCTION—THE BACKGROUND OF THE STORY
-This story ushers us into one of Israel’s dark times. There are days of darkness and days of light in all of our lives and how we react to the light and darkness will have much of an impact on the destiny of our soul. I am sometimes sad to say that the days of Israel very closely mirror our own relationship with God.
A. The Attack of the Philistines
-At the beginning of this time, history is quite silent concerning the Philistines. The last we have read of them are during the days of Samson who had troubled and terrorized them greatly before his swan song of killing somewhere around 3000 of them. He had jerked down the pillars in their feasting house and had destroyed them amidst their jeering at him.
-The passage of time has been somewhere around 20 years. But this passage of time had only brewed in their heart a desire for revenge and the festering wound had been infected with the disease of revenge.
-They had waited patiently with a sense of wrath brewing for the perfect time to get the Israelites back. The situation ripened for them at Ebenezer. They had managed to capture the Ark of the Covenant from their enemy.
-The cost of the battle had been about 30,000 men of Israel and that night in four thousand homes of the people there had been great weeping for the loss of lives and the loss of the Ark. The sad part is that Israel needed some firm discipline and God was willing to use the Philistines to accomplish his purpose.
-The sons of Eli had desecrated the house of the Lord with their immoral actions and God had grown weary of it. Eli had refused to deal with the terrible mischief of these men and it had caused a very low ebb of spiritual life to come to Israel.
-The loss of the Ark was seemingly a morbid loss for them to contend with. Yet it was God’s providence in action at the time. How often it seems that God is working in reverse in our behalf with in fact He is working in a forward direction for us! From our view it looks backward but in God’s wisdom it is a forward move.
-Taking the Ark into battle had seemed like a brilliant idea. One of the elders had suggested that they do so and the next thing you know, others have caught up with the mob mentality urging them to take it into battle.
B. Don’t Get War and Worship Mixed Up
-It is important that we don’t get mixed up what God needs to use in battle and what he needs to use in worship. The Ark was an article of worship not of war!
-There should have been some objections to using the Ark in this manner.
• First, the elders had no control of the Ark. It was the responsibility of the priests.
• Secondly, the Ark should have never been used in the manner as a superstitious charm to save them.
-But when the Philistines had attacked, the Ark had been carried right into battle and it had promptly been lost. Somewhere in the vicinity of the Ark being captured the vile sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas are slain along with thirty-thousand of Israel’s footmen.
-How fleeting and short-lived were the sinful pleasures of Hophni and Phinehas. With weapons of rebellion in their hands and guilty stains on their souls, they had been sent into eternity to face the presence of the One they thought would bring them the victory.
-Six calamities had taken place in the terrible day:
• 1—Israel had fled before their enemies.
• 2—A great slaughter had taken place.
• 3—Hophni and Phinehas had been slain.
• 4—The Ark of God had been taken.