The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.” So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” They answered, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” So they brought the ark of the God of Israel there. But after they had brought it around, the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing a very great panic, and he afflicted the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. But as soon as the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people.” They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there. The men who did not die were struck with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven. I Samuel 5:6-12 ESV
Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:11-12 ESV
In 1347, black death came to Europe through the port of Sicily. Some ships came into port, and the people on these ships were infected with the plague. Many of them were already dead. When the people of the port saw that the sailors were carrying this horrible disease, they made the ships leave port. They wanted to keep the plague from entering their area, but it was too late. The first horrible spread of the plague through Europe had started. Rich people tried to escape to the countryside, but many people had no place to run. About 20 million people in Europe died, which was about a third of its population.
God showed his power against the Philistines with a plague when they captured the ark of the covenant. Everywhere the ark was brought, the plague broke out. The people panicked and tried to get away from the ark. They decided that they couldn’t keep the ark with them because God’s anger came with it. Like the ships that were forced to leave port in Sicily, the Philistine towns got ready to send the ark away from themselves before more people got sick or died from the plague.
God’s anger against sinners is very frightening, and left to ourselves we are afraid of God and want to run away from him. But God is everywhere, and there is no place to hide from him. The good news is that the same God who is angry over our sins loves us and gives us a place to hide from his anger. He sent his Son Jesus to die and take the punishment for our sins. We can run to Jesus for help and forgiveness. When we are in Jesus, we are safe from God’s anger and safe in his love forever.
Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us and dying for us so that we are safe from God’s anger over our sins. Amen.