Sometimes something totally unexpected occurs and takes you by surprise. In 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines defeated the Israelites in battle (twice!), killed the sons of Eli, and took the sacred ark of the covenant from Israel. The Philistines had every reason to believe they would continue to conquer more land, continue to overpower the Israelites, and that their god, Dagon, would provide for them. In other words, the Philistines had every reason to be optimistic and hopeful after the events of 1 Samuel 4.
But then we read 1 Samuel 5.
Amidst the celebration in the Philistine city of Ashdod, the Philistines failed to realize that God was about to act decisively.
First, it began when they walked in to the shrine of Dagon and found that Dagon was on the ground, with his face in the dirt before the ark of God.
They propped the mighty Dagon back up and left the shrine.
The next morning they walked in and found Dagon on the ground with his face in the dirt again. However, this time the head of Dagon and the hands of Dagon were chopped off of him. Dagon had received a military style execution at the hands of Yahweh in his own shrine! This was a complete shock to the residents in Ashdod!
But then it got worse. The town began to be plagued with tumors, chaos, and death. The presence of the ark brought God's judgment on them.
Ultimately, it did not matter if the ark of God was in Ashdod, Gath, or Ekron. Wherever they took the ark, tumors, chaos, and death followed.
The message God was sending them was this: even though it appeared he had been defeated, he was still in control. He remains sovereign.
Today, God is sovereign and in control even when it appears he is weak. Even when it appears he is absent. Even when it appears he has been defeated.
He is still in control and will still accomplish his perfect plan of redemption. Biblically, this principle is evident at the cross where the Son of God hangs dying on a cross. There God seems defeated and weak, but he is actually accomplishing an eternal victory over sin and death.
God might seem weak or even absent in life, but the cross reminds us that God is always in control and he will always accomplish his plan.