“So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all. Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord.3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.“ 1 Samuel 7.1-4
What we will be talking about in chapter 7 is a synopsis of the Old Testament in a nutshell. The people turn to God, turn away from God, repent once again, and the Lord blesses them. This is the story of God with human history. It get’s a little repetitive because human beings continue to sin and disobey the Lord.
In this passage we see the ark of the Lord is finally returned to Israel. It is taken up to Abinadabs house and they have consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark. The text tells us it stayed in Kiriath Jearim for twenty years and during that time “all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord.” This is a very good thing.
But Samuel says to them that if they are returning to the Lord “all all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only.” Then, as Samuel continues, “he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” To follow the Lord requires a sacrifice on their behalf.
The question I have is — Why did the Israelites have to be told to put away their idols? Isn’t that a given? If someone is going to follow God, then follow God. Turn away from Baals and Ashtoreths and worship the Lord only. Period. And for a season, the people did just this. They obeyed the Lord and he blessed them. It’s such common sense and yet we miss it almost every time — blessing from God are often determined by our obedience. And what blessings can we expect when we obey? Peace, health, safety, possessions and a closeness with his Presence.
Before you point the finger too stronger at the Israelites, just remember, humanity has not changed. If you are living for the Lord you know the daily battle that ensues for your holiness, heart and mind. The war has been won by Jesus and now accessibility to God is available to all people. Yet our sin creates new barriers of blessings and favor with the Lord. Like the Israelites who were instructed by Samuel to put away idols and foreign gods, so we must do the same. Idols of lust, pride, riches, possessions, power, influence, popularity and significance. All of these human desires must die so that we might find our worth in God alone through Jesus Christ.
It is not an easy task but it is doable. Just as the Israelites obeyed the Lord and were blessed for a period of time, so shall we. We must “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrew 12.1.
“O Lord God, I want victory in your name. The daily grind of the battle is wearisome. The denial of the flesh and the desire of the Spirit is a daily exercise in obedience. And it should be. My relationship with you although made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus, did not come cheap. You ask me to turn from self and toward the Savior. Help me Lord! Strengthen me! Send the power of your Holy Spirit and surround me and my family with your angels that we might be godly in all we do. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen