“If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then RID yourselves of the foreign gods [..] and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” – 1 Samuel 7:3
When examining the relationship that the Israelites had with God, there is a consistent pattern that we notice being repeated over and over again — a pattern that continues to be repeated in our generation, and personal life today. The verse I wanted to share with you today has been speaking to my heart and reminding me of the importance in establishing and maintaining a fruitful relationship with God. Often times, we have the interest of wanting to know Him, but because we have not understood how to establish and maintain a relationship with Him, we give up very easily when we don’t seem to be getting anywhere with Him. This week I wanted us to look at the verse above, and reflect on our own personal lives.
The very first thing we see Samuel do is warn them (Israelites) to rid themselves of foreign gods — to rid of ALL other things that have replaced God in their lives. The scripture tells us over and over again that there is no way we can serve two masters, or worship idols and God at the same time – we simply were never wired to do so. In fact Matthew 6:24 reaffirms this by saying “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” The simple truth is that we can’t take a positive step forward in our relationship with God without first getting rid of the things in our lives that are occupying the space God needs to be in. It’s like attempting to furnish a house that’s already furnished. In the same sense, we first must make the necessary space available in our lives for God to have. As mentioned in previous blog posts, when God created us, He did so ONLY for His pleasure and for the purpose of having a relationship with HIM only. He never intended on sharing us with others, rather desires to give Himself to us completely. If that commitment is not taken seriously on our end as well, then it becomes very difficult to see progress in our walk with Him — much like a relationship with another human being would be difficult to attain if one person is constantly turning their eyes and heart towards other people or other things. The Israelites give us a glimpse of how difficult a relationship with God becomes when God is replaced with other things.
Looking at your life today, what are some of the things that are taking up the space needed to be reserved for God? Samuel warns the Israelites to get rid of all foreign gods. Today, foreign gods could represent many things in our lives such as money, relationships, reputation or fame, people we idolize, education, material things, etc. The danger is that in most cases we don’t even realize how many of those foreign gods we have began to worship, and what’s even worse is that many people today have gotten very comfortable at keeping their foreign gods hidden in their hearts, while advertising God on the surface. This verse forces us to re-evaluate the things that we have given a higher regard to in our hearts, while reminding us that the only way towards a genuine commitment to Him, is by first emptying ourselves out for Him.
The second thing he does is advise them to commit to the Lord. Let’s talk a little about commitment. The are many scriptural references that address the different types of commitments that Christians ought to have in different aspects of their lives. However, the Bible clearly states that the chief commitment of our life is to love God. In Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus reminds us of the first commandment by saying ”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Every fiber of our being, every part of our life must be committed to loving God. Total commitment to God means that Jesus is our sole authority, our guiding light, and our unerring compass — and to be committed to Christ means being fruitful. Our generation today has a hard time understanding and honoring genuine commitment, but the word of God reminds us that without commitment it’s impossible to move forward in our relationship with God. Finally, it’s important to remember that a commitment is a daily process. In other words, each day is another opportunity to live out your commitment for Him. Each day is yet another opportunity to prove your love for Him. Your commitment to Him is honored by keeping Him first in all areas of your life.
The third thing he does is give them a promise. Samuel reassures them that once they have rid themselves of what is cluttering up their lives, and have made room for a true commitment to the Lord, then He will deliver them from their threats and biggest fears. In other words, he is telling them that there is a process they need to honor — that God is not just a servant who will do as they please. What does this mean? We need to understand that we can’t reap the benefits of what God can do for us, when we have not yet understood who God is and what He is capable of doing. The Israelites had one consistent issue — they would forget Him. As a result, they would always panic when their enemies were at hand or when trouble was at their door. Keep in mind that I said they would forget HIM, but not forget what He is capable of doing. Because they repeatedly abandoned Him for foreign gods, and continued to neglect their commitment to Him, their relationship with Him could not move forward in the way it was suppose to. Therefore, they never really knew Him for who He was. They knew of His power, but not His heart. So Samuel tells them that this time they need to come clean before God and that if they will in fact be returning back to Him, then there is an expectation set before them that they have to meet — not only so that they are rescued from the hands of the Philistines, but more importantly – so that they begin to have a genuine relationship with God.
As this week begins, I want to encourage us all to look at where our lives are at. What have we idolized? What have we loved and clung onto while forsaking God? If you are at a place in your life where you feel like you are not seeing much progress in your walk with Him, then perhaps it’s time to look within and see what else is occupying the space that He should have. He doesn’t want half of you – He wants ALL of you and until He has that there won’t be a greater depth of intimacy and familiarity between you and Him. Moments like this should only help us get closer to the truth and freedom found in having a fruitful relationship with Him.
See you next Monday!