1 Samuel 7:3-4 And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “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.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.
A key word in these verses is the word ‘only’. Israel’s big problem throughout their long, sad is history is not that they failed to serve the LORD, but that they tried to serve the LORD alongside other gods.
Their history helps us to see the significance of the very FIRST of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). A more literal translation of this verse would be: “There will not be to you other gods ‘upon/before my face’, or ‘in my presence’”. How easy it became for them as they settled into the Promised Land to establish firm external worship practices that ‘made all the right noises’, dotted the ‘i’s and crossed the ’t’s, and made them feel fully justified that they were obeying the First Commandment faithfully, and then to get drawn in by the more sensual attraction of the gods of the culture into which they had come, as a kind of ‘harmless’ sideline interest. This can (and did) happen so subtly and seamlessly that it becomes (became) an integral part of their own culture.
Is this exactly what has happened to Western Christianity today? Is this why the Apostle Paul had to warn us: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2a)? Is this what Jesus meant by the third kind of soil in the Parable of the Sower: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22)?
Do we allow the interests and concerns and pleasures and attractions that dominate our culture today become a distraction to our wholehearted commitment to our Saviour? Do we pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24)? Are there competing things in your life that make it difficult for you to “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your mind and with ALL your strength” (Mark 12:30)? “The dearest idol I have known, what e’er that idol be, help me to tear it from thy throne and worship only thee” (William Cowper).
– Bruce Christian