Return to the Lord and Put Away
And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.” 1 Sam. 7:3-4
Samuel knew the Israelites were worshiping foreign gods. (Ashtaroth was a Canaanite god associated with perverted sex and fertility). He told them to return to the Lord and put away those false gods. Samuel called for single-hearted devotion of the one, true God.
Idolatry is beautifully, horribly described in Isaiah 44:16-17, when a carpenter cuts down wood, and uses half of it for a fire for cooking and warmth, but fashions the rest into an idol and worships it. The wood is rightly used for warmth and cooking, but it’s crazy to worship it as god!
And what about us? Where have we allowed false gods from our culture to take a prominent place in our lives? What empires have we built that we exalt? Careers? Finances? Homes? Cars? Vacations? Education? Sports teams? Children’s abilities? Fitness, looks, body type? And the list goes on. Anything we exalt in our lives higher than Jesus is an idol. The subject of our affections can even be a good thing, but wrongly prioritized.
May we return to God and put away those things not of Him. And rightly order even the good things in our lives. Paul also urged us to put off our old self (Eph. 4:22) Maybe it’s time to take inventory: “Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!” (Lam 3:39-40). Return, and put away.