1 Samuel 7:3-17
3 So Samuel spoke to all the Israelites. He said, “Do you really want to return to the Lord with all your hearts? If you do, get rid of your false gods. Get rid of your statues of female gods that are named Ashtoreth. Commit yourselves to the Lord. Serve him only. Then he will save you from the power of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their statues of gods that were named Baal. They put away their statues of female gods that were named Ashtoreth. They served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all the Israelites together at Mizpah. I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 When the people had come together at Mizpah, they went to the well and got water. They poured it out in front of the Lord. On that day they didn’t eat any food. They admitted they had sinned. They said, “We’ve sinned against the Lord.” Samuel was serving as the leader of Israel at Mizpah. 7 The Philistines heard that Israel had gathered together at Mizpah. So the Philistine rulers came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard about it, they were afraid. 8 They said to Samuel, “Don’t stop crying out to the Lord our God to help us. Keep praying that he’ll save us from the power of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel got a very young lamb. He sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord to help Israel. And the Lord answered his prayer. 10 The Philistines came near to attack Israel. At that time Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering. But that day the Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines. He threw them into such a panic that the Israelites were able to chase them away. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah. They chased the Philistines all the way to a point below Beth Kar. They killed them all along the way. 12 Then Samuel got a big stone. He set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer. He said, “The Lord has helped us every step of the way.” 13 So the Philistines were brought under Israel’s control. The Philistines didn’t attack their territory again. The Lord used his power against the Philistines as long as Samuel lived. 14 The Philistines had captured many towns between Ekron and Gath. But they had to give all of them back. Israel took back the territories near those towns from the control of the Philistines. During that time Israel and the Amorites were friendly toward each other. 15 Samuel continued to lead Israel all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he traveled from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah. He served Israel as judge in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah. That’s where his home was. He served Israel as judge there too. And he built an altar there to honor the Lord.
As I read the Old Testament more and more, the challenge of “foreign gods” and their distracting and destructive influence on the people of God is a clear constant. We are all worshipers of something – either the real and living God, or something or someone “foreign”. I see from the associations in this passage that what we worship is ultimately what we believe will bring our protection and deliverance. Israel was being encouraged by Samuel to move from holding to their Baals and Ashtoreths as their saving protection, back to God as their saving protection.
This passage makes me question – what alternatives do I look to for protection and deliverance in challenging, hard, or dangerous situations, other than God? For me, the alternative protections tend to be money, certain relationships, and even my own human understanding. I must respond to such awareness by allowing the Holy Spirit to search my heart for such foreign dependencies, rid myself of these foreign gods and commit myself to God in serving him only.
Lord, search my heart and see if there are any foreign gods that I am worshipping! Who or what am I looking to for my protection and deliverance other than you? I turn back to you with all my heart, ridding myself of these foreign gods and committing myself to serving You only. Amen.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh