1 Samuel 12: 20-22,24
"Do not be afraid," Samuel replied. "You have done all this evil: yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own...But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you."
Notice the words that are emphasized through repetition within these verses: "do not turn away," "useless", "all your heart," "serve."
Todd Phillips, the Young Adult Pastor at MBC, has been preaching on idolatry/idols the past 3 weeks in a sermon series called "No Other Gods." Studying what God has to say about idols, identifying idols in my own life, seeing the destruction they can cause in our lives and how they can impact those around us and learning ways to turn away from them has both humbled and challenged me personally as a Christ follower. I read these verses this morning and was refreshed by their truth. Before I share my heart with you, let me give you Todd's definition of idols:
Idols: Anything that takes the place of God on the throne of our lives
My Extra Cliff Note: An idol is anything that steals our focus, attention and affections away from God
Background: As Todd mentioned in his sermons, idols are what our hearts wander to when/if we are not focused on the LORD. We were created to worship God, therefore, when we are not worshipping God we will be worshipping something else. The people have been described in previous verses as those who "forgot the LORD their God" (v.9). The text goes onto to tell us that b/c the Israelites forgot God and turned to idols "he sold them into the hand os Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the King of Moab, who fought aganist them" (v.9). In v. 10 the people repent saying, "We have sinned, we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies and we will serve you." Notice the compassion of the LORD in the next verse, "and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side so that you lived securely" (v.11). But soon the Israelites once again turn their attention and affections away from the LORD demanding they have an earthly King rule over them like the other nations, forsaking God as the only King they need. By the time we get to v. 20-22, 24 the people of Israel have once again recognized their wandering hearts and are now pleading with Samuel to pray to the LORD for them for they are afraid of what the consequences of their disobedience will be. Samuel's reply is what we will focus on for the remainder of this post.
Let's break down 1 Samuel 12:20-22, 24 using the phrases and words we highlighted above.
"Do not turn away" - The Israelites have already seen the wickedness of their human hearts and how they are prone to wander through their disregard for God delivering them from their enemies and then looking for fulfillment in idols instead of God. Twice, Samuel reminds them "do not turn away." This is significant because it is a reminder to them of what they should do, however, it's also significant because it is warning them of the destruction of turning from one idol to another idol, rather than turning from one idol to God! In your life, have you ever experienced this path of misdirection like the Israelites? I know I have! But here is the beauty in this warning/reminder, God is ready to deliver you! He desires for you to turn to Him! He will fulfill the void in your heart longing for satisfaction and security! Notice v. 20 " ... do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart." On the map of life for Christ-followers we must turn away from dead ends and steer toward God. *Turn away from idols, not God."
"Useless" - This is not the only time idols are mentioned as useless. In my studies I have found that there are MANY times when the terms "idols" and "useless" are used together. Why? Probably because we need the reminder that idols profit us NOTHING! That's right friends, 0 profit from trusting in idols. Bottom line: trusting in idols is not just a waste of time, it's a waste of life! Notice what v. 21 says, " Do not turn away after idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless." Read that again! Let it sink in! They do you NO good, they CANNOT rescue you. For me I struggle with idols like control and safety. I can become self-reliant in times of fear. I look toward a sense of control and safety to rescue me, however, this is not true! It's not trusting in my own control&safety that will rescue me from fear/anxiety, it's trusting in GOD! He is the ONLY deliverer, the ONLY Redeemer, the ONLY God. Many times when we trust in ourselves more than God the reality is we are saying, "I am my own god, i.e. I have more control then God." Let's not let ourselves be deceived!
"All your heart" & "Serve" - As we seek to turn away from idols and the uselessness/destruction they cause in our rel. with God (notice how the Israelites asked Samuel to pray to the Lord for them b/c they felt distant from him in their disobedience) and our rel. with others, we must serve God with all our hearts. HOW? v.24 mentions one way to begin this process, "...be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; *consider what great things he has done for you.*" One way to turn away from idols in our lives is to remember what God has done for us. How has God shown you you can trust him? How has he shown you that HE IS the ONLY one who satisfies? How has he shown you that he ALONE rescues you from harm?
One other way to begin the process is in Nehemiah 4:14 (one of my favorite verses!) "Don't be afraid of them. (this is referring to the people plotting to attack the Jews b/c of their efforts in rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem) Remember the Lord. Who is great and awesome..."
When we choose to remember the Lord and seek to know him more intimately we will find the truth, that worshipping Him is what we were created for and what will fulfill us and that idols will only leave us empty.
Remember the Lord (who is he? why can you trust him with every area in your life?) & Consider what he has done for you today!
Praise Him for HE IS great & awesome & worthy of our lives!!!