And it came about from the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim that the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. (1Sa 7:2 NAS77)
The Israelites went out to battle with the Philistines and not only were they beaten badly, but they lost the Ark. The Philistines took the captured ark and put it in the temple of Dagon, their god. Soon they began to suffer with a plague that killed many and left others with tumors growing from their flesh. They moved it from Ashdod to Gath and then from Gath to Ekron. Everywhere it went, more death and disease followed. Finally, the sent it back to Israel (It’s a great story – worthy of an epic film. You can read it here.).
Once again,Israel laments after God – for 20 years. Finally, Samuel comes to make sacrifices for the nation and to heal the breach between the people and God. Immediately, we get this phrase:
If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone (verse 3)
All this time, it was God and . . .
Yes they cried out to God. Yes there was a great lament. But it was still the God of Israel, plus some others. God is quite clear on this. His expectation is that we worship Him alone.
During this Lenten season, as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our King, let’s look for the “foreign gods” that we need to remove from among us.