It was at Kiriath-jearim that Israel’s last Judge called the nation to “direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only” (1 Samuel 7:3). Samuel was not known for mincing his words; He spoke to the centre most issue, calling the entire nation to return “to the Lord with all your heart” (1Sa 7:3). God’s people, from the leaders to the labourers, had been deliberately chasing after foreign gods and it had to stop.
If Israel’s return to the Lord was to be genuine, it meant they would “put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among” them (1Sa 7:3). This was no small request. The Lord required a deliberate change in the nation’s heart affections. For decades they had been chasing after religion which pleased their fleshly desires, where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Combining worship of Yahweh with the sexually perverted and barbaric rituals of Baal and Ashtaroth could not continue.
The cost of idolatry was high, with thousands of Israelites having just lost their lives under divine judgement; Israel was feeling the pain of her unfaithfulness (1Sa 4-6). But it did not need to be this way! Israel could have responded favourably to the Lord’s gracious patience at any point. But no; they wanted what they wanted, and since judgement was slow coming they assumed there were no consequences for their sin – WRONG CONCLUSION.
The solution was straight forward and required a radical change in the nation’s thinking. Beginning with the leadership, which was now Samuel, undivided loyalty in belief, thought, and behaviour belonged to the one true God alone. There could be no compromise, no negotiation, and no shared loyalties. No longer would mixed affections and amalgamated beliefs with other gods be tolerated by the Lord. “So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only” (1 Samuel 7:4).
Today, we face the same challenge. Those who call themselves Christian are to “worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (Luke 4:8). Joshua’s challenge to “fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness” (Joshua 24:14) is as valid today as it ever was. Believers in Jesus Christ are those with conviction and courage, who unashamedly declare as Joshua did; “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
Surrendered belief, behaviour, and speech remain the only true expression of a heart that directs itself to the Lord. Make no mistake; this is the work of the Holy Spirit within you. “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ,” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) because He alone is your source for spiritual life and vitality. With the Lord Jesus steering your life, you are to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16) because the Bible fuels your ability to “be filled [Controlled] with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
With the many distractions of life before you today, I encourage you to continually direct your hearts toward the Lord. Make it your “aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9); to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11).