1 Samuel 7 – Prepare Your Hearts and Serve Him ONLY!

Photo by mharrsch - Roman_throne_LosAngeles_County_Museum_California1 Samuel 7:3-4  And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.  4  Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.

1 Samuel 7 was the latest chapter in my personal devotions yesterday.  These two verses began to hint at me as the day wore on and I realized I needed to process them today.  Several points are made in these two verses:

1) Return unto the Lord WITH ALL YOUR HEARTS
2) Put away strange gods and Ashtaroth
3) Prepare your hearts unto the Lord
4) Serve Him only,

THEN God said the people would be delivered from the hands of their oppressors.

Songdove Books - Single RoseOver and over again in the Scriptures, I see conditions to the blessings, actions or promises of God.  Some of those blessings, actions or promises are merely the result, or consequence if you will, of mankind stepping into spiritual laws of operation much the way a farmer or gardener steps into the laws of nature when they set out to grow a garden or field plot.  In the same way that plants won’t grow if they aren’t watered, or they won’t produce fruit if they are not pruned, so are the ways of the laws of the spiritual realm in its effects on our everyday existence and purpose here on earth.  God set these laws into motion back at the creation of the world and we see them in action as God reveals them to mankind in the first five books of the Bible.

Two groups of thought, teaching and understanding tend to follow those who read these statements in the Scripture:

The first is that of a parent telling the child, “I promise that if you clean your room we’ll go to Dairy Queen!”.

The second is that of the slave, “I must do or God won’t come through!”.

Both completely miss the way the Kingdom of God works in the hearts and lives of mankind.  The promise of Salvation when a person repents and accepts Christ’s gift on faith, is indeed a promise.  However, stating that abstaining from sin will lead to a better prayer life as being a promise is false.  It’s not a promise, it’s the natural result of living a clean life.  When we harbour sin in our lives, we throw up a screen between us and God and while God may still work on our behalf, it is not to the level God would like to work.  When we choose to avoid sin and embrace God’s way of living, we remove that screen and allow God to work to a greater degree.

Here in 1 Samuel 7, the prophet Samuel is laying out this need to be made right with God before He can act on their behalf.  One of the laws in the spirit realm is that God cannot defend sinful, idolatrous behaviour.  Instead, such behaviour tends to bring down discipline in the head of the perpetrator at first, eventually leading to punishment and abandonment if the person resists the discipline long enough.  We see this in passages such as the following:

Jeremiah 6:27-30  I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way.  28  They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters.  29  The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.  30  Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.

Romans 1:20-28  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:  21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,  23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.  24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:  25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.  26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:  27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.  28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

2 Timothy 3:1-9  This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  2  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  3  Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,  4  Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;  5  Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  6  For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,  7  Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  8  Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.  9  But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

Titus 1:10-16  For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:  11  Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.  12  One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.  13  This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;  14  Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.  15  Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.  16  They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

For all who believe purely in New Testament teaching, notice that all but one of these references comes from the New Testament.  Back to 1 Samuel 7 now.  We’ve differentiated between promises and laws.  Don’t water a plant, it dies, it’s a natural law.  Don’t serve God, die in sin, that’s a spiritual law.  Spiritual laws have positive and negative consequences.  The passage in 1 Samuel 7 echoes another passage that would occur later on;

2 Chronicles 7:12-14  And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice.  13  If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;  14  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Let me re -quote:  1 Samuel 7:3-4  And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.  4  Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.

straightpathI said these points existed in the above passage:

1) Return unto the Lord WITH ALL YOUR HEARTS
2) Put away strange gods and Ashtaroth
3) Prepare your hearts unto the Lord
4) Serve Him only,

THEN God said the people would be delivered from the hands of their oppressors.

In the passage in 2 Chronicles we have these points:

1) Humble yourself
2) Pray, not just pray but seek God’s face
3) Turn from wicked ways

Then God would hear, forgive, and heal the land.

Do you see the similarities in these verses?  Do you see the similarities in these lists?

1) In order to return to God with your whole heart, you must humble yourself before Him.  God turns His face away from the proud, but is near to the lowly in heart.

Songdove Books - Cleansing Fire2) Secondly, you and I must examine ourselves to identify anything that has taken the place of God in our lives.  What do we go to first when we are in trouble?  What do we run to first when we are stressed out?  Where do we go when we need help or comfort?  If the answer is not God, then we need to seriously and gravely consider what God would have us do with the answer to those questions.  For some of us, the Internet is our god.  We run to the ‘net when we are stressed, in trouble, or needing help or comfort.  I’ve known people who recognized this and had to take a break from the Internet for a while, or take a break from a specific aspect of the Internet such as Facebook or online gaming in order to get their priorities back on track to put God first.  Others of us may have the snack cupboard as our god.  Stress, trouble, and the need for comfort all get met with a handful of cookies, candy, pop or a trip to the corner store or coffee shop downtown.  Not only are these habits damaging to our physical bodies when we engage in these methods of meeting the needs only God can fill, but they are also damaging to our pocketbooks and to our relationship with God Himself.  These are just two examples of modern-day gods that can step in offering help, relief, calm and peace in place of the One True God who offers those things without detriment to who He created us to be.

3) We must not only remove the baalim and Ashtaroth from our lives, but we must prepare or turn our hearts back to God.  As they say when dealing with breaking bad habits, it is not enough to simply stop doing something.  If you stop doing something but never replace that action with a healthy one, you’ll eventually return to the bad habit.  It is important to replace bad with good.  God states this repeatedly in the Scriptures.  Any self-help, recovery or addiction ministry out there who claims they thought of it first is lieing.  God was the Original Counsellor to encourage the replacing of bad habits with good ones.  How do we turn our hearts back to God?  Plain and simple!  Go to Him!  Shut out the distractions and re-engage in active communication with him!  In other words,

Songdove Books - To be holy4) Pray, not just pray but seek God’s face!  Get serious with God!  Insist on meeting with Him.  God says in the Scriptures:

Hebrews 10:16-24  This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;  17  And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.  18  Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.  19  Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,  20  By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;  21  And having an high priest over the house of God;  22  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.  23  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)  24  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

James 4:6-10  But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.  7  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  8  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.  9  Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.  10  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

There’s that list again!  Be humble, submit yourself back to the Lord, put away your sin and be once again focused on God Himself.

Songdove Books - Cross in the cloudsWhen we engage in these actions, behaviours and truly initiate a change of heart from sin and replacements back toward God Himself, God shows up. God listens.  God acts on our behalf just as He promised Israel in Samuel’s and Solomon’s times.  The need to rebuke and repent of sin has not changed.  The need to place God back on the throne of our lives where He belongs has not changed.  The way has been made for us.  We don’t have to call the local prophet to kill a lamb for us anymore, the Lamb has already been slain and stands before God as our eternal High Priest!

As we enter 2016, let us take time to cleanse our hearts and minds before God.  Ask Him to reveal anything that stands in the way of Him carrying out His will for our lives and then renounce those things, seeking to replace them with God and all He has for us instead.  Only when we stop running to other things and other people can God step in with the answers only He can provide.  Only when we stop running to other things and other people can God deliver us when we cry out to Him.  Only when we stop running to other things and other people can God lead us into the blessings and answers He has for us.  We block what God wants to do when we make Him third, fourth or last on our list of go-to’s when we are in any kind of need.  God wants to be first.  He MUST be first.  He won’t accept any other position in our lives.  He’s given us the power to decide how much or how little influence He will have on our thoughts, actions, and the results of those thoughts and actions.  Will you give Him free reign this year?  Will you place Him first rather than the snack cupboard, Internet hangout or other vice offering temporary relief?  Are you willing to allow the Blood of Christ to wash over you again to make you clean before God?  All those memes about 2016 being your year of blessing from God will be hollow and empty if you do not first make yourself right before Him.

How will 2016 go for you?