I am reading through the history of the kings of Israel in my daily [somewhat] quiet times. I try not to use devotionals or study books, because I get distracted by the opinions of others, from what God may want to say to me.
When the Israelites settled the land God had promised, they were told to destroy all the current residents already living there. This has always seemed a bit brutal to me, and to many others, I'm sure. But as I read on in the history, I see why God wanted those pagan nations destroyed. It would have made life easier on the Israelites!
God is the one true God, and He is serious about His people recognizing His authority. When the Israelites failed to drive out these pagan nations, not only did the people remain, but their religions remained also. Time after time, year after year, the Israelites repeated a circle of falling into worshiping idols, being punished by the one true God, repenting, having life go well, then falling back to their worship of these other gods, only to be punished...
As I read, I asked myself - Beyond the history, what is something I can learn from this narrative?
Because at first impression, the Israelites are idiots. Why don't they get it, that all of their problems are because they stop worshiping God alone?
But what about me? I may not have little stone idols on a shelf in my house, or altars built under the trees in our yard, but am I worshiping the one true God, and serving Him only?
I read a quote recently, and I can't remember it exactly, or who said it, but it went something like this: To any extent you aren't as excited and on fire for God as you were the day before, or the week before, you are a back-slider. (I think it was Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.)
Well, I'm definitely a back-slider.
And that means, like the Israelites, I have begun "worshiping" idols, and allowing other things to become more important than God alone.
Now the task is, now that I recognize it, to identify those idols and cast them out. For the Israelites it was easy. Break up the idols; tear down the altars. For us, it's a lot harder. What if your idols are food, or the internet, or coffee, or a smart phone?
But I see now why God said to completely get rid of the other nations and their idols. When you keep the things you worship side by side with your relationship with God, unless you are capable of extreme self control and diligence (which I'm not), your relationship with God - reading His Word and the privilege of talking to Him - is going to get pushed aside by these "idols" that seem more exciting and more accessible and available, more instantly gratifying.
And that is why God's Word is "living and active" - it uses a historical account from 4000(?) years ago to speak to my heart today!