The Three R’s of Repentance; Return, Remove and Realign
“Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “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; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” – 1 Samuel 7:3
In our passage above, the ark of God had been captured by the Philistines, but during the time frame that the ark was in their possession, God caused grief and sickness upon them (I Samuel 5). This led the Philistines to the conclusion that it was God Jehovah, the God of Israel that was causing their sickness and infirmities, and the reason for their illness was rooted in the fact that they had taken the ark of God from the people of God. So they sent the ark back to the Israelites (I Samuel 6). Once the ark of God came back into Israelite possession, it stayed in Kiriath-jerim at the house of Abinadab for a period of twenty years. But the bible tells us that even after all these events, the Israelites still “lamented after the Lord” (I Samuel 7:2). In other words, even after getting the ark back in their possession, something was still wrong. What was the problem? The problem was sin; for the people of God had continued to dabble and flirt with various forms of idolatry. So they looked to Samuel, a natural born leader and a God called man for instruction on what to do next. Samuel gave three simple instructions. He told them they needed to return, remove and realign.
Samuel told the people that they needed to return to the Lord. They were to return to the Lord and do so with their entire heart. When Samuel spoke to the people of Israel, he stressed the importance of returning to the Lord with “all” of their hearts. These words serve as a reminder to us that there is nothing halfhearted about getting right with God. When doing business with the Lord, God wants all of our hearts.
Secondly, Samuel told the people to remove. Remove what? They were to remove anything from their life that displeased the Lord. Specifically, they were to rid themselves of the articles of idolatry sprinkled throughout their lives. They could not sincerely return to the Lord unless they removed the things out of their life that were offensive to the Lord and acted as a barrier to their commitment to Him.
Finally, Samuel instructed the people of God to realign their allegiance to the one true God and do so by serving and worshiping Him and Him alone. Alignment means to be in agreement with. The people of God were to turn their affections away from the secular attractions of the world and line their hearts up with the very heart of God. If they did these things, God would deliver them. What was the outcome? The people of Israel did all the things that were commanded of them, turned their affections towards the Lord, and began serving Him and Him only (I Samuel 7:4).
Sometimes we complicate the simple do we not? We are a lot like the Israelites here in our story as we set up idols to the things of this world and then wonder what is wrong in our life. But the answer to such a predicament is a threefold response to God; return, remove, and realign. We cannot properly return to the Lord unless we clean up our life. Any sin we selfishly choose to hold on to will only serve as a hindrance to the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And only when that sin barrier is removed will we be able to properly realign our lives to be in tune with the Lord. May God use these truths from chapter in the story of God’s people to impact your life in a transforming, God pleasing way. Take time out today and evaluate your life in light of this great text. Oh may we have ears to hear the voice of the Lord clearly command His people to return to Him!
– Pastor Eric