Twenty Years (1 Samuel 7:2-3)

“So what were all of you doing twenty years ago?”

The moderator of the discussion I was participating in offered this question as an ice breaker. I smiled as I reminisced. I had just made partner with my former pathology group, my daughter was born, and my wife and I had purchased our first home together. These are my personal milestones. What about my spiritual milestones? Our family drifted from church to church, torn between our need to attend to our growing family and build our respective careers. We had perfunctory prayers, usually at the dinner table. It took several years before we repented of our ways and recommitted our lives to serving Jesus Christ. God, in His mercy, led us to a new church and our spiritual lives strengthened. How long will God’s mercy extend to others who turn away from Him?

So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

1 Samuel 7:2 (NKJV)

Twenty years seems like a long time to be willfully living apart from God before the Israelites finally realized they needed God’s presence. Yet, the Bible is replete with examples of the Israelites turning their back on God for many more years than this. It is only when circumstances changed for the worse that they were willing to return to God. In this example, the Philistines had waged war against them and the ensuing death and destruction had finally convinced the Israelites that they needed God’s presence. The prophet Samuel instructed them in what they needed to do. They needed to put away the false idols that seduced their sensibilities and caused them to turn away from the true God. 

Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”

1 Samuel 7:3 (NKJV)

Twenty years.

This is how long it took me to confess and repent of my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Do I need any further evidence of God’s grace and mercy within my life than to recognize the patience that He had with me as He tolerated my years of atheism and then following a cult religion and false idols? In spite of this, after God blessed me with marriage, a family, and a career, I still found false idols that I would substitute for God. On the surface, devoting oneself to one’s family by providing a home and solid financial footing does not seem like idol worship. In fact, isn’t it a noble undertaking to care for one’s family? Isn’t this what God commands? Unquestionably, but if any of these activities substitute for the worship of God and a true committed relationship with Him, then it becomes an idol and a sin. It took me a long time to understand this and realize that I had substituted idols for a relationship with God, cloaked under the noble values of family and career. 

What were you doing twenty years ago?

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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