little gods

Astarte figure

Figurine of Astarte with a horned headdress, Louvre Museum

1 Samuel 7:3-4 (New Living Translation)
Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Determine to obey only the Lord; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord.

This is a theme we hear over and over (and over) again as we journey through the Bible: the people have veered away from focus on God, and are worshiping other gods.

Why would the people be tempted to worship these local gods and goddesses, when their God had made it so very clear that this was not acceptable? From the beginning of Exodus 20: “You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.”

We might be tempted to look at passages like today’s from 1 Samuel and think, “Wow! Those people really didn’t get it! I mean, I’m certainly not tempted to start worshiping any deities other than God.”

But… is that really true? When we’re worried about our security, do we turn to God, or do we double- and triple-check our bank account? When we’re unsure about our job, do we come to God in intense prayer, or do we first seek comfort with our friends? When we’re feeling anxious, so we open the Bible for comfort, or do we eat an entire brick of Brie in one sitting?

(Oops, maybe that last one is just me…)

There are so many things in our lives that we turn to before we turn to God for guidance. Why do we do this?

Probably for the same reasons that the people of Samuel’s time did: because that’s what the people around us are doing, and because these “little gods” (money, relationships, food, drink, etc.) are things that seem a bit more under our control. Even if those outlets have not been effective in the past, they are easily accessible and give quick, if temporary, relief.

God wants to be first in our lives, because it is only in God that we can find true peace, real security, and lasting joy. Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation — so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?”

Let’s put those “little gods” in our lives back in their proper perspectives: not gods at all, but simply gifts from a gracious God who seeks to love us — forever.

When you’re stressed or worried or anxious, what is the first thing you turn to for comfort?

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