“They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods-according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.” (2 Kings 17:33 NKJV).
When the children of Israel dwelling in the cities of Samaria would not repent of their disobedience to God but continually provoked God to anger by serving idols, practicing witchcraft and soothsaying, and burning their children as offerings to idols, God allowed their enemies to prevail over them.
Consequently, the King of Assyria carried them away from their own land to Assyria and brought people from Babylon and other nations to settle in their cities (2 Kings 17:5-28).
But, at the beginning of the new settlers in the cities of Samaria, God sent lions among them. So, they cried out to the King of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land.” (2 Kings 17:26 NKJV).
The King of Assyria therefore sent to them one of the priests among the children of Israel whom they had carried away from Samaria to teach them the rituals of the God of Israel.
2 Kings 17:
28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.
29 However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt. (NKJV).
The new settlers in the cities of Samaria were only interested in appeasing God with some sacrifices, but not in having a loving and intimate relationship with God. They were only concerned about religious rituals, but not spiritual realities.
They were willing to give some offerings or sacrifices to God, but not their hearts. So, they drew near to God with their mouth and honoured God with their lips and sacrifices, but their hearts were far away from God.
Having being taught the rituals of God – how to offer sacrifices to God as a mode of worship – they began to offer to God their sacrifices with the aid of the priest.
2 Kings 17:
32 So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places.
33 They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods-according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.
34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the LORD had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel (NKJV).
What a mixed or impure worship!
Apparently, the worship of these Gentiles dwelling in the cities of Samaria was only motivated by fear of God and not by love for God. They were not really interested in knowing the God of Israel or in having any loving relationship with the God of Israel; they were only interested in appeasing God through some religious rituals or sacrifices.
Therefore, while they feared God (offered sacrifices to God as instructed by the priest), they continued in their evil ways, serving their own gods.
That is obviously a mixed or impure worship!
2 Kings 17:
34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the LORD had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel,
35 with whom the LORD had made a covenant and charged them, saying: “You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them;
36 “but the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. (NKJV).
Sadly, many people today in our churches, like those new settlers in Samaria, are simply offering God a mixed or impure worship.
While they dutifully carry out their religious obligations – attend church services, pray and read their bible daily, give their tithes and offerings, and adhere to their church rules, doctrines and tradition – yet they continue to serve their own gods, and their hearts are far away from God.
Their good works are simply a means to appease God, or a means to earn God’s love, acceptance, favour or blessings.
Jesus said concerning them, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:8-9 NKJV).
It is sad but true that many people today in our churches are only interested in religious rituals, but not in a loving and intimate relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Their worship of God is only motivated by fear of God, and not by love of God.
They pray and read their bible daily so that God will not be angry with them. They give tithes and offerings so that God will not curse them. They fast and pray so that their enemies will not overcome or kill them. Their motivation for whatever religious exercises or good works they do is fear.
Beloved, what is your motivation for worshipping God?
Is it fear of punishment from God, or love for God?
God does not want you to worship or serve Him out of fear, but out of love and gratitude to Him for His unconditional and infinite love for you.
Like those new settlers in Samaria, if your service or worship of God is only motivated or prompted by fear, you will end up offering God a mixed or impure worship.
While you may be dutifully fulfilling your religious obligations, yet you will still cleave to your own selfish ways and idols. And like them, it will be said of you that though you fear God, yet you still serve your own gods (2 Kings 17:33).
Prayer: My Dear Holy Spirit, teach and help me to worship and serve God acceptably, out of pure love for God, and not out of fear of curse or punishment from God, in Jesus’ name. Amen.