And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities. And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear the Lord. Therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there, and let him go and dwell there and teach them the law of the god of the land.” So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the Lord.
But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived. The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. They also feared the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. So they feared the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. II Kings 17:24-33 ESV
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? Galatians 4:8-9 ESV
In Roman times, a family would have a household shrine that was called a lararium. This would be a place where the gods and goddesses of the family received offerings and wreaths and were honored by the members of the family. The gods who were the guardians of the family were called the lares, and this is where the name comes from. Besides these family gods, the public gods and goddesses of the Romans were sometimes part of the family shrines. Some of these gods and goddesses included Mercury, the god of travelers and merchants; Vesta, the goddess of the hearth; and Diana, the goddess of the moon. Sometimes Roman families brought gods and goddesses from other cultures into their homes as well. The Egyptian goddess of wisdom, Isis, was also found in some Roman family shrines. Roman families welcomed many gods and goddesses into their homes, because the more of them they had on their side, the better they thought it would be for them.
When the Assyrians took away the people of the northern kingdom, they settled other people in the promised land. These people didn’t know the true God and worshiped many false gods and goddesses. God sent lions among these people. He wanted to get their attention and give them a chance to come to know and worship him. The people got the message, and the Assyrians sent back one of the priests they had taken captive. The priest came back to the land and taught the people how to worship the Lord. But the people were very foolish. They worshiped the Lord, but they continued to worship their false gods and goddesses as well. They thought they could have everything, and they didn’t understand that the true God was all they needed. They didn’t understand that the Lord is the only God, and that all the other gods and goddesses didn’t really exist and couldn’t help them.
Some people today are like this. They respect Jesus and Christianity, but they also follow other religions. We also sometimes trust in other things besides our God for help when we have troubles. But God is the only one who can save and help us. He came to us in Jesus to defeat sin, death, and the devil by dying on the cross and rising again for us. There’s no one else who can save us the way Jesus did. He is the only one who deserves our worship, and he’s all we’ll ever need, now and in the world to come.
Dear Jesus, thank you for defeating sin and death for us. Help us to trust only you now and forever. Amen.