Have you ever opened a drawer to get something you needed, rooted around a bit and pulled out something you had completely forgotten you had? Or been sorting your wardrobe and found a favourite shirt hidden on a hanger underneath another top and been amazed that you could possibly have forgotten it? Or heard an artist that you hadn’t listened to in ages and had forgotten you loved? We forget things so easily. But do you ever forget to eat for more than a few hours? Do you ever forget to sleep for days on end? Do you ever forget you have a partner or a child and leave them abandoned somewhere? I would guess not. Yes we get distracted sometimes and forget to eat or arrive late for a date or stay up too late reading but the important things don’t usually get totally forgotten.
That’s why I’m always amazed by this story in 2 Kings. Josiah is a righteous king trying to restore the proper worship of God in Judah. He starts by having the Temple sorted out and in the renovations:
Hilkiah(to Shaphan):8 I have discovered the book of the law in the Eternal’s house.
How do you lose the book of the Law? The terms of the Covenant with your God? I ask myself this every single time I read it. I was just pondering it again when I saw that it got pushed aside. No matter how ‘good’ we are, how diligent in seeking God and spending time with Him, we all fail at times to stay as close as ought. Our devotion gets pushed aside. Hopefully whatever blip causes me to falter is a passing thing and I’m back in His presence before too long. But sometimes, although I’m back in His presence, the blip stays, hovering at the edge of my mind or heart, and I falter again. The danger is if I stay ‘faltered’, stay lingering in that place then the knowledge of God is pushed back until it gets hidden and forgotten.
I suspect that’s what happened to Israel. Things were going well and the temptations to falter were great and the Covenant law was pushed back a bit. There was no disaster so they pushed it back a bit more. Imagine a child letting go of its parent’s hand to explore. First time they don’t move from the shadow. Then they take a step with quick glances back. Then something catches their eye and they get distracted just for a moment then they rush back to daddy. The next time they linger a bit longer away from daddy until eventually they are off on their own and have forgotten where daddy even is until something goes wrong and they need him. When we get so far away that we have forgotten a huge restoration is called for like the ones we read about in Kings.
As I wrote Saturday’s blog, about having forgotten to sit, it resonated with this. He brings the things that are important to our walk with Him back because we are mortal, we do falter and we are not yet perfect in this life. So I circled back to listening. If I don’t listen and push it back because I am busy, don’t have time, have more important things to do then it gets harder until one day I forget what the Voice sounds like, how it feels in my heart to hear Him. Then listening will feel like something new, not because God has stopped talking to me but because the habit of listening has gone. Good habits and bad habits take time to grow in us. Good habits don’t disappear overnight nor do they grow overnight. Same with bad ones although it feels like they grow faster and disappear slower. That’s just cos our flesh likes them better.
Anyone who wants to excel at something has to practice. I’ve watched Mark kick a ball for hours to perfect something. Musicians playing a fragment of a piece over and over til it is perfect, automatic. But they also start with scales. Runs of notes that are fundamental to their skill. The things that are fundamental to my walk with God also need to be practised, especially in the times when it’s hard, when I don’t want to. If I don’t practice them, live them, until they’re a deep permanent part of my life then I might not end up ‘astray’ but I won’t shine as bright as I want to.
That’s why listening to the Holy Spirit is vital because He reminds us of all the things we have been given for life and godliness.