Yesterday’s message …
- Hinged on the idea that the ancient Israelites “lost” portions of Scripture because ultimately they didn’t “like” them;
- Hypothesized that memory is tied to motivation while forgetfulness is linked to inconvenience;
- Re-iterated a theme from many of this summer’s messages: that God will in fact protect us from ourselves and will even use pain to do so;
- Landed at this bottom line: God’s reminders are painful so that your recovery will be beautiful.
I think the whole phenomenon of what you remember and what you forget is so interesting. Memorable, you might say! Like a lot of you know and even more of you tell me that I have an unusual memory. I am able to remember a lot of your names, major dates, the subdivision where you live, your social security #, scores of old tennis matches, your private passwords to your bank accounts, the score of every Super Bowl ever played, your names, all the neighborhoods in the five zip codes our church touches, and every sermon every week. It’s all true. Mostly.
But you know what, in the middle of devoting all that brain material to STUFF I COULD JUST LOOK UP!, that I DIDN’T remember? The names of my kids’ friends. So when I would say, “who?” they’d shoot back with “if they went to Good Shepherd, you’d for sure know them.” And so I’d answer, “well, give me some credit. I’ve never forgotten YOUR names!” And I’m guilty as charged and they’re emotionally scarred. In that case, I realize, memory has everything to do with MOTIVATION.
See, you remember what you’re motivated to remember. Think of things that, in a typical day or week, you forget: appointments, anniversaries (hopefully other people’s), birthdays, names, promises, dates. One time I forgot to detach the gas pump from my car when I was filling it up and BOOM! 0-60 and then DOH! That moved me from unmotivated to motivated REAL QUICK! See, all those things that I mentioned you forgetting come from questionable motivations. Subconsciously or not, you decided that those people or events or facts simply weren’t important enough to remember. Because consider the opposite. You NEVER forget that appointment with your boss. Gosh, you remember the names of your boss’s spouse, kids, AND dogs. Why? You’re motivated to do so by his or her position over you. You never forget to put on deodorant when you’re headed to a date with that new girl. You remember the name of her dog, too. When you’re dating, you remember all kinds of anniversaries – monthly, quarterly, yearly – that no way will you remember on down the line. We remember what we’re motivated to remember & we forget what’s inconvenient.
So we’re regrouping. And a lot of times we have to regroup because we’ve forgotten what matters in life and in eternity. It’s even happened to an entire nation (that is, before it happened to ours). Here’s the situation in 2 Kings 22: it’s about 640 BC and the people of Judah, the southern, last man standing tribe of Israel, have had a series of bad kings. And finally, they catch a break and get a good one: eight year old Josiah! And if you were with us last week, when Josiah is 26 (he goes from child king to millennial king!), the workers in the temple FIND THE BIBLE. One book of the library, most likely, and we suspect it was the book of Deuteronomy. They found it in the middle of a remodeling project at the Jerusalem temple, most likely shoved into the corner of a closet, buried under clothes and shoes and costumes for next year’s Passover program that the kids will do. It’s really a remarkable thing: the bible was lost, was forgotten, and then it gets found.
And I can’t help but wonder: did the people oh so long ago LOSE IT BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T LIKE IT? Did they forget it accidentally on purpose? I mean, it said all kinds of inconvenient things about all kinds of uncomfortable subjects – NO IDOLS, NO IDOLATRY, REMEMBER THE SABBATH, HONOR YOUR PARENTS, REMEMBER THE LORD WITH YOUR FIRST FRUITS – that kind of thing. So I can just imagine them looking over the scroll and having the reaction like, “oh what a pain. Totally cramps my style! God only wants me to be happy, after all. So all in all (and they look around to make sure no one is looking) let’s fuhgettaboudit! And so they did. For a generation or more.
But I can’t help but think how eerily familiar that approach sounds. What they did THEN, we have perfected NOW. We lose, we forget, that which gets in our way and which we find inconvenient. Like remember the Sabbath? Puh-lease! I gots FB Live! Can I have a word here? FB Live is great if you are sick, travelling, or you live far away. It was never meant to be a steady diet for those who live in proximity to the living body of Christ at Moss and Zoar. Never. We’ll keep using it and expanding our impact both nationally and globally, but we’re counting on you to REMEMBER that the body is three dimensional, not digital.
But there’s other stuff we forget accidentally on purpose. Do not get drunk on wine. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. You are more than conquerors not on your own strength but through Christ. Happens to whole churches as they turn inward and focus more on keeping than on reaching. As if they are a social club and not an assault force on the powers of hell. So the Israelite forgetting and losing isn’t so different from yours or from mine.
And that’s where the story, piggybacking from last week, picks up this week. Look at 22:11:
11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.
Ah, so Josiah hears and immediately tears his robe, which is not a wardrobe malfunction but what people in ancient Israel did back in the day to demonstrate their grief. They usually reserved it for the death of the family member, so you know that when Josiah is confronted with what his ancestors LOST because they didn’t LIKE, you know it’s serious. But he doesn’t allow his grief to paralyze him; instead, it mobilizes him and prompts him to action. Look at 22:12-13:
12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
So in response to the finding, the remembering, Josiah his Cabinet – which, hey! – we’d call his LifeGroup – and reads the word in community. Tuck away!
And then Hilkiah and the rest of Josiah’s LG do something fascinating in 22:14:
14 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.
TO A WOMAN. Normal today. Extraordinary in that day. And when this woman Huldah gives her verdict, they likely asked each other, “So much for women’s intuition; isn’t there a guy we can talk to?” Because look at what she says in 22:15-18:
15 She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made,[a] my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard:
Gulp. And we know this all came to pass. About 50 years later, in 587 BC, the mighty Babylonians were God’s instrument in giving a forceful, bloody, devastating reminder of what is important and what is not. The Jews were conquered and exiled. In many ways THE central event of OT history and so few people know it.
But in the middle of that national failure, look at the special promise given to Josiah in 22:19-20:
19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse[b] and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”
It’s too late for the nation, but you, Josiah, because you responded you’ll be protected. There is pain around you, there’s gonna be pain beyond you but there is something beautiful within you. That’s what people will remember way, way beyond you. Everyone forgot so I reminded them through you. And unlike all the other kings, you will die and be buried in peace … an underwhelming promise to most of us, but a glorious proclamation in that time. So here’s what’s going on with losing the bible accidentally on purpose, finding it, tearing garments, and the special protection of a king in the midst of the destruction of a nation: God’s reminders are painful so that your recovery will be beautiful.
See, when you go along in life and forget what matters, what’s in the word and the truth, and you do so ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, God HAS to remind you but he is under no obligation to do so gently. He loves you too much to let you get away with what you get caught up in, and if his prodding doesn’t work his punishment will. Because he knows what’s in there is good, is right, has beauty. He will press to release it. Like this CARBON I have. Do you know what happens to carbon that is one mile below the earth’s surface, existing under pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch and in heat up to 2200 degrees farenheit? What happens to carbon under that pressure in that heat? It becomes … a diamond. The plain becomes beautiful. And if you are headed straight towards that realm where the temp is more than 2200 degrees – there’s actually nothing hotter than hell, despite what people might say – he will interrupt your ride. Painfully if he needs to. Because he knows the beauty within as he is the one who put it there. God’s reminders are painful so that your recovery will be beautiful.
Because the cool thing about the book that was found – Deuteronomy. In that book, God paints a beautiful picture of his covenant people, Israel. That’s what he wanted them to look like. But they forgot. Probably because people would prefer their OWN ugliness to GOD’S beauty. So God reminds them. Forcefully. Painfully. I’m telling you now, today, so that you can stop your own train before its collision with God’s will and God’s discipline. And then for some of you, I’m telling this today so your current predicament or past trauma will make a whole lot more sense. God’s reminders are painful so that your recovery will be beautiful.
Several years ago I received an anonymous note. NOW: I generally follow the rule of thumb that I am going to devote all the time to READING those letters that the author did to SIGNING them. But in that anon letter came one line: you don’t look people in the eye when you talk to them on Sunday a.m. Welp! I knew that was some WHEAT in the middle of the CHAFF truth. I was distracted with the people God had brought me, busy looking around for the ones he might bring me. Yuck. God had to use one of his most painful reminders – preachers HATE anonymous notes! – to wake me up and start me recovering what it means to pastor PEOPLE, not an organization. REFRAIN.
As a church, we’ve established a number of venues to give God the space to make this kind of thing happen. Remember that Josiah didn’t read Deuteronomy by himself. He did it in his LifeGroup! We want that same for so many of you. That collection of 8-12 people who gather for prayer, study, conversation, and, occasionally correction. You gotta man up or woman up to hear it! Like the guy who very calmly turned to me and said, “you’re being a jerk.” Guess what? I was. Thank God he told. Yes, thank God he told me. Who will you assemble around you to be guardrails, to pour in wisdom, to connect with Scripture together? If a king needed it, you do as well. We want you re-grouped in LifeGroup that will be a pre-emptive strike against the worst kind of forgetting that results in the most painful kind or reminding. Why? The beauty is there. God’s reminders are painful so that your recovery will be beautiful.
Because there really is nothing new. Like this line sent to me from my friend JMS (Claud, the photo I sent on 6.17.19). It’s not new truth you haven’t discovered. It’s old truth you’ve forgotten. Accidentally on purpose. That’s worth remembering. Because you have a beauty deep within that God is desperate to unearth and to protect. REFRAIN