Practice

To this day they do according to the earlier customs: they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances or the law, or the commandments which the LORD commanded the sons of Jacob, whom He named Israel; with whom the LORD made a covenant and commanded them, saying, “You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down yourselves to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them.

“But the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice.

“The statutes and the ordinances and the law and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall observe to do forever; and you shall not fear other gods.

“The covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods.

“But the LORD your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”

However, they did not listen, but they did according to their earlier custom.

So while these nations feared the LORD, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day. (2 Kings 17:34-41)

Practice makes perfect, but what if you’re practicing the wrong way? You can get very good at swinging the bat with the wrong stance, the wrong grip, the wrong time. Bad habits become hard to break. Perseverance, for good or ill becomes hard to stop.

Like father like son is not necessarily a good thing. Perseverance is not necessarily a good thing. There are some things that we keep on doing that God would like to see us stop. Like sinning. The Israelites, like all human beings, never stopped being sinners and never would. The specific sins that God was concerned with getting them to quit on were idolatry and hatred. He wanted them to become perseverant about the law he had given them which could be summarized in two statements: “love God” and “love each other.”

But bad habits seem to be harder to give up than good ones. It is easier to keep doing the wrong thing than to keep doing the right thing. We seem mostly tempted to become “weary in well-doing” than in “ill-doing.” Few people would find it hard to give up boiled goat liver for Lent. Generally you don’t want to be a quitter. But sometimes being a quitter is just what God wants.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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