In a time when I was more sarcastic than I am now (yes, I have toned it down a little), I would sometimes refer to “quiet times” and “devotionals” as the evangelical Christian sacraments. It seemed to me that there was a constant obsession with them in a lot of evangelical circles — you’ve got to punch in your daily time with the Lord or else you’re a sinner!
I’ve mellowed out a bit in the last few years. One of the main reasons is that I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of others what happens when daily Bible study and prayer are neglected. Without fail, it’s the times when we are weak in this area that are also times of sin and spiritual dryness. When my mind is not daily brought back to a dependence on God and His Word, I am prone to wander away, my eyes no longer fixed on Jesus.
Of course, another reason these disciplines are so important is because God says so:
4 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
5 those who bow down on the roofs
to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the LORD
and yet swear by Milcom,
6 those who have turned back from following the LORD,
who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him.”
Verses 4 and 5 talk about how the people of Judah have rejected the LORD in favor of other gods. Sometimes, this rejection takes the form of a fake recognition of God (v. 5) — of divided loyalties. The people have tried to keep both their bases covered by trying to please the LORD and Milcom at the same time. I see this in my own life as I try to please God and at the same time focusing on pleasing myself or others. It just doesn’t work.
The people have rejected the Lord, and they no longer follow Him. What does it look like when we no longer follow the Lord? It means we “do not seek the Lord or inquire of him” (v. 6). We don’t seek the Lord’s help by praying, and we don’t inquire of His wisdom by studying the Bible. This is a sure path to idolatry.
So, as it turns out, daily devotions are important after all. Don’t slack off!