My wife and I just got back from a company orchestrated cruise that she and a few others in her company were rewarded with as a result of their sales performance. Some customers won the cruise too as a result of their buying from her company. As a result, there were company functions on the cruise that had required attendance. In other words, it was a company function and reward planned by the company and we didn’t get to choose when we went.
This cruise happened to be scheduled during one of the 3 major biblical festivals that were a command in the text to observe – the festival of ingathering from verse 16 of Exodus 23.
Exodus 23:14-17 (CJB)
14 “Three times a year, you are to observe a festival for me.
- (Pesach — Passover) 15 Keep the festival of matzah: for seven days, as I ordered you, you are to eat matzah at the time determined in the month of Aviv; for it was in that month that you left Egypt. No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
- (Shavuot — Feast of Weeks – Firstfruits) 16 Next, the festival of harvest, the firstfruits of your efforts sowing in the field;
- (Sukkot — Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles)) and last, the festival of ingathering, at the end of the year, when you gather in from the fields the results of your efforts.
17 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Lord, Adonai.
The command is given one other time in the text. As to whether these commands are required as a result of the temple being destroyed in 70AD by the Romans, I will leave up to you to decide. Ironically (or not ironically depending on how you view the text), this command is given the second time right after the command to observe Shabbat (Sabbath) is reiterated:
Exodus 34:21-22 (CJB)
21 “Six days you will work, but on the seventh day (Shabbat) you are to rest — even in plowing time and harvest season you are to rest. 22 “Observe the festival of Shavu‘ot with the first-gathered produce of the wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering (Sukkot) at the turn of the year.
If we had been given a choice of dates to go on the cruise, we would not have chosen to go on a cruise during Sukkot. I would have much more preferred to celebrate Sukkot and worship with the brothers and sisters of my congregation Derekh HaChaim (The Way of Life). However, like many things in life, religion and the world are rarely in harmony and as a result collide more often than not – sometimes violently.
One of the brothers from my congregation lent me a book to read during the trip that I enjoyed immensely. It is by Abraham Joshua Heschel entitled “I Asked for Wonder.”
I would like to share a couple of smaller quotes from the book that I found profound:
To Mock the Dawn
We can never sneer at the stars, mock the dawn or scoff at the totality of being. Sublime grandeur evokes unhesitating, unflinching awe. Away from the immense, cloistered in our own concepts, we may scorn and revile everything. But standing between earth and sky, we are silenced by the sight . . . .
The Light of God
is a way of seeing the world
in the light of God.
Prayer may not save us,
but prayer makes us worth saving.
To set apart one day a week for freedom, a day on which we would not use the instruments which have so easily turned into weapons of destruction, a day for being with ourselves, a day of detachment from the vulgar, of independence of external obligations, a day on which we stop worshiping the idols of technical civilization, a day of armistice in the economic struggle with our fellow men and the forces of nature – is there any institution that holds out a greater hope for man’s progress that the Sabbath?
Question and Answer
Religion consists of
and man’s answer.
Religion is not
“what man does with his solitariness.”
what man does with the presence of God.
Man’s sin is in his failure to live what he is.
Being the master of the earth,
man forgets that he is servant of God.
The road to the sacred leads through the secular.
On THE BIBLE:
The Bible is primarily not man’s vision of God
but God’s vision of man.
The Bible is not man’s theology
but God’s anthropology.
We have so much to say about the bible that we are not prepared to hear what the Bible has to say about us.
There is so much more. These simple and profound statements and truths are a simple testimony against me – on this trip – “where the road to the sacred” was surrounded by the secular – a secular that was an overpowering opiate. My resistance was strong at first, but it became half-hearted over time during the cruise. As a result, “I” was overpowered by it. I gave in to it. I turned my eyes from God towards the world!
I once heard a pastor I used to serve under teach about Lot and Sodom. He said, “You can’t pitch your tent next to sin and not be affected by it.” There may not be a truer or more concise statement about temptation. Alcoholics learn that to stay sober, they can’t go back to the bars or hang out with their friends that drink. Men and women that are unfaithful to their spouses learn that they can not put themselves in situations any longer where they will be tempted if they want to keep their marriage. In other words, you don’t put yourself in situations where you are likely to fail.
To be a follower of Yeshua, to say no to self and take up the execution stake daily, is to avoid placing one’s self in a situation where one can and probably will be tempted.
Sin is enticing. It makes promises it can’t and WON’T keep. The world is where it lives. The world is a presentation of allure of sin. Ironically, that is the name of the cruise ship we were on – The Allure of the Seas. Cliff Kaung writes about the 1.2 billion dollar ship: “Imagine the Empire State Building, turned on its side, and floating in the ocean. That’s about the size of the Allure of the Seas … The volume of the ship is well over 4 times that of Titanic; it is also twice that of a modern nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.” 6300 passengers and 2.400 crew. It is BIG! In fact, as of 2010, it is the BIGGEST. When I served aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59) in the US Navy, we had 6100 when the air wing was aboard, this boat is bigger.
As we arrived on the boat, there was showgirl at the entrance that was so scantily clad that not calling her naked would be a mere technicality. As Heschel said, “The road to the sacred leads through the secular.” It did from the beginning and I found it offensive to be put in this position. Based on the number of men surrounding her and taking pictures with her, I suspect my feeling was in the minority. We made our way to the cabin. A nice room with a queen sized bed, a balcony, and a large flat screen TV.
Later, as the wife and I explored and walked around the upper two decks where the pools were, every direction you looked, there was a sea of flesh. Some swimsuits were little more than the size of 3 large band-aides – some were even smaller. At times, in an attempt to not be tempted to look, I found myself almost unable to walk without bumping into people and tripping. I never swam in the ship’s pools as a result and avoided walking on those decks when at all possible.
As a result not wanting to place myself in a situation where I would be tempted to look or stare, I found myself in the room more often than not when we were cruising at sea. At Nassau, the wife and I rented a scooter and rode all over the island. We found a fairly secluded beach that we had all to ourselves for several hours. We marveled at the creation of our Lord at the beach known as Jaws Beach. We hunted shells together and ventured into the clean clear water surrounded by fish including a small barracuda.
Later that night, we ran into some friends we had met on the last trip who were also believers. We had enjoyed our last trip exploring Hawaii with them and sharing the Word together. They invited us to their morning bible study of the Psalms. There were about 10 of us that would get together each morning to share.
Some who follow this blog and know us personally, know that the wife and I have abandoned secular pursuits in an effort to allow Adonai to be enough in our lives. We don’t listen to secular music. We don’t have TV. I no longer have 6 fantasy football teams. There are several reasons for this right from the text:
James 4:4 (CJB)
4 You unfaithful wives! Don’t you know that loving the world is hating God?
Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy!
1 John 2:15-16 (CJB)
15 Do not love the world or the things of the world.
If someone loves the world, then love for the Father is not in him; 16 because all the things of the world —
the desires of the old nature,
the desires of the eyes,
and the pretensions of life —
are not from the Father but from the world.
Romans 12:2 (CJB)
2 In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed
to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh (this world/age).
Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed
by the renewing of your minds;
so that you will know what God wants
and will agree that what he wants is good,
satisfying and able to succeed.
John 15:18-19 (CJB)
18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world,
the world would have loved its own.
But because you do not belong to the world —
on the contrary, I have picked you out of the world —
therefore the world hates you.
These are just a few of the reasons. We can rationalize (make the unreasonable sound reasonable) these things away. Many do. Many believers rationalize their own worldly pursuits while pointing their fingers at someone else’s worldly pursuits as being a bigger sin than their own. It is all semantics. God called us to live a life pursuing holiness.
Holiness can NOT be rationalized because holiness is not concerned
with human standards. It is only concerned with Godly standards.
This is why the church in Corinth was having so many problems. Sha’ul (Paul) is very disappointed and very succinct when he tells them why they aren’t growing and maturing as believers:
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (CJB)
1 As for me, brothers, I couldn’t talk to you as spiritual people
but as worldly people, as babies,
so far as experience with the Messiah is concerned.
2 I gave you milk, not solid food,
because you were not yet ready for it.
But you aren’t ready for it now either!
3 For you are still worldly!
Isn’t it obvious from all the jealousy
and quarreling among you
that you are worldly
and living by merely human standards?
When we surround ourselves with the world and things of the world, our old nature – our eyes – our pride as John stated earlier, then we are putting ourselves in a position or situation where we can and will be tempted. We are hanging out in the singles bar saying we can withstand the temptations associated with it. When we turn our eyes from God towards these things, aren’t we are telling God:
“You are not enough?!?”
I should have never turned on the TV in our stateroom. For the last 3 years, I have avoided turning on the TV when we traveled. This time I failed. I didn’t pray for strength. I watched the debate. I watched movies. I watched mindless gibberish. I pitched my tent next to sin and was consumed by it. I got into a stupid argument with my wife. One sin led to another and to another. I turned my eyes from God towards the world. It feels dirty – I feel dirty. I didn’t allow God to be enough. He is more than enough. He reminds us:
Genesis 4:7 (CJB)
7 If you are doing what is good, shouldn’t you hold your head high?
And if you don’t do what is good,
sin is crouching at the door —
it wants you,
but you can rule over it.”
This is my confession – for accountability – for humility – as a reminder. “The road to the sacred leads through the secular” because it is all around. We are to be in the world, not of it. We are to be a light that is a reflector of His light in all that we do, say, and don’t say. We are a witness to whether He is, or is not, enough.