Month 9:1, Rosh Chodesh, Year:Day 5939:237 AM|
ROSH CHODESH IX (Teshi'i haChodesh), 2Exodus 1/40
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 22 November 2014
Rosh Chodesh IX
Charles Dickens, Art and Literature
"Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: I am Yahweh, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, I spread out the earth by Myself. I bring to nought the omens of the babblers, make fools of diviners, turn back the wise and make their knowledge foolish. I confirm the devarim (words) of My servant, carry out the plan My messengers announce" (Is.44:24-26a, The New American Bible, Revised Edition - NAB).
Chag sameach Rosh Chodesh kol beit Yisra'el and may our Master bestow upon us liberally and generously an outpouring of His grace, both on this congregation and on those who receive these devarim (words), and on this very troubled world as is tumbles out of control ever nearer the abyss. I apologise for no sabbath sermons for the past two weeks as I have not been well.
The Life of Charles Dickens
A couple of days ago I watched a documentary on the great English novelist, Charles Dickens, whom I have to ashamedly admit I have only taken an interest in now for the first time in my life. Though my mother, when I was very young, gave me a complete hardcopy set of His works, I never did read them, being put off by what was then to me highly unfamiliar and sophisticated English, that I suppose to the modern man on the street with a minimal education would be almost a foreign language. And yet this writer, Shakespeare aside, has probably done more to shape our post-1800's British culture as it would become at least until the revolt of the 1960's which spawned the anarchy of both language and culture we live in today. Dickensonian language is forever a part of our English language.
A Dickensonian World
For the past few months I have plunged myself with enthusiasm into Dickens' tales. I say I didn't really know him until this year, though that would not strictly speaking be 100 per cent accurate, for I did, of course, know well the story of Oliver Twist, which I never liked; but there was one other that most certainly has had a positive impact on me, probably because of its strong Christian connections, and that would be A Tale of Two Cities, a story of courage set in revolutionary France that plummets the depths of the heart, and which I have occasionally cited in sermons as an example of true sacrifice.
The Bible as Literature
You may well wonder what all of this has to do with a Rosh Chodesh, let alone a messianic, message, but it does have a connection. For you see, the Bible is as much literature as it is prophecy and revelation, a third, if not more, of the Tanakh (Old Testament) being devoted to the wisdom writings of the Kethuvim, most famous being the psalms of David. I think one of the reasons I am attracted to the predeominantly Anglican version of the Bible, the New English Bible, and the Catholic Jerusalem Bible is that they are, like the King James Version, masterpieces of literature and the English language. I had hoped I could include in that exalted fellowship the latest Catholic translation which I quoted in my introduction, the New American Bible which, though it is good, is more a scholarly rendition than an expressive artist's or literary wordsmith's might be.
Creative Tension Between Art and Science
We need literary art, even in Bible translations, to make them sing, but artists, alas, frequently tend to be moody, undisciplined and anarchistic, and his work needs to be tempered by the scholar and the scientist. There has to be a creative tension between the two, the one inspirational and the other intellectual, a harmonious union of heart and mind. Then - and so absolutely critically - they need the seal of the Ruach (Spirit) to make them truly divine. The mind, the heart, and the ruach (spirit) must be trained well for a man or woman to be complete and whole, which in turn lead to proper disciplining and harmony in the physical body too.
A Soviet Russian Discovers the Bible as Literature
We sometimes fail to appreciate what wonderful literature the Scriptures are. Russian Sergei Zubatov of Novosibirsk, who lived during the Soviet communist era and who got his hands on a copy of the banned book, wrote this letter to the editor of the Soviet magazine, Ogonyok:
The Spirit of Totalitarianism Hates Scripture
"At the age of 30 I have read the Gospel for the first time. This miniature book reached me quite by accident and I approached it purely out of literary curiosity. But the text gripped me. I was impressed by the shere power of the words, the elegance of the finely tuned aphorisms , the subtle poetic quality of the images. It became clear to me that the aesthetic importance of the volume was indisputable, and gradually I became very angry. What a treasure they have been hiding from me! Who decided, and on what basis, that this was bad for me - and why?"
Who indeed, and yet the Bible is famously banned by tyrants. He went on to write:
We Have Started to Copy the Barbarism of the Former USSR
"A State that is separated from the church should also be separated from atheism. Isn't spiritual totalitarianism more terrible than the political kind? In returning social freedoms, a democratic State has no right to continue to lay claim to its citizens' freedom of spiritual quests." 
I have no doubt that similar sentiments will be raised west of the former Iron Curtain as the West sinks ever deeper into totalitarianism and eventually comes to ban the Bible after decades of riddiculing in the late 20th and now 21st centuries. The Bible is more than revealed emet (truth), though, for it also bears the mark of the heavenly Artist, the literary genius who moved, in many cases, simple men to write with such profundity. You only have to see the transformation of the Galilean fisheman in the two epistles he wrote in later life.
The Artist is as Important as His Art
Viewed at literature and art, the Bible can reveal its spiritual mysteries and wisdom through an artist's eyes. I personally always like to know about the personal lives of the artists, composers and writers, whether in their books, or paintings or music. You can't really make proper sense of their creations until you get to know them as people, and that is something that is important for me in order to properly appreciate their works of creativity.
Disappointed with Dickens
I grew up in love with the music of the Austrian Johann Sebastian Strauss only to be disappointed to learn he had been a philanderer. The same with Mozart, only he was spoiled, immature and undisciplined, in the end burning himself out. So many of my musical heroes, including Tchaikovsky, turned out to have had major weaknesses that for me tarnished their art somewhat. An awful lot of creative people who don't have the self-restraint and disciplining of the Besorah (Gospel) have this problem, no less Charles Dickens who, though not an adulterer, abandoned his faithful wife later on in his life because he grew bored of her. Worse, he took nine of their ten children with him and refused them access to their mother! I was mortified, shocked, disgusted when I learned of this. She had faithfully raised ten children for him and become invalided as a result. This was not a man who knew, or loved, Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) for no true talmid (disciple) ever breaks covenant with a faithful spouse - ever!
Now we all have character deficiencies to be sure, but deserting a faithful wife (or vice versa, as is common today) and denying her access to most of her children, is singly cruel and heartless, and unworthy of a man beloved and upheld by his nation. His interests in other women, though never taken to the point of adultery, justly failed and Dickens did not die a happy man. This is the tragedy of his brilliant literary legacy. He made a choice, and a bad one, simply because he did not think his wife intellectually stimulating enough, and because she had lost her shapely form in giving him ten children, and because her health issues meant she could no longer cater to him as before. Pride goes before a fall, but the fall was not inevitable. He made a choice - a selfish choice - to not be satisfied with Yahweh's gift to him.
Dealing Rightly With Life's Struggles
So it was a matter of interest to me to note how the spirit of his books changes along with his circumstances and choices. Stories like The Pickwick Papers (my favourite) which have a happy and edifying ending, become darker and less satisfying by the by. Though, like the rest of us, he had struggles in life to deal with, and was dealt unkindly by circumstances in his early years - his father getting into serious debt that landed him in prison for two years forcing him, as the eldest son and still in his middle teens, to work in harsh cicumstances, it was no excuse on his part to later bitterly complain and justify his outrageous behaviour toward his wife and children. He abnegated his responsibility, as we all tend to do when we think that we are 'owed' anything by anyone. As Christians, we are to freely 'pay it forward', not backward when forced to. We have obligations and responsibilities, not socialistic 'rights'.
Idealism and Hope
Power - whether in the form of popularity or wealth...or both - corrupts, and we all know that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Few there are who know how to manage power in a godly way, and that includes ministers with large followings. Were we to have a key that could unlock the depths and mysteries of those we most admire, we might get a rude, and in some cases unpleasant, awakening. As a former starry idealist I have had so many ideals shattered. Now, I like to think, I am a realist, though I have by no means discarded all my idealism. I will always cling onto tiqveh - to hope - because if you do not do that, you die within.
What Shall We Do in a Darkening World?
"More than sentinels for daybreak, let Israel hope in Yahweh" (NAB).
We will always meet with disappointment when we come to discover the fallibility of human beings we have formerly admired and looked up to, including I dare say ourselves, but provided we do not lose tiqveh (hope) in Yahweh and His Son, we shall not only live but thrive also. This is particularly important in our day and age of moral depravity and social anarchy where so few really honourable and righteous men and women remain in whom we can trust to the degree that we would like to. The world is sinking into great darkness, and though there are many lights about still, they are becoming fewer by the year. How, then, shall we live and prosper in such a world when there is little in the way of hoping that it will get better before the Final Jugdment? What shall we do?
Imitating the Jeremiah's and Elijah's
For one thing, we must not hibernate or go to sleep in the expectation that we will wake up better to a better world. 'Kingdom-Now' proponents are going to be heartily disappointed. Like Jeremiah, we have a mission, unpleasant though in the main it may be, and we must lean on Yahweh fully for our support. Nevertheless we need human company too, faithful, loyal company in a world of shallow and traitorous relationships where sensual pleasure trumps real happiness again and again. Jeremiah had Baruch. Elijah had Elisha. And Charles Dickens had Catherine.
Worst Case Scenario Becomes Best - Hosea
But sometimes we are stripped even of these, as Hosea was, who experienced the bliss of first love, then had to undergo the heartbreak and loneliness of separation, but finally was rewarded with the ecstasy of reunion. That navi (prophet) in particular was a living metaphor of the marriage covenant and relationship between Yahweh and Israel, that began with the short but happy marriage at the beginning in the desert, continuing with apostacy and a long separation leading to divorce, and finally resulting in reunion through Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) and His atonement on the cross. Hosea was, therefore, a living parable and representative of Yahweh-Elohim Himself. And that, brethren and sisters, is what you and I are called to be too.
The Causes of Israel's Downfall
Hosea is a beautiful picture of us - what we are in the flesh and what we are supposed to be in the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). Instead of putting their trust in Elohim (God), the people of Israel broke the sacred tie - the b'rit (covenant) - with Yahweh in three ways:
The Causes of Our Own Downfall
- 1. By trusting in, and counting on, their own (military) strength;
- 2. By making treaties with foreign (pagan) powers, and in particularly, Assyria and Egypt; and
- 3. By chasing after the accursed pagan gods of fertility, the Baals.
We do exactly the same. We trust in our own strength and abilities rather than in Yahweh's. We make deals with the fallen, carnal, satanic, fleshy nature, sending it spiritually obnoxious presents in order to bribe it into serving us. And we chase after pagan gods in the form of false religion and philosophy, first trying to serve Yahweh and these demonic powers together in a futile bid to have the best of both world, only to discover we lose Yahweh in the process and end up in progressive and debilitating bondage and slavery. And when we follow the folly of unkosher sexual drives that ruin relationships, we destroy character, marr the image of Elohim (God) and weaken spiritual resolve to do what is right and ultimately good for us.
The End of the West
Look at the nations today, especially the former Christian nations like the USA, Britain, Germany and Australia, for example. Look how we have played the whore with the pagan philosophies and religions of the East. We have traded in compromises, tried to syncretise our Christianity with paganism and atheism to appease those who rage against Yahweh , and as a result opened the doors to societal chaos. Even as I speak the United States, Europe, and the other Western nations, whom Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year correctly described as a "godless sewer", are falling apart and at such an alarming rate that we no sooner recover from one shock of compromise with the Besorah (Gospel) than we are confronted with another, and yet another in quick succession. We are on the slippery slope to collapse and destruction, following in the wake of the once mightly Roman Empire that went the same way. We have wandered away faster from our Christian roots in the last decade than we have in any comparable time. Only Russia seems to be making an effort to stem the tide in the person of an unlikely deliverer and former KGB agent who, though no angel, cannot be faulted in the general direction he is leading his country. Yahweh is using him. Had it not been for him we would by now have been under a World Globalist Dictatorship in which any kind of opposition would have been as futile and deadly as it was in the Hitlerite and Marxist European hell-holes of the 20th century. We should be grateful that we have been given just a little more time to make teshuvah (repent) before the Anti-Messiah (Antichrist) becomes the world's first and last global tyrant for seven terrible years.
There are still those believers who think they can make a difference in the political arena and who feel they are called of Yahweh. They surehy have an Everst to claimb and we must belss them. And who know what surprises may be in store for us and in unlikely places! My eyes are on four countries which seem unlikely candidates right now but our Elohim (God) is an Elohim (God) of miracles! That said, our energies must in the meantime be towards saving individual souls, elevating sinking or stagnant congregations, and reaching people with the emet (truth) by whatever means are at hand. And if it be through literature, art and music as a prelude to hearing the Word of Salvation in power and in Ruach (Spirit), so be it.
"Blessed be Yahweh, my Rock" (Ps.144:1a, NAB)
 Short pithy sayings expressing fundamental truths
 San Francisco Chronicle, 12 September 1990
 See journalist Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Let Me to Faith (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 2010)