One of the themes that I appreciate about the messages of this particular Feast of Tabernacles, and one that was especially in evidence in the final message yesterday (as I write this just before breakfast) was the need to bring what we are talking about home and to practice and develop it. This aspect was especially interesting to my family, who thought about years past when there was a sense of sadness about returning home from the feast because there was a big letdown instead of seeing the Feast as an opportunity to see and learn and then bring it home to apply.
While it is only based on my own anecdotal observations, I tend to notice and hear frequently how often application is a struggle, and it is admittedly something that I have always found to be a personal struggle of my own as well. Much that seems easy to know in the head is quite hard to practice and that is something I have seen and observed time and time again. Much practical knowledge is in the artistic realm and requires a certain amount of technique and finesse, the kind that comes from practice and a certain amount of insight, neither of which are easy or straightforward matters to translate from mere theory and book knowledge. (This is not to denigrate the proper place of book knowledge, which has always been of great interest to me personally.)
One of the more characteristic aspects of contemporary labor is the matter of continuing education, and the understanding that education does not stop at acquiring certifications and credentials but must continue for the long term. It is telling that in this and in so many areas the Bible is far ahead of the curve in that it includes a rehearsal of various elements that provide spiritual insight, from Sabbath to Sabbath, through the pattern of Holy Days throughout the year, and through the patterns of Sabbath years and Jubilee years on a still larger scale. The reciting of the law and the experience of repeated patterns of worship and instruction were reminders that learning is not something that is limited to one’s youth, but is something that continues throughout one’s life. Yet at the same time 2 Timothy 3:7 reminds us to avoid the tendency of being always learning and yet never coming to the knowledge of the truth. Our knowledge is not meant to puff us up by convincing us that our learning has made us somebody but rather is meant to allow us to better understand how to practice what we know and be an example of a godly way of life to others.
A great deal of thought and attention is often spent on how to better communicate truth to others, as a way of encouraging them and even enticing them to change their way of life. Yet one of the most persuasive means by which we have of encouraging others to like us more and even to be like us is to provide them with a good example. All too often the words we would tend to use to give truth to others end up working out badly because we fail to practice what we preach. The fact that practice is so much harder than preaching, that deeds are so much more challenging than words, is not a bug but rather a feature. As human beings we tend to realize early on that people say much that they do not really mean, and that they urge others to do better what they do not do well or at all themselves. Hypocrisy does not negate the value of a message that is being sent, but it does tend to disqualify in the eyes of those who hear the message the worth of the messenger, which tends to automatically lead to a disregarding of the message. This is lamentable, but ought not to surprise us.