For the week of July 12, 2008 / 9 Tammuz 5768
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 22:2 - 25:9
Haftarah: Micah 5:6 - 6:8
While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the LORD's anger burned against them. (Bemidbar/ Numbers 25:1-3)
It is interesting the way some spiritually minded people use the word secular. Webster's defines this word as "of or relating to the worldly or temporal; not overtly or specifically religious ; or not ecclesiastical or clerical". In other words that which is disconnected from or not related to spiritual or religious things. People use the term "secular job" to mean an occupation that is not directly related to religious activities. Or "secular music" to refer to songs that don't contain overt religious or spiritual content. While a person's personal philosophy may separate activities along these lines, the biblical view of life does not create such independent unrelated categories.
The Torah understands the natural world as an expression of the spiritual. God created the physical world and remains intimately involved with it. Everything in the world is under his care. The primary responsibility of human beings is to care for the planet - a responsibility for which one day we will all give an account to God.
A biblical world view, therefore, makes no separation between the spiritual and the secular. This is why, for example, the word "vocation" is used for one's occupation. Vocation means "calling." There is a sense that our occupation is actually, or at least should be, a response to God's call in our lives. A vocation doesn't necessarily entail religious work. Whatever we do in life should be a means through which we honor and serve God.
The idea that there is such a thing as secular activities as separate from religious and spiritual ones has affected the way many societies view morality. For most of human history the way we relate and treat one another has had close connection to various forms of spirituality. The formation of so-called secular societies has become the basis for rejecting spiritual and religious concepts as having any basis for morality. It isn't clear, however, what secularists depend on for understanding morality. In fact, it is apparent that secularism has no basis for morality at all. Whatever morality is still upheld in our various societies are remnants of days gone by when spiritually minded people made laws based on scriptural principles.
The rejection of traditional morality in the name of secularization is not a rejection of spirituality however. In reality it is the rejection of one kind of spirituality in favor of another. The sexual revolution with all of its so called freedoms is no different from what the people of Israel did in this week's Torah portion. The men of Israel were lured into having relations with pagan women. Part and parcel with this illicit activity was the worship of the false gods of these women.
Secularists would insist that contemporary sexual freedom has nothing to do with ancient religion. I accept that many of the people today who reject traditional morality don't bow to idols and burn incense to false gods. Yet we should note that parallel to the rejection of traditional morality is the emergence of all kinds of ancient philosophies and religions re-branded for our generation. The forces behind the Moabite women of long ago continue to lure people into all kinds of sexual immorality in order to take control of their lives. Just as thousands of people died as a result of the incident recorded in the Torah, so today sexual immorality continues to lead to devastating and, at times, lethal outcomes.
This is one of the reasons why sexual sin is so dangerous. While it should be enough for us that God says, "Don't!", and realizing the damage such activity does to our relationships should cause us to avoid it at all costs, sexual immorality is deeply connected to lethal spiritual forces. There is something about this particular behavior that puts us under the control of deadly evil.
We should not be intimidated when secular people seek to delegitimize the warnings made by those of us who know the seriousness of such things. We are too easily brushed aside because we are told that our viewpoint is a religious one. This is a matter of life and death based on Truth. Secularists disregard God's Word to their own peril. But so do we, if we fail to recognize immorality's lethal connection.
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