My wife and I love making ancient Jewish wisdom accessible, helping everyone understand how the world REALLY works. We do so with personal appearances, our radio and television shows, and through the books and audio CD programs we publish. Soon, we hope to use podcasting and video. We are wedded to the idea, not the technology.
Unfortunately, it is easy to link ourselves to objects rather than to ideas. Fastening your future to the material rather than the spiritual, limits your life.
Here’s a tale of two companies. Hewlett Packard makes printers. They also make computers. They buy other technology companies like PC pioneer, Compaq and PDA pioneer Palm. You probably haven’t heard much of either lately. Hewlett Packard is not doing well. Its stock hasn’t been as low since 2004 and it fired its CEO, Leo Apotheker, after only eleven months’ tenure.
By contrast, IBM, which celebrated its 100th birthday this summer, is doing very well. Its stock is about as high as ever and Sal Palmisano, CEO for the past nine years, is only the eighth CEO in IBM history. IBM successfully went from punch cards to mainframes to PCs because they are always selling services rather than technology. While the underlying technology changes as necessary, the spiritual idea of helping people do their work more easily remains constant.
At a critical point in his life, even the great prophet Elijah missed this point. After executing the false prophets of the Baal, Elijah fled for his life from Queen Jezebel. He fled to Horev where he remained for forty days and nights without food. (I Kings 19:8)
God asked him what he was doing there and he replied:
I have been very zealous for the Lord, God of Hosts, because Israel abandoned your covenant; they destroyed your altar and they slaughtered your prophets by the sword and I alone remain and they wish to take my life too.
(I Kings 19:10)
God sent a hurricane, followed by an earthquake and then a firestorm. God was not in any of those mighty destructive forces, but He was present in what came next… “a still quiet voice.” (I Kings 19:12)
After this demonstration, using exactly the same words that He used in verse 9, God again asked Elijah what he was doing there.
Elijah, responded in verse 14 to God’s repeated question with exactly the same answer as he gave previously. He missed the message of the “still, quiet voice.”
In response God tells Elijah:
…appoint Elisha the son of Shafat of Avel Mecholah to be prophet in your place.
(I Kings 19:16)
I am sure you have noticed the similarities between Elijah and Moses. Like Elijah, Moses fled for his life and ended up at Horev. (Exodus 3:1) Elijah spent forty days and nights without food just as did Moses. (Exodus 34:28)
But there are contrasts too. Moses moved easily between displaying firmness and anger when the children of Israel sinned, and pleading with God to be compassionate and forgiving to them. (Exodus 32: 19-32) His service, defending God’s honor and elevating His glory always stayed the same; his methods changed as needed.
Elijah wasn’t able to let go of the firmness and anger. He missed God’s message that his task needed a quiet voice rather than large, dramatic rumblings, and wasn’t able to adjust.
Do you have the agility and durability that comes from spiritual focus? Amazon doesn’t sell books—it sells a convenient and pleasant way of buying almost anything. Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee—it sells a predictably pleasant experience. Parents don’t give punishments and rewards–they mold and guide their children. True statesmen don’t dogmatically support or oppose individual legislation–they sustain a vision for their country.
Understanding the difference between the material and the spiritual enables one to focus on what truly matters. It allows one to be more successful in one’s personal, business and civic life. I explore this idea, and many other vital ideas, in great depth in my 2 audio CD set, Tower of Power. We are making it available at a substantial discount this week (online orders only) so you can more easily share it with others.