REUBEN

REUBEN

A Sermon by Rev. Patrick A. Rose Preached in North Ohio May 3, 1992

“And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my man will love me” (Gen. 29:32).

Every day many babies are born into this world. It is a fairly common thing for all of us to hear that some couple we know has had a baby. Because birth is a common enough occurrence, there is a tendency to take the Lord’s creation of new human beings for granted. When we stop and think, though, we realize that the conception, formation and birth of an infant is an amazing miracle. And when the hand of God reaches down to create a human soul, and, from the substances of this world forms a living human body, it is indeed a miracle, a miracle that brings joy to the mother and father, “joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21). Such is the coming of a man into the world. Such is the miracle of birth. The miracle of birth, though, is to be followed by another miracle. After a baby is born, and after his mind has grown to the maturity of adulthood, there is to be another act of creation, another wonderful miracle, another birth. The man is to be reborn, or regenerated. The fact of the matter is that man, from birth, has a tendency, when left to himself, to fall into evils and falsities of every kind. This would seem to be a bitter and depressing truth, yet it is not, for we are taught in the Word that man is not left to himself. The Lord is with him, closer to him than he can ever know, and with his cooperation the Lord creates out of him a new person. He is given a new will and a new understanding, created for him by the Lord within his mind. He may have the same physical body as he did before, but within himself he is miraculously born again. He is regenerated.

This regeneration of man is the subject of the internal sense of what is recorded in the Old Testament concerning the life of Reuben. In general the twelve sons of Jacob represent twelve distinct stages in the rebirth of man, and Reuben, the first-born, represents the beginning of this miracle. “Reuben,” we are taught, “signifies faith, or, more specifically, faith in the understanding” (AC 3863:3, 3869:2). To put it another way, he represents the truth of doctrine which a man has learned (AC 3866). And the truth of doctrine, the Writings teach, is the first, the beginning, of regeneration (see AC 3866). This is because by himself a man does not even know what good is. If he is eventually to come to love and will what is good, he must first learn doctrine from the Word, doctrine which teaches him what is good (see AC 3863:1).

Now doctrine by itself does not, of course, make a man love what is good. A person is never regenerated simply by learning truths. Nevertheless, if the Lord is to regenerate man, man must cooperate with the Lord; and if man is to cooperate, he must see, that is, he must understand, how to cooperate. In other words, man is to have some mental vision of heaven before he can begin to walk the path that leads there. This sight or vision, this faith, is represented by Reuben, whose name is indeed derived from a Hebrew word which means “to see.”

It is in recognition of the importance of this faith in the understanding that we teach our children the truths of the New Church. Whereas it is true that those born with no knowledge of the Word can be saved, their spiritual obscurity is such that most of them must complete their preparation for heaven, complete their regeneration, in the other world. Our hope is that our children, in being given a clear and comprehensive vision of the truth, may later cooperate with the Lord and be regenerated while they still live here on earth. Only in this way can they come to constitute part of the Lord’s church specific, that part of the Lord’s universal church which provides a specific basis, a specific dwelling place, for what is of heaven upon this earth. It is our prayer that our children may come to perform this high use, and it is our solemn responsibility to provide them with the truths they need, the truths of the Lord’s Word.

A person who has been taught truths from the Word has been given a most precious gift. He has been provided the means by which the Lord can lead Him toward what is good. This is what is meant by the words of Leah at the time of Reuben’s birth. After Leah had given birth, she said: “Now, therefore, my man will love me.” “My man” refers to the truth, whereas “will love” refers to the good from that truth. For Leah the birth of Reuben was a way of winning Jacob’s love. So, too, faith in the understanding that knowledge of the truth which the man of the church is to have as he enters adult life is the means by which he can come into the good of truth, that is, into the good which results from living the truth (see AC 6427:1). So it is that faith in the understanding is that which initiates a man into doing what is good.

To begin with, his understanding of the truth is obscure. A person who is only just beginning his regeneration does not have a deep insight into the truth. His will or desire to do what is good is also feeble, for he finds little delight in doing the will of the Lord. Nevertheless, by means of those truths he has learned, and by means of the truths he continues to learn, he can in time come to really love and take delight in what is good. At the same time, he can begin to acquire a deep and clear understanding of the truth, an understanding which is possible only for those who live a good life.

This is what is represented by Reuben’s finding dudaim in the field (see AE 434:8). We are not told what the dudaim were. The word “dudaim” is generally translated simply as “mandrakes.” Whatever these dudaim were, though, we are told that they signify the heavenly marriage, that is, the conjunction between good and truth (see AC 3942, 3952).

To begin with, there is no conjunction between good and that understanding of truth which is represented by Reuben. Indeed, far from there being a conjunction, there seems to be a conflict. A man who only knows truth has no particular desire to do what is good. What he knows and what he does are often in conflict. And yet it is still through his knowledge of the truth that he can eventually come into what the Writings call the heavenly marriage: a state in which the truth he knows makes one with what he loves and lives.

But how can there be a connection between Reuben and the dudaim? That is, how can a mere understanding of truth lead a man to love what is good? Doesn’t a man, in the final analysis, do that which he loves rather than that which he knows?

Faith in the understanding, though, is not an empty, useless vision, with no influence over a man. Consider for a moment two incidents in the life of Reuben. When Joseph’s brethren were about to kill him, it was Reuben who told his brothers not to do so. “Let us not kill him,” Reuben said. “Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him” (Gen. 37:21,22). Reuben’s plan was to later retrieve Joseph from the pit and return him to Jacob. When he later returned to the pit and found that Joseph had disappeared, Reuben rent his clothes in grief. Reuben was, as it were, the conscience of his brothers. Later on, when an Egyptian official, who, unknown to them, happens to be Joseph, accuses them of being spies, Jacob’s sons think that their misfortune was some kind of punishment for mistreating their younger brother. Again Reuben speaks up: “Spoke I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and you would not hear?” (Gen. 42:22).

It was Reuben who attempted to stop his brethren from sinning against Joseph in the first place, and it was Reuben who later reminded them of their sin when they were accused of being spies in Egypt. In these incidents is represented the function of the truths a man has learned. The truths a man knows make him aware that he should not commit evil. And if he does commit evil, these same truths then make him aware of why he is unhappy. In short, the truths which a man knows discourage him from doing evil, and cause him anxiety if he has committed evil (see AC 5472). This is something we have all experienced. Have not all of us at times wanted to do something we knew to be wrong? And yet, have we not nevertheless refrained from committing that evil because we know it is wrong? Again, have we not at other times actually gone ahead and committed an evil, only to feel miserable later because we know we have done wrong?

This is the use, this is the power, of faith in the understanding. How, though, can mere understanding, mere knowledge, have power against hereditary tendencies toward evil? It cannot. The fact of the matter is that faith in the understanding is not merely an intellectual thing. If it were, it would have no power. Faith in the understanding, which a person brought up in the church should have as he enters adult life, is by no means merely intellectual. The truths we learn in childhood and in youth are learned with affection. The adult has remains remnants of these affectional states: states of innocence, of charity, of mutual love. These things remain from childhood, and they are protected by the Lord. By themselves they will not save a man. And yet it is this affectional element which gives power to the truth he knows, a power which encourages him to live according to the truth, to obey the truth.

It is when a man obeys the truth that he is beginning to move along the path of regeneration represented by Jacob’s twelve sons. He comes into that state represented by Simeon. Simeon is said to represent a state of obedience, a state when faith enters the will.

And so Reuben is followed by Simeon. Faith in the understanding can lead to obedience, to faith within the will of man. This is the power of a knowledge of the truth, that power mentioned in the blessing which Jacob would later pronounce upon Reuben: “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power” (Gen. 49:3). Those who have an understanding of the truth have a most precious gift from the Lord. In itself it is only the first stage of regeneration. By itself it will not save us. But since it is by means of this that the Lord can create within us a new man, the truth we know is therefore holy. Just as marriage, which can lead to the birth of an infant, is holy, so too faith in the understanding, because it can lead to the rebirth of man, is also holy. We therefore must take care lest we profane the truth we have been given. Reuben, in one shameful episode, went in to his father’s concubine (Gen. 35:22). This represents profanation. It represents the profanation we commit when we believe the truths of the church but refuse to live according to them (see AC 4601:2). When this happens, both truth and evil become part of our minds. Truth and evil are mixed together to some extent, and this mixing is profane. It is not as severe as the profanation which occurs when good and evil are mixed, which is when we have actually started to love good and then revert to what is evil. But still it is profane. It is profane not to live the truth we know and believe. This is why Reuben was not only blessed by Jacob, but also cursed: “Unstable as water, you shall not excel because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it: he went up to my couch” (Gen. 49:4). Those who have and who believe the truths of the church must be careful. What they have is precious something that should not be misused or ignored. To reject the truth we have come to believe to reject it by failing to live it leads us into a state of degeneration. But if we live according to the truth, if we live according to it to the best of our ability, then a miracle can begin to happen. As we compel ourselves to live according to the Lord’s truth, a new character arises within our minds. The Lord, who created us, now re-creates us. He gives us a new will, and a new understanding a will or desire to do what is good, and a new understanding or insight into the meaning of truth. We are reborn. We are regenerated.

This is why we are given the truths of the church. These truths have power. They are the beginning of our strength. They are the means of salvation. Amen.


Lessons: Genesis 29:30-32; 30:14-17; 35:19-22; 37:17-22; 37:29-30; 49:1-4; AC 3863:1,3

Arcana Coelestia 3863:1,3

For she said, Because Jehovah hath seen. That in the supreme sense this signifies foresight, in the internal sense faith, in the interior sense understanding, and in the external sense sight, in the present case faith from the Lord, is evident from the signification of “seeing,” concerning which in what follows. From what has been said above, it may be seen that the twelve tribes, named from the twelve sons of Jacob, signified all things of truth and good, or of faith and love, thus all things of the church, and that each tribe signified some universal; thus the twelve tribes signified the twelve universals which comprehend and include within them all things whatsoever that belong to the church, and in the universal sense, all things that belong to the Lord’s kingdom. The universal which “Reuben” signifies is faith. The reason why faith is the first universal is that when man is being regenerated or becoming a church, he must first learn and become imbued with the things of faith, that is, of spiritual truth; for he is introduced by means of the doctrine of faith, or of truth. For man is of such a nature that of himself he does not know what heavenly good is but must learn it from doctrine, which is called the doctrine of faith. Every doctrine of faith regards life as the end, and therefore good, for good is life.

As the subject treated of in this chapter, and in those which precede, is the regeneration of the natural, and here its first state, which is that of introduction by means of truth to good, therefore the first son of Jacob, or Reuben, was named from “Jehovah seeing,” which in the internal sense signifies faith from the Lord. Regarded in itself, faith is a faith in the understanding and a faith in the will; to know and understand the truth which is of faith is called faith in the understanding; but to will the truth which is of faith is called faith in the will. Faith in the understanding is that which is signified by “Reuben”; but faith in the will is what is signified by “Simeon.” That faith in the understanding, or the understanding of truth, precedes faith in the will, or the willing of truth, must be evident to everyone; for when anything is unknown to man (such as heavenly good), he must first know that it exists, and understand what it is, before he can will it.

THE POWER OF SALVATION (An Easter Sermon)

THE POWER OF SALVATION (An Easter Sermon)

A Sermon by Rev. Patrick A. Rose Preached in Cincinnati, Ohio April 19, 1992

“And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).

The story of the Lord’s resurrection, the story of Easter, is a story of the most beautiful simplicity. Men had tried to kill the Lord, but when His followers returned to His sepulcher, the Lord’s body was no longer there. The Lord could not die, for He was God. He had risen from the dead. He was alive. He was alive for evermore.

It is a simple story. But it is also profound. When the Lord rose from the sepulcher, He showed clearly that He was God. He was Divine. He had power over death. But He also showed something else. He showed that He had the power to save. Earlier the Lord had told His followers, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). When, therefore, the Lord rose from the sepulcher, when He was lifted up from the earth, it showed not only that He had the power to save Himself from death, but that He also had the power to save mankind. The Lord, by rising from the sepulcher, showed that He was the Savior of the human race. And so it is that the Easter story is not simply a story about the Divinity of the Lord. It is also a story about salvation.

This is why the story of Easter occurs during the celebration of the Jewish Passover. Passover, together with the feast of unleavened bread which followed it, was a commemoration and a celebration of the time that Jehovah had saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Jehovah as God did not just have Divine power, but He also had used this power to deliver His people Israel. The Passover was the most important of three annual Jewish festivals. And it was during the celebration of this annual festival that the events of the Easter story occurred. Indeed, the story of Easter cannot be separated from the celebration of Passover.

Consider, for example, the events surrounding Palm Sunday. When the Lord rode into Jerusalem, multitudes of people came out to greet Him, spreading branches of palm trees in the road. The reason there were so many people in Jerusalem at the time was because of the Passover. A great number of people had traveled into Jerusalem to purify themselves in preparation for the feast (see John 11:55). Not only that; many of them were looking out for the Lord, thinking that He would probably come to Jerusalem for the Passover (see John 11:56). When news came, then, that the Lord was approaching the city, this great multitude of people, people who were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, ran out to greet Him (see John 12:12,13). The Passover itself became the central focus the evening before the Lord was arrested. The Lord gathered with His disciples to eat the Passover. It was the last meal He would eat with them before His crucifixion. And it was at that time the Lord established a new feast, a feast which would also celebrate the Lord’s salvation. He established the Holy Supper.

It was during the night which followed that the Lord was betrayed and arrested. The next day the Passover is once again an element in the story. Because it was the most important of the Jewish festivals, the Romans had, as a gesture of good will, made it a custom to release a prisoner at the festival (see Mark 15:6). Pilate tried to have the Lord released as that prisoner. But the multitude – now an angry multitude – would have none of it. They demanded instead the release of a robber, a man called Barabbas (see John 18:40). Here was a sad irony. The Passover was a festival celebrating the Lord’s power of salvation. He had saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Now He had come to save once again. This time He had come to rescue men from a deeper slavery. And yet at the Passover they rejected the Lord. They demanded that the Lord be crucified. They chose a robber over the Lord Himself.

There were indeed dark forces at work during the week which led up to the Lord’s resurrection. The Lord had come to save mankind. Yet evil men, men guided by the hells, were seeking the Lord’s destruction. Still, this also was an integral part of the story of Easter. When the Lord rose from the sepulcher, He rose as the Savior of the human race. The very fact that the-Lord was a Savior implied that mankind had needed saving. It meant that the Lord had rescued them from danger.

It is in this sense that the meaning of the Easter story is neither as simple nor as obvious as it might appear. When the Lord had saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, it was clear who the enemy was. It was clear that the Lord had rescued them from the Egyptians. But the enemies -the spiritual enemies – who threatened mankind at the time of the Lord’s coming were by no means as obvious a threat. Indeed, most people were completely unaware of being in any danger at all. People were blissfully ignorant of the fact that a multitude of evil spirits from hell was threatening the very survival of the human race. The Lord had come to save people from a danger they didn’t even know existed. But the danger was nevertheless very real. Indeed, the spiritual enemies of mankind were a far greater threat than the Egyptians had been. The underlying drama of the Easter week was just as great, just as intense, as was the drama of the Exodus.

Consider the extraordinary events that occurred on the night when the Passover was first eaten. Time and time again the Egyptians had suffered plagues. But time and time again the Pharaoh had refused to let the Israelites go. The Israelites seemed to be completely and hopelessly enslaved in Egypt. But then there came the plague on the firstborn. It must have been an absolutely frightening and horrible night. All of a sudden, at midnight, destruction came upon the people of Egypt. We are told that “there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead” (Exodus 12:30). That night not a single Egyptian household escaped tragedy.

During that same terrible night, though, not a single Israelite was harmed. Four days earlier each Israelitish household had been commanded to set aside a lamb (see Exodus 12:3-4). Then, during the evening preceding that terrible night, the lamb had been killed, and its blood had been splattered on the posts and lintels of their doors (see Exodus 12:6-7). They then roasted the lamb and ate it with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs (see Exodus 12:8). The Israelites were safe, safe from the destruction that came upon the Egyptians, for the blood on their doors served as a sign that they were not to be harmed.

Now it might seem from the story that it was the Lord who destroyed the firstborn, and that the blood was serving to protect the Israelites from the Lord. But this terrible act of destruction was in fact brought about by evil spirits, evil spirits who are referred to as “the destroyer.” “The Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23). What in fact happened during the night of the Passover was that the hells were let loose upon the land of Egypt. But the Israelites were protected from harm by the power of the Lord. They were delivered from destruction, and that same night they were released from their slavery.

So it was that on a dark and dreadful night, the Israelites were protected by the powerful arm of the Lord, and were led forth to freedom. Israel became a free people. And from that time on, this event was etched deep into the consciousness of the Israelites. Each year, on the fourteenth day of the first month, they were to reenact the Passover, by eating a roasted lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. During this most important festival of the year, they were to recall that night when the Lord saved them from the slavery of Egypt.

Why did the Passover have such great importance? It of course had immense historical significance. But there was something else. The real importance of the Passover lay in what it represented. The Passover represented that work of salvation that the Lord would do when He came to earth. It stood for the Lord’s presence, and for the way in which He would free mankind from the dominion of the hells (see AC 8017). The actual Passover supper represented the conjunction that would then be possible between mankind and the Lord Himself (see AC 9965:4). And, because this work of salvation was completed in the glorification of the Lord’s Human, therefore the Passover is said to have represented the glorification itself (see AC 3994:6). It was therefore no accident, no accident at all, that the events of Easter took place during the celebration of the Passover. The Lord had told His disciples that He would be betrayed during the feast of the Passover (see Matt. 26:2). And it was at that feast that He would rise again. The primary reason the Passover had been instituted was as a memorial that the Lord would one day glorify His Human and rise triumphant as the eternal Savior of the human race (see AC 10655). And so it was at this very festival that the Lord fulfilled His promise, fulfilled the prophecy contained within the Passover.

The Passover, that night when the Lord protected the Israelites and delivered them from slavery in Egypt, was but a picture, a representation, of a far greater redemption. To begin with, the Lord had used His Divine power to save a particular group of people – the Israelites – from slavery. Now, as the Lord rose from the grave, He redeemed the entire human race. He made it possible for people to be freed from the dominion of the hells, set free from the slavery of evil.

This is what we celebrate and remember at Easter time. We rejoice and give thanks for the Lord’s salvation. When Jesus appeared to His disciples and said to them, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18), the power He spoke to them about, the power He offered them, was the power of salvation, the power to save people from the influence of the hells.

What the Lord accomplished at Easter might sound more abstract than what He had done during the original Passover. The Israelites knew and clearly understood what Jehovah had done for them when He rescued them from slavery in Egypt. The Lord has rescued us, though, from a deeper slavery, from the slavery of the hells. And the importance of this can be difficult to grasp fully. As we have noted, most people at the time of the Lord’s coming were unaware of the spiritual danger they were in. They did not realize how terrible the threats from the hells really were. To a large extent it is the same with us. We have trouble fully appreciating the danger of evil.

We have trouble realizing just how great a threat the hells can be. This is because spiritual dangers are extremely subtle. Physical dangers come from outside of us, where we can see and notice them, and avoid them. Spiritual dangers are different. Evil lurks within the mind, and-so we don’t notice evil in the same way. The greatest danger posed by evil lies in the fact that it doesn’t seem dangerous to us at all. In fact, we tend to enjoy evil. We tend to love it. It is inside of us. It seems a part of us. When we are in evil we don’t see how dangerous it is. It is only as we are lifted out of this evil that we can come to understand how great the danger really was.

That is why the Lord had to come to earth. That is why He had to assume a Human and make that Human Divine. He did this so that we could come to see and understand Him, come to see and understand His love and compassion, and could turn to Him and follow His commandments. And it is as we do this, as we turn to and follow the Lord, that we can then, for the first time, fully appreciate the real horror of evil. In the Arcana, in our third lesson, it was said, “the hells are around every man, because every man is born into evils of every kind; and where evils are, there are the hells” (AC 10659). This is why, we are told, we need the Divine power of the Lord. Only the Lord has the power to cast away those evil spirits of hell. There is then added a very telling statement. It is said that this is something which can be understood by 44 all those … who admit the Lord into their life” (see ibid.). It is those who admit the Lord into their lives, and only they, who can truly appreciate the dangers of evil. It is only those who are willing to turn to the Lord and obey His commandments who can understand that evil is very, very real, and very, very dangerous.

That is why we must follow the Lord. We cannot rely upon our own judgment as to what is good and what is evil. We will always tend to excuse those things we love. We will tend to make light of our own weaknesses and our own follies. And so we must turn to the Lord. The Lord is our Savior, our only Savior. We must do what He says. And if we do, then He will save us. Amen.

Lessons: John 11:55-57; 12:1,12-15; Matt. 28:1-18; AC 10659:1,3


Arcana Coelestia 10659:1,3

… it can be seen that the feast of the Passover, which was also called the feast of unleavened things, was instituted in remembrance of man’s liberation from hell by the Lord. That this liberation was effected by the Lord’s subjugating the hells and glorifying His Human may be seen just above (n. 10655) …

But to those who are in enlightenment the Lord grants that they shall understand what they believe; and when they are reading the Word, those are enlightened and understand it who acknowledge the Lord and love to live according to His commandments, but not those who say that they believe but do not live; for the Lord flows into the life of man and from this into his faith, but not into faith separate from life. Consequently, those who are enlightened by the Lord through the Word understand that the Lord came into the world in order to subjugate the hells, and-reduce into order all things there and in the heavens; and that this could not possibly be done except by means of the Human; for from this He could fight against the hells, but not from the Divine without the Human; and also that He might glorify His Human in order that He might thereby forever keep all things in the order into which He had reduced them. From this comes the salvation of man, for the hells are around every man, because everyone is born into evils of every kind, and where evils are, there are the hells; and unless these were cast back by the Divine power of the Lord, no one could ever have been saved. That this is so the Word teaches, and all those apprehend who admit the Lord into their life; and these as before said are those who acknowledge Him, and love to live according to His commandments.

BLESSED ARE THE MEEK

BLESSED ARE THE MEEK

A Sermon by Rev.Frank Rose Preached at Sunrise Chapel, Tucson, Arizona Cataloged May 4, 1997

Do you sometimes feel that your life is out of control, or that you wished you had more mastery over yourself and over your world? The Lord was talking to this need in the third of the Beatitudes, but as in the other blessings His words come as something of a surprise. He says “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” The appearance is that the earth belongs to the strong. We see in history examples of men who are powerful who had a clear ability to make decisions, who were ruthless, who were conquerors. The meek, the gentle, would find themselves overrun by stronger forces than themselves. Of course, if you stop and look a little more carefully at these dominant figures in history you come to find another side. Imagine the dictator in one of the new republics in Africa who has risen to power on the basis of murder or imprisoning thousands of people. Yes, he can look out of his palace and say, “I’m lord and master over all that I survey.” But he’s looking through barred windows. He is surrounded by bodyguards and can never move without being protected. He drives through the country in a limousine that has bullet proof windows. In a sense, he is imprisoned by his own position of power. He is in constant fear of being overthrown and eventually the day may come when he is stripped of power, stripped of wealth, cast into prison, and he realizes that his days of glory were very short lived. Or think of the successful executive. He is quick to make decisions. He’s aggressive and knows what he wants in life and goes out to get it. He achieves success. He’s respected and feared and goes home at night and finds that one thing he cannot control is his wife or his children. That boy that is growing up to be a man, that he pictures as one day the manager of the firm, drops out of school and lives a life of drug abuse and is totally ignorant of all responsibility. His daughters hate him and as soon as possible they will get married and leave home. And not only that, he is powerless over his own feelings – his times of depression or his anger or his frustration. So what exactly is he in control of, or is he being ruled by his own success? Some such people come to the point where they acknowledge their powerlessness and they begin to look at their life a little differently. They become softened by bitter experiences. They get in touch with their poverty of spirit. They experience the reality of grief and mourning. They become softened people.

Once a person has reached that stage would you say he is more in control of his life or less so? From external appearances, it seems that the old spirit has gone, but Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” A dear friend of mine was sharing with me her experience with trying to quit smoking. What she realized after years of struggle was that the big problem was that she thought she was in control. So she would say to herself, “I can stop whenever I want to.” And every now and again to prove that to herself, she would quit smoking for a few weeks, but always in the back of her mind was the thought “I can start any time that I want because I can stop anytime that I want. I’m in control of this situation.” Then she would find herself after two or three weeks without a cigarette, waking up at two o’clock in the morning, dressing, going out to an all-night convenience store to get a pack of cigarettes. She realized that she is not in control. That experience broke the illusion that she was in control, and brought her into a completely different attitude toward this addiction. She said she finally knew what it was and what it felt like to hand something in her life over to the Lord, and to say openly, “Lord, I cannot control this without your help.” The marvelous thing was that immediately, the addiction was gone and she no longer classified herself as a smoker who was trying to quit. She just said, “I’m not a smoker anymore because I’ve handed that over to the Lord.” You see, through that surrender, she achieved what she could not achieve through conscious control.

Now this teaching that “The meek will inherit the earth,” is one of the most difficult of all of the teachings of the Lord for people to grasp. It runs so contrary to the appearance. It seems as if we are alone, in the fact that we continually struggle to bring our life into order and make sense out of our life. I knew someone who loved the book – “How to Take Control of Your Time and Your Life.” Such a wonderful promise! You can take control of your time and your life. What an illusion that is! Because if we try to take control merely from our external man, merely from an external point of view, we will find that we are constantly being defeated. In order to take control, we need the quality known here as meekness.

Now this is a very difficult word to translate. We usually think of the word meek as being weak or insipid. But the word meek in both the Hebrew and the Greek languages comes from the root – “To be tamed” or in the case of a field – “To be plowed.” When a farmer goes to prepare a field he knows that the soil is too hard to receive the seeds so he’ll plow the field to loosen the soil, to soften it, to make it receptive. Then it is literally true that the meek, or the plowed field, will inherit the earth more than one that is hardened and tough. With a horse they would use the same word – to tame a horse. The tamed horse still has plenty of energy, plenty of power, but power and energy is now directed by something other than the horse, so its energy is directed or steered.

A person who is meek is a person who has gone through some kind of experience in life in which his self-control has been softened and his illusion about dominating his world or himself has been broken. It’s remarkable; you read in the Old Testament and you find that Moses is described as being very meek more than all men who were on the face of the earth. And Moses was the man who went into Pharaoh, the most powerful person in the world, confronted Pharaoh and said to him, “Let my people go!” And went back repeatedly, until finally Pharaoh had to yield. And yet Moses was called meek. In what sense was Moses a meek person?

We find in the story of the battle with the Amalikites a clue to the power that Moses had. The children of Israel went from Egypt into the wilderness and there they became very vulnerable not only to the danger of starvation and thirst but also to the marauding bands of the Amalikites. They attacked the Amalakites at the rear of their camp. The soldiers were at the front line, so they attacked them at their most vulnerable spot. They were in the wilderness and suddenly their whole lives were at stake. In the story you will find that Moses left the battle scene and went up upon a hill. Moses raised his hands and while his hands were raised, the children of Israel were victorious. When his hands fell from fatigue, they began to lose the battle.

Why did Moses raise his hands? What was the gesture here? It was the gesture of prayer. He was praying for all the people on that mountain top and he could not sustain it so he had to be supported by Aaron and Hur. But as long as he could maintain an attitude of prayer and submission to the Lord’s will, then the soldiers in the valley could be victorious. So it might have seemed to them as if the battle depended upon their courage, on their weapons, on their strength. But the real issue was being fought on the hilltop – the issue of submission or meekness. As long as Moses could maintain that attitude of prayer, then they had an inner strength in what they did.

Think about how this may apply to your life. The battles that we fight are mainly internal battles. We fight the enemies of fear, of depression, of anger, and in most lives of people these emotions sweep over them like an invading army. Now if you try to control your emotions just by self will, you will find repeated failure, like the man who tries to control his temper just by will power and will power alone. He’s using Satan to cast out Satan. If a person tries to overcome his depression by telling himself – “Cheer up” – he’ll only get more depressed because he’ll have a sense of failure in not being able to accomplish that simple task. Of ourselves, we cannot govern or control our emotions. Our emotions will, more likely, control us and overwhelm us like a flood.

Just before the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil and in the third of those temptations the Bible says the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and said that Jesus could have all those kingdoms if only He would bow down and worship him, the devil. How can the devil offer all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus who is Lord of all? Well, doesn’t it appear as if the world is run by human ambition, by greed by the love of money, by raw power? Doesn’t it appear as if the only way to influence people is by an appeal to their lower self? Doesn’t it seem as if the only way to be successful in life is to compromise your principles? – To be strong – to be courageous – to be in control.

But once again, the real issue is on the mountaintop. On the mountaintop you must maintain an attitude of prayer – the prayer that the Lord’s will be done. So in our life there will be times in which we feel as if we simply cannot control the things in our life and we’re brought to that position to understand the quality of meekness. On Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, it was said “Behold your King is coming, meek and sitting on a donkey, a colt the foal of a donkey.” Sometimes you hear the expression, gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Yet what did Jesus do when he entered Jerusalem? He went straight to the temple, saw the people buying and selling, overthrew their tables and said, ” It is written My house shall be a house of prayer and you have made it a den of thieves!” Was that meek behavior? But later when Jesus was arrested and brought before Pilot, was accused and threatened with death, it is written that “He opened not his mouth.” As the lamb before his slaughter is dumb, he opened not his mouth. Why did not Jesus speak at that time – why didn’t he call for legions of angels to come down from heaven and free Him and destroy His enemies? Because the issue here was whether He is going to be led by the internal forces or by external loves and ambitions. He could feel within himself the anger to the mistreatment that he was enduring. He could feel within himself the frustration and the pain of looking at human behavior at its worst. He also realized that you cannot answer evil with evil, and if you want to inherit the earth you have to submit to something higher and in this case He referred to the Father, and by the Father He was talking about the Divine Love. He had to become passive so the Divine Love would operate through Him. And we all, at one time or another in our life, have to learn what that quantity of passivity is; what is it like to be passive and have the Lord be active.

Listen to this teaching from True Christian Religion, “The Lord alone is active in a person and the person, by himself, only passive. But he is moved to activity by the inflow of life from the Lord.” And again, “Those who are governed by the Lord are passive and have no power of themselves. They are powerless to act and feel anything of themselves and they know it. With them there is only a passive force. These are called poor and also needy. And they are so esteemed by those who suppose that they, themselves are strong. These weak ones who can do nothing of themselves are governed by the Lord. He himself takes care of them. “The meek shall inherit the earth!”

Those who have that inner quality surrender to something higher than themselves. What they’re surrendering to is the power of love. As we read, “Rational good never fights no matter how much it is attacked because it is gentle and mild, long suffering and yielding, for it’s nature is that of love and mercy. But although it does not fight, it nevertheless conquers all. It does not ever think of combat nor does it glory in victory. It is of this nature because it is divine and is, of itself, immune from harm for no evil can assail what is good.”

“The meek shall inherit the earth” – The people who are willing to let their lives be ruled by the gentle qualities of love. They don’t get trapped in the illusion that somehow they can control their inner world, they can control other people they can control circumstances. Notice the word inherit,

The strong conquer the earth; the meek inherit the earth. And what does it mean to inherit? A beloved child of a rich father will find that@ one day he suddenly owns things that he did not earn by his own strength. He comes to possess a wealth that doesn’t really belong to him simply because he inherits it. The meek inherit the earth, which means that they come to experience all the wealth that the Lord provides in heaven and on earth. Your life can be rich and full – not by conquering it, not by dominating the world, but by that beautiful quality of inner surrender. Just let the Lord be the God of your heaven and your earth and you become His child, you become like Him and therefore you inherit everything that belongs to Him. You inherit the world; and this gives a person an inner peace and contentment.

This third Beatitude was actually a quotation from the Psalms and all that Jesus did was to add the word blessed or blissfully happy. It says in Psalm 37, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” In contrast to the evil doers “Who will be cut off.” As the Lord said, “Come to me all ye that labor and are heavy ladened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Amen

Lessons: Exodus 17, Psalm 37:1, Matthew 4, AC 1802


Arcana Coelestia

1802. Saying, This one shall not be thine heir. That this signifies that what is external shall not be the heir of His kingdom, is evident from the signification of becoming an heir, or inheriting, explained just above. The heir of the Lord’s kingdom is not what is external, but what is internal. What is external is so too, but through What is internal, for they then act as a one. That it may be known how the case herein is, it is to be kept in mind that all who are in the heavens-as well those who are in the first and in the second, as those who are in the third,-that is, as well those who are external and those who are interior, as those who are internal-are heirs of the Lord’s kingdom; for they all make one heaven. In the Lord’s heavens, the internals and the externals are circumstanced exactly as they are in man. The angels in the first heaven are subordinate to those in the second, and these are subordinate to the angels in the third heaven. The subordination however is not that of command, but is, as in a man, the influx of things internal into things more external; that is, the Lord’s life inflows through the third heaven into the second, and through this into the first, in the order of their succession, besides that it inflows immediately into all the heavens. The inferior or subordinate angels do not know that this is so unless reflection is given them by the Lord; thus there is no subordination of command.

[2] In proportion to the existence of what is internal in an angel of the third heaven is he an heir of the Lord’s kingdom; and in proportion to the same in an angel of the second heaven is he an heir; and in like manner, in proportion to the existence of what is internal in an angel of the first heaven, is he too an heir. It is that which is internal that causes any one to be an heir. With the interior angels there is more of what is internal than there is with the more external angels, and therefore the former are nearer to the Lord, and are more fully heirs. That which is internal is love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor in proportion therefore to the love and the charity which they have, in the same proportion are they sons and heirs, for in the same proportion are they partakers of the Lord’s life.

[3] But no one can possibly be taken up from the first or external heaven into the second or interior heaven until he has been instructed in the goods of love and the truths of faith. So far as he has been instructed, so far he can be taken up, and can come among angelic spirits. It is the same with angelic spirits before they can be taken up or come into the third heaven, or among angels. By instruction the interiors are formed, and thereby the internals, and are adapted to receiving the goods of love and the truths of faith, and thereby the perception of what is good and true. No one can perceive what he does not know and believe, consequently he cannot be gifted with the faculty of perceiving the good of love and the truth of faith except by means of knowledges, so as to know what they are and of what nature. It is so with all, even with infants, who are all instructed in the Lord’s kingdom. But these are easily instructed, because they are imbued with no principles of falsity; they are however instructed in general truths only; and when they receive these they perceive things without number or limit.

[4] The case in this respect is the same as it is with one who has been persuaded respecting any truth in general: the particulars of the general truths, and the singulars of the particulars, which are confirmatory, he easily learns, as it were of himself, or spontaneously; for he is affected by the truth in general, and thence also by the particulars and singulars of the same truth, which confirm for these enter into the general affection with delight and pleasantness, and thus constantly perfect it. These are the internal things on account of which they are called “heirs,” or by means of which they can inherit the Lord’s kingdom. But they first begin to be heirs, or to have a heritage, when they are in the affection of good, that is, in mutual love, into which they are introduced by the knowledges of good and truth, and by the affections of them; and in proportion as they are in the affection of good, or in mutual love, in the same proportion are they “heirs,” or have an inheritance. For mutual love is the veriest life (vitale) which they receive from the Lord’s essence, as from their Father. These things may be seen from what follows in the next verse.

Have You Ever Been In Prison?

Have You Ever Been In Prison

by Rev. Frank Rose Preached in Sunrise Chapel, Tucson, Arizona March, 1996

Fortunately, comparatively few of us have had that degrading and humiliating experience. People who have will be very sensitive to the message in Psalm 142 which ends with the prayer, “Bring my soul out of prison that I may praise your name; the righteous shall surround me for You shall deal bountifully with me.”

Of course, not all people are in prison because of crimes. Many experience being in prison in time of war or perhaps they’re political prisoners of some kind. There are comparatively few stories in the Old Testament about people in prison, partially because of all the regulations and laws given in the Books of Moses which stipulate different crimes and their punishments – none of the punishments ever involved going to prison. In the early days of the Hebrew people, it was not known what prison was; it was not part of their culture. Joseph was cast into a prison. First of all, he was a slave which is a kind of imprisonment, but then when he was in Egypt, be was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife – found himself in prison and later emerged from that prison to become the second ruler in all of Egypt – but that was an Egyptian prison. Samson was put into a prison and that was a Philistine prison. The first time, you hear of anyone of the Children of Israel being put into prison by their own people is in the time of the Kings; especially the story of the Prophet Jeremiah, who was repeatedly cast into prison because his message was so unpopular.

So when the people heard the Old Testament prophecies that the Messiah was going to come, and among other things, was going to release them from prison, you can’t help but wonder as to what meaning that held for them, since so few of them had had the prison experience. There is a prophecy in Isaiah 61: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” And this prophecy is repeated in different words in other places; that’s one of the reasons why the Messiah was coming was to release people from prison.

The first time Jesus stood up to speak in the synagogue at Nazareth he quoted that part of the 61 chapter of Isaiah, and having read it, He then said: “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your ears.” Now, do you know of any story in the New Testament, of Jesus releasing someone from prison? John The Baptist, who prepared the way of the Lord and who baptized Him, was cast into prison by the wicked Herod and there is no indication in the Gospels tl-tat Jesus ever did anything to release him. Eventually, he was beheaded in prison, and yet Jesus said: “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your ears.” He was already releasing people from prison. Now what prison was that?

Clearly, it was not some external prison. What was the prison in which people found themselves, in which the Messiah had come to deliver them from? You know how you can be imprisoned by your body, Think of a person who is suffering from Alzhiemers Disease – how their body becomes like a prison to them – and even their minds can’t operate properly, simply because of a physical condition. Any kind of physical limitation is the nature of an imprisonment and if we listen too much to the bodily senses and base our whole life on our sense experience, our mind becomes very limited by people who say” “Well, I don’t believe in a life after death; I’ve never seen the Spiritual World. I’ve never met anyone who has come back from the Spiritual World.” So they are unable to accept the concept of Life After Death because they are imprisoned by their bodies, Their thoughts are overly dominated by sensual things. Remember in the early days of space travel; one of the space ships went out and an atheist jubilantly reported that God must not exist, because here Mankind bad traveled to the moon and no one had seen God on the journey! Notice the sensual thinking that God, if He is real, must be visible to the physical eyes! So we all tend to be limited because we have a body in the Natural World and sometimes it’s very difficult to rise above the appearances of that body – to sec beyond the surface – to see the, reality. If you saw a person physically in prison you might not realize that their spirit was free and perhaps the jailer was more imprisoned that the prisoner, because of a mental attitude. Being in prison is much more a state of mind. Think of people who suffer with addictions, and in that sense they are prisoners of their own bodies. They cannot stop themselves from eating or drinking or taking in certain substances. They have lost control; as much as their mind might say: “I won’t do this anymore,” yet the body keeps on doing it. They are prisoners in a very tragic sense. But having a body itself is a kind of imprisonment; because the spirit is beyond the body, it has its own level of reality and there are many times in which we have to arise above the appearance that we exist only within the limits of our physical frame – to realize that we are Spiritual Beings and the body is only a very small part of our life. When the body grows old, our spirit does not grow old and when the body dies, we do not die – but to think like that, we have to be released from the domination of physical appearances. When Jesus taught, He confronted the people with their thinking – their thought patterns, You may remember the phrase: “You have heard it was said to them of old times, that I say unto you.” One of them we read was a recitation “You heard that it was said to them of old times – you shall not murder!” People who had that concept of the Fifth Commandment, that it was concerned with the murder of the physical body, had no awareness that their inner hatred and bitterness was a form of murder and therefore their thinking was very limited and it made them such that they wouldn’t even take responsibility for the inner attitudes or thoughts, They thought so long as they obeyed the letter of the Law, they were: “Right with God.” Now that thinking was a kind of prison bar which limits the way in which they approached life. Every time the Lord spoke He confronted their “traditional” thinking. He told them to cleanse the inside of the cup and platter, saying that ritual wasn’t going to get them to Heaven, but an inner spirit of Love and Charity would. He told them they should love their enemies – that they should forgive – they should let go of the pattern of wrong doing and revenge because that pattern, which we still see in the world today, is a kind of spiritual prison. People get caught in that and they’re locked into a way of thinking that makes it almost impossible for them to see anything else, That’s why it says in the Psalm: “Bring my soul out of prison.” Having the body in prison is one thing – having the soul in prison is even worse and your soul is in prison when your thoughts are false or when your emotions are totally negative.

During the Second World War, there was a Christian Thinker, Clergyman, Philosopher named Deiter VonHoffer. He spent many years in prison and eventually died in prison. He wrote a book entitled “Letters From Prison.” The early letters were written after he had been in jail for only a short while and one of the first things he observed was that while the body is in prison, the mind does not have to be. And then he says this: “The important thing is to make the best use of one’s possessions and capabilities -there are still plenty left and to accept the limits of the situation, by which I mean, not giving way to feelings of resentment and discontent,” You see, he realized that thing that would truly imprison him was not the bars – was not the walls, but that spirit of resentment and discontent. “I’ve never realized so clearly what the Bible and Luther meant by Spiritual Trial. Quite suddenly, for no apparent reason, whether physical or psychological, the peace and placidity which have been a mainstay hitherto began to waver; and the fear, in Jeremiah’s Expressive Phase, becomes that defiant and despondent thing one cannot fathom. It is like an invasion from the outside, as though evil powers were trying to deprive one of life’s dearest treasures.” And then he adds: “But it is a wholesome and necessary experience which helps one to better understand human life.”

What then is prison? For much of his time in prison, VonHoffer was able to maintain an attitude of freedom and peace and he could see that there were times when his heart was invaded by these destructive forces which were all on a mental level; negative feelings of bitterness – despondency, despair, resentment – that was the prison he had to fear. And don’t we know the same kind of prison? Think of what prejudice does to imprison the mind. Imagine if you have a view that a certain race of people, a certain culture of people, are all bad, how that limits your life. How you put yourself in prison due to your own prejudices. Suppose you were negative to all black people, then you would never be able to meet a black person and see them as a real human being and benefit from that relationship. You’re imprisoned because of your own way of thinking, We all need to be liberated from this kind of spiritual limitation and spiritual blindness. That’s why it’s interesting in one of the prophesies of the Lords Coming, “The opening of the blind eyes” is put right alongside “Delivering people from prison,” This is Isaiah 42: “I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light unto the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house,” Jesus never physically delivered anyone from prison but every time He spoke, He was opening their eyes and delivering them from their prison of darkness – from negative thinking – from prejudice – from an attitude of mind that judges all things on the basis of appearances and is not willing to be lifted up to a higher level. Whenever we are in a destructive frame of mind, self-pitying, resentful of others, we find ourselves in prison. And maybe you have known that kind of state in which you felt the limitations and you desperately wanted to get out. How do you break down those walls; how do you liberate yourself from that confined way of thinking and being? The Lord invites us to escape from prison by lifting our minds to a higher level. Just take for example, the prison of the body and the prison of our own personality. Ever stop to think that ones personality is a kind of prison – that you think of yourself in a certain way – others think of you in that way and your true spirit may be very different than your personality. So how do you break out of that prison of yours; those physical limitations or what people think of you or what you think of yourself? One way is to simply observe yourself and raise your mind to a higher level and realize that your body and your personality are a very small part of your total essence; that you are truly a Spiritual Being, created to live forever and that many of the things that are important to you in your life right now are just temporary; things that are active for awhile, but they’re not part of your true essence or your true personality. That’s why in the Psalms the person prays to escape from the prison by flying: “Oh that I had wings of a dove, for then I would fly away and be at rest.” You can imagine a person sitting in a physical prison and using the wings of thought to raise their minds above the limitations in which they find themselves, and suddenly they’re free, Whether we’re in physical prison or not, we can liberate ourselves by meditation and by elevating the mind. If you think of the problems that you face in your life, the things you find so discouraging and difficult to deal with just lift your mind to a higher level and let them come into a better perspective and you will be freed. And the most wonderful thing is as you release yourself from prison, you also release other people, for we tend to put other people in a box: by our attitudes toward them, by our judgments about them. Maybe you’ve had the experience of other people having thoughts about you that you say to yourself, “I’m not like that – I’m not the kind of person that other people think I am!” So if we become more liberated in our own thinking, able to think on a higher spiritual level, we will liberate other people and we will never say as we approach a person: “I know you!” For how much do we really know of one another – where I’m willing to judge you or I’m willing to interpret your life? But rather, I might say: ” I am more than my body, I am more than my personality, I am more than my roles in life and therefore the person I am talking to is much greater than what I see – and the limited thoughts I have about him.” In this process we need, most of all, to be liberated from the tyranny of having to be right all the time.

Let us accept with joy, in the fact that, in a certain sense, we are nothing – we’re just created out of the dust of the Earth and our loving Creator sees in us an infinite potential on the Spiritual level. So we let go of our pride, we let go of our self image and we lift our thought upwards and then we find that we are liberated, we are set free, we are given a kind of internal peace, surrounded by that spirit of love and acceptance.

Have you ever been in prison? Of course you have! We all have! There are many times in life when, mentally, we are in prison. The Lord has promised that He will come and deliver us from prison; to rescue us from that prison, if we but turn to Him, lift our thoughts to a higher level, want to rise above the limitations of time – of space – of personality, and see things more as He sees them, from an eternal and loving point of view.

Amen

1st Lesson Psalm 142
Luke 4-16
2nd lesson AC 5096


Arcana Coelestia

5096. Who were bound in the prison house. That this signifies which were among falsities, is evident from the signification of “being bound in a prison house,” as being to be among falsities (see n. 4958, 5037, 5038, 5085). They who are in falsities, and still more they who are in evils, are said to be “bound,” and in “prison”-not that they are in any bond, but for the reason that they are not in freedom, for those who are not in freedom are interiorly bound. For they who have confirmed themselves in falsity are no longer in any freedom to choose and receive truth; and they who have much confirmed themselves therein are not even in freedom to see truth, still less to acknowledge and believe it; for they are in the persuasion that falsity is truth, and truth falsity. This persuasion is such that it takes away all freedom to think anything else, and consequently holds the very thought in bonds and as it were in prison. This has become evident to me from much experience with those in the other life who have been in persuasion of falsity through confirmations in themselves. [2] They are such as not at all to admit truths, but to reflect or strike them back again, and this with hardness according to the degree of the persuasion, especially when the falsity is from evil, or when evil has persuaded them. These are they who are meant in the Lord’s parable in Matthew:–

Some seeds fell upon the hard way, and the birds came and devoured them (13:4);

the “seeds” are Divine truths; the “hard rock” is persuasion; the “birds” are principles of falsity. They who are such do not even know that they are in bonds or in prison, for they are affected with their own falsity, and love it for the sake of the evil from which it springs; hence they suppose that they are in freedom, for whatever is of the affection or love appears free. But they who are not in confirmed falsity–that is, in the persuasion of falsity–easily admit truths, and see and choose them, and are affected with them, and afterward see falsities as it were beneath themselves, and also see how they who are in the persuasion of falsity are bound. These are in so much freedom that in view and thought they can as it were range through the whole heaven to innumerable truths; but no one can be in this freedom unless he is in good; for from good man is in heaven, and in heaven truths appear from good.

Needing A Physician

Needing A Physician A Sermon by Rev Frank Rose Delivered in Sunrise Chapel, Tucson February 5, 1989

 When the fishermen worked in the waters of the Sea of Galilee and brought their catches to land, they knew that they would have to deal with tax collectors; after all, they were in occupied country. At the crossroad of the main roads leading from north through the land of Canaan, down into Egypt and everywhere around them, they saw reminders of Roman authority – the Roman power. They had very negative feelings about these tax collectors. In the first place, they were collaborators, Jewish people who had gone over to serve the Roman authorities and that by itself made them outcasts and undesirable. But the other thing is that the Romans had a system whereby the tax collector would collect for Rome and for himself and the Romans were only concerned about what they got and it was up to the tax collector to take whatever he wanted above that. So the people always had this sense that the tax collectors were taking too much, that they were growing wealthy at the expense of these simple fishermen and traders in the town and villages along the coast of Galilee, and they lived an opulent life style – they were wealthy people. It’s no wonder that in the Jewish community life tax collectors were ostracized – they were not allowed to attend the Synagogue – they were not allowed to hold certain positions of authority. Their social life had to be mostly with people like themselves – with foreigners – with strangers and societies outcasts – the sinners – the derelicts.

Imagine what it was like for the disciples, who had been fishermen and who found that they had been called to leave their nets to follow Jesus, but also a certain Levi, sitting at his custom booth, had been called. Now they would be working, side by side, with a man toward whom they had such negative feelings. They had now become partners with a Publican. And nothing is said in the gospels about that particular adjustment because the focus is on an even more challenging thing and that was the attitude of the Pharisees.

Now the Pharisees were good people. They were upright and law-abiding people. They knew the law and tried very hard to follow that law and it was very difficult for them to see Jesus calling simple, ordinary folk to become disciples and then selecting a man who was a publican, a tax collector. And then they watched in amazement as Levi, who was later called Matthew, invited his friends and Jesus to a feast to celebrate the fact that he had become a disciple. That house was full of people who had normally been rejected by society, so the Pharisees looked and murmured and talked to the other disciples and said, “Why does your master eat with Publicans and sinners?”

From their point of view they thought that the Messiah was going to come to save the nation – to deliver them from foreign domination – to make them a free and strong country once again and to avenge them of the harm done to them by the Egyptians, by the Assyrians, by the Babylonians, by the Greeks, by the Romans, by one nation after another. So they thought of the Messiah as being the “National Deliverer”, the one who would save the nation. And they had no conscious sense that they needed to be saved from anything. But here was a despised and rejected person, Levi, the tax collector and Jesus was eating at his house and associating with his friends. We find the familiar words in Luke 5:31 and 32, “Jesus answered and said to them, those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

In the course of our life we pass through the different phases represented by the people in the Word. A person who grows up with some sense of religious conscience, who tries to live a good life, a righteous life, might find it hard to see himself as a sinner. There was a young man who thought of himself in very good terms, who saw himself as being accepted by others as being a good, upstanding citizen and he didn’t stop to reflect on the fact that he had a secret life of drug abuse. Only his very close friends knew that; and he always thought to himself, I can stop anytime I want to – I’m in control – the drugs are not in control.’ Now, in that condition he was sick, but had no idea that he was sick.. In fact he would view himself as being very righteous. Of course, the Lord finds it difficult to talk to people in that condition. Until eventually things change and he had to look at the fact that his life was an utter mess and he could not control his drug abuse. And finally, on listening to someone talk, he really heard for the first time what prayer is all about, that in prayer we ask for things that we are powerless over ourselves – and the Lord really does answer prayer. So in his private prayer he finally admitted to the Lord, Lord, I’m sick – I need help.’ – and there was an instant change in his life just through that one confession – that one admission. And there were many things that followed to change that lifestyle and to find himself in a more orderly state; but that shock, that recognition of need was extremely important to his further spiritual growth.

There is a young man described in the Old Testament. He was handsome – he was courageous – he was very capable in many areas. He became famous for slaying the giant Goliath and for his conquest against the Philistines and eventually he became the most popular and powerful king that Israel had known. This is King David. We remember David largely through the Psalms. I’ve noticed that when I’ve made hospital visits and ask people, “What would you like me to read to you?’ they almost always ask for a Psalm – ” Read me one of the Psalms”. Now I remember as a young man finding it very difficult to know why people liked the Psalms. In some ways they are very gloomy. The Psalm we read as a first lesson, Psalm 51 begins “Have mercy upon me, oh God, according to your loving kindness; according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” When I was not conscious of my transgressions it just seemed like this was just wallowing – it did not speak to me. And then you notice the heading of the psalm, Psalm 51, written by David, after the prophet Nathan had confronted him because of his adultery with Bathsheba and because of his murder of Bathsheba’s husband. David developed a sense of need at that point, that never left him. He realized that spiritually he was a sick man, and no matter how popular he was or how good looking he was or successful he was in battle, he needed help and he could not help himself – he had gone beyond the limits of his own ability to control his life or to heal himself. And so he pours out in many of the Psalms, the prayer to God, ” Heal me, be my Physician.”

Most people, sometime or another in their life, come to that kind of self awareness and say I’m sick – I’m sick – I need help.’ If you never get to that point of course, you can’t be healed; a person who knows everything can’t be taught; the person who doesn’t realize that he’s fallen, can’t be raised up. The person who thinks he knows where he is, can’t be found – doesn’t realize he’s lost and the person who doesn’t know he’s sick can’t be healed.

This is why it is the law of divine providence that our tendency to love self above all else and to manipulate life for selfish purposes, must sooner or later come out so we recognize it and see it for all its ugliness. There is a time in our lives when we have the illusion that we’re made good, we’re made well, simply by association. We associate with good people; we read the Word; we go thru the rituals of the church and therefore everything should be fine. But that is the Pharisees position. It is finding your salvation in sacrifices – in rituals – in associations. You become saved because you belong to the right group of people and you do the right things. But there isn’t that inner sense, that profound desire to be healed, because, as yet, we have not seen the ugliness of certain aspects of human nature.

And so in the Lord’s providence, He allows us to go through experiences in which this can be revealed; as compared to a wound that has corruption inside and the wound must be lanced so that the corruption can come out. So there are times in our lives when we suddenly have to face the ugliness of our selfishness. It could be in the marriage relationship, thinking of ourselves as the loving, devoted husband, caring about our wife, caring about our husband or spouse and at a certain point we see how we are, actually abusing the relationship – we’re not really listening- we’re not really caring – we’re only in the relationship for what we’ll get out of it. There is that shock of self awareness and then the sense – I need help. I can not save myself . I cannot lift myself above my own self centeredness,’ and that’s when we call out for the Divine Physician.

The word mercy means love extended to people who are in miseries. So a person who doesn’t know that he is in miseries, has no need for mercy! He doesn’t ask for forgiveness or mercy from God; he just thanks God that he’s not like other people – thank God that I’m not like this Publican! And then in that story in the Word, that person recites everything that he has done- “I fast – I tithe – I do all these things therefore I’m not like other people.” And in that same description the other person praying can’t even lift his eyes to God, He just says, “Have mercy upon me, a sinner.’

It’s one of the reasons that life is hard so that eventually we face the reality of a life that is based only on self and a need for something higher that self; something that delivers us from the tyranny of selfishness; something that will give us a broader purpose in life than just own welfare and our own needs. And this is why people cannot really escape from addictions without turning to a higher power. You must have something higher than yourself. If you try to save yourself by your own power you only plunge yourself deeper into that particular form of spiritual misery.

Mercy comes from love, at the same time from pity, on the one whom He loves. And the Lord cannot exercise this pity from love until the sufferer himself sees and feels his own misery, that is to say, knows and acknowledges it. This is what repentance consists of. Then for the first time the sufferer is healed – like a wound healed by a physician which must be first opened up.

In those who place salvation in external sacrifices, the wounds are not opened for they imagine that they are made just by their sacrifices and that they are healed in that way. We seem to always look for some external means to heal us, some external formula or ritual, when the real healing only comes when we are face to face with the reality of the kind of life we would get if left only to ourselves and the wonderful fact that the Lord has given us higher loves and a higher destiny. And then we turn to the Lord and we find that there is an immediate healing – a sense of wholeness. And there’s a wonderful community that develops among people who know that they are sufferers that they are wounded people. A sense of camaraderie – we finally let go of this pretense that we’re perfect – that we all have our lives together and in the sense of acknowledgment of need, we become a family. A family of those who say, “Yes, I’m no better than anyone else. I also need the Divine Physician. I need to be healed.”

Interestingly there are two songs that express this aspect of human nature and sometimes these songs are looked at as being kind of sentimental and I think their popularity goes to the fact that they address this very deep human need. I’m thinking of the song “Amazing Grace” – “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

It’s wonderful to see a group of people singing that and you look around the room and they all seem like they got their lives together and yet they sing with tears in their eyes because they have come to an awareness of themselves “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

And the other song I’d like to remind you of is “Abide with Me.”. “Abide with me fast falls the even tide.” In that hymn there are the words “Help of the helpless, oh abide with me. I need your presence every passing hour.” It’s this recognition that turns us into spiritual beings – beings who are turning to something higher than themselves for their salvation. Opening their hearts and their lives beginning with this confession that of myself I’m sick, I’m wounded, but I also believe that I’ve been created by a loving God and that I’m destined for heaven itself and out of mercy and love, He will touch me and lift me up and bring me into everlasting habitations of peace and joy. Amen

Lessons:

Psalm 51
Luke 5:17
Divine Providence


281. IV. THUS THE PERMISSION OF EVIL IS FOR THE SAKE OF THE END, NAMELY, SALVATION.
It is well known that man is in full liberty to think and to will, but not in full liberty to say and to do whatever he thinks and wills. For he may think as an atheist, deny God and blaspheme the holy things of the Word and of the Church. He may indeed desire by word and deed to destroy them even to their extermination; but this is prevented by civil, moral and ecclesiastical laws; and he therefore inwardly cherishes these impious and wicked things, by thinking and willing and also purposing to do them, but not committing them. One who is not an atheist is also in full liberty to think many things that are of evil, such as things fraudulent, lascivious, revengeful and otherwise insane (spiritually); and at times he also commits them. Who can believe that unless man had full liberty not only could he not be saved but would even utterly perish?
[2] Hear now the reason for this. Every man from his birth is in evils of many kinds. These evils are in his will, and whatever is in the will is loved; for that which a man wills from his interior he loves, and that which he loves he wills, and the will’s love flows into the understanding and there causes its delight to be felt; and from that it enters into the thoughts and also into the intentions. If, therefore, man were not permitted to think in accordance with the love of his will, which is implanted in him by inheritance, that love would remain shut in and would never be seen by him; and a love of evil which does not make itself apparent is like an enemy in ambush, like matter in an ulcer, like poison in the blood and like corruption in the breast which, if they are kept shut in, cause death. But when a man is permitted to think the evils of his life’s love, so far even as to intend them, they are cured by spiritual means, as diseases are by natural means.
[3] It will now be shown what man would be like if he were not permitted to think in accordance with the delights of his life’s love. He would no longer be a man, for he would lose his two faculties called liberty and rationality, in which humanity itself consists. The delights of these evils would occupy the interiors of his mind to such a degree that they would open up the door. Then he would not be able to do otherwise than speak and commit such evils, and thus his insanity would be manifest not only to himself but also to the world, and he at length would not know how to cover his shame. In order that a man may not come into this state he is permitted indeed to think and to will the evils of his hereditary nature, but not to say and commit them; and in the meantime he learns civil, moral, and spiritual things. These enter into his thoughts and remove such insanities, and by means of this knowledge he is healed by the Lord; but yet no further than to know how to guard the door, unless he also acknowledges God and implores His help that he may be able to resist the insanities. Then so far as he resists them he does not admit them into his intentions, and eventually not even into his thoughts.
[4] Since, then, man is at liberty to think as he pleases, to the end that his life’s love may come forth from its lurking places into the light of his understanding, and since otherwise he would not know anything of his own evil, and consequently would not know how to shun it, it follows that the evil would so increase in him that there would be no possibility of amendment in him, and scarcely any in his children, should he have children; for the evil of the parent is transmitted to his offspring. The Lord, however, provides that this may not take place.

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