THE MAN OF GOD

THE MAN OF GOD

A Sermon by the Rev. James P Cooper.

“I have been told by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’ ” He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’ ” But he lied to him. (1KI 13:17-18)

We often think about the land of Israel as a single entity, but the fact is that throughout its entire history it was a deeply divided nation. In the north there were the ten tribes, sometimes known as the “Joseph” tribes, because the two main groups were Manasseh and Ephraim, the two tribes named for Joseph’s sons. The southern kingdom was made up of the tribes of Judah and Simeon but Simeon was almost completely absorbed by Judah and so is not named after the boundaries of the tribes were settles, and the tribe of Benjamin sometimes allied itself to the North and sometimes with the South.

Solomon alone, of all the kings of Israel ruled a unified, strong nation but his great building programs came only at a great cost and when Rehoboam took the throne upon Solomon’s death, he took the advice of his young friends instead of the elder statesmen. Instead of providing some tax relief for a burdened nation he instead proposed heavy taxes. The ten northern tribes revolted under Jeroboam and the north and the south were permanently divided. Never again was there one nation of Israel.

It is against this background that we can understand what was happening when Jeroboam was at the altar and the man of God was sent to him to prophesy against him. Jeroboam had just rebelled against the proper, chosen ruler of Israel and become the leader of a new nation, a nation that worshiped Jehovah but had no place to worship Him. Remember that when Moses first brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, the book of Exodus tells us that the first thing they did was build a wonderful tabernacle. A portable center of worship. They carried it with them across the wilderness and finally into the land of Israel itself, and this was their focus and center of worship. Eventually through the periods of the judges and then the kings, the tabernacle and its furniture and its articles of worship were brought into the temple built by Solomon.

The Tabernacle became the cultural and religious center for that whole nation, and because it was in a portion of Benjamin that was associated with the tribe of Judah, when the kingdoms divided the people in the north were unable to come to the tabernacle to worship. The Word tells us that Jeroboam knew that if the people were to travel down into the South, travel to the glory of Jerusalem they would be overcome by its beauty and they would soon begin talking among themselves and saying that this business of having two separate nations was not the right way to do it, and that they would soon choose to be united again which would probably mean death to him and to his family.

So Jeroboam, to protect himself and his position and his family, came up with the idea of creating an altar to two golden calves, and he created a place in Bethel where they worshipped idols. Of course we know that this was one of the most horrible things that you could do. The whole point of the worship of Jehovah was to worship one God, to shun this Canaanite temptation to worship many gods and to worship graven images. Here Jeroboam the king, supposedly the leader of a religious nation, was leading them into idolatry, and so the Man of God was sent to him to give him a warning.

We read what happened to him in the children’s talk; how the prophet came and called out and spoke to him and how his arm was withered and the alter split in two. We know these things happened. Jeroboam listened to those words for a time and we are told that later he went back to his old ways. The point that we need to pay attention to is what happened to this man of God, this prophet that was sent from Judah to Jeroboam with a powerful message, obviously truly a messenger of God because at his word miracles happened. The arm was withered, the alter split. He was not carrying a false image, or a false word. He was in fact a true prophet. A man of God. But when he was sent he was given a very specific order. The Lord told him: don’t come back the way you came. Don’t drink the water there, and don’t eat any bread while you’re there. He was to make a short journey to Bethel to deliver this message and return without eating or drinking.

We read in our third lesson, that the reason for this was that bread represents good and water represents truth and because Jeroboam had committed idolatry the good that he was doing was profaned. The truth that he taught was mixed with falsity and so to eat bread and to drink water in that land at that time would have represented an acceptance of this profanation – an adulteration of the truth. So the prophet was specifically told not to eat or drink in that land because it would represent the Word, the man of God, the Prophet, taking into itself something that was contaminated – adulterated. So very specifically in the lesson, a number of times, the prophet was told don’t eat bread, don’t drink water.

But he was tired, he was hungry, it was a long trip, it was a hot day and this other man comes up – the man the Word calls the “Old Prophet.” The Old Prophet has heard about the story, he says “Ah, a prophet from Judah has come, he’s done a miracle, I want to speak with him. I want to visit with him, I want to hear what the Lord has said through him.” And so we’re told that he saddled his donkey and went off and came to the man of God who was finding his way home and he said “Come to my house, refresh yourself, rest,” and the man of God told him, he said “I can’t, God told me I’m supposed to go home and not eat or drink here.” The Old Prophet then did something terrible. He said “I too am a prophet, and God told me that you’re supposed to come home with me,” and the Word says that he lied.

He had no call, he had no reason. The Lord hadn’t spoken to him, but he said He did.

Now we might think at first glance that in this story it’s the Old Prophet that’s at fault because he lied, and it’s true, he is at fault because he lied, but the man of God is not innocent either. He was in a situation where on the one hand he had a direct word that he heard with a living voice, in his own mind. God said, “Go straight home. Don’t eat any bread, don’t drink any water.” He heard it in his own mind – God’s own word. Then somebody else comes along and says “I tell you that God says something else.” Which did he listen to? He chose the easy way. He was thirsty, he was hungry. It was more convenient to believe what somebody else said God said, than what God Himself said, and so he made the choice, and he made the wrong choice.

He chose what somebody else said God said, and actually that’s the heart of the matter for all of us isn’t it? We face the same dilemma all the time. The Lord says in the Word that we should resolve our differences and be forgiving, but the hells whisper in our ears and lead us to dwell on our hatreds and plan ways of getting back for things said or done. When we know what the Word says, when we know the hells are whispering in our ears, which do we choose?

The Lord says in the Word – `Thou shalt not steal’ and then we’re tempted to do something. Maybe it’s that we bring supplies home from the office, or we exaggerate expenses thinking it doesn’t matter, because everyone does it. The Word says: “Do this,” other people say “We can interpret it to mean that.” Which do we choose?

The Lord says – `Thou shalt not murder’ but its so much fun to know secrets about other people’s lives, their problems, their disasters, their scandals, and to tell them to other people because they’re so interested, and by telling them to other people we are somehow elevated and made important ourselves. The Lord says – `Don’t murder, don’t take away someone’s life, their use’, and yet we know things and repeat things that do just that.

The Lord teaches us in the Word how to care for our children but the glossy magazines in the supermarkets give us lots of other ideas. To let someone else do it, or to use these interesting new methods.

The Lord tells us in the Word how to prepare ourselves for the most wonderful blessing of all, a lovely eternal marriage. He tells us that if we focus our minds and keep ourselves pure, and pray to the Lord for a lovely partner, one will be provided. Yet we look at the films and the books, the TV and the advertisements and we are bathed in a society that approves of adultery to the point where we begin to not only approve of it, but begin to think of it as normal.

The Word tells us that homosexuality is the worst form of adultery, but the people who teach political correctness say it’s an “alternative lifestyle.”

The Lord asks us to follow His commandments to prepare ourselves for heaven, and the reformed churches interpret Paul to say “All that it takes is faith.”

We could go on at some length to illustrate the choices and the contrasts that we have in our own life, the dilemma that we face. On the one hand the Word tells us certain things that in our own mind, are as clear as can be, and yet other people are telling us “No, no we think that the Word says something else,” and our own natural inclinations our own desires for pleasure and selfish needs allow us to listen to the wrong voice.

The two issues that this story revolve around are the same ones that rule our lives. The first is idolatry. Whom do we worship and why? The Word tells us that we should worship the Lord, but the Word also tells us that we will be tempted to worship the golden calves and all that they represent. The things of the world, the things of self. To put ourself above others, to worship things. That’s an issue for us, we have to be aware of it, we have to look to it. Jeroboam as king made the wrong choice. He wanted to prevent people, his own people, from going to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem represented the Church, where the Lord was. He wanted to present his own ideas in such a way that they would be so attractive that people would not go to the Lord.

We’re told in the Word that the love of self is not just a selfishness, a sense of wanting, “me first,” but in its higher sense it is to wish to take the place of the Lord, even the desire to kill the Lord, and that’s what Jeroboam was doing, wasn’t he? As the leader of his people he was putting himself in such a position of authority over their lives that he would prevent them from traveling down from their homes to the center of worship, and he substituted his own ideas for the Lord’s teaching. That’s really idolatry isn’t it? When we put ourselves above everything else.

The other issue is obedience. The Lord speaks to us so clearly on the one hand. The Word tells us these things that sometimes appear complicated, but in many places the Word speaks very plainly to us. On the other hand we have our friends who are doing thing and who want to have others doing the same things with them. We like to feel that somehow our activities and our thoughts are validated if lots of other people do them, and so we try to convince others to join us in doing things that we’re worried about, because somehow we feel that if lots of people are doing it, it must be OK. The hells use this. They whisper in our ear, they inspire our natural inclinations to do what is of the world.

Like the man of God, we have to make this choice between the clearly heard word of God on one hand, and what somebody else says God says on the other, and we must make it repeatedly. Are we going to listen to the Word of God which may be telling us something difficult or challenging? He says to us, “Don’t go back the same route, don’t drink water even though you’re thirsty, don’t eat bread even though you’re hungry. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired and hungry and thirsty because these things are contaminated. They’re spiritual death,” we’re told. Are we going to take the easy route? “I’m so tired and hungry and this fellow has written this wonderful article that says that God has told him that I am supposed to take it easy.”

We have to be aware that the hells are based on falsity and they lie. It says that the Old Prophet lied. The hells spoke through him and said that he should do the easy thing. It’s the hells that want us to take the easy route. It is hell that helps us think up all the different ways that we can change the names of sins so they sound much more acceptable so that we can do them anyhow and ignore the commandments. It is hell that encourages us to turn away from the Word of God and substitute something else, that in the light of day is ridiculous.

As we face these difficult choices in life, remember the prophet. Remember the choice he made by listening to the man of God, by listening to the Old Prophet, and its result. In Matthew 7:15-16 it says:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.

AMEN.

Lessons: 1KI 13:11-25, MAT 7:13-23, AC 9323:1,3

(Transcript by Gay Waters of a recording made 9 February, 1992 in Westville, South Africa)

WORKING IT OUT

WORKING IT OUT

A Sermon by the Rev. James P Cooper

Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. (Mat 18:19)

The subject for today is what happens when things go wrong between people. We are not really talking about the simple, easily resolved misunderstandings, the little things, but the big things, or when little things are allowed to go on, and anger begins to replace discomfort; when we end up with feelings of contempt, anger, jealousy, rage, even hatred. These are the things that happen when we allow our feelings to get out of control.

We feel these kinds of strong feelings when we believe that someone – whoever – is doing something to us that is malicious, that is consciously designed to do something to harm us.

Now let’s think about just that issue for a moment. How often can each of us honestly say that we’ve done something to someone else with a conscious, deliberate effort to harm them? In most cases the things that we do to others we’re doing because we genuinely believe it’s for the best. Either for the best in general or the best for that other person’s own good. Whenever something goes wrong, whenever there’s anger. We’re surprised when that other person says “How could you think that? that’s not what I meant. I was trying to …” and we try to explain that our intentions were good, and we’re always surprised and hurt when the other person thinks ill of us.

If that’s the case, logic indicates that we should give others the benefit of the doubt. We should also train ourselves, or remind ourselves, that other people, no matter what they say or do are trying to do what they think is right, or best, or helpful. Now a lot of problems could be solved if we would remember this simple idea: that we all are trying to do what we think is best in spite of the fact that we sometimes make errors, and it’s these errors that we’re thinking about now, because it’s the errors and the anger from them that the Lord was speaking about. We become angry with each other from time to time and we have to learn how to deal with that anger.

The Word tells us in the Arcana Coelestia that “brother” means neighbor, anyone not ourselves, immediate family, people over the whole world. The idea of neighbor is not to be limited just by racial group or family or nation. That it means everyone is because all of us recognize that the Lord is our Father and so we are all brothers in His care.

When there is anger, when there are problems, and the Lord recommended that certain steps be followed. It’s interesting to note that in researching this part of the Word the internal sense was not given to these steps because the steps themselves are what is meant. The internal sense and the natural sense are one and the same here. This is one of those places in the Word where the Writings teach that “the Word is like a man clothed,” in that in some places the internal sense is very deeply hidden, like under very many layers of clothing that have to be carefully peeled away. But other parts of the Word are like a man’s face or hands that stand forth without explanation.

The Lord said, the first thing you must do when you’re angry is to discuss the problem between you and him alone, and that may solve many problems. If it doesn’t, if there’s stubbornness or misunderstanding it may be necessary to go on, and the next step is to take two or three witnesses. The principle here is that in trying to establish what is the truth everyone’s memory is flawed and it often helps to have a number of different views. That’s how the court system works. You bring witnesses in to speak and as each one speaks and others are allowed to question and resolve the issues that arise, a clear picture of what really happened should emerge. The truth becomes apparent.

That may solve many problems, but if it doesn’t, the Lord says the third step is, if he still doesn’t hear you, to tell it to the Church. Now why the Church? It wouldn’t have made any sense for Him to say “take the man to Civil Court”, because in those days there was no such thing. It was the Church who served that role in the time that the Lord was in the world. It was the Chief Priests who were called, who the Lord was taken to when the Pharisees and the other priests got together to arrest Him. He was only taken to the Roman Governor Pilate because the Jewish Church did not have the authority to execute a prisoner, and so they had to take Him to Pilate if they wanted to put Him to death.

So the Lord did not mean that for us, today, that somehow the pastor of the Society, or the Bishop has any particular insight for solving problems. Although there are times when that can help too. The idea He was suggesting was that we should take our disputes to some authority that both parties will recognize. Where both parties will say “We’ll present both our cases as clearly as we can, and let this person, who is objective and has the principles of justice in mind, make the decision.”

Sometimes that doesn’t work either, and what happens then? What does the Lord say when parties take it to a higher authority and yet even though a decision is handed down, there is still anger and even hatred?

The next step He says is, “Let it go”. He says “Let him be as a publican and a sinner to you.” In other words, treat them as the people of the Jewish Church in those days would treat publicans and sinners: they would have nothing to do with them. He is telling us that not every problem can be solved, and there comes a time to let it go. What worldly dispute can be worth your eternal soul?

What did the Lord say in our lessons that we read today? What was the next thing He said after “let him be a publican and a sinner to you”? He said “What is bound on earth will be bound in heaven”. When you burn with enmity and hatred and revenge on earth, it can become a part of your life. When that becomes the focus of your life, it becomes a part of your character that you take with you into the other world. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to remember where those people gather who have bound anger and hatred and revenge and enmity to their characters, to their souls. The Lord allowed them to build hell for themselves and it is there that they gather together.

After the Lord taught that what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven and said that if we hold onto these things they become part of us and taint our souls, He said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them”. Think of this passage in its context. We’ve been talking about anger, we’ve been talking about hatred, we’ve been talking about people who are full of this horrible feeling, and then He suddenly talks about how people gather together in His name, that He will be with them. The contrast is obvious. What He is saying is when people are gathered together not in His name, but in anger and in dispute, then He is not present.

Apocalypse Explained number 411 says. The Lord’s name means everything by which He is worshipped and as He is worshipped by means of truth from good, which is from Him, so this is meant by “His name.” When people come together in charity, when they do what is good because they have learned what is true from the Word, then there is concord, there is harmony. That is the life of heaven, and the Lord is present, and it is clear from the context what the Lord is saying. When there is dispute, He is not present.

So the point is clearly made that when there are disputes we should do everything we possibly can to clear them up and if we cannot clear them up by reasonable means we need to let the matter go for the sake of our own souls. We need to forgive, to let it go.

Peter, understanding exactly this point, says to the Lord “Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? up to seven times.” and the Lord answers “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Mat 18:21)

Divine Providence 280 speaks to this point saying, The Lord remits the sins of all: He does not accuse and impute. Yet He can take them away only in accordance with the laws of His Divine Providence; for He said to Peter, when he asked how often he should forgive a brother sinning against him, whether seven times, That he should forgive not only seven times but until seventy times seven. (Mat 18:21,22) (If a man is to forgive another man seventy times, or continually) What then will not the Lord do who is Mercy itself?

And further about the number 7: Arcana Coelestia 433 tells us, That the number “seven” is holy, originates in the fact that the “seventh day” signifies the celestial man, the celestial church, the celestial kingdom, and, in the highest sense, the Lord Himself. Hence the number “seven,” wherever it occurs in the Word, signifies what is holy, or most sacred; and this holiness and sanctity is predicated of, or according to, the things that are being treated of. When anything most holy or sacred was to be expressed, it was said “seventy-sevenfold,” as when the Lord said that a man should forgive his brother not until seven times, but until seventy times seven (Mat. xviii. 22), by which is meant that they should forgive as many times as he sins, so that the forgiving should be without end, or should be eternal, which is holy.

There is no way that while living in this natural world with its confusion and error that we can avoid giving offenses entirely. Therefore we must be forgiving and we need to be forgiven, and that is why the next thing that comes in this sequence, this passage of the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, is the parable of The Unforgiving Servant.

Just to remind you briefly what happened: There was a man who owed the King 10 000 talents. Now for us to try to understand just how great a debt that is, Biblical reference works tell us that we should regard that number in terms of today’s money as being the entire annual budget of a small country. It is so much money for an individual as to be unimaginable. We’re not to worry about how he got into that debt in the first place, but the idea is that here is a man who owes more money than it could ever be possible for him to repay. The King calls him and he goes to the King who says “Pay me what you owe.” The man says “I cannot, I don’t have it, I can’t pay.” And the King says “All right it doesn’t matter, you’re forgiven, you don’t owe me anything.” The story goes on that immediately that man, having just been forgiven a most phenomenal, unimaginable debt, goes out and runs into a man who owes him a denarius – one day’s pay, an easy amount to pay. We’re told that this fellow who has just been forgiven a huge debt grabs the other man by the throat, flings him onto the ground and demands that he pay right now. When the man is unable to pay immediately he has him cast into debtor’s prison. The King hears of this, calls the servant back and says “As you have been unforgiving I take back what I said. You now owe me the debt.” and it says that he was sent to the torturers until he should pay every cent. The image is clear: that because of the size of his debt, to stay with the torturers until he should pay, means to eternity.

This whole lesson from the eighteenth chapter of Matthew follows a sequence and the lesson is quite clear. How can anything that anyone can owe us compare to the debt that we owe the Lord? He is willing to forgive us massive debts. The Doctrine of Regeneration says that you don’t have to correct every sin, or every evil inclination from the time you are born. You only have to start the process. It says that if you, as often as you prepare for the Holy Supper, once or twice a year, look to your sins, you repent, reform, and begin a new life, it is sufficient to put you on the road to heaven. It doesn’t say that you have to accomplish everything. Just begin the process.

The debt we owe is enormous and yet the Lord is willing to forgive if we will make the effort. However, He will forgive us only if we do one thing, only if we forgive others. All this anger, all these problems we have in the world are minor compared to the debt that we owe the Lord. And if we wish to be forgiven by Him, if we wish to enter into the spiritual world bound with things of charity and kindness (rather than anger and hatred), we must practice charity and kindness in our lives here. For the Lord Himself taught, “That which is bound on earth will be bound in Heaven.”

[Tie back to Working it out, Letting it go]

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray to the Lord for Him to “forgive our debts as we also forgive our debtors.” Remember what Peter said in our text: “Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Mat. 18:21-22)

Lessons: GEN 4:1-9, MAT 18:15-22, AE 1015

(Transcribed by Gay Waters from a tape made 2 February, 1992 at Westville, South Africa)

3rd Lesson: AE 1015.

[2] Since hatred, which is to will to kill, is the opposite of love to the Lord and also of love towards the neighbor, and since these loves are what make heaven with man, it is evident that hatred, being thus opposite, is what makes hell with him.

[3] Since hatred and love are direct opposites, and since hatred in consequence constitutes hell with man, just as love constitutes heaven with him, therefore the Lord thus teaches :- Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you are thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (Mat. v. 23-26).

To be delivered to the judge, and by the judge to the officer, and by him to be cast into prison, describes the state of the man who is in hatred after death from his having been in hatred against his brother in the world, “prison” meaning hell, and “to pay the last farthing” signifies the punishment that is called everlasting fire.

The Lost Sheep

The Lost Sheep

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, July 20, 2014

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ (LUK 15:6)

  1. The angels themselves struggle with hell to protect us, they give us states of good and truth to moderate the effects of the evils we choose for ourselves, and when we clearly see that we must repent of evil and learn to live well, they rejoice for the sheep that was lost!
    1. But the Word says that they rejoice more for the lost sheep who is found than for the 99 that were never lost. Should we, for the sake of the angels’ happiness, experiment with evil, deliberately loose ourselves, so the angels can have the joy of a repentant sinner?
      1. It sometimes appears that the only way to prepare for life is to experience sin.
      2. We talk about “sowing wild oats” as if it’s a good thing to do
      3. And this view seems to be supported by the parable of the prodigal son who lives in all manner of wickedness, and yet is welcomed home – much to the disgust of his orderly and self-disciplined brother.
    2. Does the Word really teach that we should get out there and experience sin (especially young people) for the sake of our spiritual health?
  2. The Lost Son/Sheep
    1. Took his inheritance early
    2. Moved from the farm to the big city, representing a move from heaven to hell
        1. My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. (ISA 5:1)
        2. The kingdom of heaven is like a sower…
        3. Sodom and Gommorah
    3. Wasted his inheritance with riotous living
      1. Became a swineherd to survive.
      2. Hit bottom” and returned home, humbled.
      3. Was received by his father with joy.
    4. We are tempted to take the point of view of the son that stayed at home
      1. We are resentful that others can “have fun” and “get away with it”
    5. We have to think about it from the point of view of the Lord’s own kingdom:
      1. In heaven, no one gets lost.
      2. In heaven, there are no evil people making evil choice that harm the innocent.
      3. In heaven, people learn about evil through the merest suggestion and are so horrified that they flee from it.
        1. Children in heaven are taught about evil through plays that merely suggest it – like MacBeth.
    6. The world that we live in, on the other hand, is not heaven, because there is evil in it.
      1. Evil is only permitted by the Lord when it can be eventually turned to good. For example:
        1. The sale of Joseph into Egypt by his brothers: “But now, do not therefore be grieved nor angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God. (GEN 45:5-8)
        2. The car crash of that saves lives by making others more cautious
    7. But it is extremely important to realize that when it comes to the Divine Providence, to “permit” is not to “will” or “intend”
      1. It’s one thing when a parent “permits” a child to go to the park. It’s entirely different when the Lord, grieving, permits evil.
      2. AC 2768 But its being said that “God did tempt,” is according to the sense of the letter, in which temptations and many other things are attributed to God; but it is according to the internal sense that God tempts no one; but in the time of temptations is continually liberating from them, as far as possible, or as far as the liberation does not do harm, and is continually looking to the good into which He is leading him who is in the temptations; for God never takes part in temptations in any other manner; and though it is predicated of Him that He permits, still it is not according to the idea which man has of permission, namely, that by permitting He concurs.

        Man cannot comprehend it in any other manner than that he who permits is also willing; but it is the evil within the man which causes, and even leads into the temptation. (See also AC 7877:5, 10778)

  3. In conclusion, thinking about this paradox, we can turn to the work Conjugial Love for an illustration.
      1. The first part is so beautiful and ideal that it is hard for us to comprehend or even believe it.
        1. Visions of angel couples in the various heavens.
        2. Their incredible innocence and genuine love for each other.
      2. The second half is shocking in its acceptance of sexual disorders to the point that many have seriously tried to suppress it.
    1. This dichotomy illustrates at once the Lord’s great love and hope for us and at the same time recognizes that we all will fail to some degree, and that He is merciful.
    2. In the Word, the sensual, is represented by a serpent
      1. There are two ways to find out if a snake is dangerous:
        1. To pick it up and see if you die when it bites you, or
        2. To read a book about snakes and learn to recognize and avoid the dangerous ones.
    3. Like any parent, our Heavenly Father wants us to do the right thing.
      1. He shows us the way. The Word is full of stories of people doing evil, and the horrible consequences of that evil:
        1. Achan’s sin at the battle of Ai.
        2. David and Bathsheba.
        3. Ahab and Jezebel.
      2. The Lord hopes that we will read these stories, imagine them in our minds, discover the consequences of evil in that way, and avoid sin by learning from the mistakes of others.
      3. He alerts us to the dangers
      4. You don’t have to get lost, to get in trouble.
        1. You can learn from the experiences of others.
        2. There is always the danger that you’ll enjoy yourself too much and delay returning to order until it is too late for salvation.
    4. But also, like any parent, His love is unconditional, and without end
      1. He tries to keep us from getting lost
      2. But He doesn’t give up on us if we do.
        1. He looks for us until we allow Him to find us. Then He dusts us off, sets us on our feet, and gives us another chance, hoping that we have learned something that will help us do better in the future.
        2. And when the lesson is learned, and we return to the flock, He rejoices.
          1. Not because we have sinned, but because we have finally learned not to sin, and can begin to do what is genuinely good because it is from Him.

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ (LUK 15:6) Amen.

First Lesson: Luke 15

Second Lesson: AC 5992

The angels, through whom the Lord leads and also protects a man, are near his head. It is their office to inspire charity and faith, and to observe in what direction the man’s delights turn, and in so far as they can, without interfering with the man’s freedom, moderate them and bend them to good. They are forbidden to act with violence and thus break the man’s cupidities and principles; but are enjoined to act gently. It is also their office to rule the evil spirits who are from hell, which is done in innumerable ways, of which the following only may be mentioned. When the evil spirits pour in evils and falsities, the angels insinuate truths and goods, which, if not received, are nevertheless the means of tempering. Infernal spirits continually attack, and the angels protect; such is the order.

[2] The angels especially regulate the affections, for these make the man’s life, and also his freedom. The angels also observe whether any hells are open that were not open before, and from which there is influx with the man, which takes place when the man brings himself into any new evil. These hells the angels close so far as the man allows, and remove any spirits who attempt to emerge therefrom. They also disperse strange and new influxes that produce evil effects.

[3] Especially do the angels call forth the goods and truths that are with a man, and set them in opposition to the evils and falsities which the evil spirits excite. Thus the man is in the midst, and does not perceive either the evil or the good; and being in the midst, he is in freedom to turn himself either to the one or to the other. By such means do angels from the Lord lead and protect a man, and this every moment, and every moment of a moment; for if the angels were to intermit their care for a single moment, the man would be precipitated into evil from which he could never afterward be brought out. These things the angels do from the love they have from the Lord, for they perceive nothing more delightful and happy than to remove evils from a man, and lead him to heaven. That this is a joy to them, see Luke 15:7. Scarcely any man believes that the Lord takes such care of a man, and this continually from the first thread of his life to the last of it, and afterward to eternity. Amen.

The Two Kings

The Two Kings

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (MAT 2:1,2)

  1. Israel was the Promised Land
    1. Ruled by God Himself
      1. Provided the people kept the their side of the covenant
      2. A land of milk and honey
    2. But the people became more and more external
      1. Ruled by prophets
      2. Ruled by kings (to be like the other nations)
      3. Civil war divided them into two nations
      4. Israel ceased to exist as a nation in 721 BC
      5. Judah was carried away into Babylon in 586 BC
      6. Although Jews continued to live in Canaan, they were ruled by others
        1. Babylon
        2. Greece
  2. Herod
    1. Rome installed puppet kings, men who were local by birth, but loyal to Rome.
    2. Herod was an Edomite, descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother
      1. Usually called “Herod the Great” to distinguish him from his son (the “Herod” of the Easter story).
      2. A cruel tyrant, willing to do anything to protect his own power
      3. He murdered members of his own family to protect his son’s right of succession
      4. He persecuted all who had even the slightest claim to the throne, especially the Royal House of David
      5. On the other hand, he did rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and began many other great building projects in Israel
        1. Another example of his love of the things of the world
          1. An illustration of the teaching in Divine Providence that the evil are permitted power and great riches because they cannot be further harmed by them, and in trying to appear good, they may use their riches to do great good for others! (DP 250:3)
      6. The Lord was born near the end of his reign
    3. We can understand why Herod was troubled by the Wise Men
      1. He was not the legitimate ruler of the Jews
        1. If the Jews became free of the Romans, they would remove him.
        2. It is said “All Jerusalem” was troubled
          1. meaning all those who depended on Herod for their power
    4. We know that Herod was a hypocrite
      1. because he said that he wished to find the new king to worship him.
      2. The sphere of Herod (and those he represented in Jerusalem) was such that they star could not be seen there, even by the wise men.
    5. The final proof of his character is the murder of many innocent children
    6. In spite of all his efforts to live forever, Herod died, while it is the Lord that lives forever.
      1. Herod represents the struggle to maintain natural life (and wealth) at all costs which will always fail.
  3. Jesus
    1. Of the Royal Family of David through both His mother and foster father.
    2. Born in Bethlehem
      1. Benjamin was born there
      2. Rachel, Jacob’s second wife was buried there
      3. David himself was born there
        1. Which is why Bethlehem is also called the “city of David”
        2. As is Jerusalem, which he conquered and made his capitol.
    3. All the prophecies showed that He was to be a king
      1. but by His choice of birth places, the stable, He showed what kind of king. It is said in the seventh verse of the same chapter that this was done “because there was no place in the inn,” an “inn” signifying a place of instruction. Because this was the state with the Jews, who were then in mere falsities, through the adulteration of the Word, this was signified by “there was no place in the inn;” for if it had pleased the Lord He might have been born in a most splendid palace, and have been laid in a bed adorned with precious stones; but He would thus have been with such as were in no doctrine of truth, and there would have been no heavenly representation. (WORD 19)
      2. In particular, by contrast with the kind of king Herod was
        1. The Writings teach that one of the reasons that evil is permitted in the world is that by means of it, good is seen more clearly.
        2. The rational mind requires data to work. It must weigh the value of different thoughts, compare them, and finally make a decision. But in order for it to function, there must be a variety of input, a selection of options that are genuinely different, so the differences can be clearly seen.
        3. For example, the picture that we have of Herod as king, and the picture we have of the Lord as king.
  4. The wonderful thing is we get to choose which king is to rule our lives
    1. In spite of all his efforts, Herod died, while the Lord lives forever.
      1. Herod as king represents the struggle to maintain life at all costs
        1. which will always fail
      2. The Lord as king represents the willingness to let go of the world
        1. and to gain spiritual life.
    2. When the Word speaks about the Wise Men, it does not only mean ancient Syrian kings
      1. But all those who wish to be wise will follow their example.
        1. Which king did they seek?
        2. Which king did they ignore?
        3. Which king did they worship?

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” … And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. (MAT 2:1,2,11) Amen.

First Lesson: JER 31:15-17

Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.” {16} Thus says the LORD: “Refrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD, And they shall come back from the land of the enemy. {17} There is hope in your future, says the LORD, That your children shall come back to their own border. Amen.

Second Lesson: Mat 2:13-18

{13} Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” {14} When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, {15} and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” {16} Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. {17} Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: {18} “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” Amen.

Third Lesson: WORD 19

. …That the science of correspondences remained with many oriental nations until the coming of the Lord, may be evident from the wise men from the East, who came to the Lord when He was born. Therefore a star went before them, and they brought with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

It was also said to the shepherds, in order that they might know that it was the Lord Himself, that it should be a sign unto them, that they should see Him in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, because there was no place in the inn.

The star” which went before the wise men signified knowledge from heaven, for stars in the Word signify knowledges.

The gold” signified celestial good, “frankincense” spiritual good, and myrrh” natural good; all worship being from these three.

The manger” in which the infant Lord was found by the shepherds, signifies spiritual nourishment, because horses, which are fed from a manger, signify intellectual things.

The inn” where there was no place signified the Jewish Church, in which at that time there was no spiritual nourishment, because everything of the Word and thence everything of worship with them, had then been adulterated and perverted. Hence it is said that this would be for a sign to them that it was the Word (Luke ii. 12).

They do not acknowledge the Lord, although the whole Sacred Scripture prophesied concerning Him, and predicted Him they rejected Him for this sole reason, that He taught them of the heavenly kingdom, and not concerning an earthly kingdom, for they wanted a Messiah who would exalt them above all nations in the whole world, and they did not wish any Messiah who would provide for their eternal salvation.

The Masculine and Feminine Response to the Divine

The Masculine and Feminine Response to the Divine

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, Dec. 26, 2004

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him. (MAT 2:2)

The story of the Lord’s birth is perhaps the best known and loved of all the stories of the Word. In it we not only hear the facts surrounding the Lord’s birth on earth, which in itself is amazing and a thing full of wonder, but we also hear how different people responded to the news as they heard it. In particular, the good news of the Lord’s birth on earth was revealed to two groups of people, the Wise Men and the Shepherds, and by studying their response to the news, we can learn many things about the different ways the will and understanding respond to the Lord when He shows Himself to them through the Word, and by analogy something about the masculine and feminine response to the Divine.

The story of the Wise Men is found only in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew was a Jew whom, we believe, was writing primarily for a Jewish audience. This is the reason Matthew frequently quotes passages from the Old Testament to support and illustrate what he describes. It also served to show how Jesus was the Messiah because He fulfilled the many prophecies of the Old Testament. Matthew was trying to appeal to people through the presentation of the truths relating to the Lord. He was presenting a variety of facts, and inviting his audience to examine them and draw their own conclusions.

The Writings tell us that the “Wise Men” were a group of scholars who had the Science of Correspondences from the remnant of the Ancient Church. Because they are identified with the search for and study of truth, and in the Word the masculine represents truth, The Wise Men represent the masculine response to the Lord’s Coming.

The Writings further tell us that there were “Wise Men” in many of the Near Eastern countries at that time. However, the Wise Men who actually traveled to see the Lord came from Syria. They knew the prophesies of the coming Messiah. Their studies told them what to look for, and where to look, and eventually their work was rewarded. They saw the star and followed it over deserts and mountains into a distant country.

The fact that the star lead them on a curving route and the fact that no one else was able to see it tells us that the star was actually an angelic society. The Wise Men’s spiritual eyes had to be opened in order for them to see the sign, but even so it appeared small and distant to them, like a star.

The trip that the Wise Men undertook was long and difficult, full of turns and hills and difficulties. They had to make camp or find lodging every night and their animals had to be cared for. They had to deal with Herod, the lying, murderous king in Jerusalem. But they were determined, and they overcame the difficulties and finally arrived at the house where the young child was, and gave to Him gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Then, after having made such a long and difficult journey, they went home secretly and told no one else about what they had seen and done.

Luke was a friend of Mary’s, and there are many places in his gospel where it is clear that he was writing his gospel from her point of view and from a personal knowledge of her actions and thoughts. In its natural, external form, this Gospel appears to be written from the woman’s point of view. It is therefore appropriate that the shepherds’ experience is recorded only in Luke. The shepherds’ experience was totally different from that of the Wise Men. Shepherds are, obviously, keepers of sheep. Sheep, like little children, represent innocence, so shepherds can be seen to be a symbol for the feminine use of the protection and care of little children. When the angels presented themselves to the shepherds, we see represented the feminine response to the Lord’s Coming.

Unlike the Wise Men, the shepherds were very near by when the birth took place. They were not scholars or students of the Ancient Word but people in “simple good.” While they were watching their sheep the angel appeared to them, not as a star like that seen by the Wise Men, but as an angel. As soon as they saw it and heard the message their reception of it was so clear and immediate that they were able to draw even nearer and perceive that it was not just one angel, but a whole heavenly society. So inspired and moved by the experience, they went immediately and directly to the stable to see the newborn babe and His mother. After they had seen the infant they went out and spread the news widely.

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that a husband’s wisdom is rational, while the wisdom of the wife is perceptive. It should be immediately apparent that there is a pattern here, that the Wise Men represent the masculine response to the Lord, while the shepherds represent the feminine response.

It is very difficult to calmly talk about this subject these days. It has become a highly emotional issue because it deals with the self-esteem of men and women, and especially with the way we measure self-worth. Our present form of social structure is centered around wealth. We measure ourselves and each other by how much money we have. Historically, men have been inclined to direct themselves towards activities that create wealth. Women’s traditional roles have focused on creating and nurturing things other than wealth – and in many ways things far more important! But because society at large has come to measure the value of our contribution by natural wealth, women have begun to move away from their traditional areas into wealth creating fields so that they can use the amount of money they earn to measure their self-worth by the same standards that men are measured by. Perhaps a better solution might have been to use a different system for measuring self-worth.

Every human being, male and female, has been created in the image and likeness of God because every human mind is able to both will and understand. The will and understanding parts of the mind correspond to the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom in God. If we wish to understand how these two faculties relate to each other, all we need to do is fully comprehend the relationship of the heart and lungs in our own bodies. The lungs represent the understanding, the heart represents the will. The heart and lungs compliment each other because they are totally different in every aspect of their physiology and function. There are a lot of things we can say about the heart and lungs and their differences, but the one thing you cannot say is which one of them is “better” than the other. If you had to choose, which one would you do without? To be without either is instant death.

This sermon is intended to direct our attention to certain spiritual truths that underlie these issues, truths that are from the Lord through the Word and which were given so that in the relationships between men and women (and in the marriage relationship in particular) we might become true partners, like the heart and lungs, not the same but complimentary to eternity.

The husband who is in rational wisdom, like the Wise Men, takes the long, roundabout route. He studies, he meditates, and he makes lists. He collects and studies facts so that he will know how to feel. But once the journey is made he is ready to take the decision and stand by it, fortified by many strong reasons.

The wife’s wisdom is perceptive and has a very different nature because it is led by love and jumps directly to the “heart” of the question. But although we tend to see things in terms of competition, the attainment of wisdom is not a race. The wife depends on her husband’s plodding rationality to provide the details that flesh out the structure of what she has already seen clearly.

The Wise Men and the Shepherds each responded differently to the announcement from heaven that the Lord was born on earth. Men and women respond differently to the Lord’s presence with us through His Word. The Wise Men were “in the East” when they saw the star because to be “in the East” represents to be in a state of the affection of truth from the Word. Their studies enabled them to see a small glimmer of the truth which they then pursued over a long and difficult journey. The Shepherds, representing perceptive wisdom, received the announcement of the Lord’s birth and instantly perceived its importance, represented by the single angel suddenly appearing as a whole Society of Heaven. Inspired by love, the shepherds rushed into action, they gave Him the gifts of their worship and the proclamation His birth. Some time after – in the literal sense perhaps a year or more – the Wise Men finally arrived with their own gifts.

Can you imagine what the Christmas story would be like without either the shepherds or the Wise Men? Can you imagine what life would be like without a heart or lungs? Can you imagine a human mind that is totally intellectual without anything of affection or a human mind that has only an affectional response without any thought? Can you imagine a true church that does not balance doctrine with life? Of course not, because these are all human things, created in the image and likeness of God with the affectional and the intellectual working together to create a balanced whole.

If we can accept that the star appeared to the Wise Men and the Shepherds at the same time, we see a description of how the Lord enters our lives. Our first response to the Lord’s Word is affectional, like that of the shepherds. We feel excited and enthused, and full of happiness because we are learning about how the Lord loves us. Then when the excitement wears off we begin to think about the implications of what we have heard, the difficulties that will have to be identified and faced, the temptations and trials as we discover and remove the evils in ourselves. This is represented by the journey of the Wise Men. But as long as the affectional response still burns within, the difficulties are overcome, understanding becomes full, and the Lord gives us the gift of new loves. That we feel these new loves as our own, and that we recognize our need to thank the Lord for His gifts to us is represented by the Wise Men, at the end of their long journey, giving the young child their gifts. The gifts of the Wise Men represent Natural, Spiritual, and Celestial good that come into our lives from the deliberate application of truth.

Our lives travel full circle. From the first affection for truth that leads us to read the Word in the first place, to the long years of struggle to understand how these truths are to find their place in our lives, to the eventual birth of the Lord in our hearts through the process of regeneration, and the delights that we feel as a result. Our spiritual lives are a mirror of the Christmas story.

The true relationship between men and women, as intended by creation the Lord can also be seen. Each has their own part to play. Each has their own unique qualities to contribute, and each has much to gain from the other, and as they work together the Lord’s presence with them grows from infancy to maturity. We work together to give to the Lord gifts of charity towards other, and He responds with the gift of Conjugial love. And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (MAT 19:4-6) AMEN.


First Lesson: Luke 2:8-20

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. {9} And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. {10} Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. {11} “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. {12} “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” {13} And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: {14} “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” {15} So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” {16} And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. {17} Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. {18} And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. {19} But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. {20} Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. Amen.

Second Lesson: Mat 2:1-11

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, {2} saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” {3} When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. {4} And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. {5} So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: {6} ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” {7} Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. {8} And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” {9} When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. {10} When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. {11} And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Amen.

Third Lesson: CL 156 (portions)

An inclination and also a capacity for conjunction as though into one was implanted in man and woman from creation, and man and woman still have this inclination and capacity in them. That this is so appears from the book of creation, and at the same time from what the Lord said … in Matthew:

Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning … male and female …, said, “For this reason a man shall leave father and mother and cling to his wife, and the two shall be as one flesh”? Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. (Matthew 19:4-6)

2 It is apparent from these verses that they each have both an inclination and a capacity for reuniting themselves into one.

(1) Each sex has implanted in it from creation a capacity and inclination that gives them the ability and the will to be joined together as though into one.

(2) Conjugial love joins two souls and thus two minds into one.

(3)A wife’s will unites itself with her husband’s understanding, and the husband’s understanding in consequence unites itself with his wife’s will.

(8) In order that this union may be achieved, a wife is given a perception of her husband’s affections, and also the highest prudence in knowing how to moderate them.

(10) This perception is a wisdom that the wife has. A man is not capable of it, neither is a wife capable of her husband’s intellectual wisdom.

(17) These duties also join the two into one, and at the same time make a single household, depending on the assistance they render each other.

(18) According as the aforementioned conjunctions are formed, married partners become more and more one person.

(19) Partners who are in a state of truly conjugial love feel themselves to be a united person and as though one flesh. Amen.


Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

 

Dry Bones

Dry Bones

An Extemporaneous Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


Thus says the Lord God to these bones “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.” (EZE 37:5,6)

There are two themes in this vision revealed to Ezekiel

Teaching about the Life after Death to the Jewish Church

How the Lord had the power to bring dry bones to life

Spiritual life, not life in the world

The vision goes on to describe how the graves would be opened and how the dead would live again in Israel

Clearly a parable of resurrection and spiritual life

Everywhere in the Word, when it talks of the death of anyone, the internal sense carries the meaning of the resurrection of the spirit into eternal life.

Illustration of the process of regeneration

How from being dry bones

(a representation of the structure of truths that form the foundation of the human mind)

Through our efforts as if from self

(the doctrine of freedom requires that the decision to act be ours, even though the power to effect the change comes from God.)

I like to think of the passage where the Lord tells us that we can move mountains with our faith and prayers

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, it will be done. “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Lots of people picture saying a “magic” word and seeing the mountain fly away but consider what you can do with a bulldozer.

Any one of us, man, woman, or child, could sit in the seat of a bulldozer and buy moving a few levers, move a mountain.

The power to move earth is in the machine, the decision to move it is in the mind. That s the as-of-self. The decision to take a direction and to focus the spiritual power that has been given to us.

The Lord gives us sinew and flesh

(the good that comes from truth, the benefits to ourselves and others that come from acting according to the truth we have from the Word in spite of our inclinations not to.)

So that we can become living angels

Life after Death

We will treat this only in passing, as this is not really addressed to our states, but to the end of the Jewish Church so that the remnant of that church would have these truths on which to build the doctrine of the spiritual world.

Little knowledge in the Old Testament

Most Jews did not believe at all

Some believed in Reincarnation

Some, like the Pharisees, believed in some kind of afterlife

The rest believed that people only live on in the memories of those left behind

Instead, we will emphasize the parable about our spiritual lives

That in and of ourselves, we are nothing but dry bones

Proprium

This is the doctrine of the Proprium which is the way the Writings explain the difference between what is inherently one s own, and what of our own is a gift from the Lord.

Proprium is a Latin word that means “what is one s own” or “what is proper to a thing.” Some translators of the Writings have simply called it “man s Own.”

We could think of it as that part of our minds that is made up of natural substances and which can serve as a vessel to hold and contain the life that flows in from the Lord, making it possible for us to have conscious life.

Each individual human being has a Proprium which is different from all others, because it reflects each person s unique hereditary gifts, and the unique series of experiences and choices that are a part of every person s life.

The Proprium is a vessel of life, and as such will serve each person to eternity, literally shaping the course of their lives. That is why it is so important to learn truth and to do it in this world, for in such a way the Proprium is changed from something dead, to something heavenly.

The Lord also has a Proprium, but His is not a vessel of life, but actually is life itself, as we read in a portion of the 3rd lesson

AC 149. [2] The Proprium of man, when viewed from heaven, appears like a something that is wholly bony, inanimate, and very ugly, consequently as being in itself dead, but when vivified by the Lord it looks like flesh. For man s Proprium is a mere dead thing, although to him it appears as something, indeed as everything. Whatever lives in him is from the Lord s life, and if this were withdrawn he would fall down as dead as a stone for man is only an organ of life, and such as is the organ, such is the life s affection. The Lord alone has what is Proper to Himself; by this Proprium He redeemed man, and by this Proprium He saves him. The Lord s Proprium is Life, and from His Proprium, man s Proprium, which in itself is dead, is made alive.

AC 38126 Dry bones stands for the understanding side of the proprium, which is lifeless until it receives the life of good from the Lord. The latter life is what quickens it or brings life to it. The flesh which the Lord causes to come up over the bones is the will side of the proprium, which is called the heavenly proprium, and so means good. Spirit means the Lord s life, and when this flows into a person s good which he seems to himself to will and reform from his proprium, the good is in that case made alive, and from that good the truth also; and out of the dry bones a human being is made.

But if, through our own efforts, we begin the process of regeneration

TCR 594 Man s regeneration is described in Ezekiel by the dry bones being first clothed with sinews.&

The breath of life comes from God

Sinew, flesh, and skin appear on our bones

This reveals the astonishing truth that although feelings seem to be our own, they are entirely under the Lord s control.

Try to change your feelings by just deciding to. You can t. Any more than you can change your heartbeat by thinking about it.

You can change your heartbeat by exercise, though. And you change your feelings by acting according to truth. Then the feelings follow where truth leads.

Truth, the dry bones, is our realm. Good, the muscle, is God s gift.

And only when these come together do we become living, useful, eternal human beings.

Parallel to the living water offered to the Woman of Samaria

We go through life believing that life is our own, that we are immune from the penalties suffered by lesser people

Our well was given to us by our father, Jacob!

We love our own myths, our illusions about ourselves and others

The Lord allows crises

Because they disturb, wake us up, cause us to look at ourselves and our lives honestly

The Woman at the well was living in the illusion that her life was fine

Under the Lord s gentle questioning she was suddenly, acutely aware of her need for His living water

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (JOH 415)

Life is not our own, although it feels that way

It is a gift from the Lord, re-given every instant.

It is our responsibility to revere and protect it

To build a suitable vessel that is whole

Take the framework of truth from the Word and from the world, and live according to it as if from our own power while recognizing that the real power is with God, and He will then give us the gift of a great variety of goods that will make us a complete and living whole, suitable for life in heaven.

We read from Ezekiel

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” ” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. (EZE 377-10) Amen.

1st Lesson EZE 371-11

The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. {2} Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. {3} And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” {4} Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! {5} Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. {6} “I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.” “ {7} So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. {8} Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. {9} Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” “ {10} So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. {11} Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!

2nd Lesson John 45-10

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. {6} Now Jacob s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. {7} A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” {8} For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. {9} Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. {10} Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

3rd Lesson AC 149.

In the Word also bones means the proprium, a proprium indeed given life by the Lord.

This is [shown] in Ezekiel where he describes the bones receiving flesh and having spirit put in them, The hand of Jehovah set me down in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. And He said to me, Prophesy over these bones and say to them, O dry bones, hear the Word of Jehovah Thus said the Lord Jehovih to these bones, Behold, I am bringing spirit into you and you will live. And I will lay sinews upon you and cause flesh to come over you and cover you with skin, and I will put spirit you, and you will live; and you will know that I am Jehovah. (EZE 371, 4-6.)

[2] Man s proprium when viewed from heaven looks just like something bony, lifeless, and utterly misshapen, and so in itself something dead. But once it has received life from the Lord it appears as something having flesh. For man s proprium is something altogether dead, though it has the appearance to him of being something; indeed it appears to be everything. Whatever is living within him comes from the Lord s life; and if this were to leave him, he would fall down dead as a stone. For he is purely an organ of life, though the nature of the organ determines that of the life-affection. The Lord alone possesses Proprium. By His Proprium He has redeemed man and by His Proprium saves him. The Lord s Proprium is Life, and from His Proprium man s proprium, which in itself is dead, is given life. The Lord s Proprium was also meant by His words in Luke,

A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see Me have. (Luke 2439, 40.)

It was also meant by the requirement that no bone of the Paschal lamb be broken, EXO 1246.


Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

 

Stand on Your Feet, and I Will Speak to You!

Stand on Your Feet, and I Will Speak to You!

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville — October 26, 2003

And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me. EZE 2:1,2

The prophet Ezekiel was one of those people in the kingdom of Judah who had been captured by Nebuchadrezzar’s army and carried off to Babylon. There the Jews were separated from their center of worship in Jerusalem, and so were unable to do the sacrifices that their rituals required. This separation caused them great anxiety because they had lost the security of their familiar rituals – and they believed that their covenant with Jehovah depended on the timely and exact performance of the commanded rituals, and so they also feared that Jehovah would no longer look after them, and that they would, like the 10 tribes of Israel, eventually be swallowed up by the foreign culture and lost to history.

As the Jews lost the familiar and secure contact with their God that was provided by their ritual sacrifices, Jehovah sent word to them through the prophets such as Ezekiel. These prophecies covered every aspect of their history and life. The captive Jews were reminded of Jehovah’s historical care for them, warned about the sins they were committing, and exhorted to obey the commandments in spirit and life.

The book of Ezekiel begins with a description of his first vision in Babylon: He saw wheels within wheels, whirlwinds, and beasts, and then finally a powerful voice coming from a throne made of precious stones which soon resolved itself into a vision of God Himself. Humbled and terrified, Ezekiel threw himself on his face when he realized that he was seeing God. It was then that “the voice of One” said to him, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will talk to you.”

It sounds to be a remarkably human thing for God to say. It sounds like any father speaking to his child, telling him that it is time for him to stop being a child, to stand on his own two feet and take responsibility for his own life!

To “stand upon the feet” is a very important image in the Word. The feet as the lowest part of the body, represent the lowest or most basic part of the mind, the sensual degree. But even though the sensual is the lowest degree of the mind, at the same time it serves as the foundation for the rational and spiritual degrees that rest upon it. The fact is that there is no other way for truth from the Word or from the world around us is through, or by means of, the senses and the sensual degree of the mind.

This is illustrated by the familiar scriptural passage where Moses turned aside to see the bush that burned without being consumed..

EXO 3:2-5 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”

Moses was to take of his sandals, but he was not to throw them away because he needed to put them back on to protect his feet as he walked home with his flocks. The ultimate things, although lowly, are as necessary as shoes when walking across stony ground. They serve as a foundation upon which the other levels are built.

We are surrounded by all kinds of information. Some of it is valuable, some of it is just noise that doesn’t interest us, nor does it present an obvious danger, so we ignore it. When this information finds its way into the sensual degree of the mind, we’re told that the interior degrees of the mind, led by influx from heaven, look down on all this information, use the order of truths from the Word Itself to bring it into some kind or order, and then those things that are useful and agree with the Word are brought into the interior degrees of the mind and become interior truths.

It’s also true that a lot of the facts that we go to such trouble to learn are actually useless in and of themselves, but the process of acquiring them has helped you learn how to learn, and may turn out to be useful in illustrating interior truths.

You can have all the good intentions and knowledges in the world but unless you have feet, unless they are given reality through action, they are useless.

AR 510. Every man who is reformed, is first reformed as to the internal man, and afterwards as to the external. The internal man is not reformed by merely knowing and understanding the truths and goods by which man is saved, but by willing and loving them; but the external man, by speaking and doing the things which the internal man wills and loves, and, in proportion as this takes place, in the same proportion man is regenerated.

It is like a house built upon ice, which sinks to the bottom when the ice is melted by the sun; in a word, it is like a man without feet to stand and walk upon.

Awareness of our states of evil brings humiliation, but the touch of the Lord can bring us back to our feet, and only the touch of the Lord can do this.

AE 77. When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, of which it is thus written in Matthew:- While Peter was yet speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. And when the disciples heard these things they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes they saw no one save Jesus only (xvii. 5-8). From this it is apparent of what nature is the presence of the Divine Human of the Lord with man, when man is in a state of humiliation of heart, namely, that he falls upon his face, and by the touch of the Lord’s hand is raised upon his feet.

The Lord wants us to stand up, to be strong and independent, to defy hell, to question heaven, to think about what is taught, to listen critically, and to be rational and responsible for our own spiritual destiny.

When you stand on your feet, the Lord will talk to you when you have a firm basis of truth. The Lord will flow into those things, order them, and uplift them.

AE 666. [4] “To stand upon the feet” signifies life itself when it is in its fullness; and life is in its fullness when the natural lives from the spiritual.

Children are sometimes reluctant, even lazy. At the same time they seem to think that they know a lot. It is common for parents to say to their children, “Get up! Get Busy!”

We are the Lord’s children. In the Writings it suggests that the state of adolescence continues to the 70th year. The same exhortation that applies to unmotivated young people applies to all of us.

And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.”

Just as the Lord spoke to the Jews through Ezekiel in the hope that they would change, so the Lord speaks to us, hoping that we will “grow up” spiritually and begin to take responsibility for our own spiritual life.

To stand up is to do the things commanded in the Word. It is to act selflessly for the sake of others, to be useful. The Lord’s promise is that as we become useful, His truth will become more and more open and clear to us. We will be enlightened and see truth from the light of heaven.

And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me. (text) AMEN


First Lesson: EZE 1:26-2:5

(Ezek 1:26-28) And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. {27} Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. {28} Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.

(Ezek 2:1-5) And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” {2} Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me. {3} And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. {4} “For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ {5} “As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse; for they are a rebellious house; yet they will know that a prophet has been among them.

Second Lesson: REV 11:1-14

Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. {2} “But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. {3} “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” {4} These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. {5} And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. {6} These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. {7} When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. {8} And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. {9} Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. {10} And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. {11} Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. {12} And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. {13} In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. {14} The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

Third Lesson: Apocalypse Explained 666:4

AE 666. [4] A voice speaking to me said, Son of man, stand upon thy feet that I may speak to thee; then the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and stood me upon my feet, and I heard him that spake to me (ii. 1, 2).

This was done because “to stand upon the feet” signifies life itself when it is in its fullness; and life is in its fullness when the natural lives from the spiritual.

For the ultimate of man’s life is in his natural; this ultimate is like a base to man’s interior and higher parts; for these close into the ultimate and subsist in it, consequently unless life is in the ultimate it is not full, and thus not perfect.

Moreover, all things interior or higher exist together in the ultimate as in their simultaneous For this reason such as the ultimate is such are the interior or higher parts, for these adapt themselves to the ultimate because it receives them.


Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009