A Sermon by Rev. David C. Roth Preached in Glenview, Illinois, August 4, 1991

“And behold, a leper came and worshipped Him saying, `Lord if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, `I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:2,3).

They say the days of miracles are over. But are the days of miracles really over? Is everything that happens nowadays completely ordinary and unmiraculous? The opinion that those days are gone is one which is hard to accept when we think of the many examples of miracles in each of our own lifetimes. For example, the miracle of birth, or the miracle that two people are able to find each other among billions and fall in love; that they are able to achieve conjugial love that true marriage love between one man and one woman, a love that is so rare, so precious. Or how about the miracle which we all hope for ourselves the miracle of being transformed from a spiritually dead person into a spiritually alive and prosperous angel for eternity; the miracle of reformation and regeneration? When we consider some of our past or present evil and selfish states, it would seem to have to take a miracle to truly change us, to heal us of our spiritual diseases.

This morning we read of a man who was healed of a disease by the Lord. The man had leprosy. Leprosy is a chronic skin disease wherein the skin slowly dies and rots away. The person suffering from this disease experiences severe pain, for his flesh is literally rotting and falling off. As you can imagine, a person suffering from leprosy was usually of hideous appearance, and was unclean to be around, let alone to touch. Lepers were cast out of society and often sent to dwell in caves and tombs. In our story the Lord had just finished preaching His sermon on the mount, and as He came down the mountain He was approached by this leper. The leper came up to Him and worshipped Him saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” The Lord willingly replied to the leper’s request, and gave him a healing touch that made him clean that very instant.

Does this story teach us that the Lord had the power to heal people of their diseases? Yes it does, but more than that it teaches of how the Lord can heal each one of us of our own spiritual diseases, those destructive tendencies or actual evils we are involved in which lead us away from loving God and our fellow man, and cause us to love and serve only ourselves. It tells of the miracle of how our spiritually fallen condition can be repaired and raised up by the Lord. This is so important for us because left untreated, spiritual diseases are evils which will destroy our willing for good or desire to strive after what is good and right, and they are also falsities which will destroy our capacity to understand truth (see AC 8364).

The Writings for the New Church teach that one who is leprous corresponds to a person who is involved in profanation; that is, someone who knows the teachings and truths of the Lord’s Word and doesn’t live according to them. How many of us have spiritual leprosy, or have had times when we were in a leprous state? We may not be completely spiritually leprous, but it is certain that we have times when we play the role of the leper when we know the truth which the Lord’s Word teaches and we just don’t follow it; instead we steal, we lie, we commit adultery, we bear false witness, we covet our neighbors’ possessions, we kill our neighbor. We can do any of these things in little ways, or maybe even in large ways, even when we know that they’re wrong. It would be a complete lie to say we are not aware of the truths that teach against these things. We know the truth; at the least, we know the Ten Commandments. But do we live them? And if we don’t, can we change for the better? Can we begin to live, to really live, according to them? The answer is yes if we want to, if we are willing.

While on earth, the Lord healed hundreds, maybe thousands, of people of their various diseases. We are taught in the Writings that, “By the diseases which the Lord healed is signified liberation from various kinds of evil and falsity which infested the church and the human race, and which would have led to spiritual death” (AC 8364). This holds true for today. If we don’t live according to the truths of the Lord’s Word, then we will die spiritually. So if we do know the truth, what is preventing us from living it? Like the leper, if we want to change our condition we are going to have to actively seek out the Lord to help us. It will not happen by chance or wishful thinking.

But where do we find the Lord? In our story the Lord just came down the mountain. What this means for us is that the Lord is the Word the Word made flesh. And the Lord has given us this Word. It has come down to us from God. The Lord has accommodated Himself to us in His Word. He has in effect descended from His holy habitation to guide our mortal steps on this earth. He has given us His Word so that we can be healed. And it is by means of the truths and goods of His Word that we can dispel the falsities and evils in our lives. He has shown us the way, and there is no other.

We know we can find the Lord in His Word, but we need to cultivate a belief that He is really there and that He can help us. Perhaps we are just like the leper. We know the truth but we just can’t seem to live it. We long for the Lord’s help, and we just can’t seem to beat the evil we are fighting to resist in our lives. We try and try, and fail and fail. What’s missing? How do we overcome our own weaknesses? What did the leper do? By following the story of the healing of the leper in the spiritual sense we are taught what we can do.

In our text the leper approached the Lord, worshipping Him. This represents humiliation on the part of the individual, the humbling of ourselves before the Lord by asking for His help. The Lord does not ask this for His own glory, but for the sake of ourselves. We need to humble ourselves. Like Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, we too easily make ourselves out to be the masters of our lives, and even of the lives of others. We too often give ourselves the credit when it is due the Lord.

The Lord gave us a commandment about our tendencies to make ourselves our own God: we shall have no other gods before His face. We need to remember His words, “Without Me you can do nothing.” We need to develop faith in Him and His power. This can be a hard lesson to learn, as it was for Naaman, but we need to learn to humble ourselves in order to approach the Lord.

The leper and many others were healed by the Lord according to their faith, that is, according to whether or not they thought He was God Almighty. Like Jesus’ words to the centurion and the blind men, “As you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And, “According to your faith let it be to you.” It was because they had faith in the Lord that they were able to be healed. We too must believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, the one true God, and that it is He alone who can help us. And then we must respond by living according to His Word. As the Writings strongly teach, “The faith by which spiritual diseases are healed by the Lord can be given only through truths from the Word and a life according to them” (AE 815).

Now we approach the Lord’s Word, or the Lord Himself, in our prayers. But at such times we tend to approach very meekly because we feel that He has no time for us no time for somebody who keeps messing things up, no patience for our inability to resist temptation time and time again. We doubt whether He is willing even to listen, let alone help us, at this point. Like the leper, we pray, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

This kind of humility is okay, but what we are thinking is simply not true. If we make a point of asking the Lord for His help, He will give it no doubt about it. But we have to have faith that He can do it; otherwise it will not happen. As the Lord said, “All things whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22, emphasis added). When we ask the Lord in prayer with an earnest heart desiring to change, we will get the same response as the leper. He will put out His hand and touch us saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” The Lord will immediately heal us of our spiritual disease.

But what does it mean to us to be healed? Is it a one-shot “I believe” solution, and wham! we are clean? It does mean that the Lord has forgiven us of our evils and falsities, and will hold us in good if we desire it. And this is cause for joy. As Jesus said to the paralytic whose sins He forgave, “Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

But at this point we are not really clean. We are not truly purified of our evils unless we follow up what the Lord has done for us by changing our lives stop indulging in our destructive evil thoughts, intentions, and actions, and begin living a life of charity, a life of service to the Lord and each other. We are taught that the Lord immediately forgives man of his sins because He is mercy itself. But in essence this does nothing for us unless we respond. The Lord is always forgiving us no matter what we do, but He might as well not forgive us if we don’t stop doing what is wrong. Unless we perform serious repentance, which means to stop, to really stop, doing evil, His forgiveness will do nothing to affect our salvation. Fortunately, the Lord does teach us what we need to do now that we have been pronounced clean. As He told the leper, “See that you tell no one.” He tells us the same thing. When we are forgiven, we need to continue to acknowledge that the Lord is our strength and not we ourselves. It’s an affirmation. We acknowledge the Lord’s strength in our own minds and hearts by thinking and reflecting on what He has done for us thinking that it was not something that a mortal, finite being could have accomplished. No one person could have performed this miracle except the Lord. He teaches us to do this so that our faith and our confidence in Him grow.

The next thing the leper was instructed to do was to “go your way.” Go your way. We are told that we are to get going on our new life. The word “go” is a word of action, a word telling us to start living the life the Word teaches progress into those things that are of good, of life, and leave our former life; depart from “our old way.” The Lord is the way, the truth and the life. He is the good shepherd; we are not “the way.” Our old life, the life of evil and falsity, is to be cast aside and abandoned. For example, we must leave the attitude that wants to look for the faults in others so that we can ridicule them and thence exalt ourselves. We must then adopt an attitude that looks for the good in others so that we can be of service to it; or leave the destructive life of casual sexual relations or indulgence in pornography and strive for that precious jewel of human life that pure marriage love between one man and one woman.

After this the Lord tells us to “show ourselves to the priest.” We are now to make manifest our changed condition by producing fruits worthy of repentance. We show ourselves as changed before the priest, thus before the Lord, by living according to what He has taught us. We begin a new life that seeks to do good to our neighbor and the Lord. We begin the life of charity, one day at a time, step by step. After we have shown ourselves, that is, we have begun to change our lives, we are then to “offer the gift that Moses commanded as a testimony to them.” The last thing we are asked to do is offer this gift which Moses commanded. Moses represents the Word, so that doing what Moses commanded is doing what the Lord teaches in His Word. By offering a gift is signified our living in the faith and good of love which the Word teaches, and working on learning more truths, taking one at a time, and attempting to make it permanent and fixed by living it. Living truth is doing good. We know what the Lord wants us to do. We know it so clearly, but until we start doing it we will have no power to keep in the way of the Lord no power to remain in a good state. When we offer the gift Moses commanded, we are offering up our new life as a testimony to the Lord’s healing power. By living the life the Word teaches we are confessing our faith in the Lord. It is a confession from the heart that the Lord is Divine. He is the Divine Human who has all power to heal all diseases and to comfort all pain. The only confession of faith we can make which is actual is the confession shown by a life according to His Word. If we didn’t believe in the Lord we simply would not obey His voice.

We must remember that the Lord is always willing to make us clean. He is forever willing to forgive us our trespasses. But note the words of the Lord’s prayer which we daily ask: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” To the degree that we are willing to stop our evil and turn to good, to the same degree the Lord’s forgiveness will make us whole.

The days of miracles are not over. They are over only if we let them be. The Lord will perform His miracle of healing our spiritual disease if we earnestly ask Him, and truly wish it for ourselves, knowing that it is what He wants. If we are diseased spiritually, if we are in trouble and desire the Lord’s help, we must come before Him in prayer and ask, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.” We know His response and we know the immediate outcome. “I am willing; be cleansed.” Amen.

Lessons: II Kings 5:1-15; Matthew 8:1-17; AC 9014 (portions)

Arcana Coelestia 9014 (portions)

“Thou shalt take him from Mine altar that he may die.” That this signifies damnation even although he flees to the worship of the Lord, and supplicates for forgiveness, and promises repentance, is evident from the signification of “the altar of Jehovah,” as being the chief representative of the worship of the Lord, and because it was a representative of worship, therefore “to flee to the altar” denotes to flee to the Lord, and to supplicate for forgiveness, and also to promise repentance, for the one follows the other; and from the signification of “dying,” as being damnation …

It is believed by many within the church that the forgiveness of sins is the wiping out and washing away thereof, as of filth by water; and that after forgiveness they go on their way clean and pure. Such an opinion prevails especially with those who ascribe everything of salvation to faith alone. But be it known that the case with the forgiveness of sins is quite different. The Lord forgives everyone his sins, because He is mercy itself. Nevertheless they are not thereby forgiven unless the man performs serious repentance and desists from evils, and afterward lives a life of faith and charity, and this even to the end of his life. When this is done, the man receives from the Lord spiritual life, which is called new life. When from this new life the man views the evils of his former life, and turns away from them, and regards them with horror, then for the first time are the evils forgiven, for then the man is held in truths and goods by the Lord, and is withheld from evils. From this it is plain what is the forgiveness of sins, and that it cannot be granted within an hour, nor within a year. That this is so the church knows, for it is said to those who come to the Holy Supper that their sins are forgiven if they begin a new life by abstaining from evils and abhorring them …

“There shall not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth by the sword, or that lacketh bread” (2 Sam. 3:27, 29); “one that hath an issue” signifies the profanation of the good of love; “one that is a leper” signifies the profanation of the truth of faith; “one that leaneth on a staff,” or that is lame, signifies those in whom all good has been destroyed; “one that falleth by the sword” signifies those who are continually dying through falsities; “one that lacketh bread” signifies those who are destitute of all spiritual life, for “bread” denotes the sustenance of spiritual life by good. As such were signified by “Joab,” therefore by the command of Solomon Joab was slain at the altar whither he had fled (1 Kings 2:28-32).



A Sermon by Rev. David C. Roth Preached in Chicago, Illinois July 21, 1991

“I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 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 …. You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 45:4,5; 50:20).

How would you feel if your family and friends thought you were so worthless that they threw you into a pit to die? We might safely assume that this would never happen to any one of us, but it is true that sometimes the people we love do harm us. As was true in the case of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob and the first of Rachel, this can happen.

This sermon is about Joseph. It is about his character and about how he reacted to the life which befell him. To examine the life of Joseph is to learn many things about how the Lord leads each one of our lives and about human relationships. A few questions to ask ourselves while examining the life of Joseph are: Why do people harm other people when it seems so contrary to a life of charity? Why does the Lord let evil things happen to us, or anybody for that matter? And how would and should we react if somebody did hurt us? These questions will be examined as we follow the life of Joseph.

Joseph was born to Rachel and Jacob while Jacob was still under the hand of his father-in-law Laban. As soon as Joseph was born, Jacob asked Laban to send himself and his family away. It was almost as if this demand was a direct result of Joseph’s birth. “And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away that I may go to my own place, and to my country'” (Gen. 30:25). It seems that the Lord was already guiding the steps of Joseph so that he could be near to Egypt in order to preserve his people. The truth is that the Lord in His providence guides us from our birth continually up to the end of our lives (see DP 333). He is forever working to provide for our eternal life.

From Joseph’s birth in chapter 30, we don’t hear of him again until chapter 37, wherein he and his family have left Laban and are living in the land of Canaan. He is now seventeen years old and spends some of his time feeding the flocks with his older brothers. It was on these occasions with his brothers that Joseph fell into trouble. Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son because he was fruit born of Jacob’s deep love for Rachel. In order to show his deep love for Joseph, Jacob gave him a tunic of many colors, which caused his brothers to hate Joseph. They hated him so much that they could not speak peaceably to him. Then Joseph began to have dreams which he shared with his brothers. They were dreams showing representations of Joseph’s brothers and parents bowing down to him and being subservient to him. These dreams served only to add to the hatred and envy which the brothers had already felt toward Joseph.

How many of us can relate to the feelings which Joseph’s older brothers had toward him? – feelings of jealousy, hatred, envy, and contempt – feelings which spring up when we sense that we are not being treated fairly or justly, Or when we are not getting the recognition we think we deserve. To illustrate, imagine the business person who works like mad to get a promotion, only to have his associate receive it instead. Even if he is able to swallow his pride and congratulate his colleague, still within he may be fighting a fierce battle against contempt and hatred. In his eyes now his colleague starts to look unworthy and lazy, or underhanded in some way. Or picture the friend of a young man who is now attracting the attention of the girl whom the young man had been trying to go out with for some time. Suddenly that friend looks conniving and deceitful, and the young man may even begin to look at the girl in the same way, turning his former love into hatred.

These are just two examples of the many ways that the hells can turn our closest friends into our most hated enemies, and this with even the smallest dose of envy or loss of pride. We are vulnerable, even as Joseph’s brothers were vulnerable. Nevertheless, we are in freedom to respond with good or evil. It was not Joseph’s fault that he was the object of his father’s love and the dreamer of unusual dreams. Instead of trying to stifle others’ talents we should be supportive of them, unless they purposely show them off to make us feel cheapened or less of a person.

Free to forgive or seek vengeance, the brothers let their anger take control and they responded with evil; they desired to kill Joseph. But the Lord did not will that Joseph should die. The Lord never wills that any evil should befall anyone. However, because more than anything the Lord wants us to be happy, thus in freedom, He permits evil to happen for the sake of a good end. As is taught, “To leave man from his own liberty to do evil is permission” (NJHD 170). And, “The permission of evil is for the sake of the end, namely, salvation” (DP 281).

To preserve freedom and for the sake of a good end, the Lord permitted evil to befall Joseph. Yet in His providence the Lord moderated the evil intention of Joseph’s brothers. In the story itself we see the Lord’s providence acting to lead Joseph’s brothers’ evil to break out to a lesser intensity than they would have wished. We see Reuben suggest that they throw Joseph into an empty pit or cistern to perish rather than spill his blood themselves, Reuben himself planning to later remove him secretly. They did this, but then saw Ishmaelite traders coming and planned to sell him to them to make some money. Unbeknownst to the brothers, some Midianite traders got to Joseph first and drew him up from the well and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who then took Joseph and sold him into servitude in Egypt. Upon returning to the pit, Reuben discovered that Joseph had disappeared. Reuben tore his clothes in anguish. They didn’t know the fate of their brother Joseph and assumed the worst. They told their father a lie to conceal their own act of hatred toward Joseph. They took his tunic, tore it and dipped it in blood so that their tale of Joseph’s being destroyed by a wild beast would be believed by their father Jacob. In this account we can see the contagious quality of evil, as covetousness causes the brothers to attempt murder, which then turns them to bear false witness to mask their deed.

Why was this evil allowed to happen? The Heavenly Doctrines tell us why evil things are permitted to happen. One reason, already mentioned, is for the sake of the end which the Lord desires and provides for all who are willing, which is for the sake of salvation. “[The Divine Providence] continually grants permission for the sake of the end, and permits such things as pertain to the end and no others; and the evils that proceed by permission it continually keeps under view, separates and purifies, sending away and removing by unknown ways whatever is not consistent with the end” (DP 296).

Another reason evil is permitted is so that evil may be exposed and then shunned. If we cannot see the evil in ourselves it cannot be dealt with, and we cannot be led out of it toward what is good. We read, “Evil cannot be taken away from anyone unless it appears, is seen, and is acknowledged; it is like a wound which is not healed unless it is opened” (DP 183). We are also taught that with many people evil has to appear in actual act in order to be seen. These teachings explain why so many evil deeds are wrought by people. Unless a person sees his own hellish condition he cannot take steps to correct it. “For man from birth is like a little hell, between which and heaven there is perpetual discord. No man can be withdrawn from his hell by the Lord unless he sees that he is in hell and wishes to be led out; and this cannot be done without permissions, the causes of which are laws of the Divine Providence” (DP 251:2).

It is comforting to know that even when evil is upon us, the Lord is still intimately involved, leading to good. In hindsight we can see why Joseph’s brothers were permitted to harm him. One reason was so that their own evil could be seen and thence dealt with. Another was because good was able to come from it, as we will see.

After Joseph’s arrival in Egypt he was sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard. In Potiphar’s house Joseph was a very successful man. He rose to the highest position in Potiphar’s house. The Lord was with Joseph and made all that Joseph did prosper in his hands. Yet, even amidst success, Joseph was to again unjustly be the target for the outbreak of more evil. Joseph was a handsome man, and Potiphar’s wife recognized this and wanted him to lie with her. After many proposals met with aversion by Joseph, one day Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph’s garment and again said, “Lie with me.” Joseph fled from the house and left his garment in the hands of Potiphar’s wife, who used it as evidence to bear false witness against Joseph, accusing him of attempting to forcibly lie with her. Potiphar believed her and Joseph was cast into prison. Again we see in Potiphar’s wife love turned to hate when she did not get her way.

In this evil desire and act of Potiphar’s wife we see an outcome for good. In the Lord’s providence, working through permission, Joseph was cast into prison wherein he interpreted dreams for the baker and butler of Pharaoh, who were also incarcerated.

As interpreted, the baker was hanged and the butler was restored to his position as butler in Pharaoh’s house. After the lapse of two years the Pharaoh had two dreams of his own which no one could interpret. Upon hearing Pharaoh recount his dreams, seeking their interpretation, the butler finally remembered that Joseph had from the Lord the gift of interpreting dreams. So Pharaoh sent for Joseph from prison to interpret his dreams.

When asked to interpret the dreams Joseph replied, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Joseph first gave Jehovah the glory and then proceeded to unfold the identical meanings of Pharaoh’s two dreams. In his relationship with the Lord, Joseph made clear where all power is from, and in his relationship with Pharaoh he showed no illusions as to his own dependence upon the Lord.

In light of the interpretation which the Lord gave Joseph about the seven years of plenty followed by seven of famine, Joseph then gave Pharaoh some suggestions about how to manage the situation. The advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and he thought there could be no better man to manage the storage and eventual distribution of grain than Joseph. Within hours Joseph had risen from an imprisoned slave to ruler over all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself Surely the Lord meant the evil of Joseph’s brothers and of Potiphar’s wife for good. Thirteen years had passed since he had been rejected by his brothers and sold into Egypt. He was now thirty years old. Pharaoh gave Joseph Asenath, daughter of Poti-Pherah, priest of On, as wife and changed his name to Zaphnath-Paaneah. She bore him two sons; the first-born he called Manasseh, saying “for God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” Manasseh literally means “making forgetful.” Their second son he called Ephraim, literally meaning “fruitfulness,” “for God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” The names of his two sons sum up the life of Joseph. Even though evil befell him and he was made to suffer and toil for many years, the Lord had caused him to forget all the pain, and gave him great honor and fruitfulness.

We cannot leave the story of Joseph without examining the tender story of Joseph and his reunion with his brothers, especially Benjamin. It brings into fruition the foreseen use for which the Lord permitted evil to happen to Joseph. Without a wise and just man to rule over the storehouses of Egypt, the family of Israel could not have survived the famine. So the Lord sent Joseph before his family into Egypt to keep them alive, so that he could raise up an entire nation. In doing this the Lord’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be fulfilled: the promise that their descendants would inherit the land of Canaan and be numbered as the stars.

There are many details in the account of the sons of Jacob going into Egypt to buy grain. The first time they went down they bought grain from Joseph, who recognized his brothers. Remembering the dreams he had of his family, he accused them of being spies, and spoke harshly to them. He did this to get them to go back and bring down his brother Benjamin. They agreed to bring him next time, and left Simeon bound in prison as collateral. As a result they realized the gravity of their crime against Joseph, and made themselves guilty and discerned that this must be a rightful form of punishment.

After dealing in such a harsh way with his brothers, and secretly listening to them shamefully confess their guilt, Joseph turned himself away from them and wept. From this we can see a picture of what a good person might feel if he has to deal harshly or even punish someone. It’s like a loving parent punishing his child and saying, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This can be a true statement. Here we see Joseph mercifully correcting his brothers, but it grieves him to do it. We read, “And he turned himself away from them and wept.” To weep in this instance, and the others in this story, signifies the effect of mercy, or love grieving for the object of its love.

Again we see the merciful nature of Joseph when the brothers returned to him to buy grain for the second time and Benjamin was with them. When Joseph learned who Benjamin was, we read, “His heart yearned for his brother, so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there.” His mercy is again seen after his brothers leave for Canaan. They do not return home, but are brought back before Joseph after Joseph’s guards plant and then find his stolen silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. When Joseph hears Judah explain how their one brother is dead and that their father Jacob will die if Benjamin is not returned home safely, and sees their protectiveness for their brother Benjamin, he can no longer restrain himself, but weeps aloud to his brothers: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 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 …. You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

In Joseph’s words we can see the deep trust that he had in the Lord, and the tender forgiveness he held toward his brothers. Joseph’s life is full of so many things which we can learn from, especially in his dealings with his brothers. He did not seek revenge against them in any way, but looked only to their good. In our own lives do we find it difficult to forgive others when they have wronged us? When bad things happen to us do we trust the Lord as Joseph did, and not lose heart, trusting that He is forever leading us to some good end? Civilly and morally we might have to correct someone’s actions when he has done evil. But still, in our hearts we can forgive the person and trust that the Lord is leading to good for all involved, whatever may be the appearance of the means. The example of Joseph’s steadfastness and forgiveness is one we should all contemplate and attempt to follow.

In closing, we can almost hear Joseph reassuring us with the words of the thirty-seventh Psalm. “Do not fret because of evil-doers, nor be envious of workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him …. And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.” Amen.

Lessons: Genesis 37, DP 296 (portions)

Divine Providence 296

In order, therefore, that the Divine Providence with the wicked may be clearly seen and thus understood, the propositions stated above now fall to be explained in the order in which they were presented. First: There are innumerable things in every evil. In man’s sight every evil appears as one single thing. This is the case with hatred and revenge, theft and fraud, adultery and whoredom, arrogance and high-mindedness, and with every other evil; and it is not known that in every evil there are innumerable things, exceeding in number the fibres and vessels in a man’s body. For a wicked man is a hell in its least form; and hell consists of myriads of myriads of spirits, and everyone there is in form like a man, although a monstrous one, in which all the fibres and vessels are inverted. The spirit himself is an evil which appears to himself as a “one”; but there are innumerable things in it, as many as the lusts of that evil, for every man is his own evil or his own good, from the head to the sole of his foot. Since then a wicked man is such, it is evident that he is one evil composed of innumerable different evils each of which is a distinct evil, and they are called lusts of evil. Hence it follows that all these in their order must be restored and changed by the Lord in order that the man may be reformed; and this cannot be effected unless by the Divine Providence of the Lord, step by step from the earliest period of man’s life to the last.

The Divine Providence with the wicked is a continual permission of evil, to the end that there may be a continual withdrawal from it. The Divine Providence with wicked men is a continual permission because nothing but evil can proceed from their life; for man, whether he is in good or in evil, cannot be in both at the same time, nor in each alternately unless he is lukewarm; and evil of life is not introduced into the will and through it into the thought by the Lord but by man; and this is called permission.

Now since everything that a wicked man wills and thinks is of permission the question arises, What then is the Divine Providence here, which is said to be in the most individual things with every man, both wicked and good? It consists in this, that it continually grants permission for the sake of the end, and permits such things as pertain to the end and no others; and the evils that proceed by permission it continually keeps under view, separates and purifies, sending away and removing by unknown ways whatever is not consistent with the end. These things are effected principally in man’s interior will, and from this in his interior thought. The Divine Providence is also unceasing in providing that what must be sent away and removed is not received again by the will, since all things that are received by the will are appropriated to the man; but those which are received by the thought and not by the will are separated and removed. This is the Lord’s continual Providence with the wicked and is, as has been stated, a continual permission of evil to the end that there may be an unceasing withdrawal from it.