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

 

David Numbers the People

  

David Numbers the People

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Carmel Church – October 16, 2005

And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” (2SA 24:10)

David’s census of the people takes place near the end of his (tumultuous) life.

Born in Bethlehem of Judea

Shepherd

Musician

Warrior who killed Goliath, slew Ten Thousand Philistines

Outlaw

King

David orders Joab to “number” the people

Moses had numbered the people in the wilderness

But only because the Lord commanded him to.

David did this entirely on his own

Even Joab knows that it is wrong – and Joab is not known for his high moral standards.

But the king commands, so it is done.

Joab and the army travel from Dan to Beersheba

Throughout the whole country, from one extreme to the other.

After almost a year, they return with the numbers

800,000 soldiers in Israel

500,000 soldiers in Judah

It is at this point in the story that we hear that David recognizes his sin.

What makes him suddenly aware of his sin? We don’t know. But isn’t it often the case that we do things with all the best intentions, and only see the harm that we have caused through our “good deeds” when they are done? Like when you borrow something that is very special to a friend without their knowledge, and then lose it or break it?

The prophet Gad brings the message that David is to choose his own punishment.

The whole nation is to suffer a famine for 7 years, or David, himself, is to be pursued by his enemies for three months, or the people are to suffer a plague for three days.

David throws himself on the Lord’s mercy

The Lord chooses the smallest (shortest) punishment, the three day plague and stops the angel short of Jerusalem.

It is clear that the simple act of counting people, taking a census, is not a sin:

AE 453:2: Who does not know that there is no iniquity in numbering a people? Yet here the iniquity was so great that David, on account of it, was threatened with three punishments from which he was to choose one, and of the pestilence which he chose seventy thousand died. But there was a reason for this, namely, that “Israel and Judah” represented, and thence signified, the Lord’s kingdom in the heavens and on the earth, and “to number” signified to know their quality, and to arrange and dispose accordingly, and that this belongs to the Lord alone.

This is one of those places in the Word where the internal sense is deeply hidden within the internal sense. The connection is not obvious, as it is in a story where a wicked person gets caught and is punished. The only reason this incident is recorded in the Word is for the sake of what it represents, something that could only be known by revelation from heaven.

From “Dan to Beersheba ”

Since Dan is in the extreme north of the country, and Beersheba is the extreme southern boundary, “from Dan to Beersheba” is an idiom for “the whole country.”

AC 2723: The whole range of celestial and spiritual things taught by doctrine is meant in the internal sense where the land of Canaan is said to range from “Dan even to Beersheba”; for the land of Canaan means the Lord’s kingdom, also the Church, and therefore means the celestial and spiritual things taught by doctrine.…

To “Number”

AR 364: “To number,” in the spiritual sense, signifies to know the quality, because a “number” in the Word does not signify a number, but its quality (n. 10); for the Lord’s heaven consists of innumerable societies, and these societies are distinguished according to the varieties of affections in general; in like manner all in each society, are distinguished in particular. The Lord alone knows the quality of the affection of each individual, and disposes all in order according thereto. By “numbering,” the angels understand, to know this quality.

To judge the internal states of another

But even worse, to judge yourself

There are 3 dangers here

To believe that you are condemned for a single deed, or even a period of your life when you lived in error. It is mercifully provided that all our deeds are left behind with the natural body. Our eternal home is determined by the things that we do when we begin to express our ruling love while in the second state in the World of Spirits.

Another error is to believe that good is your own, when it is from the Lord, and related to it is a third error which is to believe that evil is your own, when it is from hell.

AC 10219:3: But so long as a man believes that he does all things of himself, both goods and evils, so long goods do not affect him, and evils adhere to him; but the moment that he acknowledges and believes that goods flow in from the Lord, and not from himself, and that evils are from hell, then goods affect him and evils do not adhere to him; and, moreover, in so far as goods affect him, so far evils are removed, thus he is purified and liberated from them. But so long as the state of man is such that he cannot perceive and be sensible of the influx of goods from the Lord, so long he does goods as from himself, and yet ought to acknowledge and believe that they are from the Lord. When this is the case, he also is liberated from evils; but in order that he may be liberated from evils this acknowledgement must be the confession of the heart itself, and not of the lips only.

Why was David’s punishment a plague that killed 70,000 people, most of whom were presumably innocent?

Again, the real meaning is deeply hidden in the internal sense and only available to us through revelation.

Every evil has its own punishment, and in this case we see that the plague is the only punishment that reverses the original sin and returns the king and thus the kingdom) to order. The punishment is appropriate because “to number” the people is to make judgements about them that only the Lord can make, thus taking something to self that belongs to the Lord. The punishment, the way to return to order, is to humble self, acknowledge that “numbering” is for the Lord alone to do, and that we are all under His government and Mercy.

AC 10219:4 That a “plague” denotes the penalty of evil, is evident without explication. There are three plagues which follow those who attribute to themselves the truths and goods of faith and love, or who believe that they merit heaven by their works; for they who attribute these to themselves believe also that of themselves they merit heaven. These three penalties are:

That they cannot receive anything of the good of love and the truth of faith.

That evils and falsities continually pursue them.

And that the truths and goods received from infancy perish.

These three penalties are signified by the three plagues which were proposed to David by the prophet Gad on account of numbering the people, which were: seven years of famine; a fleeing of three months before their enemies; and a pestilence of three days.

We are simply not equipped to judge our own inmost states, let alone those of others.

If we have too high an opinion of ourselves, if we believe that we are good, then we can’t get rid of our evils because we cannot see them in ourselves.

If we can’t get rid of evils, we can’t prepare for heaven

And what good we do have will be removed as we are prepared for hell

If we have too low an opinion of ourselves, if every time an evil thought flows in from hell we think it is our own, we will want to protect it and nurture it.

On the other hand, if we saw that, as is the truth, that evil and falsity are from hell, we would flee from them.

It would be really helpful if all evil thoughts were presented by some kind of fearsome demon, instead of popping up inside our own heads and pretending to be our own.

But, to protect our spiritual freedom, they are not – so we’ll just have to keep examining our own thoughts and comparing to what we know is true from the Word and do the best we can.

The balanced view of this whole situation is this:

We (human beings) are not all good (Humanism). It’s not safe for us to assume that if something sounds good or feels good or seems to come from within our own mind that it actually is good.

On the other hand, we are not all bad, either. (Calvinistic Predestination) It’s not right for us to assume that anything that sounds good or feels good or comes from any source other than the letter of scripture is evil and from the devil.

The Writings of the New Church give us a new view, a third choice. We are the ability (faculty) to choose freely in spiritual things.

Let us use the truths of the Word to help us choose wisely.

From Dan to Beersheeba

In the other world, after death, the Lord will examine our spiritual states, and bring them into order

Pestilence for three days

If we are good, our evils will be completely removed.

Angel Stopping at Jerusalem

The preservation of the core of good, the good character that will guide our life to eternity in heaven.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. {2} “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. {3} “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. {4} “And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-4) AMEN.


First Lesson: 2SA 24:1-17

Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” So the king said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, “Now go throughout all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and count the people, that I may know the number of the people.” And Joab said to the king, “Now may the LORD your God add to the people a hundredfold more than there are, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king desire this thing?” Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab and against the captains of the army. So Joab and the captains of the army went out from the presence of the king to count the people of Israel. And they crossed over the Jordan and camped in Aroer, on the right side of the town which is in the midst of the ravine of Gad, and toward Jazer. Then they came to Gilead and to the land of Tahtim Hodshi; they came to Dan Jaan and around to Sidon; And they came to the stronghold of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Then they went out to South Judah as far as Beersheba. So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Then Joab gave the sum of the number of the people to the king. And there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men. And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and tell David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.” ‘ ” So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.” And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. And when the angel stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the destruction, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “It is enough; now restrain Your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.” Amen.

Second Lesson: LUK 6:37-42

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye. Amen.

Third Lesson: AC 10219 (port.)

AC 10219 That there be no plague in them in numbering them. That this signifies lest there be the penalty of evil in doing goods as from self, is evident from the signification of a “plague,” as being the penalty of evil; and from the signification of “numbering the sons of Israel,” as being to set in order and dispose the truths and goods of faith and love, thus to do them.

It is said “as from self,” because the goods which a man does he does as from himself, nor does he perceive otherwise until he is in faith from love. For goods flow in from the Lord and are received by man, and those which are received are at first felt no otherwise than as in himself and from himself; nor is it perceived that they are from the Lord until he comes into knowledge, and afterward into acknowledgement from faith. For before this he cannot reflect that anything flows in from the Divine; nor can he at all perceive this, that is, be sensible of it in himself, until he begins to will and to love that it be so.

[2] This is like the life itself in man, and his two interior faculties of life, which are the understanding and the will. Who before instruction does not believe that life is in himself, and thus that what he does from this life is of himself, and in like manner his understanding and will? although both his life in general, and his understanding and will, flow in; the truths of the understanding and the goods of the will out of heaven from the Lord, but the falsities of understanding and the evils of will from hell. For unless there are spirits and angels with man through whom this influx is effected, he cannot live a single moment, consequently neither can he think or will. Amen.