A Revealer of Secrets

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, January 27, 2008

The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.” DAN 2:47

  1. Today our topic is three men who could reveal secrets – or at least that was the appearance, for Nebuchadnezzar called Daniel “a revealer of secrets” in our text.
    1. Joseph with Pharaoh
      1. Joseph’s credentials as an interpreter of dreams is well established in scripture
        1. Dreams of corn and stars revealed to his family — which made them hate him
        2. Dreams of the fate of the Baker and the Butler
          1. Which brought him to Pharaoh’s attention
        3. Dreams of Pharaoh about the 7 cows, the 7 ears of corn.
          1. When brought before Pharaoh, Joseph protests:
            1. It’s not me, but God who interprets dreams
              1. So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” GEN 41:16
    2. Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar
      1. Daniel did not have Joseph’s credentials
        1. But the various miracles described in DAN 1 show he is favoured by Jehovah
          1. Even though not the ranking Babylonian God, Jehovah was known and respected
          2. When brought before Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel protests:
            1. It’s not me, but God who interprets dreams
              1. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. (DAN 2:28)
    3. Emanuel Swedenborg with the whole of the Writings
      1. The volume and scope of the Theological Writings is beyond human achievement
        1. The scriptures are full of the records of hundreds of prophets all of whom we are happy to believe heard the Word of the Lord in a viva voce and reported it to us.
          1. Many are uncomfortable with the idea of a modern prophet – somehow they are supposed to wear a robe and sandals and speak in mysterious symbols to be authentic.
          2. We have to be cautious that we do not allow ourselves to start thinking that prophecy has to be full of odd words and difficult concepts. We need to be able to accept the fact that when Swedenborg speaks to us about the Lord’s ways in rational, reasonable tones that the Lord really said it in just that way. We don’t need to fear a modern revelator who tells us the things we really need to know in terms that we can understand and accept and relate to.
        2. The fact remains that the Lord did speak to Swedenborg in a viva voce
          1. The science of correspondences was revealed, which opened the scriptures not to anyone, but to anyone who approached in the good of life, and who could therefore be enlightened by the Lord while receiving the outward forms of those truths.
            1. There are two levels to correspondences
              1. At one time it was General Church policy not to teach correspondences because they were spiritual truths.
              2. Withheld until high school.
              3. What they missed is that those spiritual truths are couched in natural truths: water = truth, Adam and Eve = MAC that could be learned by anyone.
              4. The point is that although the science of correspondences may be learned and even used to interpret passages from scripture, it is only opened up into spiritual truths when applied to life, that is, when the Lord inflows with enlightenment because there is a focus on the good of life and charity towards the neighbour.
            2. Like Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, we are impressed by the one who opens scriptures
              1. Swedenborg protests: It’s not me, but the Lord who reveals the internal sense
                1. As for myself, I have not been allowed to take anything from the mouth of any spirit, nor from the mouth of any angel, but from the mouth of the Lord alone. SS 29
    4. Both Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar turned first to the magicians/wise men to interpret their dreams for them, but they were unable to interpret the dreams.
  2. When faced with moral and spiritual dilemmas, we too turn first to the magicians
    1. So often we find that there us not much of value in their psycho babble
    2. When we do find something of value we are usually surprised to find that much of what that person says that is of value could have come straight from the Word.
      1. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled is a prime example. It’s a book that has been at the top of the non-fiction best seller list for years and is so full of practical “New Church” thought that it has been used as the basis of a number of New Church doctrinal study groups!
      2. And while we read it, grateful for his insight and clear style of writing, we wonder how he could know these things if he hasn’t read the Writings.
      3. We sometimes forget that the Lord’s end is the salvation of the whole human race, and that means that He speaks to many different people in many different ways and the white light of Divine Truth is reflected into the world in a rainbow of colours – that when brought together will once again make white light.
  3. The king’s dreams represents a kind of vision into the spiritual world
    1. Remember that Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar did not have Scripture or the literal sense of the Word itself.
    2. Hard to understand
    3. When we turn to natural explanations, we are unsatisfied
      1. Or we may be sent off in unusual directions
        1. Cults
          1. Jim Jones
          2. TV Evangelism
            1. Which has much of value – and a lot of attention on raising money.
          3. David Koresh
      2. Because there are no answers from self-intelligence
        1. EVEN when we have the science of correspondences.
          1. The true spiritual sense of the Word is from the Lord alone. This is the reason why it is not permitted any one in the natural world, nor in the spiritual world, to investigate the spiritual sense of the Word from the sense of its letter, unless he is wholly in the doctrine of Divine truth and in enlightenment from the Lord, wherefore from the doctrine of Divine truth confirmed from the sense of the letter of the Word, the spiritual sense can be seen, but doctrine can never first be seen from the spiritual sense. (SS 58)
  4. So what does this mean for us?
    1. We want help in our spiritual lives
      1. We have fears, we have pain, we suffer loss, and we need direction that we can rely on
        1. There’s every indication from scripture that both Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar were terrified by their dreams
      2. Like them, we go to the magicians, but they don’t help
        1. Reader’s Digest or Cosmopolitan surveys can be interesting and even amusing, but they are not moral guidance.
        2. We may seek “magic” solutions in the Word, but they don’t work either because the spiritual and natural worlds are not governed by magic, but by the clear, unchanging laws of the Divine Providence.
      3. The enlightenment (Revelation) we seek comes in an unexpected way
        1. We must first focus on the good of life and especially the natural and spiritual needs of others.
        2. We then pray to the Lord for guidance
        3. And then we begin the work as best we understand it, even though we are not yet enlightened
          1. As Joseph continued to serve even while he was in prison.
          2. As Daniel continued to serve even while captive in Babylon
          3. As Emanuel Swedenborg struggled to find the human soul with Science and Philosophy.
        4. And then, while doing the work of caring for others, and while reading the Word for guidance in that work, if we open our hearts in prayer, the Lord will flow in through the Word. There will be an awareness of His presence in a new way. There will be a healing. There will be a certainty. There will be the courage to continue along this new and at times frightening path that leads to eternal life.

    Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (MAT 7:13-14) Amen.

    Hear now the Word of the Lord as it is written in …

    First Lesson: GEN 41:8-16

    {8} Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh. {9} Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying: “I remember my faults this day. {10} “When Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, both me and the chief baker, {11} “we each had a dream in one night, he and I. Each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. {12} “Now there was a young Hebrew man with us there, a servant of the captain of the guard. And we told him, and he interpreted our dreams for us; to each man he interpreted according to his own dream. {13} “And it came to pass, just as he interpreted for us, so it happened. He restored me to my office, and he hanged him.” {14} Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh. {15} And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.” {16} So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Amen.

    Second Lesson: DAN 2 (port.)

    Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him.

    Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.

    And the king said to them, “I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream.”

    Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.”

    But the king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap.

    […] So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

    Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon;

    He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, “Why is the decree from the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel.

    So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation.

    Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

    That they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

    Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

    […]

    Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, “I have found a man of the captives of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation.”

    The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?”

    Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king.

    “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

    [After Daniel revealed the dream and its interpretation]

    Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him.

    The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.” Amen.

    Third Lesson: SS 29

    It is believed that man might be more enlightened and become more wise if he should have immediate revelation through speech with spirits and with angels, but the reverse is the case. Enlightenment by means of the Word is effected by an interior way, while enlightenment by immediate revelation is effected by an exterior way. The interior way is through the will into the understanding, the exterior way is through the hearing into the understanding.

    Man is enlightened through the Word by the Lord so far as his will is in good, but man may be instructed and as it were enlightened through the hearing, though the will is in evil; and what enters into the understanding with a man whose will is in evil, is not within, but without him. It is only in the memory and not in the life, and what is without a man and not in his life, is gradually separated, if not before, yet after death, for the will which is in evil either casts it out, or suffocates it, or falsifies and profanes it. For the will makes the life of man, and continually acts into the understanding, and regards as extraneous that which is from the memory in the understanding.…

    Moreover, no leave is given to any spirit or even angel, to instruct any man on this earth in Divine truths, but the Lord Himself teaches every one through the Word, and teaches him so far as the man receives good from the Lord in the will, and this the man receives so far as he shuns evils as sins. …

    As for myself, I have not been allowed to take anything from the mouth of any spirit, nor from the mouth of any angel, but from the mouth of the Lord alone. Amen.

    Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.

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