SHIFT of Motivation


A Sermon by the Rev. James Cooper

SHIFT week 5 – October 23, 2011 – Toronto

  1. Previous Weeks
    1. Separating from Esau, his parents.
    2. Finding Laban and beginning to work for him.
    3. Last week
      1. Rachel and Leah
        1. The two sisters represent the conflict between the internal and external affection for truth.
          1. Rachel, the beautiful idea of the delight that comes from interior truth.
          2. Leah, less attractive perhaps, but she and her handmaiden produce 8 of the 12 sons and at least 2 daughters. There are a lot of external truths, and they provide an important structure on which to rest the internal truths.
  2. This week the story in the sense of the letter regards Jacob’s eventual separation from Laban.
    1. Jacob has been working for Laban for a total of 20 years. These years have been very profitable for Laban, but Jacob still owns nothing in his own right.
    2. Jacob regards himself as a free man, working for wages. Laban seems to regard him as a servant, and therefore anything that Jacob possesses legally belongs to Laban.
    3. But as for Jacob, he was not a slave who had been purchased, but a man from a more distinguished family than Laban. He himself … purchased Laban’s daughters…. (AC 3974:2)
    4. Jacob approaches Laban and they come to an agreement.
      1. Jacob can have all the speckled and spotted of the current flock. If any white animals are born, they are to be turned over to Laban. They separate the flocks by colour, and Laban takes the white animals some distance away.
      2. Laban thinks he got the better deal because under normal circumstances Jacob’s flock would produce mostly white animals and Laban could stop by from time to time to collect all the white ones. The expectation would be that it would take a long time – many years – for Jacob to build up a flock large enough for him to strike out on his own and support his family.
    5. {36} Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks. {37} Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods. {38} And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink. {39} So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted. (GEN 30)
      1. Jacob – and there’s no indication of where he got this idea – put variously coloured sticks of wood near the feeding trough. Apparently this is also where the animals mated, and the letter would have us believe that when the animals conceived while looking at the marked sticks, the progeny was similarly speckled and spotted.
      2. This means that Jacob becomes a rich man very quickly which infuriates Laban because Jacob was able to take his family and set off on his own rather than staying with Laban and working to make him rich. Nothing helps a business like have the senior manager work for no pay.
    6. So what’s going on in the internal sense?
      1. The Word is not, nor is it intended to be, a science text book. Events from the lives of real people are selected and reported in such a way as to carry the internal sense. It’s the story of the Lord’s glorification and our own states of regeneration that are important, it’s the meaning not the detail of the event that is important.
      2. The things that have been mentioned up to now are not such as can be explained easily and intelligibly. One reason for this is that the mind cannot be turned away instantaneously from the historical details concerning Laban and Jacob to the spiritual matters which are the subject of the internal sense; for the historical picture always lingers and fills one’s whole mental view, and yet it must completely fade so to speak, in order that the things which are not historical may be comprehended in a connected sequence (AC 3982:1)
      3. The “speckled and spotted” vs. white.
        1. This is a picture of our thoughts and intentions. While we are alive in the world our thought and affections are never pure. Thoughts are flawed and mixed with falsities. Intentions are mixed with “enlightened self interest” or even selfish motives. But that’s okay. The Lord can work with that.
        2. The evils residing with man are of various kinds. There are evils with which goods cannot be mingled and there are evils with which they can. And the same applies to falsities. If this were not so nobody could ever have been regenerated. The evils and falsities with which goods and truths cannot be mingled are ones that are contrary to love to God and love towards the neighbour – forms of hatred, revenge, and cruelty, and consequent contempt for others in comparison with oneself, and also consequent false persuasions. But the evils and falsities with which goods and truths can be mingled are ones that are not contrary to love to God and love towards the neighbour (AC 3993:8)
        3. All of our motives are mixed. In the beginning they tend toward the selfish side of the scale, as we get older and progress in our spiritual development they become less selfish and more heavenly — but never perfectly so.
        4. Most of the things we think are true are only partly true. Even simple statements of fact like, “the Lord is One” are clouded and confused by our incomplete understanding of what that concept might mean. Our understanding begins superficially and becomes deeper and more enlightened as we progress.
        5. The only motives that the Lord cannot work with are the ones that are contrary to the loves of the Lord and the neighbour, such things as hatred, revenge, cruelty, and contempt – and all the false arguments that attempt to justify such feelings and behaviours.
      4. The rods
          1. They saw the rods when they were coming to the troughs to drink – the animals’ thirst representing a strong affection for truth, a desire to learn.
          2. It should be delicately noted that the letter refers to the animals being “on heat” to represent a spiritual state within our minds where our affections are aroused with the desire to learn truth, and then conjoin good to it by bringing it into life.
            1. A teenager desperate for a driver’s licence and a car. The end, driving a car, exists in the imagination. And because there is a strong desire the young person eagerly acquires the knowledges that are necessary to achieve that end. Then the newly acquired knowledges and skills are conjoined when they successfully and skilfully take that car for a drive.
            2. That young person probably also entertains ideas of speeding around and playing road racer. These are the related falsities that have to be separated out.
          3. The question then becomes, what causes the shift in our motivations, what is needed to move us from that immature state where the mixture tends towards selfishness and falsity and moves it towards the love of the neighbour and heavenly enlightenment?
          4. Those things that are received with affection, remain.
        1. Where does that affection come from? At first, natural good, represented by the rods.
            1. The power of natural good and from that the good that empowers natural truths (AC 4013:2)
              1. You have all these ideas and feelings milling around in your heart and mind – like a big flock of sheep and goats and cattle all mixed together. How are you to decide what is more valuable? How are you to decide what is true?
            2. And he stripped white strips on them – an exposing of the white which was on the rods means an ordering effected by the interior power of truth (AC 4015:1)
              1. We lean what is true from the Word, and compel ourselves to be obedient to it and the resulting change of the way of life has an effect on the mind and heart, bringing them into a more heavenly order.
            3. By an ordering effected by the interior power of truth is meant the power of the interior man acting on the exterior man, that is, of the spiritual man acting on the natural man (AC 4015:1)
              1. Whenever we ask the Lord for guidance in our life, when we appeal to conscience, we are inviting the internal spiritual man within each one of us to order and direct the natural, thus bringing our lives into heavenly order.
            4. Truths are not capable of being implanted and joined to good except by means of affections for truth and good, which affections well up from charity towards the neighbour and love to the Lord as their sources (AC 4018:3)
              1. When we bring forth good fruits, the Lord can work within our hearts and minds in secret ways to shift things in a heavenly direction.
  3. As you grow you leave behind things that, at the time you loved a great deal and were quite useful to you at the time, but are no longer useful to you.,
    1. Do you really think High School was as much fun as you remember?
    2. Do you really want to go back to the basement apartment with the borrowed wicker furniture?
    3. As painful as the separation is; as difficult as it may be to leave behind the thought patterns and ways of life that we learned in our parents’ home, we all need to have the courage to leave the safety of “I always thought” to the new land, the new life that comes from confidently acting freely, as masters of our own home, in the Lord’s order.
      1. {54} Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain. {55} And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place. Amen.

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

First Lesson: GEN 31:1-13

Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has acquired all this wealth.” And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favourable toward him as before. Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, and said to them, “I see your father’s countenance, that it is not favourable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me. And you know that with all my might I have served your father. Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. If he said thus: ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked. So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me. “And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted. Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’ “ Amen.

Second Lesson: MAT 26:31-46

Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ {32} “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” {33} Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” {34} Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” {35} Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples. {36} Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” {37} And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. {38} Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” {39} He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” {40} Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? {41} “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” {42} Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” {43} And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. {44} So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. {45} Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. {46} “Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” Amen.

Third Lesson: AC 3982:2

[2] It is well known that a person learns many things in early and later childhood, the sole purpose being that through them as means he may learn things that are more useful, and then through these, things that are more useful still, until finally he learns those that have to do with eternal life; and that when he learns the latter the earlier things he has learnt are virtually obliterated. In a similar way when somebody is being born anew from the Lord he is led by means of many affections for good and truth which are not affections for genuine good and truth but those which enable him to have a mental grasp of the genuine and after that to be endued with them. Once he has been endued with them the previous things sink into oblivion and are discarded, because they have served solely as means. The same also applies to the parallel good meant by ‘Laban’ in relation to the good of truth meant by ‘Jacob’, and also by each one’s flock, dealt with below.

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


2 thoughts on “SHIFT of Motivation

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments about motives: “The only motives that the Lord cannot work with are the ones that are contrary to the loves of the Lord and the neighbour, such things as hatred, revenge, cruelty, and contempt – and all the false arguments that attempt to justify such feelings and behaviours.” Absolutely pure motives are nearly impossible for humans to achieve. Praise God he can work with the ones that are accompanied by the desire for purity. P.S. Thank you for becoming a follower of my blog, From the Inside Out. I pray you’ll find the posts meaningful.

    Liked by 1 person

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