Depressed mood – Does spiritual awareness help?

depressedYour pet cannot tell you when it feels depressed – at least not in so many words. Perhaps there is a clue in the noises it makes and what it does. More and more vets are prescribing tablets because of behaviour problems; and so huge numbers of dogs in America for example are on antidepressants.

Surely, animals in their natural habitat don’t need drugs. Maybe it’s because the pets are cooped up in houses whilst their owners are at work, or exposed to noisy traffic and neighbours or subjected to constant television. Enough to make anyone depressed I would have thought.

Depressed humans

As someone who was a therapist working with depressed patients for over thirty years, what is even more shocking for me is the way that human beings take the same medication in even larger numbers. Antidepressants are now the most frequently used tablets among Americans between the ages of 18 and 44. Severe depression can be an indescribable emotional pain. But whatever one’s severity of depression, I would like to suggest that like the animals, we humans also need to get back in touch with the ebb and flow of life of the natural world.

Low risk of depressed mood

It surely is no accident that horticultural workers usually come near the top on occupational surveys of subjective happiness. Are they not all enjoying fresh air, getting regular physical activity? Perhaps it is something to do with hearing the birds that sing, or touching the earth, or smelling flowers that give off their wonderful fragrance.

Reducing depressed mood

I would suggest that sometimes when we feel depressed it is because we are lonely, bored, or licking our wounds after some loss and thus in some way are less connected with the usual inflow of positive energy and warmth that can enliven the day. One common remedy is getting out for a walk and reflecting on something different from our own negative thoughts and feelings.

“I’ve treated my own depression for many years with exercise  and meditation, and I’ve found that to be a tremendous help.” (Judy Collins, singer and social activist)

This makes sense to me because physical activity out of doors as well as meditating on nature often means being more in touch with what I see as the creative force behind life itself. Meeting up with nature gets us away from the depressing world of people with their self-orientated and materialistic concerns and at times their crime and corruption.

“The culture is going into a psychological depression. We are concerned about our place in the world, about being competitive: Will my children have as much as I have? Will I ever own my own home? How can I pay for a new car? Are immigrants taking away my white world?” (James Hillman, Jungian psychologist)

How the natural environment reduces depressed mood

Look around what nature has to offer and you can easily see beauty or grandeur, and, if you are lucky, the wonders of an unspoilt environment. You are more likely to notice the rain-clouds in the sky and thus be reminded of the life-sustaining water they provide. Or the hills and mountains that can be said to mirror peak experiences of illumination and inspiration that capture for a short while the potential summit of one’s life’s journey. Or maybe consider the trees in the woodland and forests with their endurance and strength. Do these not reflect the reality of personal growth over many years? Useful ideas can take root, blossom into action and produce fruits of our labours.

“Time spent in nature is the most cost-effective and powerful way to counteract the burnout and sort of depression that we feel when we sit in front of a computer all day.” (Richard Louv, nonfiction writer & journalist)

I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. You can choose to open your eyes to the wider horizon of the soul or you can remain fixed in the narrow concerns of ego: be moved by the inspiration of something beyond the self, or suffer from the negativity of your frustrated ambition: be uplifted by the evidence of a creative life force all around or be depressed by the separate little world of individual self-hood.

“You can walk around the busy streets of a city and feel like you are completely isolated from the people hurrying along. Alternatively, you may choose to see God in the smile on a person’s face, feel the warmth of Divine love in the sun on the face, and see hope of new things in the green shoots in the park. It is all a matter of perception as to what is the reality of life.” (Helen Newton and Becky Jarratt, spiritual writers).

Choosing between spirit and ego

Having a choice between a spiritual or egoistic way of seeing, doesn’t mean that we are free all of a sudden to directly swap depressive feelings for happy ones. However, I would suggest that we do have some inner freedom to turn towards or turn our backs on what is revealed to us in the world of nature. Therapists for depressed people know that insofar as we have some insight into our own positive and negative states and ways of automatic thinking, then we do have some freedom to choose which to identify with.

Sometimes it might be difficult to move towards the change that is needed. It may help to visualise this freedom in terms of tuning the dial on a radio. We can listen in, either, on the one hand, to material that is uplifting and inspiring, or on the other hand, listen to what reinforces our sense of grievance, intolerance, and complaint.

The challenge of a depressed mood

Let no one minimise the challenge of trying to get to grips with depressed mood. There are no simple answers. But I do believe one useful strand is a clearer appreciation of the Divine source of life as an uplifting and healing force for the mind.

“Inmost angels perceive how much comes from the Lord and how much from themselves, but that in so far as it comes from the Lord they know happiness and insofar as it comes from themselves they do not.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher)

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Suicide – can it be a rational option?

Gary Speed

It is not uncommon for people with only a mild degree of depression to have thoughts of suicide. Although the majority take this no further, the process of thinking about harming oneself may make one more vulnerable to actually doing so.

Suicide of Gary Speed

From time to time, you might secretly wonder if ending your life might be the right thing for you. That’s what’s Welsh football legend Gary Speed probably had been thinking — only in his case he put his thoughts into action and committed suicide. This despite the success he enjoyed in the eyes of the world: he was good enough to be appointed manager of the Welsh national football team and apparently had everything to live for. Only the previous day, when being interviewed by the BBC, he had talked positively about his job, family, and his golf. Perhaps it just shows how little the world knows about what goes on within the human soul.

We might speculate about his mental state but only those who knew him very well might have had any inkling of what was going on beneath the public façade. Perhaps it was a sense of failure in not meeting impossibly high standards, or was it a fear of criticism by a newspaper industry quick to be judgemental when the national team does poorly? We can only imagine, whatever it was, it must have been something pretty horrendous to cause him to act in a way to cause his family such a loss.

Suicide and its assumptions

The general question remains: can suicide ever be a rational choice in certain circumstances? Some, who have taken their life, have believed that death was the only realistic way out of their difficulties. Others, given their terrible situation, have thought that life was not worth living. Some, because they felt they should be blamed for all that had gone wrong, have even assumed that they did not deserve to have anything to look forward to. I must admit I do wonder how they could have been so sure. When you are feeling low does not everything seems negative and is it not more difficult to get a reasonable perspective?

There is doubt in my mind about how accurately anyone can predict the future.  How does one know that the quality of one’s life will not improve if one were to stay alive? Is it really not possible that what feels to be an unbearable physical or emotional pain, might nevertheless become more tolerable in the future — after all, there are continual developments in medicine and many benefit from professional talking therapy. Is it inconceivable that there might be some changes one can make to daily living that could help? In other words, I’m wondering whether killing oneself might be a permanent mistaken solution to a temporary problem.

Suicide or a ‘living death’

There are some who would argue that deciding to kill oneself can be a perfectly rational decision:  that people who face irreversible suffering, for example of a deteriorating incurable disease, have a right to die rather than having a “living death”. Of course there is disagreement about what constitutes a “living death”.

Suicide and freedom

Some inmates in Nazi concentration camps thought that continuing to live would be intolerable and are known to have killed themselves by deliberately touching the electrified fences. I cannot say how I would have responded to such desperate circumstances but I do know that there were many survivors who had clung on to life and that some took the view that suicide takes away freedom because it amounts to precluding the freedom to make further choices.

Victor Frankl, the well respected existential therapist, for example chronicled his experiences as a concentration camp inmate which led him to focus on an inner freedom. This he said derives from the spiritual dimension of the person. He discovered the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus, he maintained a reason to continue living.

Suicide and religious belief

To my mind, a spiritual perspective also suggests that suicidal tendencies are less likely to be found amongst those deeply religious people who are free from worry and guilt: the reason being they have a deep sense of being loved by God, warts and all.

In my view a correct religious attitude challenges the view that a person’s life is his own and thus free to dispose of it as he wishes.  Instead individual life can be  considered to be from God on trust with that person. In addition there is the idea that suicide is a lack of faith that God will provide any help with desperate problems. Finally, there is also the religious view that it is a mistake to think you know best when to leave this world and enter the next.

Dark forces and suicide

Cognitive therapists encourage us to challenge automatic negative thoughts. Likewise Emanuel Swedenborg, visionary spiritual philosopher, warns us about the dark thoughts that can influence us. We need to be aware of their dangerous presence. He wrote about his own experience of negative impulses for example to throw himself in front of a carriage and horses: he said the source of such thoughts were his demons who wanted nothing else than his destruction.

Swedenborg reported that, when he was in a state of altered consciousness, he became aware of a spirit who had apparently committed suicide when in a state of depression.  Swedenborg says the state of mind of this individual lasted for some while after death. Apparently he was not condemned for taking his life and help was made available but it took quite a while for this spirit to change his mood. In other words, as there is a life after death, even suicide offers no immediate escape from despair.

My conclusion is that a spiritual perspective throws a different light on the question of whether suicide can ever be a rational decision.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Asking for Help


(Path of Integrity program, week 4)

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – October 14, 2012

  1. The story from the Word for this week comes from Genesis 42.
    1. As was explained in the children’s talk, Joseph has risen to power in Egypt and implemented his plan to store up the excess grain produced in the good years to use in the time of famine.
    2. One could presume that there were seven good years in Canaan as well, but Joseph’s brothers, not aware of the coming lean times, did not store up enough food.
      1. As shepherds, they really couldn’t. Sheep can’t be put in storehouses against future need.
    3. As their own supplies dwindle, they hear that there is food for sale in Egypt.
      1. We’re not certain where in Canaan Jacob’s camp was, nor are we certain where in Egypt the food was being sold, but a reasonable guess would be a journey of about 400 KM each way. On foot. Across the Sinai wilderness in a time of famine.
        1. So, one can have some sympathy for Jacob being reluctant to send Benjamin on the trip if he is not really needed.
        2. On the other hand, what is the message to the other ten? Again, the youngest of them is being put at the head. They cannot but think that he will be getting the inheritance of the firstborn.
        3. Jacob has made it clear that he considers Rachel to be his one true wife, the sons of his other wives suspect they may be in for a rough time.
    4. While it is not said in the text, one has to assume that Joseph is expecting his family to come to Egypt, and it would not be hard to have border guards looking for a group of 10 shepherds from Canaan claiming to be brothers and report them to Joseph.
      1. As said in the children’s talk, Joseph terrifies them by calling them spies, and sends them back to Canaan to bring Benjamin down to him in Egypt.
  2. The story is interesting and dynamic, but the point is to figure out what all this means for us and for our own spiritual progress.
    1. The big, overshadowing point in all this is that the powerful, nomadic, fiercely independent brothers (here a symbol for each one of us) have been brought to a point where they are no longer to keep themselves alive by their own efforts and they are forced to ask Joseph (the Lord) for help.
    2. How many of you have heard – and perhaps repeated to others yourselves – the phrase, “the Lord never gives you more than you can bear.”
      1. What’s the first thing that’s wrong with this saying? That the Lord gives you troubles. Everything we know about the Divine Providence tells us that He is continually striving, in the most minute detail, to lessen the effect of evil in our lives. The trouble comes from hell, by means of other people. Not God. Ever.
      2. What is the source of the saying? Guess what. There are no passages in the Bible that teach that we are not given more than we can bear. Not surprising, because it’s not true.
      3. There are no teachings in the Heavenly Doctrine that say this (although I have seen it in some New Church collateral literature). Again, not surprising.
      4. What we do find, however, is many many teachings that tell us that in order to regenerate, we must first examine ourselves to find evils, and then we are to pray to the Lord for forgiveness and help in removing them.
      5. And in the doctrine of the Divine Providence we can see that one of the reasons the Lord allows us to experience trouble is so that we won’t be lulled into thinking we don’t need his help.
        1. The 40 spies at the beginning of the Exodus
          1. Caleb and Joshua want to go into Canaan immediately. They are the only ones who get that it is Jehovah that is doing all the fighting for them.
        2. Jericho and Ai at the end.
          1. The big, fortified city falls easily because Jehovah knocks the walls down.
          2. The little city does not fall because they are trying to do it on their own.
        3. In fact, the whole story of the Exodus from Egypt and settling in the land of Canaan is a series of examples of success when they ask the Lord for help and follow His path, and failure when they try to do it on their own without His help.
        4. Why does the Lord speak about David as the greatest king of Israel?
          1. His personal life was a mess, but when it came to his office as King, he did what the Lord asked.
  3. The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that we are able to change, that we do not have to just accept who we are, or accept a fate chosen for us by others. We have free will, and we can choose our own destiny. There are a few simple steps to follow as laid out for us in the True Christian Religion. We need to examine our actions and motives in the light of the Word; we need to recognize and admit to those things that we are doing and thinking that are contrary to the Lord’s will; and then begin a new life by not doing or thinking them any more (See TCR 528).
    1. For this to happen, there must first be the acknowledgement that there is such a thing as sin, and that it may exist in our thoughts and feelings.

      No one in the Christian world can be without the knowledge of sin, for there every one is taught from infancy what evil is, and from childhood what is the evil of sin. All young persons learn this from parents and teachers, and also from the Decalogue, the first Book placed in the hands of all throughout Christendom; and in the subsequent stages of life, from public preaching and private instruction at home, and in all fullness from the Word. They learn it also from the laws of civil justice, which embody the teaching of the Decalogue and other parts of the Word. For the evil of sin is evil against the neighbour; and evil against the neighbour is also evil against God, and this is sin.

      The knowledge of sin, however, is of no avail unless a man examines his own actions, and sees whether he has committed any particular deed, either secretly or openly. Before this is done it is all mere knowledge, and what proceeds from the preacher is only sound, passing in at one ear and out at the other; and it finally becomes nothing more than the expression of pious thought, for the most part unreal and fanciful. But it is altogether different when a man examines himself according to his rational conception of sin, and, coming upon some evil, says to himself, “This is a sin,” and abstains from it through fear of eternal punishment. Then for the first time the instruction heard in the church, from sermon and prayer, claims his attention and enters his heart; and the man from being a pagan, becomes a Christian.

    3. We like to think that being a good person, a member of the church, is about being “charitable” – and it is. But reflect on this for the moment. The first of the church is charity, but the first of charity is to shun evils as sins. Unfortunately for us, we love our sins. And that’s what throws our spiritual life into the crisis represented by the Brothers in Canaan, starving.
    4. Coming to Egypt represents the need to approach the Word to gain knowledge to solve the problem, whatever it may be.
    5. Buying grain from Joseph represent our need to ask the Lord for help.
      1. Remember who these men were. Their hardness is a picture of our own stubbornness and need to do things our own way.
      2. The famine, the temptation that brings us to the realization that we cannot act entirely on our own, is a permission that the Lord allows because it breaks our stubborn state and bring us to the realization that we actually need the Lord’s help, that we cannot do it by ourselves….
      3. And that the Lord, ever merciful, is standing there with open arms, ready to forgive and give us what we need.
    6. The process is not simple, nor is it easy.
      1. The brothers still have to hike 400 KM back to Canaan, deal with their father, and come back again a second time to again confront “the man” who will eventually reveal himself to them as Joseph.
        1. Like in the garden of Gethsemane, the disciples could only see the Jesus as the Lord when they were in the right state. So here, the brothers cannot recognize Joseph until the earlier states of evil are broken.
        2. But that’s something to consider next week as we continue this series. Amen.


First Lesson:

(Continuing from the Children’s talk)

GEN 42 {21} Then they said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.” {22} And Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not speak to you, saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.” {23} But they did not know that Joseph understood them, for he spoke to them through an interpreter. {24} And he turned himself away from them and wept. Then he returned to them again, and talked with them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. {25} Then Joseph gave a command to fill their sacks with grain, to restore every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. Thus he did for them. {26} So they loaded their donkeys with the grain and departed from there. {27} But as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey feed at the encampment, he saw his money; and there it was, in the mouth of his sack. {28} So he said to his brothers, “My money has been restored, and there it is, in my sack!” Then their hearts failed them and they were afraid, saying to one another, “What is this that God has done to us?” {29} Then they went to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan and told him all that had happened to them, saying: {30} “The man who is lord of the land spoke roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country. {31} “But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. {32} ‘We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is with our father this day in the land of Canaan.’ {33} “Then the man, the lord of the country, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, take food for the famine of your households, and be gone. {34} ‘And bring your youngest brother to me; so I shall know that you are not spies, but that you are honest men. I will grant your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’” {35} Then it happened as they emptied their sacks, that surprisingly each man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid. {36} And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”

Second Lesson: TCR 226

1. The Word is not understandable without a body of teaching, because the Word’s literal meaning consists entirely of correspondences whose function is to allow spiritual and heavenly things to coexist in it and every word to be a container and a support for these spiritual and heavenly contents. Therefore in the literal meaning divine truths are rarely naked; instead they are clothed and are called apparent truths. There are many things in the literal meaning that are adapted to the grasp of simple people who do not lift their thoughts above the kind of things they see before their eyes. Some things seem like contradictions, although when the Word is viewed in its own spiritual light there is no contradiction. Furthermore, in some passages in the Prophets there are collections of names of people and places from which no meaning can be extracted. Since this is the nature of the Word’s literal meaning, it is clear that it cannot be understood without a body of teaching.

[2] Examples may illustrate. We read that Jehovah relents (Exodus 32:12, 14; Jonah 3:9; 4:2); and we also read that Jehovah does not relent (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29). These passages cannot be reconciled without a body of teaching. We read that Jehovah inflicts parents’ sins on their children to the third and fourth generation (Numbers 14:18). Yet we also read that parents are not to die because of their children nor children because of their parents, but all die in their own sin (Deuteronomy 24:16). A body of teaching brings these passages out of disharmony into harmony.

[3] Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; if you keep knocking it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7, 8; 21:21, 22). Without a body of teaching, people might believe that we are all going to receive whatever we ask of anyone. On the basis of a body of teaching, however, we know that it is whatever we ask of the Lord that we will be given. The Lord in fact teaches this: “If you live in me and my Word’s live in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).


Fight Evil Like David


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, September 9, 2012

We covered some of the basic story of David and Goliath in the children’s talk. Now, let’s go back over the story in more detail, but this time looking for those things in the story that will be helpful to our spiritual life.

A few key representatives will help us get started. The Philistines as a nation represent “faith alone” in its various forms. Although it may include that doctrinal position that was formalized at the time of the Reformation, it refers to a more general situation that occurs when a person knows what is true – from his parents, teachers, or the community he grew up in, but he chooses to ignore those cultural or religious norms and instead do whatever pleases him.

Goliath represents the kinds of evils we can let ourselves get into when we ignore the truth. It starts out with just failing to do what is good and useful, but soon leads into actual evils of life. When evils are done from intent a few times they can be almost impossible to remove – like the giant warrior Goliath.

David represents the Lord’s power to heal and protect us by means of Divine Truth.

The story begins with armies of the children of Israel and the Philistine camped on either side of a valley.

(1 Sam 17) {4} And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. {5} He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. {6} And he had bronze armour on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. {7} Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him.

This description sets the scene. Goliath is a picture of some evil that we have discovered within ourselves, that needs to be removed. The problem is that we love this evil – a lot – and it’s going to take a lot of work and be painful to remove it. So we armour it with all kinds of excuses. Yes, we make the problem a giant in our own minds, we cover it with armour, and give it weapons in order to have a good excuse to avoid fighting it and removing it.

{8} Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. {9} “If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” {10} And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”

Here’s an interesting question: Who gave Goliath the right to set the conditions of the battle?

Just because Goliath demanded a one-on-one winner-take-all battle doesn’t mean that Saul and the army of Israel had to agree to it.

Sure, we can talk about all kinds of historic and cultural norms that influenced Saul’s behaviour on the historic battlefield, but what about the Goliath that represents some kind of temptation in your life. Why fight spiritual temptation in the place and at the time that it demands.

RUN AWAY FROM IT! GANG UP ON IT! LURE IT INTO A TRAP! Who says you have to play fair with evil spirits? If you have discovered that you become angry and destructive while watching a hockey game on TV, turn the TV off and go for a walk instead. Don’t keep watching in the hopes that this time you’ll be able to keep it under control. Whatever it is, remove yourself from the situation that triggers it.

If Saul had been a little bit more clever, he would have hidden 100 archers in the rocks and the second time Goliath came out to challenge them, filled him with arrows. End of problem. Evils are always easier to take care of when you deal with them before they become habits. But then we wouldn’t have this historic lesson that reflects what actually happens in our own spiritual lives when we let evils loves and false ideas take control in our lives.

The hells are really good at identifying the times when we are at our weakest. We need to turn the tables and take the fight to them when we are ready, when we are strong, when we feel the Lord’s presence with us.

That part of our mind that is represented by Saul and the children of Israel cannot fight Goliath. We need to awaken David, that strong, confident, youthful spirit within us.

{11} When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. {12} Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse, and who had eight sons. … {16} And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening.

Another key representative is the number 40. It rained 40 days and nights on Noah; the Lord went into the wilderness to fast for 40 days; I’m sure we can all think of others. It always means that the subject of the story is a person’s personal battle against the evils and falsities that they find in their lives.

[David is asked by his father to take food and supplies to his older brothers, who are in Saul’s army. Being a curious lad he did not go straight to his brothers but went through the camp checking things out. He was at the front just as Goliath came out and shouted his challenge to the soldiers and his insults to their God.]

{26} Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “…Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” ….

As said before, in general, the Philistines represent people who have truth, but do not do what they know to be good. It’s also called “faith alone.”

Goliath, who is here called “uncircumcised,” represents what happens when people who have the truth ignore it to the point that they begin to do things that they know to be evil and filthy. These filthy loves that develop out of faith alone make for a powerful, difficult to remove, spiritual state. It’s not something you just fall into by accident. This has been developed and thought about for some time.

{31} Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. {32} Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

It’s pretty clear that the children of Israel have not had a king long enough that they have developed any kind of customs about speaking to the king respectfully! David, the shepherd boy from the hills, speaks to King Saul as an equal. This is because both David and Saul represent aspects of our own minds. They are equal because they are different parts of one mind. When we are in doubt, when we are trying to figure out the best course of action, we sometimes say that we are of “two minds.” Here, David is a picture of the confident, aggressive, problem solving part of our mind, while Saul is the part that is cautious, thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

{33} And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” {34} But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, {35} I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. {36} “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” {37} Moreover David said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”

the power was given to David to smite the bear and the lion, to represent and signify the Lord’s power to defend by His Divine truth His own in the church from the falsities of evil that are from hell (AE 782:2 emphasis added).

{38} So Saul clothed David with his armour, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. {39} David fastened his sword to his armour and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off.

Saul, the cautious side, wants to make things as safe as possible, but the David side sees that what is needed is to keep things simple and direct. Go with his true strength, the power of the Lord’s own Divine Truth.

{40} Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.

Appearance vs. Reality. We think we can arm ourselves, protect ourselves against these assaults on our spiritual life, but our best efforts to do this only weigh us down.

On the other hand, 5 smooth stones from a brook will serve the Lord’s purposes quite nicely – truth from the Lord through the Word that has been worn down and made smooth through constantly being brought to mind in one’s life.

{41} So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David…. {42} And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. {43} So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

Here’s another insight into the character of evil. When it gets to this point, it is not enough to be selfish, or worldly, or hurt other people in some way – it begins to involve a hatred for God Himself. Thus we read that Goliath, curses God. There is an element here that if the Philistine wins the single combat, it will be seen as a defeat of Jehovah Himself. Yes, the love of self can get to the point where it shows itself as hatred of the Lord and the desire to pull Him down and rule in His place!

David is a better warrior than Saul. He is both courageous and smart. David has set a trap as was mentioned earlier. A boy with a sling approaches Goliath instead of an armed warrior. He is tricked into letting his guard down, and is destroyed by simple, fundamental truths from the Word.

{44} And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” {45} Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. {46} “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand,”

When praying for the Lord’s help in temptation, these are powerful words to remember and use. “I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, and this day He will deliver you into my hand.”

and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. {47} “Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

This theme is repeated throughout the OT. The 10 plagues, the drowning of the Egyptian army, Jericho, Ai, etc., etc. We like to think that we are doing the fighting – but it is ALWAYS the Lord who fights, at our invitation.

Remember how the spies were afraid to go into Canaan because the people of the land were strong, but Joshua and Caleb pointed out that it didn’t matter because it was the Lord who would be doing the fighting, and nothing can stand before Him.

{48} So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

Once the decision is made and the time for action is at hand, there is no longer any need for hesitation. David runs to meet Goliath.

{49} Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. {50} So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. {51} Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it.

The smooth stone kills Goliath. The battle truly is won by the Lord. But, there still needs to be some kind of external sign, something as-if-from-self that gives us an outward sign that the battle is won. In Egypt it was the waters closing over the Egyptian army; in Jericho it was the walls falling down at the sound of the trumpets. Here David is permitted the dramatic, though unnecessary, action of cutting Goliath’s head off with his own sword.

The watching soldiers would not have been able to see the small wound caused by the stone. The beheading made everything quite clear to all.

And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

The Philistines fleeing the field of battle at the sight of their champion falling reveals something about our enemy, the evils spirits who are causing the temptation. The are not invincible. When we use the tools and procedures outlined for us in the stories of the Word, the evil spirits find themselves faced with the power of Divine Truth itself. This is the power that created the universe, that spoke the word, and it was so. And they flee from it in terror.

  • We need to start with the recognition that there is such a thing as evil, and that we need to remove it from our lives through our own efforts.

  • We need to examine our own motives and actions in the light of the Word to discover the evils that are holding us back.

  • Having discovered and evil, we pray to the Lord for forgiveness, and then stop doing it. This is the hard part: making the decision to give something up that has been a part of your life and then sticking to it. This is the battle, this is the test. And this is where we need to remember and hold firm to what we have learned from the story of David fighting Goliath – that if we are making this effort in the name of the Lord, because it is what He asks of us – He will fight for us and drive away even the most ferocious attack from the hells. All we need to do is to ask for His help with sincerity of heart.

  • In the process of reforming our lives, little by little we are reborn into an angel of heaven. Amen.

First Lesson: MAT 22:34-46

(Mat 22:34-46) But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. {35} Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, {36} “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” {37} Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ {38} “This is the first and great commandment. {39} “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ {40} “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” {41} While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, {42} saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” {43} He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: {44} ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’? {45} “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” {46} And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

Second Lesson: AE 782:2

Power was given to David to smite the lion and the bear that took away the sheep from the flock, because “David” represented the Lord in reference to Divine truth in which those who are of His church are instructed; and a “lion” signifies the power of spiritual Divine truth, and in the contrary sense, as here, the power of infernal falsity against Divine truth; while a “bear” signifies the power of natural Divine truth, and in the contrary sense the power of falsity against that truth. But “a sheep from the flock” signifies those who are of the Lord’s church. And as this was represented, the power was given to David to smite the bear and the lion, to represent and signify the Lord’s power to defend by His Divine truth His own in the church from the falsities of evil that are from hell. David’s taking hold of the beard of the bear involves an arcanum that may be disclosed, indeed, but can scarcely be comprehended. The “beard” signifies the Divine truth in ultimates, in which its essential power rests. This truth also the evil who are in falsities carry indeed in the mouth but they misuse it to destroy; but when it is taken away they no longer have any power. This is why he killed the bear and smote the lion. But this will be further explained elsewhere. But “Goliath,” who was a Philistine and was therefore called “uncircumcised,” signifies such as are in truths without good; and truths without good are truths falsified, which in themselves are falsities. “The uncircumcised” signifies those who are in filthy corporeal loves; for the foreskin corresponds to those loves. From this it is clear what the victory of David over Goliath represented.