The Parable of the Lamb


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, July 22, 2007

As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! (2SA 12:5)

David was the greatest of the kings of Israel. It was David alone who could unite the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. It was David who had the strength and the military knowledge to capture the mighty fortified city of the Jebusites and make it his capital, which he then named “Jerusalem” meaning “possession of peace.” David was known as an able leader of men, a great military genius, a man of great religious passion, and a wise judge over his people. When David was performing his office as king of a united Israel, he, more than any other king in the whole of the Word, represented the royalty and power of God.

On the other hand, David the man was capable of great passion, great cunning, and great cruelty. No other character in the Word shows the contrast between a man and his office so powerfully as David. David first saw Bathsheba while he was walking on the roof of his palace and he saw her bathing on the roof of a neighbouring building. Abusing his kingly powers, he commanded that she be brought to him.

Later, when David discovered Bathsheba’s pregnancy, he first ordered her husband Uriah home from the battle so he could spend the night at home with her and so believe the child to be his own; but when he refused to spend the night in comfort with his wife while his men and officers were still in battle, David gave orders to put this valiant and loyal leader of men into the hottest part of the battle, and he ordered the other men to then withdraw from him, leaving him to his death. Ironically, Uriah’s sense of honour and respect for his comrades-at-arms was what made it necessary for David to kill him, and even worse, Uriah’s bravery and skill as a warrior were turned against him and used to destroy him. It was this deliberate deception, and the use of Uriah’s own honour and virtue to destroy him that sets this crime apart.

David as king represented the Lord. In this context David had committed terrible sins, so we can know that David the man does not represent the Lord, but instead, what is opposite to the Lord, a love of self so powerful that it can convince itself that it is above civil, moral, and spiritual law, and so full of the desire to rule over others that it wants to overthrow the Lord Himself and rule in His place. The love of self is seldom so fully developed in people still in the world, but with a little careful and honest self-examination, we all can recognize some degree of this love of self in ourselves.

Everyone comes into selfish states from time to time. The Lord knows this, for He knows our nature. The question is, how does the Lord provide for us to find our way out of these selfish states? How can order and equilibrium be restored to our lives without also destroying our spiritual freedom?

We can see how the Lord gently leads even our most hateful and destructive states in the way that Nathan the prophet brought David back into order. He does not accuse David. He does not threaten him. Nathan simply presented truth to David, and then let him judge himself against the standard of truth. And so the Lord provides for our states in the same way. He has given us the Word in such a form that it does not intrude into our lives. The books lie passively on the shelf until we ourselves pick them up and open them, and even then, unless we read with a genuine desire to learn from the Lord, the Divine within them will be invisible. The Lord never forces Himself into our lives unbidden. We must invite Him in.

Also like the Word, Nathan spoke to David in a parable, a story that contained many hidden levels of meaning, but that did not accuse David of any crime or challenge his authority as a king in any way. The whole of the Word is written in parables, and the Lord Himself says that while in the world He did not teach except in parables. A parable is a passive way of making a point, that is, the point will not be seen at all unless it is looked for.

Nathan told the story of a rich man who stole the ewe lamb of his poor neighbour so that he could have a nice dinner for a guest. The story was told so that obviously it was not just any lamb, but a family pet as well. The parable was carefully crafted to stir our sympathy for the poor man and his family, and inflame our anger for the cold-hearted rich man who could murder and eat a lamb that was practically a member of the family!

The Doctrines tell us that the rich represent those who have many truths and goods from the Lord through the church, but who do not put them to any use in their life. They disregard the things of the church. In comparison, the poor are those who, due to circumstances, do not have goods or truths, but still, they long for them, and wish to have them from the Lord. Those few truths that they do have, they love, and cherish, and bring into their lives.

The image of the little ewe lamb contains many powerful images which are to lead us to think about the opposite of selfishness, that is, the complete and utter trust in the Lord and willingness to follow Him. While all lambs represent innocence (see AC 3994:3), a ewe lamb in particular represents the holiness of innocence (see AC 2720:6). More images were given to illustrate that we are to think about this in terms of the ideal state of our relationship with the Lord. The lamb was like the man’s own daughter, and a daughter represents goods. It ate his food, which represents that he gave it spiritual nourishment, that is, he gave it the things that it needed for spiritual life and growth. It drank from his own cup, that is, he gave the inmost truths that it needed. It lay in his bosom, which means it was conjoined to him by love and mercy.

These images tell us that if we are willing to follow what the Lord teaches in the Word, He will nourish us with spiritual food, he will quench our thirst for spiritual truth, and eventually, we will be conjoined with him to eternity in the life of heaven.

On the other hand, there is the symbol of the rich man, the man who has acquired many goods and truths in his lifetime, but has hidden them away, as it were, and does not live according to them. Such a man will, when his crimes are discovered, be condemned, that is, he will go to hell.

It is interesting to note that there is an additional penalty upon him: he will also be required to restore the lamb fourfold because he had no pity. No one can replace such a loss, and what would four lambs be to a rich man? How could this add to his punishment when he has already been condemned to death? The only reason that this additional punishment is mentioned is for the sake of the internal sense, for it tells us something further about our own states. The lamb was to be restored fourfold because the man had no pity. On the other hand, the Lord has compassion for everyone, and He teaches that anyone who does not also have compassion for others cannot be conjoined with Him, for all conjunction is of love – you cannot be conjoined to someone if your loves are totally different (see AC 904:2) It is also true that those people who have been gifted with a sense of perception know that whenever they feel compassion toward another, they are admonished by the Lord and their conscience to render aid. In this we are reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan (see AC 6737).

Another aspect of evil that is brought out by this parable is how the evildoer so often commits his evils so that they are obvious to many, yet he can still convince himself that they are not known others. It seems that in his own mind David actually believed that he could take Bathsheba from Uriah, have her become pregnant while Uriah was away at battle, and then order his soldiers to abandon Uriah so he would die in battle, without anyone noticing this chain of events. How often does it happen that we do things that we think are secret when yet they are well known to our friends and family who, out of friendship, or embarrassment, have simply declined to mention it. It’s likely that we have all known people who have practised a vice in what they believed to be secret, when yet it was obvious to all what they were doing. This shows how powerful self-deception and self-justification can be.

Amazing as it seems, David believed that he could hide his adultery by committing murder, but his foolishness and sinfulness were painfully obvious to all. While it is true that some evils can be kept secret in the world, we know that once in the spiritual world, as spirits enter the second state, the state of their interiors, they no longer care what others think, and their behaviour becomes one with their interior loves. In this way, all spirits can see their evils, and those who are good can reject them. Eventually, all sins, whether done in secret or openly, will eventually be made known. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgement (MAT 12:36), also For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops (LUK 12:2,3).

We sometimes find ourselves in the position that Nathan the prophet found himself in. We don’t know whether David and Nathan were friends, but Nathan was the chief prophet of the Lord, and so he would have a position of some respect in David’s court. He was no doubt free to come and go, and was frequently present to give counsel on important decisions. Also, in his office as a priest, Nathan was under a moral obligation to act as a watchman and condemn David for his open sin, and call him to repentance. But, as a man, Nathan had good reason to be afraid. David had already killed one important and powerful counsellor because of his infatuation with Bathsheba: was there not good reason to suspect that David might even kill the Lord’s prophet under these circumstances?

Do we not also find ourselves in a similar situation from time to time, where we see a friend or loved one travelling on a course which we clearly see to be headed for disaster? We feel conflicting emotions. On the one hand we want to say something to make our friend stop doing what we know to be evil or foolish. On the other hand, we are reluctant to say anything that our friend will regard as critical because they may then be angry with us and say hurtful things. This puts us in a very unhappy state as we try to decide between two difficult paths. Our conscience will not allow us to let the evil go on, and our natural affection for our friend does not wish to say anything that might cause pain or result in a difficult confrontation.

When we find ourselves in these circumstances, it could be helpful to follow Nathan’s example. As a priest, he had to condemn David’s sins. As a man, he feared for his own life. So he found a middle ground; he used the parable of the lamb to cause David to judge himself. The important principle that is illustrated here is that it is the truth that judges people, not other people. By presenting the truth to David, David judged himself in the light of that truth, and because he saw himself in the light of truth, there was no anger, no need for revenge upon Nathan.

The parable of the lamb, and the circumstances that made it necessary, give us a complete and powerful picture of the love of self and the evil and cruelty it is capable of when allowed to run unchecked. As David himself said while unknowingly condemning his own actions, The man who has done this shall surely die (text). There can be no spiritual life for the person who puts himself above all things in the world, above the needs of all people in the world, and who, in his heart, wishes to pull the Lord down from His throne and rule in His place (for all these things dwell in the interior degrees of selfishness) – unless. Unless such a person is led to the truth in the Word and to judge himself in its light, unless he can see his evils for himself, unless he prays to the Lord for help in removing them, unless he shuns them and begins to live a new life. Then he will not die.

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat of the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 1:18-20). AMEN.

Lessons: 2SA 12:1-7, MAR 1:1-11, AC 904:2

First Lesson: 2SA 12:1-7

Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. {2} “The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. {3} “But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. {4} “And a traveller came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” {5} So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! {6} “And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” {7} Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. Amen.

Second Lesson: MAR 1:1-11

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. {2} As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” {3} “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'” {4} John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. {5} Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. {6} Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. {7} And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. {8} “I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” {9} It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. {10} And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. {11} Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Amen.

Third Lesson: AC 904:2

The presence of the Lord is predicated according to the state of love toward the neighbour and of faith in which the man is. In love toward the neighbour the Lord is present, because He is in all good; but not so much in faith, so called, without love. Faith without love and charity is a separated or disjoined thing. Wherever there is conjunction there must be a conjoining medium, which is nothing else than love and charity, as must be evident to all from the fact that the Lord is merciful to every one, and loves every one, and wills to make every one happy to eternity. He therefore who is not in such love that he is merciful to others, loves them, and wills to make them happy, cannot be conjoined with the Lord, because he is unlike Him and not at all in His image. To look to the Lord by faith, as they say, and at the same time to hate the neighbour, is not only to stand afar off, but is also to have the abyss of hell between themselves and the Lord, into which they would fall if they should approach nearer, for hatred to the neighbour is that infernal abyss which is between. Amen.

David Spares Saul

Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem

Sermon: Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem

I preached this sermon at the Carmel New Church in Kitchener, Ontario, on July 18, 2010.


A Sermon by Rev. Coleman S. Glenn

This morning we read the story of David taking the ark to Jerusalem, and the sad story of Uzzah touching the ark.  But the story actually begins long before our reading takes place, before David was king, before his predecessor Saul was king, when Samuel had just become the leader over Israel – decades before the story in our reading took place.  In those days, the ark was captured by the Philistines, but it brought curses on them, and so they returned it to the people of Israel.  The people of Israel took it and brought it to the house of Abinidab on the hill.  There the ark stayed for decades.  Samuel grew old while the ark was there.  Saul was anointed king, and then after him, David was anointed king, and all the while, the ark was in the care of Abinadab and his household.

It stayed there for seven even after David had become king, while he was ruling Israel from the city of Hebron.  It was not until David finally conquered Jerusalem in the seventh year of his reign that he called for them to bring the ark to Mount Zion, the site of Jerusalem, which was then called the city of David.

This story is a literal history of the movement of the ark.  But like all the stories in the Word, it contains an internal sense that is about our spiritual lives.  The progression of the ark represents our spiritual progression – our progression from being merely natural, to being spiritual, to finally being celestial.  The ark represents the Lord’s presence with us along the entire journey, and especially His Divine Truth, or His Word, because the ark contained the Ten Commandments, which are the heart of the Word.

In our story, the ark began in the home of Abinidab in Baale-Judah, in Gibeah, where it had been for decades.  This represents the most external things of the church in a person.  This is where we all begin.  Here we view the Ten Commandments mostly as rules to be obeyed.  This is where we spend our childhood, growing up and learning about the Lord.  We act according to a sense of obedience rather than charity or love.

As we follow the teachings of the commandments on a natural level, we begin to move.  The ark leaves the house of Abinidab towards the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite.  We progress from mere obedience toward acting from love toward our neighbour – from the natural to the spiritual.  The home of Obed-Edom represents the spiritual with us, when we are acting from charity toward the neighbour.  And the final destination is Mount Zion, which represents celestial love – acting not only from obedience, not only from charity toward the neighbour, but from a deep and abiding love for the Lord.

In this summary, it sounds like a simple progression.  But it’s not always as simple as that.  The journey was far from straightforward, and it contained both joy and heartbreak.  When the ark first left the house of Abinadab, it was placed on a new cart drawn by oxen, and driven by the sons of Abinadab, Uzzah and Ahio.  From the outset of the journey, there was music and rejoicing.  We read, “Then David and all the house of Israel played music before Jehovah on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.”  The book Apocalypse Explained tells us that the playing on these instruments represents “the gladness and joy that result from the affection of truth and good from the Lord through the influx of Divine truth.”  They represent the gladness that comes along with enjoying the truth on a natural level and on a spiritual level.  From the very beginning of our journey, we experience satisfaction in learning truth from the letter of the Word, and as we progress, we experience the pleasure that comes from living by the Word and treating our neighbour with charity.  That is the music of the instruments that accompanies the ark.

When we start to follow the Word – when the ark starts to move – we usually notice that it just works for our lives.  Our interactions with other people start to become more pleasant.  Right from the beginning, there is pleasure and happiness associated with learning and doing the truth.  If there weren’t, it would be impossible to motivate ourselves to continue – the ark couldn’t move by itself.  The oxen that were pulling the ark represent natural good – that is, the pleasure and enjoyment that come from following the literal sense of the Word.  For example, if you decide to start being more honest – from the first day you start, there’s just a natural sense of peace from the fact that you don’t have to worry so much about thinking of lies.  Even though you’ve just started your journey, you already start to see some benefits.
At the beginning of the ark’s journey, everything went smoothly.  But after some time, something seemed to go wrong: the oxen that were drawing the ark stumbled.

Remember, the oxen represent that natural good.  At first, following the Word just seems to work, and it makes you happy.  But as time goes by, you might find that it’s not making you as happy as before.  Even though you were excited about reading the Word, and it gave you pleasure, now you’re starting to come across things that are hard to understand, or that are hard to accept.  It seems that the oxen are stumbling – something just seems wrong.

Recall what happens in the story.  At the threshing floor of Nachon, the oxen stumble, and the ark begins to slip.  Abinidab’s son Uzzah, who has been accompanying the ark, puts out his hand to touch it – and he is immediately struck down dead.  In the historical sense, this happened because Uzzah was breaking a commandment, that only a consecrated priest could touch the holy things.  But it’s also a picture of the way we can do ourselves harm by trying to “steady the ark” – trying to “fix” what the Word says if it doesn’t seem to match up with what we’d like it to say.

Think about Uzzah’s life.  He was the son of Abinadab, in whose house the ark had been stored for so many years.  He had grown up with the ark in his house.  And he and his brother were charged with taking care of it as it made its way from their home to its new home in Jerusalem.  He probably felt a special sense of closeness with it.  And all of this so far is good.  Uzzah, for the most part, seems to represent something good in us.  David wept for him when he died.  And Arcana Coelestia says that he represents, “the truth that ministers to good.”  He seems to represent our understanding of truth.  He represents something good – but he makes one mistake – he touched the ark and tried to steady it.  If we put ourselves in his place, it’s easy to understand why he would do so.  If the ark fell, he might have been embarrassed.  He was used to having it around – although he knew it was holy, it was also a familiar thing.  It seemed perfectly natural to try to steady it, to keep it from falling.

But in doing so, he put his faith in his own abilities, rather than trusting that the Lord’s Word could take care of itself.  And we can find ourselves in a very similar position.  We have the Lord’s Word with us always.  We know that it is holy and true.  And yet there are times when we “put out our hand to steady it” – and in doing so we put our faith in ourselves, rather than in the Word.

Remember, when the oxen stumble, it is a time when the Word suddenly seems to stop being so enjoyable, or it seems to have something wrong – it’s about to fall over.  Maybe it makes a statement about the difference between men and women that makes us cringe a little.  Maybe it says something about love-of-self that seems to contradict what psychology says.  And in cases like that, we might be tempted to put out our hands to steady it.  We might say, “Oh, it doesn’t really mean that.”  We’re a little embarrassed for it – we don’t want other people to know what it says, and we’re quick to explain it away.  And we can explain away things that don’t seem to be working in our lives.  We’ve decided to stop lying, for instance, and we’re finding that telling the truth, while rewarding at first, is just getting us into trouble.  We might tell ourselves, “Well, there must be some exceptions – the Word can’t really mean we’re supposed to be honest all the time.”

This tendency comes from a fundamental error.  When we live with the Word for a long time – and especially for us in the New Church, when we are familiar with a revelation that is unknown to most people – we can start to feel like it belongs to us.  If there is something a little off-putting about it, we feel embarrassed about it, because we feel like we’re somehow responsible for it – that it is a reflection of us, rather than the other way around.  This may have been a little how Uzzah felt – remember, the ark had been in his family’s possession for years and years and years.  The Writings tell us that Uzzah reaching out with his hand represents trying to approach the Word from our own power, what is our own, from our proprium – which is closely related to a sense of ownership.

We usually talk about a sense of ownership as a positive thing when it comes to religion.  And it’s true that we have to have a sense that our religion is our own rather than someone else’s.  But we belong to the Lord – the Lord does not belong to us.  We have discovered the Writings, and they have touched us, and they speak to us – but they do not belong to us, any more than the ark belonged to Uzzah.  And we cannot “steady” them – we cannot try to “fix” what they say – without doing ourselves serious harm.  The end of the book of Revelation forbids anyone to add or take away anything from the words of that book – it is specifically talking about the book of Revelation, but the truth applies to the entire Word.

We cannot change the Word to make it more palatable.  But this does not mean that Uzzah does not have his place.  We need to have an understanding of truth to carry the ark, to lead us in following the Lord.  And sometimes this understanding of truth does involve resolving seeming contradictions in the Word.  Some people have accused the Writings of doing precisely what is forbidden in the story of Uzzah and at the end of Revelation, of denying the hard truths in the literal sense of the Word.  For example, the Writings say that the Lord is never angry – despite clear statements to the contrary in the Old Testament.  Are the Writings just trying to “steady the ark,” to make an unpleasant truth more palatable?  Now, the Writings are a new revelation, so their interpretation of the Old and New Testaments is not really the same as a person doing it on his own.  They are not a human hand but a Divine hand touching the ark.

But the Writings indicate that even without a new revelation, the Christian church could have known that God was never angry.  How would coming to this conclusion be different from reaching out to touch the ark?  The big difference is that the conclusion that God is never angry is itself drawn from the Word, rather than from a person’s own intelligence, or from a desire to “fit in” with the cultural mores.  A person needs to use their understanding and enlightenment to see the governing truths in the Word, and to see other statements as appearances of truth.  So, for example, the truth is clearly expressed in the Old and New Testament that the Lord loves the world; that the Lord does not desire the death of anyone; and in short, that God is love.  A person can use reason to say, “Anger as I know it contains hatred within it; and so when it says God is angry, it must mean a different kind of anger from human anger – a kind of anger that is completely free from a desire to hurt anyone.”   This kind of thinking is permitted, because it is from the Word, and not from one’s own power.

But it’s easier, when we come across a difficult teaching in the Word, to start from the assumption that it’s wrong, and try to make it fit what we already believe – rather than allowing it to change what we believe.  When we start to do that – to guide ourselves from our own intelligence, rather than from the Word – we seriously harm something inside of ourselves.  Uzzah represents our understanding of truth.  And as soon as we believe that we are able to know truth of ourselves without the Word, we die.  When Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden, the Lord forbade them to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – and told them that if they ate of it, they would die.  Why would He forbid them from eating of a tree of knowledge?  Isn’t knowledge good?  The reason is that tree did not really represent knowledge – it represented the attitude that a person has knowledge and wisdom from himself, that he can figure things out on his own, without needing the Word. And it’s this kind of attitude that leads to death.  And it’s this kind of attitude that leads us to try to “steady the ark” – to say to ourselves, however subtly, “Well, the Word doesn’t really know what it’s talking about here – it’s not going to work to do it that way, so I’ll do it my own way.”  If we follow that path, we put ourselves above the Word.

It’s easy to do.  And that’s scary.  How do we know when we’re “correcting the Word” from our own intelligence versus re-examining it from the Lord?  There’s not an easy solution.  It involves a lot of prayer, a lot of self-examination and reflection, and above all honesty with oneself.

David was frightened by the power of the ark after it killed Uzzah, and he stopped its journey.  When we are reminded what is at stake in religion – that it is eternal life or an eternity in hell – religion can be so frightening that we stop in our tracks.  It seems too big for us.  It can make us afraid to even go to the Word – it’s too painful, or it would be too painful, to honestly look at all the ways we ignore what it says.  It is no wonder that David no longer wanted the ark to come to him.

But while the ark is with Obed-Edom, it does not curse him.  It blesses him!  And this encourages David.  In the same way, we can call to mind that the Word is NOT there to condemn us.  The Lord said He did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world from its sins.  And so we can continue on our spiritual journey.  It takes a lot of courage – when we believe all the things the Word says about heaven and hell, about the possibility of backsliding – it can be scary.  But when we remember that it is there to give us life, and give it to us more abundantly, we can set out again.  We can rededicate ourselves to our mission, and continue to try bring the Word into our lives.  David went before the ark dancing and shouting.  The Word can give us greater joy than anything else in the world.  We may still carry fear, but our fear is transformed into a holy fear – not a fear that we will be condemned, but a fear of doing any harm to the things that are of the Lord.  We can follow the ark, and let it lead us, and trust that it will bring us further and further into heaven – that is, further and further into charity toward our neighbour and love toward the Lord. “So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of Jehovah with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.”


Lessons: 2 Samuel 6:1-15; Revelation 22:12-19; Arcana Coelestia 8944

AC 8944. It is believed in the world that a person is able to know from the light of nature, thus without revelation, many things that belong to religion; as that there is a God, that He is to be worshipped, and also that He is to be loved, likewise that a person will live after death, and many other things that depend upon these; and yet these things being such as are from self-intelligence. But I have been instructed by much experience that of himself, and without revelation, a person knows nothing whatever about Divine things, and about the things that belong to heavenly and spiritual life. For a person is born into the evils of the love of self and of the world, which are of such a nature that they shut out the influx from the heavens, and open influx from the hells; thus such as make a person blind, and incline him to deny that there is a Divine, that there is a heaven and a hell, and that there is a life after death. This is very manifest from the learned in the world, who by means of knowledges have carried the light of their nature above the light of others; for it is known that these deny the Divine, and acknowledge nature in place of the Divine, more than others; and also that when they speak from the heart, and not from doctrine, they deny the life after death, likewise heaven and hell, consequently all things of faith, which they call bonds for the common people. From this it is plain what is the quality of the light of nature without revelation. It has also been shown that many who have written upon natural theology, and from the light of their nature have skillfully confirmed those things which belonged to the doctrine of their church, in the other life at heart deny these same things more than others do; and also deny the Word itself, which they attempt utterly to destroy; for in the other life hearts speak. It has also been shown that the same can receive nothing of influx out of heaven, but only from the hells. Hence it was plain what is the quality of the light of nature without revelation; consequently what is the quality of that which comes from a person’s own intelligence.

Coleman’s Blog | The thoughts and reflections of a New Church (Swedenborgian) minister


A Sermon by Rev. Thomas L. Kline
Preached in Bryn Athyn March 21, 1993

“Then David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him … But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (I Samuel 30:6).

Our subject this morning is “Inner Strength,” finding inner strength and peace in the Lord, and then tapping that inner strength so that we can overcome the battles and challenges we face in our lives. Our text is taken from the first book of Samuel, and it is the story of David, King David of the Old Testament, fighting against the Amalekites. This was one of the lowest points in David’s life. It was a time of great despair, almost unthinkable despair. David was fighting against the Amalekites, and during the battle, David and his men had built a small city where he and his soldiers would live. There they also brought their wives and children to live with them.

And one day disaster struck. One day, after returning from the battle, David and his men found their city ravaged by the Amalekites. The city had been burnt with fire, and all the women and children had been taken captive. It says that David and his men lifted up their voices and wept. And then, to make matters worse, the men of David’s army began to turn against David. They turned against their leader in their grief. They spoke of stoning David because of the loss of their families.

So here was David; he had despair over the loss of his family and now his own life was in jeopardy. And what did David do at that moment? And here we have that key sentence for this morning: “David went and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” David strengthened himself in the Lord.

David could have gone out immediately; he could have gathered his army to retrieve his women and children; he could have gone out in anger and fought against the Amalekites. But David took another path, an inner path. David stopped everything that he was doing, and took that moment to be with the Lord.

It was a time of distress, and the real strength to overcome that distress came from within. That inner strength then allowed David to go forth and fight the battles that lay before him. He went forth, and it says at the end of the story, “He recovered all.” He brought back the women and children and he utterly defeated the Amalekites.

What would be the most precious gift you could ever receive? If you could have any one thing, any one wish to be granted; if you could change anything about your life, what would you wish for? It is interesting that when people really think about this, often the answer given is, “I would wish for inner peace. Just give me the inner peace and strength to deal with those things I face out there in my life.” Because the fact is, there are always going to be issues that we face out there in the external place of our lives. There are always going to be strife, distress, challenges, and hurdles. We can’t change all those life situations out there, but what we can change is what is within us to gather the strength here in our hearts to rise above those life situations, and to be able meet those challenges out there with love, wisdom, compassion, and spiritual strength.

For the parent to deal calmly, compassionately, and wisely with his children or teenagers, what parent doesn’t wish for that wisdom? For the boss to be wise, understanding, fair in dealing with his employers; for us to be truly caring in human relationships; for us to be able to have strength in times of tragedy, inner strength and inner peace are the source of it all.

King Solomon, when he was asked by the Lord for any one gift, chose wisdom. He could have had riches, wealth, fame and power, but he chose wisdom. And because he chose wisdom, it says that every other gift was given to him as well.

Inner peace and strength in the Lord, our message this morning: the potential for this inner strength and peace is there is each of our lives. There is a chamber of your mind, an inner chamber, where you can go and strengthen yourself in the Lord your God. And there you can gather strength to meet those challenges that stand out there in life.

I want to list some teachings given in the Writings of the New Church, teachings about what is called our “interior man” your interior man, and we all have one, that inner region of your minds where the Lord dwells.

Teaching number one: “The internal man is the gate or entrance of the Lord into man” (AC 1940). We have a choice. We have a choice to open that interior degree of our minds to God and let His life inflow, or we can keep that interior degree of our mind closed, to keep it downward to the world. It reminds us of the words of Jesus, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).

Here is a second passage from the Writings that has to do with inner strength during battle and temptation. We read, “When a man perceives anything fighting and conquering [for him], he may know that it is from the influx of the Lord through the internal man” (AC 978). You find things working in your life; you find yourself making progress, and where is that strength coming from? It is from the Lord, flowing down from within.

The third teaching has to do with our relationship to our neighbor. Think of a time when you are dealing with a difficult person. Every time you talk to that person you find negative emotions rising. No matter what you do, you find that person can “pull your strings” or “push your buttons.” You find yourself coming down to his level; you become defensive; you find anger. But picture a time (and this happens to all of us) when you are talking to that difficult person and you find that you can rise above your negative feelings. Even when they are wrong or “off the wall,” you find that you can be there for them with compassion and understanding. What one of us wouldn’t wish for that degree of understanding? Listen to this passage from the Writings: “When a person thinks well concerning the neighbor, wants to perform kind offices for the neighbor, and when he feels that he pities the neighbor who is in calamity and still more the neighbor who is in error, then he may know that he has the internal things in him through which the Lord operates” (AC 1102.3).

And here we are not just talking about skills, not just some fancy listening technique, but it is a time we are truly there for that person. It genuinely comes from the heart. That’s inner strength that comes from the Lord.

A fourth teaching: We might think that going within to gather inner strength is a kind of fleeing from our problems, but listen to this passage. It says that inner strength filters down into the external events of our lives. “When the interiors have been formed in heaven, then the things which are there inflow into the exteriors which are from the world and form them to correspondence, that is, that they may act as one with them” (HH 351).

The exterior things of life begin to act as one; they begin to change our life down here. One passage from the Writings uses the word “harmony” in describing the relation between the internal and external man.

One last teaching: the interior man is who you are for eternity. “Therefore, such as a man is as to his interiors, such he remains to eternity” (HH 501).

I want to end with a statement about prayer, the power of prayer. Prayer is vital to this subject of inner strength. In our story we saw that David strengthened himself in the Lord. But the question remains: how did he do this? How did David strengthen Himself in the Lord? Here was David in terrible distress, and it says that David went to the priest and commanded that the ephod be brought to him. In the tabernacle, the high priest would put the ephod over his heart and enquire of the Lord how he should lead the people. And we are told that the Lord would answer the high priest by the flashing of the stones in the ephod. The ephod pictures prayer. The ephod pictures our talking to God.

We can picture David holding the ephod in his hand, and it says that he “inquired of the Lord what he should do.” And the Lord gave him an answer at that moment. While David held onto the ephod, the Lord told him to pursue the Amalekites, and the Lord gave him the assurance that he would overtake the enemy and “without fail recover all who had been lost.”

How do we strengthen ourselves in the Lord our God? Through prayer, or what the Writings call speech with God. We go into that closet of our mind, we shut the door, we pray to our Father in secret, and our Father who will reward is openly.

And this is important: we strengthen ourselves through prayer, both before and during times of need. Before times of need that’s our daily prayer and meditation. Daily, even when things are going well in our lives, we go to that inner chamber of our minds and talk with God so we can build up inner strength before we need it daily prayer so that we can be accustomed to opening that inner door and feeling the inner strength that is there, and then when tragedy strikes, or when challenges face us, to pray that moment as well, as did David, so that we can tap that strength to meet the challenges that stand before us.

Let us read the story again from scripture: “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. And David said to Abiathar the priest, `Please bring the ephod here to me.’ So David inquired of the Lord saying, `Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I over take them?’ And the Lord answered him, `Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.”

The potential for this inner strength and peace is there in each of our lives. There is a region of your mind where we can go and find peace and strength in the Lord our God. It is a strength that we can tap so that we can overcome the battles and challenges we face in our life. And with His help, you will find peace in your God. Amen.

Lessons: I Samuel 30:1-19; Matt. 6:1-24; AC 2535; HH 351:2

Arcana Coelestia 2535

“He shall pray for thee. “That this signifies that it will thus be revealed is evident from the signification of “praying.” Prayer, regarded in itself, is speech with God, and some internal view at the time of the matters of the prayer, to which there answers something like an influx into the perception or thought of the mind, so that there is a certain opening of the man’s interiors toward God, but this with a difference according to the person’s state, and according to the essence of the subject of the prayer. If the person prays from love and faith, and for only heavenly and spiritual things, there then comes forth in the prayer something like a revelation (which is manifested in the affection of him that prays) as to hope, consolation, or a certain inward joy. It is from this that to “pray” signifies in the internal sense to be revealed. Still more is this the case here where praying is predicated of a prophet, by whom is meant the Lord, whose prayer was nothing else than internal speech with the Divine, and at the same time revelation. That there was revelation is evident in Luke: “It came to pass when Jesus was baptized and prayed, that the heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21). In the same: “It came to pass that He took Peter, James, and John, and went up into the mountain to pray, and as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered and His raiment became white and glistening (Luke 9:28, 29). In John: “When He prayed, saying, `Father glorify Thy name,’ then came there a voice from heaven: `I have both glorified, and will glorify again’ (John 12:27, 28), where it is plain that the Lord’s “praying” was speech with the Divine, and revelation at the same time.

Heaven and Hell 351:2

True intelligence and wisdom is seeing and perceiving what is true and good, and thereby what is false and evil, and clearly distinguishing between them, and this from an interior intuition and perception. With every person there are interior faculties and exterior faculties, interior faculties belonging to the internal or spiritual man, and exterior faculties belonging to the exterior or natural man. Accordingly as man’s interiors are formed and made one with his exteriors, the person sees and perceives. His interiors can be formed only in heaven; his exteriors are formed in the world. When his interiors have been formed in heaven, the things they contain flow into his exteriors which are from the world and so form them that they correspond with, that is, act as one with, his interiors; and when this is done, the person sees and perceives from what is interior. The interiors can be formed only in one way, namely, by man’s looking to the Divine and to heaven, since, as has been said, the interiors are formed in heaven; and man looks to the Divine when he believes in the Divine, and believes that all truth and good and consequently all intelligence and wisdom are from the Divine; and man believes in the Divine when he is willing to be led by the Divine. In this way and none other are the interiors of man opened.