RECOGNIZING THE LORD’S MERCY
A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinSeptember 18, 1994
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:2)
The Lord is pure mercy. He has unceasing love towards all of us. He knows the depravity of our hereditary nature. He wants to deliver us from a life of frustration and enjoy heavenly delights. If the Lord’s mercy were to be taken away, all life would cease to exist. We would automatically rush into hell without any thought of a different way of life. The more we are acquainted with the Lord’s mercy, the more we will learn about His love. We will see more vividly that we were created to sense and experience life from the Lord’s Divinity. The fundamental nature of the Lord’s Divine love is to transfer everything it has towards others. Think about it! Every person in this room is created to receive the Lord’s inmost joy. The Lord’s mercy is the motivating force for our very existence.
The Lord’s mercy can never be altered or taken away. Mercy is the very fabric of the Lord’s love. If the Lord wished ill on anyone, that would violate the divine order that is from Himself. He must strive to establish a conjunction with every person, regardless of the condition of life. The Lord is compelled by His love to regard us for our potential good and seek our deliverance from hell. We all have the promise, from the very nature of the Lord’s love, that He will always desire our presence in His kingdom.
However, despite the power of the Lord’s mercy, only those who live a life of good are able to recognize it. This may sound amazing. As inspiring and comforting as the Lord’s mercy is, the evil can not see it. If there is no conjunction with the Lord, the Lord will be regarded as a God without compassion. So long as evils rule, we will never be able to understand the quality or even the existence of the mercy of the Lord.
The Writings state that the Lord’s mercy is especially with the good. This does not mean that the Lord loves the good more than the evil, but that the good are able to see the Lord’s mercy while the evil can not. The Lord’s mercy only flows into a humble heart. It is our evils that prevent us from experiencing and recognizing the Lord’s mercy. The Lord’s mercy can not act apart from means. It must act through truths. It can not force itself upon us apart from our choosing to receive it. And we basically choose the Lord’s mercy when we follow the truths that are revealed in the Word.
The words of our text, from the Book of Genesis, gives us insights as to how the Lord’s mercy does operate and what we have to do to recognize it. This passage teaches us what our state of life is before the Lord inspires us to live a life of good. We are taught how the Lord can transform our lives into a life of good, without destroying our freedom or individuality. We are taught how the Lord’s mercy can give us eternal life.
The creation story represents the Lord creating us into His image. When we are able to live a life of good for the sake of the welfare of others, we are a particular image of the Lord. Each day of the creation story illustrates our advancement in becoming a new person.
The creation story begins with the words of our text that the earth was without form and empty. This describes our spiritual condition before the Lord acts upon us. Specifically, this represents spiritual stupidity. Externally, the person may appear to be rational, and possibly brilliant. However, internally he has is no knowledge of the things of heaven or what a spiritual life involves. The internal life is out of control. Such a person goes from one sweet sounding idea to the next. Sensual pleasure is the only consideration. This type of life has a total lack of direction. There is no sense of purpose, just indulge in a life of sensual bliss. Such is the condition that we instinctively incline towards. This would be our philosophy of life if the Lord was not active within us. Our lives would be empty and without form.
The text also states that there was darkness upon the faces of the deep. This pictures the confusion that results from merely looking towards self alone. The thought is only on the natural plane of life. Life after death, eternal consequences, and the effect upon others have very little, if any, influence upon the quality of life. This is the darkness that comes from considering our own interests and delights.
However, thankfully we read that the Spirit of God moved upon the faces of the water. The Hebrew word for moving has the idea of shaking things up. This pictures the operation of the Lord’s mercy. The Writings, when treating of this passage, emphasize that the Lord initiates our regeneration. It appears to us that we have chosen to allow the Lord to work within us. However, it is the Lord, from His mercy, that enables us to choose an alternative way of life than from our natural instincts or inclinations. The Spirit of God will always move upon our lives.
Specifically, the Spirit of God moved upon the faces of the waters. The faces of the waters are all the good loves and thoughts that are specially preserved by the Lord from our infancy. These are states of innocence that remain in us from the Lord and the morals and values that we have been taught, especially during childhood. These states of good that are within all of us, allow us to become true human beings. They are the materials the Lord works with enabling us to spiritually grow.
As we read in our lesson from the Arcana Coelestia, there are three types of good that the Lord establishes within us. The first is called the good of infancy. This type of good is primarily formed during infancy. A baby is affectionate, not from a conscious decision, but because the infant does not know any other way of living. Secondly, are the goods of ignorance. These are the goods that are formally taught to us when we are able to enter into cognitive thought. During this time there may be a great number of misunderstandings and inaccuracies in our conception of truth. And the third or highest degree of good is the good of intelligence. This is the good that is established when we reflect and apply truths from the Word actively in our lives. These are the materials that the Lord is constantly preserving within us that enables us to be created in His image.
Therefore, how can we recognize the Lord’s mercy operating in our lives? The Writings make clear that all we have to do is abstain from evil. The removal of selfishness will allow the Lord’s mercy to become more visible within us. As was said before, evils are the sole barrier that prevent us from noticing the Lord’s mercy operating.
We will become aware of the Lord’s mercy operating in our lives, when we notice a different attitude that we concede would never come strictly from ourselves. First, we will grieve over proper things. Living a life of good will not protect us from grief. Both the evil and the good grieve. The difference is the cause and the stimulus of the grief. The evil will grieve if they are not superior to others. The good will grieve if the Lord’s will is not received nor accomplished. There will also be greater thought about life after death. Not from a fear of death, but from attention towards the eternal consequences of our actions. Also, there is a proper sympathy towards others. There will be a desire to help, free from thought of reward, when we meet someone in need. We will consider how we can help that is in the long term interest.
Therefore, one way to look at regeneration, or spiritual growth is a recognition of the states of good that the Lord preserves within us. When our evil loves and habits are removed, it will be obvious that it came only from the Lord, it could not come strictly from ourselves. Seeing the Lord’s mercy is not an achievement, it is a recognition of something that has always been within us. But the Lord’s mercy can only be seen in a true state of humility. There must be the willingness to be led by the Lord and to comply with His commandments. This can only be recognized when our deepest personal loves act in unison with our external actions. When this happens this promise of the Lord will be fulfilled, ” He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (Jn 14:21)