A Sermon by Rt. Rev. Louis B. King
Preached in Bryn Athyn on November 16, 1986
“Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14).
Samson’s riddle which he put forth to his Philistine companions on the eve of his marriage to the Philistine woman of Timnath contains in summary the whole spiritual meaning of his dramatic life as it relates to a person’s regeneration. Interiorly it illustrates how the ferocious attacks of evil and falsity can be met and rent asunder by the power of Divine truth entrusted by the Lord to our care and for our regeneration. A transformation is effected. In place of temptation there comes perception, or meat for the soul, and from the very strength of evil that would have destroyed us there is charity or sweetness of life anew.
In general Samson represents the letter of the Word and its supreme power over evil and falsity. He takes on this representation because of his long, uncut hair. Hair is the last and ultimate outgrowth of the external skin, and as such it is the final termination of the life of the body. Similarly, the letter of the Word is the ultimate or outmost termination of all degrees of revealed truth. The Word exists, and has from the beginning, because the Lord wills that men be saved. Salvation, because it is an eternal reception of the Lord’s love, is possible only where a state of conjunction exists; and conjunction is possible because the Lord has accommodated His infinite love and wisdom so that they may be received by finite man as if his own. In the Word, which is the only medium of conjunction between God and man, we actually find the whole of the Divine so accommodated that it may be received by finite minds (see AE 918:11; AC 1461, 1489, 1496, 1542, 1661).
There are many degrees whereby truth is accommodated, as many as there are planes of human life. The celestial angels receive the Lord’s revelation in its highest form — in celestial or inmost appearances of truth. To the spiritual angels these forms of truth are further accommodated by grosser forms and thus adapted to their spiritual state. Again, natural angels receive a further adaptation of the truth. The form of their revelation consists of appearances of truth adapted to their natural state. Yet within these natural appearances dwells the spiritual sense; and within this is the celestial, and inmostly is the Divine of the Lord, which is the very essence of the Word itself.
As Divine truth descends through the heavens, it is successively clothed with forms which adapt or accommodate it for reception by angels and men, so that all may be conjoined to the Lord by an eternal reception of His Divine love.
The final resting place or outmost termination of the Word is in the literal statements of the three testaments, particularly the Old and New Testaments, wherein Divine truth is accommodated for reception by natural and sensual men on earth. In the literal sense of the Word, Divine truth is in its fullness and power not because of the literal form itself, but because into it are gathered all degrees of revelation. Power is in the ultimate but not from it. When a little child reads the Word with affection, the whole of the heavens benefit — each angel receives and delights in the particular sense directed to his state. Yet the child knows nothing of this. He is unaware that myriads of angels worship the Lord when he reads the Word, communicating to him as much of their affection as he can receive.
This conjunction with the Lord through the heavens not only applies to little children but to all men on earth who will read the Word with affection and humility. The Word of God has power in man’s life not because of its literal form, but because of the angels who depend on man’s reading of it for their perception, and who share with man the power of their love to the Lord.
The communion of angels and men is a very real thing. All our loves and affections come from the spiritual world, either through heaven or hell, depending upon the thoughts we entertain and rationally confirm. Thought brings presence or association, and continued association communicates affection, which in time conjoins or makes one. To entertain selfish and worldly thoughts is to associate with evil spirits who love such things and who desire nothing more than to share and thus insinuate with us their love of evil. Continued association with such spirits will bring about an eternal communion or sharing of their love, which will result in our damnation.
But the Word of God is given so that man may enter into a communion with angels and thereby, that is, through the heavens, be conjoined to the Lord. When we read the Word in a state of holiness, and our thoughts and rational judgments are guided by its truth, then we summon the inhabitants of heaven, and according to our state, receive the power of their affection by which we are conjoined to the Lord.
Samson, judge and mightiest hero of Israel, pictures most powerfully the office of Divine truth in man’s life. In the spiritual sense Samson can be likened to the Word in one whom the Lord is regenerating, his abundant hair and source of strength likened to the growing concept of truth in the natural mind. The Philistines are his enemies. They represent the power of faith alone — truths loved for the sake of self and the world rather than for the sake of good. They would make Samson their servant — they would induce the man who is being regenerated to delight merely in knowledges of truth, rejecting all applications to life. Philistines in the New Church are those who indeed possess the Writings but who remain in the seductive loves of the proprium. Their faith becomes an intellectual pastime. Serviceable though it may be for a time, such a spirit of historic or persuasive faith eventually must be destroyed by man, he himself taking the initiative.
Thus Samson, early in life, went down to Philistia and fell in love with a daughter of that land, symbolizing the conjunction of truth with an external affection in the natural mind — an affection which, because of its proprial nature, obscures truth rather than enlightening it (see AC 4855). Any truth learned that does not look to good is in danger of being perverted and becoming falsity. Nevertheless, this first affection with which truth can be conjoined in the natural mind is indeed of an external and somewhat selfish quality, but without it — without an affection of learning for the sake of one’s own honor, reputation and gain — man would never acquire the doctrines that he will one day love for their own sake — that is, for the sake of the good of life. So the first good produced by truth is called mediate good.
When Samson first entered the land of the Philistines to covenant with them for the bride he was to take, a young lion attacked him. So when Divine truth first enters the natural mind, the power of evil and falsity is aroused. Like a mighty lion they roar their hatred and contempt against the Divine. The power of truth when separated from good is thus turned against the Lord. Recall the Lord’s temptations in the wilderness, how the devil quoted Scripture to induce the Lord to obey him. With patience and strength, however, the Lord Himself used the letter of the Word to devastate and to make impotent the devil’s attack; so Samson rent the lion as if it were a lamb, demonstrating the power of truth rightly used, and its effortless destruction of evil wherever and if there is genuine faith in the Lord.
In time a swarm of bees built their nest in the carcass of the lion and filled it with wild honey. Discovering this, on a subsequent journey to Timnath to celebrate the nuptials of his forthcoming wedding, Samson tasted its sweetness and was refreshed. At the wedding feast he posed a riddle to his Philistine companions concerning this unusual condition of which he alone knew. “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14). The dead lion no longer possessed its terrible power. The devourer or destroyer of spiritual life, the eater representing evil and falsity in the natural mind, was put to death. This is accomplished in man by the shunning of evils as sins; for when man compels himself to shun evils because they are sins against the Lord, a miraculous change takes place called regeneration. The influx of hell is exchanged for the influx of heaven. The quality of one’s mental strength is changed from the ravenous to the peaceful, which is meat for the soul. The power of the mind is also redirected from selfishness to charity. When good affections express themselves in external act, the strength of man’s character becomes sweet and spiritually palatable. Honey, therefore, represents a new state of charity or mutual love (see AE 611:18). “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14).
Regeneration does not destroy man’s natural mind, nor does it deprive him of anything that causes him to be a man. It merely takes away evil by changing or bending the quality of his affections from evil to good. “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings before My eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well” (Isaiah 1:16, 19).
When we are engaged in the battles of temptation, it seems to us that if we give up our natural desires we will lose everything that makes life worthwhile. But when we lay down our evil tendencies we find that we have not really lost anything. Our affections remain, but they have been cleansed, purified, sweetened, by the heavenly spirit of charity. Our natural affections, which prior to regeneration were strong against our salvation, when purified, become the new sweetness of regenerate life. But this sweetness cannot be ours until we allow the Samson of Divine truth to enter into us and slay the lion of proprial passion. Temptations are attacks upon our good loves by forces of evil. The Lord permits evils — softens conceit, provides an optional route to happiness.
Samson’s relationship with the Philistines became a series of contests, successively severe. With each encounter his great strength proved victorious, that is, until he fell in love with the Philistine woman Delilah, who represents the subtlest of our affections of truth, which in fact is an evil affection — to use truth to confirm the opposite, that we can save ourselves. It utilizes our inmost inclinations to justify selfishness and obstruct the process of self examination. That man is the unknowing victim of these cupidities is seen in the fact that Delilah and her Philistine cohorts attacked Samson and cut his hair while he slept. Then his strength departed and his eyes were bored out and he was imprisoned and made to grind corn.
So it is with man in his last and inmost temptations of regenerate life. It appears to him that truth has been taken away and with it the very power to do good. He despairs of his state; his doubts overwhelm him; his spiritual eyes are blind to perceptions he once enjoyed; he feels himself to be the servant of sin. The Lord, he believes, has abandoned him. All purpose has gone out of his life.
In his deep despair, when forces of evil are confident of their victory and would sport with their victim, the man of the church begins to feel, once again, the near presence of the Lord. The strength of truth slowly returns as be gropes in his blindness for the way that leads to its right application. A little child leads him — remains of innocence implanted long ago direct the regenerating man to the very house of his enemies — to the temple of Dagon, hypocrisy and conceit. There in the midst of his unseen foes he receives the full force of their mockery and contempt for truth. His hands, still guided by the innocence of remains, take hold of the two central supports of evil — the loves of self and the world (hatred of others and the desire to possess all means of domination, persuasion that he lives from self and controls his destiny). Lifting his head in prayerful acknowledgment of the Lord as the source of all good and truth, he bows himself with all the might that God effects through the as-of-self. “O Lord God, strengthen me just this once.”
With the destruction of the temple, the “persuasive of self-life” is broken. Samson and the lords of the Philistines lie buried beneath the rubble. Indeed, “the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (Judges 16:30). But the angels know not what we mean by death and burial. When such is mentioned in the Word, they think of resurrection — of the beginning of life eternal. To lay down one’s natural life while destroying his spiritual enemies is really to take up eternal life in the service of the Lord. “Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.” May it be said of all those who seek the overthrow of the proprium through the medium of the Lord’s Word, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”
Lessons: Judges chapters 13-16 (portions), AE 1086
Apocalypse Explained 1086:6
The power of the Word in the sense of its letter is the power itself of opening heaven, by virtue whereof communication and conjunction with the Lord is effected and also the power of fighting against falsities and thus overcoming the hells. A man who is in genuine truths from the literal sense of the Word can cast down and dissipate all the diabolical crew and all of their arts in which they place their power and these are innumerable. Man can do this in a moment by only a look and effort of the will. In brief, the spiritual world is the world in which there is power, and there is nothing, nothing that can resist the power of genuine truth when it is confirmed from the literal sense of the Word.