A Sermon by Rev David Millar
And I have said, I will bring you up from the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite; to a land flowing with milk and honey. (Exodus 3:17)
By means of His Word the Lord makes known to us what His intentions are toward us. But not only does He make these known He also, by means of it, imparts into us what we need so that we can align our lives more in keeping with His plan for us. Food and drink in the cupboard will not give us what we physically need for the day unless we make the effort to do what’s necessary to see that the food and drink we have stored there gets into our bodies. The Word itself is food designed to satisfy the deepest desires of the human will and drink designed to satisfy the highest aspirations of the human understanding. What this means is that if we really want heavenly desires and thoughts to be a real part of our lives then we have to be taking the Word into our lives. Our spirits cannot grow without our doing this.
The intentions the Lord has for our lives is clearly set out in our reading today. He wants to deliver us from the tyranny that false perspectives and self centered intentions which are what the Egyptians represent here. He wants to raise our thoughts and desires up out of worldly earthly concerns that drag us down in negative emotional states that rob us of the joy of life and set our feet in a new land or in new states of life – a land flowing with milk (root = fat) and honey (sweetness delight) which is a state of life filled with the pleasure and delight that comes from being reconnected with the source of life itself and being able to consciously receive the constant renewal of His love and wisdom as it flows every more fully into our lives.
Yet while the Word teaches us that the Lord’s intention is to have heavenly desires and thoughts ruling within us it also shows us that all is not well with the land. It is occupied by others – people called the Canaanites and the Hittites; the Amorites and the Perizzites; and the Hivites and the Jubusites. These are well established peoples in the land and they think that they are entitled to it. They have been there for generations, for what seems like forever and they are therefore well entrenched.
So who are these peoples or rather our question is what do they represent? If the Egyptians as a people represent concepts or ideas that are found in the natural mind that support the loves of self and the world that oppress the sons of Israel who represent ideas in the natural mind that support loving the Lord and our neighbour then we can see that these various tribes spoken about here as being in the land must also represent things connected with our psychological world. Which is in fact what they do represent. The land is our mind and we see from the Word that all is not well within it, it has foreign elements that have taken up residence there. By foreign I mean that there are things in our mind that it wasn’t originally designed to accommodate or entertain.
The mind is created to be an image and likeness of God who is love and wisdom. It reflects this in its general structure in that the mind is made up of two parts; it has a will or volitional part in which God’s love can be received and it has an understanding part within which God’s wisdom can be received. The will is who we really are it is the seat of our motivations and so is designed to receive the things that make up our desires, particularly those that motivate us to act or do what we do. When we are doing what we love we feel the pleasure of being free to do what we desire – all this is associated with the will part of our minds. In fact this part of our minds is designed to receive into itself love from the Lord and because this is the case we can only ever find a real sense of fulfillment when the things of heaven fill this space within us. The understanding part or our discernment is created for the Lord’s divine wisdom and this wisdom is knowing how to express the Lord’s love in loving others. So the understanding part of the mind is designed to hold thoughts and concepts that instruct us how to live a loving life, or how to express the Lord’s love. Until this space in our minds is filled with true thoughts centered on living a life of love we will struggle to find the delight in life the Lord intends for us. This is why it’s so important that we make the effort to study and apply the Word to our lives.
But a little reflection tells us that something has gone terribly wrong with the design, for rather than heavenly desires focused on loving the Lord and thoughts centered on loving our neigbour, our minds are often taken hold of by feelings and thoughts that put self first and shut heavenly things out. If we say we love the Lord but spend very little time in His Word or thinking about spiritual matters what kind of love is that, and similarly if we say we love our neighbour but don’t make any effort to reflect on our thoughts and motives so that we can identify those things that are opposed to heavenly life, and seek that Lord’s assistance to resist them as sins against Him then how can we possibly love our neighbour as we should. You see if the human mind is not focused on genuine spiritual concerns then we will struggle to invite heavenly angelic influences in to populate its land, and if it isn’t angels that take the leading role in the life of our thoughts and intentions we can be sure that other less benevolent influences will quickly move in and set themselves up as its primary residents. Once these are established they like the hostile tribes in the land become very difficult to remove. These peoples in our story today are our lower natural habitual thoughts and feeling states that alternate with one another in an effort to keep us in the dark as to the reality of our situation from a spiritual perspective.
You will notice that there are six different peoples mentioned who are said to occupy the land, and they are presented to us here as three pairs; 1. The Canaanites and the Hittites; 2. The Amorites and the Perizzites; and 3. The Hivites and the Jubusites. Why has the Lord arranged them in this manner? Well remember we are talking about our minds and this arrangement of three groups of two reflects its structure. The three groups reflect three levels, an inmost level, an inner level and an outer level. These levels can be thought of as three circles one within the other. The Canaanites and the Hittites are mentioned first and they occupy the most inner circle. The Amorites and the Perizzites are what occupies the middle circle between the inmost and the outermost circle. The final pair are the Hivites and the Jubusites and these are found in the outer circle. Now we have already seen that the human mind has a will part and an understanding part and to show that these two faculties, the will and understanding, are found in every part of the mind’s structure, that is on all its levels, we find in each circle two peoples. One to represent the will part of the mind and the other to represent the understanding part of the mind. So the basic idea we need to take from the symbols presented here is that our minds are structured having a will and an understand part on three levels.
The number three also means what is complete. And so we see from this that the occupation of the natural mind by things opposed to the life of heaven is complete from its core to its circumference. This is what Moses teaches us – the Lord revealing to Moses the state of the land in our experience is seeing the truth of the extent of this occupation in our own lives. If we want to have our minds filled with the life of heaven then we have be prepared to follow the Lord in his Word to see that those things that are opposed to what heaven is are ousted from the land of our minds that his people the sons of Israel are established there instead. This happens for us when the affections or desires of His Word becomes our will and the truths that teach a genuine spirituality becomes our understanding when this happens so his people are established in the land that is our mind.
We will know when this is beginning to happen for us because we will see the development of a growing desire for the Lord’s Word. Before we begin to make real efforts to apply spiritual truths to life, that is before these things impact on our lives in a way where we compel ourselves to act on them, what we know is bound up and unable to really do anything for us or bring about any significant changes in our lives. We have a body of knowledge which has lodged in our memory but while our priorities largely remain focused on worldly concerns and aspirations we don’t really see how the stories in the Bible are all that relevant to our worldly pursuits and priorities, and the Heavenly Doctrines will seem to us to be rather abstract and removed from how life really is. But the issue in this state of life is not the lack of relevance of Scripture or the Heavenly Doctrines, it is rather our focus on external over internal things. Internal things have to do with our thoughts and intentions, and these are the things with which heaven and the church are concerned with, and if our focus was at this level of life then what we would find is that the Word becomes incredibly practical and relevant. Because it is this level of life it is designed to address. However, prior to seeing this, spiritual ideas go into our memories with little effect and suffer under the hand of the Egyptians. Simply put a lack of desire for the Word reflects a state of life where worldly things take priority over spiritual things in our lives. But the Word shows us that this state can be turned around, we just have to want to genuinely make the Word a more integral part of our lives.
You see if spiritual things don’t govern our lives and occupy our thoughts and intentions then worldly things will, and these shut out the light and heat of heaven. Our preoccupation with the earthly or natural level of life is described in the symbolic language of Scripture as various peoples hostile to the people of Israel. In telling us of the peoples that occupy the land the Lord gives us a heads up on what lies ahead. If we take time to make real efforts to understand how the principles from the Word need to be applied in our life then a Moses part will develop in our mind that is capable of receiving insight from the Word and instruction as to what it is we are actually committing ourselves to when we purpose within ourselves to live a spiritual life. This communication to Moses teaches us that 1. that there is a land, or if you like, a much higher quality of life available to us than that in which we find ourselves currently and 2. that it is populated by natural thoughts and affections that rob us of our spiritual inheritance; the Lord in making the situation known to Moses corresponds to our own dawning realisation that we are called to a spiritual life and that that life involves taking the things of the Word represented by the sons of Israel, and having them lifted up in our order of priorities that we might begin the journey inward to deal with the things that currently fill our minds that are opposed to and detrimental to the spiritual life.
Listen to this quote from the Heavenly Doctrines.
Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) 6858.
By the nations in the land of Canaan that are listed here as well as in other places, such as Gen. 15:18,19; Exod. 23:23, 28; 33:2; 34:11; Deut. 7:1; 20:17; Josh. 3:10; 24:11; Judg. 3:5, are meant all kinds of evil and falsity. What one should understand by a region occupied by evils that arise from falsities, and also by all the other kinds of evil and falsity, must be stated. Before the Lord’s Coming into the world evil genii and spirits occupied the entire region of heaven to which those who were spiritual were subsequently raised. For before the Lord’s Coming a large part of those kinds of beings were freely prowling about and molesting the good, especially spiritual people who were on the lower earth. But after the Lord’s Coming they were all thrust down into their own hells, and that region was liberated and given as an inheritance to those who belonged to the spiritual Church. I have often noticed that as soon any place is abandoned by good spirits it is occupied by evil ones, but that the evil spirits are driven out of it; and that once they have been driven out it is handed over again to those who are governed by good. The reason for this is that those from hell have a constant burning desire to destroy the things of heaven, in particular those things that are their opposites. Consequently when some place is abandoned, then because it is unprotected it is instantly occupied by the evil. This, as has been stated, is what one should understand specifically by a region occupied by evils and falsities, which is meant by the place inhabited by the nations who were to be driven out. This together with the things mentioned above in 6854 is a deep mystery which cannot be known about without revelation.
Now I want you to think about what this says in the light of what we have been talking about today.
Before the Lord’s Coming into the world (read your own life into this – before the Lord’s coming into your life in the power of His Word) evil genii and spirits (self centred desires and thoughts) occupied the entire region of heaven (your mind) to which those who were spiritual were subsequently raised. For before the Lord’s Coming a large part of those kinds of beings were freely prowling about (in your mind) and molesting the good, especially spiritual people who were on the lower earth. But after the Lord’s Coming they were all thrust down into their own hells, and that region was liberated and given as an inheritance to those who belonged to the spiritual Church. I have often noticed that as soon any place is abandoned by good spirits it is occupied by evil ones, but that the evil spirits are driven out of it; and that once they have been driven out it is handed over again to those who are governed by good. The reason for this is that those from hell (self centred motives) have a constant burning desire to destroy the things of heaven (genuine spiritual affections), in particular those things that are their opposites. Consequently when some place is abandoned (when your focus shifts away from what is genuinly spiritual), then because it is unprotected it is instantly occupied by the evil (self seeking motives). This, as has been stated, is what one should understand specifically by a region occupied by evils and falsities, which is meant by the place inhabited by the nations who were to be driven out. This together with the things mentioned above in 6854 is a deep mystery which cannot be known about without revelation.