by the Rev. David Sonmor
Text: Ezekiel 2,3:1-12; Revelation 10
God must shake his head in dismay sometimes when He sees how slow mankind is in its progress toward the state described in the Book of Revelation as the Holy City New Jerusalem descending from Heaven. In approximately 585 BC. Ezekiel, who was, in exile, saw visions of God and in one of these visions a book was presented to him and he was instructed to eat the book. When he did it tasted sweet in his mouth, sweet like honey but later he was in a state of bitterness in the "anger of his spirit". God was trying to get a message through to the people, a message about what they should do in order to become members of His heavenly kingdom. He told the prophet Ezekiel to go with the information he had digested and tell it to the people of the house of Israel, the people who were already familiar with the Word of God. He said he was not to speak with people who were strangers to the Word and the presence of God. Strangely he steered him away from those people because; "they would listen to him," whereas the people of Israel would not listen to him. He said of them that they are impudent and hard hearted, and stubborn.
About 600 years later John, the disciple of Christ, who was in exile on the Isle of Patmos, saw visions of God. Included in one of the visions was the presentation to him of a book. He was instructed to eat the book and when he did, it tasted sweet as honey in his mouth but would be bitter in his stomach.
There are some obvious similarities between the two visions; the message in each vision was basically the same. God was trying to communicate with those people who have His Word, because more was to be revealed about the word in the future. The Word is both internal and external because the book, in each case, was written both in front and behind (both sides) or without and within. Therefore, when people hear or receive the word in the literal or external sense, described as being in the mouth, it is sweet as honey or pleasurable and delightful. However, when man is faced with the internal sense, described as being in the stomach, it is bitter and undesirable, difficult to accept and use. This is especially so for people, who are "hardhearted", impudent, narrow minded, stubborn and inflexible.
Why would people who delight in the external - literal sense of the Word, find the internal sense to be so bitter and distasteful? Bitterness we are told signifies truth that has been falsified.
Let us look at an example. People who love reading the stories and truths in the Bible from the literal sense will readily acknowledge that Jesus, the Lord, is Savior and Redeemer. This is agreeable to them, it is pleasant and they will readily say that Jesus is their Savior, but, the acknowledgement that He alone is the One God of Heaven and earth, and that His human is Divine, is unacceptable, disagreeable and difficult because of a false belief that there are three separate persons with separate and distinct Divine Powers: one is Savior, one is Creator and one is a unique holy spirit with its own special powers to convert people to Christianity. Because they cannot move toward the internal understanding that "The Holy Spirit is the Divine Truth and the Divine Good in the process of going out from God to the human race. They do not comprehend that, that which proceeds, is of the same essence with that from which it proceeds. The good and the truth go out from God to people and then acts in them. God alone is the source of the good and truth which proceeds to the human race. These are not three separate distinct or autonomous entities any more than the soul, body and activity of a person are separate and distinct. They are three essentials of the same being. They are the three essentials of God which are called Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are one in the Lord.
Perhaps a word of explanation about the process of good and truth, proceeding from the Lord is in order here to clarify the operation of the Holy Spirit. God is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom. He created human beings to be receivers of these two elements, love and wisdom, which we often define as good and truth. We receive or experience love through our feelings and affections, and we receive or experience truth through our intelligence and thought. There is also a constant process of blending these two things within us. We may develop a quick feeling of affection for something good that happens in our life and then through time think about it and gain an intellectual understanding of the truth that is in it. For example you may have an opportunity to help someone who is sick, and from that experience you have a good positive feeling. You then determine that you want to learn more about helping sick people so you read and talk to people, or study so that you gain a fuller understanding of the subject. The process also works in reverse. You may read or hear something about a subject and learn everything there is to know about it, and then you gradually develop an affection or love for it, as your affection for it grows you use your knowledge through work or action thus uniting the truth and the good in your life.
The visions about eating the books suggest that the Lord was dealing with the process of communicating His Divine Wisdom or Truth to the human race. If you think and believe this truth from the basis of there being one God it makes sense to you, it is agreeable to you, it is an internal truth that is not bitter in your stomach. But if you deal with this truth from a false belief that there are three gods, then it is bitter in the stomach and will never be fully understood and certainly will never be loved.
But let us get back to the vision. God told his prophet Ezekiel, 2585 years ago that the internal sense would be unacceptable. He told His disciple John, 1900 years ago, the same thing. We are now in the age of the Second Coming in which the internal sense is revealed openly and still it is bitter in the stomach of most Christians. Why does man resist the internal sense? It has always been there. It is not something that was developed or created by the Lord at the time Swedenborg was assigned to write about it. He was only used to help reveal what has been with God in His Word from the beginning. There have also always been some people who have had some understanding and appreciation and acceptance of the internal sense. But that is looking at it in the broad general terms. Let us look at this now in very specific and personal terms.
All people are exposed to God's truth in some way, either through religions, or through stories or through the laws and moral codes of their various societies. Killing, stealing, lying, cheating, hurting others, are not acceptable in varying degrees in any country on earth. Every one of us is aware of some of God's truths. Many of us acknowledge those truths as being agreeable or acceptable. Few would honestly say there should be no law against stealing or against murdering. Outwardly we acknowledge the laws and truth. We enjoy the protection they provide for us. We appreciate the personal safety they give us. We do not have to walk our streets in a state of constant fear. Inwardly, however, we all begin to have difficulty with these truths, because to internalize them or incorporate them into our lives we have to live them, we have to use them and make them a part of our behavior, a part of our very being. It is often hard not to take the credit for something good that has happened when others want to give you credit for it and you know you are really not responsible - the temptation is there to steal that credit. It is hard not to rationalize that killing is alright in some circumstances that we might find ourselves in, or for certain situations that occur in our society, such as to punish criminals or to allow abortions. We also may tend to kill emotionally. Someone may be feeling really good about something and rather than allow them to enjoy that feeling we might do or say something intentionally just to bring them down, in effect killing their joy. To inwardly live by the truth that we are to love one another we have to learn to respect and enhance the feelings of those around us, and not to be jealous or envious of their joy. The beauty of this is that when we do allow others to be happy, then our own feelings are also enriched. Contributing to the emotional well being of others lead to emotional riches for us.
Internalizing the Lord's truth is therefore a very personal process. It involves more than just thinking or saying that we believe in the internal sense of the Word. It involves practicing it and using it more and more in everything we do. Let us not be like the Israelites who were stubborn and hardhearted and rejected the Lord's attempts to teach them His truths, which would lead them out of their selfish and evil ways. Let us instead open our hearts and our minds to both the literal and the internal teachings of the Word and ask Him to help us make his truth our way of life. Amen.