"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was void and empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (Genesis 1:1-3).
These familiar words are a portion of the whole creation story as given in the Lord's Word. We often hear that we should disregard this story because we know that it is not literally true, that "It's just a parable." However, this is a true story, a wonderful story, which should never be disregarded. It contains the whole story of how the Lord patiently and mercifully regenerates each and every one of us if we let Him. It represents the story of regeneration in man, his new creation, the creation of a spiritually alive person from a spiritually dead one.
The Lord in His second coming reveals that there are seven states which comprise the whole process of regeneration. Therefore, in the story of creation there are seven days comprising the whole process of creation illustrating and representing each of these seven states in man. Each day is a new state of greater, more delightful, spiritual life created by the Lord. The portion which we will focus our attention on today is the first day of creation: the first day of our new spiritual life, the life which leads to heaven.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In this simple beginning of the Lord's Divine Word is described two general things. One, the period in a man's life when he is beginning to be regenerated by the Lord. Two, the fact that it is the Lord alone who reforms and recreates us. As we are told in the Writings, "The new creation, or regeneration, is the work of the Lord alone" (AC 88). The "beginning" spoken of here is the actual preparation the Lord does in us for our eventual regeneration (see AC 16). He does this by reforming our minds and our understandings by means of His Divine truth, the Divine truth found in the teachings of His Word.
But the Lord can teach us these truths only if we open His Word and read and study it. Whether we are an adult or child we are subject to this same condition: The Word must be read or heard in order for us to learn its truths, truths by which the Lord will lead us and reform us. This reformation by Divine truth is what is meant by "God created" (see AC 4402:5, AE 1057). What He is attempting to create, and thus make new within us, is the church, both as to its internal and external qualities, or what is the same, as to our internal and external man or mind. These two aspects are signified by "the heavens and the earth."
"And the earth was void and empty; and darkness was on the face of the deep." A person who has not yet begun regeneration is described as "void and empty." This means that he or she is devoid of any good or truth of a spiritual nature. He is living in a completely external and natural state. He is a person without good and truth (see AC 17).
A person in this state is referred to as a dead man, a spiritually lifeless and dead individual. He is referred to as dead because the only things which are of interest to him are things which belong to the body and the world. These also become the center of his worship, if we can call it that. He doesn't know what eternal life is, and if he does know, he doesn't believe it. The life of the body and its pleasures are his only concern. We are told, "The dead man when involved in conflict nearly always gives in" (AC 81). Evil and falsity, and what is merely natural, have become his master, and he has become their enchained slave, obeying their every command. The only bonds that keep him in order are external ones, such as obeying laws solely out of the fear for the loss of honor, reputation, and worldly gain (see AC 81).
It is obvious that this person is in a state of thick darkness. Consequently, his life is clouded by stupidity and a "lack of knowledge about anything having to do with faith in the Lord and so anything that has to do with spiritual and celestial life" (AC 17). As illustrated in the Sacred Scripture, "My people are foolish; they know Me not; they are stupid children, having no understanding; they are wise to evil and know not how to do good" (Jeremiah 4:22). Because man is entrenched in such darkness as to what is really true and good, and is absorbed in selfish desires and the false rationalizations and excuses which accompany and confirm them, he is in complete darkness; and until he is ready to admit his condition, there is no light to dispel it; there is no truth. This is what is meant in our text by the phrase, "and darkness was on the face of the deep."
This darkness in us can be from several things. It could be a result of pure ignorance from a lack of knowledge concerning the Lord and His Word. It could be from the overshadowing cloud which comes upon one who has chosen to believe what is false, or from the blindness which envelops one who has gotten caught up in some natural love or lust. Whatever the cause, the important thing for us to realize is that the Lord can, and desires more than anything to, pull us up out of our darkness. How He is able to accomplish this miracle, even when we are in what seems to be an almost spiritually hopeless state, is what is meant by the following: "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters."
When properly understood, this small verse tells so much about how the Lord can lift us up and save us. "The Spirit of God" represents the Lord's mercy which hovers over and protects the one thing in us which He can use to raise us up out of our thick darkness. This one means is our remains. They are the knowledges of what is true and good which the Lord has implanted in us in infancy and throughout our lives for use at a later time when they are needed - a time like this; a time of darkness. These remains are what are called in our text, "the face of the waters" (AC 19).
Even when we are in this dark state the Lord is ever protecting these precious cognitions of good and truth, is ever patiently waiting for an opportunity to stir them within us. The Lord is said to hover or brood over our remains like a hen over her eggs. Have you ever noticed how zealously a hen will guard her eggs while she waits for them to hatch? She covers them with her body and wings, and keeps them warm and safe until they are ready to come forth out of their protective shell. In the same way the Lord in His mercy is ever guarding and protecting these precious affections for and knowledges of good and truth that remain with us until they are ready to be brought into light and used to commence our spiritual life.
But these knowledges cannot be brought out to stir our minds and move our hearts until those things which might cause resistance and harm are laid waste and removed (see AC 18). "Thus," we are told, "the old man must die before the new one can be conceived" (AC 18).
For an illustration, we might picture a child who will not listen to what his parents or teachers have to say. But then in his life he reaches a dead end or a problem which he sees can't be handled on his own. In order to solve it he has to turn to a parent or a teacher in search of help and answers. To do this he has to let down his resistance and humble himself in the realization that he can't do it alone.
The same must be true of us if we are going to allow the Lord to reform and regenerate us. The self-deceptions and superficial delights derived from such a natural and self-centered life have to be removed before the Lord can enter in (see AC 5037). But what is it that makes us want to break away from the old life of ignorance, falsity, and self-serving evil, the life which we love so much? What causes us to be jolted out of this state to realize that we need a change and need it now? Sometimes it can come about from hitting rock bottom in a life of drug or alcohol abuse. Or maybe the sudden passing of a loved one causes us to reevaluate our life and own inevitable death. It can also come from something less extreme in our lives. Whatever the reason, there must be some incentive to come out of our void and empty state.
For this reason, if the Lord sees that we can be regenerated, or moved in freedom toward good, He allows us to run aground and experience anxiety, grief, and despair, even to the point of feeling utterly helpless. The Writings tell us that it is only then that our "persuasive is broken, and our state is changed; and then we can be led into the belief that we can do nothing of ourselves, but that all power, prudence, intelligence, and wisdom are from the Lord" (AC 2694:3). This state comes about through what is called vastation. Vastation is the removal of what we love, the removal of those things which appear to us to be good and true, but which the Word teaches are not. The loss of these causes us to become anxious and enter into despair.
This loss may sound unfair, but is actually an act of the Lord's mercy from His will to save us. Some vastation is necessary so that our remains can be safely brought to our assistance through His mercy. When these knowledges of what is good and true are now stirred by the Lord, we see in them answers to our problems. We start to realize that what is good and true is something far superior to the falsities and evil which we thought were good and true for us (see AC 20). The Lord's light can now shine on them and illumine His truths with us as things to be desired. We can now begin to see that the Lord in His Word is the way, the truth and the light. This new awakening is what is signified by the phrase, "And God said, 'Let there be light; and there was light.'" We now realize that what He has said is true: "I am the light of the world"(John 8:12). The Lord's Divine truth is the only true light because it is the Lord Himself revealed in His Word (see AR 200). "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" (Ps. 27:1)
However, this awakening from darkness into light is a gradual process. Still, even the first glimpse of the Lord's light compared to our previous darkness is like the difference between the light of the sun and that of the moon. The Writings tell us, "When a person is conceived anew, first he starts to recognize that the good in him is not really good, and then, when he enters more into light, to recognize the existence of the Lord and that the Lord is good and truth themselves" (AC 20; see also AC 24).
"And God saw the light that it was good." The reason that the light here is called good is because first of all, it is a relatively good state, and second, because it is from the Lord. For He is good and truth itself, and all truth and good are from Him. In this state we can now see this for the first time. Yet we need to realize that this first state of acknowledgment is just that; it is a first state. There are still more and better states which need to dawn before we become regenerate. We are reminded that the story of man's new creation is a seven-day story. This first day is just a beginning, but it is the beginning of something good, and we should rejoice in it. "And God saw the light that it was good." We are now on the good path, the path of regeneration which leads to heaven.
"And God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night." This further describes just how different our old beliefs are from the life of truth which is now shown to us by the Lord and which is the Lord's. It is truly the difference between day and night. The truth which the Lord has shown us enables us to distinguish between what was our own, our evil and falsity, from what is the Lord's, His good and truth, the darkness being what is man's own, and the light being what is the Lord's. And these are then called night and day respectively (see AC 21). This separation has allowed us to see the light or truth, and to see that it is good. And with this light now clearly showing what is ours and the Lord's, we can seek the day and leave the night.
"And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day." Described here is the closing of the discussion of the first state of man's regeneration, meant by the first day. In this new day we can now see the Lord's truth in the Word as the answer to our prayers; it begins to become the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path. We have come from being in no faith at all, meant by evening, to being in the first of faith or morning. It has been revealed that "the Lord does exist, and that He is good itself and truth itself, and that no good or truth exists except from the Lord" (see AC 24). We have been awakened from spiritual sleep. Morning has broken the darkness of our night. The Lord has made His coming into our lives, and has shed His light upon us. His Word can now be opened and read, and its truths can begin to lead us to a life of good in the light of this new day. "Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you" (Ps. 60:1). Amen.
Lessons: Genesis 1:1-5, John 1:1-13, AC 3913
Arcana Coelestia 3913
When a man is being regenerated, the internal man is to be conjoined with the external, consequently the goods and truths of the internal man with the goods and truths of the external; for from truths and goods man is man. These cannot be conjoined without means. Means are such things as derive something from the one side and something from the other, and which are attended with the effect that insofar as the man accedes to the one, the other becomes subordinate. These means are what are signified by the "handmaids," the means on the part of the internal man by the handmaids of Rachel, and the means on the part of the external man by the handmaids of Leah.
That there must be means of conjunction may be seen from the fact that of itself the natural man does not in the least agree with the spiritual man, but disagrees so far as to be altogether opposite. For the natural man regards and loves himself and the world, but the spiritual man does not regard himself and the world except insofar as is conducive to the promotion of uses in the spiritual world, and thus regards its service and loves it from the use and end. The natural man seems to himself to have life when he is elevated to dignities, and thus to super-eminence over others; but the spiritual man seems to himself to have life in humility, and in being the least. Nor does he disregard dignities, provided that by them as means he can be of service to his neighbor, to the community, and to the church. Yet he does not reflect for the sake of himself upon the dignities to which he is elevated, but for the sake of the uses which he regards as the ends. The natural man is in his bliss when he is richer than others and possesses the world's wealth; but the spiritual man is in his bliss when he is in the knowledges of truth and good, which are his riches, and still more when he is in the practice of good according to truths; and yet he does not despise riches, because by means of them he can be in that practice, and in the world.
From these few considerations it is evident that the state of the natural man and that of the spiritual man are opposed to each other by their ends but that nevertheless they can be conjoined, which takes place when the things of the external man are made subordinate and subservient to the ends of the internal man. In order therefore that a man. may become spiritual, it is necessary for the things of the external man to be reduced to compliance, thus that the ends in favor of self and the world be put off, and ends in favor of the neighbor and the Lord's kingdom be put on.
The former can by no means he put off and the latter put on, and thus the two be conjoined except through means. These means are what are signified by the "handmaids," and in particular by the "four sons" born of the handmaids.
The first means is one that affirms or is affirmative of internal truth, that it is so. When this affirmative comes, the man is in the beginning of regeneration; good is being worked by the internal, and causes the affirmation. This good cannot inflow into what is negative, nor even into what is full of doubt, until this becomes affirmative. But afterwards it manifests itself by affection, that is, by the man's being affected with truth, or beginning to be delighted with it, first in knowing it, and then in acting according to it.
Take for example the truth that the Lord is the salvation for the human race. Unless this is made affirmative by the man, all the things he has learned from the Word or in the church concerning the Lord, and that are in his natural memory among the memory-knowledges, cannot be conjoined with his internal man, that is, with what can be there of faith. Thus neither can affection flow in, not even into the generals of that truth which are conducive to man's salvation. But when it becomes affirmative, innumerable things are added, and are filled with the good that flows in; for good continually flows in from the Lord, but where there is no affirmative, it is not received. An affirmative is therefore the first means, and is as it were the first abode of the good that flows in from the Lord. The same is the case with all the other truths that are called truths of faith.
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