“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” *
-Psalm 1 (NIV)
“Everyone is formed from the harmony of many things; and such as the harmony is, such is the one: A thing which is absolutely one cannot subsist; but only a harmonical one. Every Society in Heaven thus forms a one; and all the Societies together a one; and this from the Lord alone, through love. **
-Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven §457
I hold the existence of God as the highest truth and being of useful loving and compassionate service to others as the highest good. The Bible is my foundation and ultimate source for guidance. Not always...
Swedenborg’s portrayal of Correspondence has allowed me to reclaim the Bible for my own. Rather than just as a questionably accurate historical record of a people 2000 years ago in a far away place and a culture with which I have very little in common Swedenborg’s presentation of correspondence allowed me to hear the speaking to me about who I was becoming in my relationship to God.
Let me share two fundamental concepts I have learned from Swedenborg...
BASIC CONCEPT #1:
THE BIBLE IS PORTRAYING THE COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND HUMANITY
If we accept that the Bible is The Word of God and read it as sacred text, it begins to speak not about then, but about now. It begins to speak to our own spiritual growth in our relationship to God and all that is divine and heavenly. It portrays through the characters, places and events of the unfolding story, the evolving and maturing relationship of humanity with the Divine, i.e. the relationship of our humanness with the divinity of God, and this from the moment the breath of God touches the surface of our consciousness to the point at which all that is not who we are is stripped away and we are left in our purest state before God.
The Old Testament is about agreeing to be in relationship with God. Getting to the place of learning and then out into the wilderness of life itself, of finding a sense of self and a center for our spirituality. It portrays the guiding force in our lives changing in form from intuitive inspiration to regulated rules to the midlife crisis in which we look with mixed emotions at who we have been and where we are going.
In the New Testament, we can see the dramatic transformation of our relationship when the Living Word enters our life and we relate to God not so much by rules imposed as by love freely given. And then in the Book of Revelation, we see the final revealing of our true inner self and the annealing process testing our metal, and separating out within us the good from the evil. When we make the final choice as to what we claim as who we are, what we let go of, and what we hold at our core being to be of ultimate value.
Somewhere in the middle of that long involved spiritual journey, which we are all engaged in right now, there are the Psalms. A collection of poems, song lyrics which portray every conceivable thought, emotion and state of being a human can experience in life and in relationship with God.
BASIC CONCEPT #2:
WE HAVE TOREAD AND KNOW THE LITERAL WORDS BEFORE WE CAN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THE SPIRITUAL MEANING WITHIN
Swedenborg says that the first of anything contains the seeds of all that follows. First words of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created…”
What does Psalm 1 actually say and what does it actually mean? We have heard Psalm One read, we have spoken out loud, we have heard it sung, so let’s dive in!
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked”
“walk” = To live, to make progress on the journey of life
“in step with the wicked” = the thinking and influence of those who promote evil, cruelty
“stand in the way the sinners take” = life of those who knowingly do what they know is wrong, what turns one away from the way of God and all that is heavenly
“sit in the company of mockers”= to settle into cynicism and negativity, self sabotage, those who tear down others to bring them down to their own level
We open ourselves to God when we do not fill out time and attention with these kinds of influences. We make room in our lives and in our souls for blessing from God.
Rather, “their delight is in the law of the Lord and on God’s law they meditate day and night.”
What is the Law of the Lord? All the rules of the OT? What does Jesus say?
“Love God Love the neighbor as your self.” Is that hard to understand? No. Is it easy to forget? Yes! That is why it is a blessing in God’s eyes to meditate on this concept. To empty the mind, open the heart and be with it as the guiding, uplifting, inspiring source of light and warmth in our lives. To keep that concept before us all the time no matter what we are doing, in good times and bad.
“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.”
“A tree” = A living being that starts as a seed, emerges young and tender and grows into maturity with many parts, rooted in the earth, reaching out and up to heaven, serving useful functions and bearing fruit which is of benefit to others.
“Streams of water” = the ever flowing source of truth, understanding and wisdom that gives, maintains and renews life.
“Whatever they do prospers” = think of this not as other people, but as those parts of oneself that are drawing life from God and in turn serving others in love. This phrase does not necessarily mean our jobs and our attempts at success in the outward arena based on worldly values and criteria by which we so often measure success and prosperity. God cares nothing for that, only about the state of our souls.
What is wealth without love and charity? What is power without wisdom and understanding and faith? What is success without caring for the well being of others?
“Not so for the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.”
Here too, we must read this not as speaking about “those other people who are evil” rather we must read this as speaking about those aspects, behaviors, patterns of our own selves that are not focused on serving God and the well-being of our neighbor, that put our own well being as what we serve as the highest good, and the neighbor being a concern only in as they serve our selfish needs.
Each and every one of us, has our own wickedness, our own selfish tendencies that we struggle with. Our tendencies are always there, and we are constantly making choices for God or for ourselves, to love the neighbor as ourselves, or to love the neighbor for what they can do for us. It is such a subtle switch in values and priorities, and yet such a crucial distinction in terms of the spiritual results. It is our hope and prayer that that which is evil in us will be blown away as chaff and leave what is of value.
“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous“
Ask yourself “why is this so?” Is it because God will not allow it? Or is it an affirmation of self selection? I prefer to think the latter. The wicked will not stand in judgment nor sinners in the assembly of righteous because those aspects cannot stand the comparison and will hide themselves! All are welcome in heaven, its just that the wicked refuse to enter into heaven and reject the company of the good and kind. It is not God’s doing, it is their own choice. The love of evil causes them to reject and turn away from what is good and loving.
Judgment in the spiritual world is just an extension of what happens right here on earth. Surely you have been with people who behaved in ways that made you feel isolated, afraid, anxious, self conscious and you self selected yourself out of their company. And perhaps you have experienced being around people that made you feel uncomfortable because they were just too darned nice! That is a subtle and gentle example of what happens in the spiritual world. Souls gravitate to those who are like themselves, and away from those who are not.
In fact, one way to look at the final judgment is that when you die, you are condemned to be in the company of people just like yourself!!! Think about that for a moment! Is not that motivation to make yourself a more loving, compassionate, accepting, kind and supportive person? And motivation to train out our your tendencies to be impatient, judgmental , cruel, selfish? Think about spending eternity with your good self and your not so good self. Is that not reason to become that better self now, so you don’t get stuck in the company of your not so good self later!
What is more, to the degree you choose to cultivate your divine self, God will enter in and help you in that process. As you embrace the Lord and the ways of heaven you are embraced in return and lifted up, even higher then you could image. The ways in you that are evil will simply die away and be no more because they receive no life energy. But if you choose the way of evil, you turn away from and reject God and all that can be done for your benefit. And then it is you that begins to wither and die away.
This is portrayed in the last sentence
. “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to distruction.”
“Destruction”= to cease being, the way of the wicked, all life is of God, so ultimately what is not of God dies away, at best it is the hell of a living death
But when we welcome and make room for God I our lives, that which is evil we let God destroy and it ceases to be a part of who we are. And we are lifted up and made into the angel God intended us to be from the beginning.
That is Psalm One, the first Psalm that within its few lines contains the essence of all that is to follow. It portrays our life journey, our choice to embrace God and goodness or self and selfishness, it puts before us our choice for life or death.
There’s no question life is a struggle, filled with beauty and blessings, but also with trials, tests and temptations. God offers us heavenly life but requires us to choose of our own free will. And it is through the evil we are exposed to and the trials we suffer through, that God ensures that we are making an informed choice. It is all there for you in those few lines of Psalm One. “Blessed are you”…
*Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblia.Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
**Swedenborg, Emanuel. Arcana Coelestia. Translated by John Potts. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1998.
Rev. Ken Turley, now retired after 30 years as parish minister and serving as president of Convention, and his wife Laurie, live in Bridgton, ME. While she continues her career as a public school music teacher, Ken devotes his time to composing music, producing music videos, gardening and keeping house. Performing and rehearsing have ground to a halt with the isolation required by the virus, but the more solitary aspects of his life continue unabated.