A Garden in the Mind - Part 7
Water & Dew
Sabbath Say Sermon, Saturday 24 August 2002
Click here to read Part 6
We have had such a heat wave here recently that I am sure you have all noticed how brown and dead plants look without water. It wasn't so long ago that our currant bushes looked fresh and vigorous. And if there has been a drought after a long time, even the grass begins to turn brown. And if the weather us really hot and dusty, grass often turns white. No doubt you have also noticed our huge sunflower plant and how droopy its leaves look by about midday.
It does not take much intelligence to understand that under certain circumstances the same fate befalls the spiritual trees and flowers in our own mental garden when we fail to water them. It is very dangerous to suppose that just because good and wholesome principles have been planted in our minds that they will always remain there, no matter what. Plants that are not watered eventually die. The prophet Isaiah said that when we look after our minds properly that "you shall be like a watered garden" (Isa.58:11, NKJV). So be careful of the dangerous and false teaching which says, "once saved, always saved". If you neglect what has been planted in your soul by faith, it will perish.
So what is it, do we imagine, that waters our spirits and makes the earth of our minds fertile? What is it that causes our Christian virtues and graces to be always growing, green and beautiful? What are the rain and dew of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)?
The Bible, of course, furnishes us with the answers that we need. Rain and dew are emblematical of certain spiritual gifts which we need to have constantly descending upon us, or all things pure and lovely within us would speedily perish.
We begin by looking at the prophet Moses who said: "Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass" (Deut. 32:2, NKJV). Does this not suggest to us that rain is emblematical of doctrine, and dew of speech? But that is not the end of the quotation - and here is the key to our understanding - for Moses adds a "because" - he says - "because I proclaim the Name of Yahweh" (v.3). Moses says that his doctrine shall be like rain, and his speech like dew, because he will publish the Name of Yahweh - that is, because he will speak the truth concerning God.
Rain is the symbol of truth dropping from the lips of the teacher with fertilising power in his mind. Every little word and syllable of the sacred Scriptures is a drop of spiritual rain, which, when permitted to reach the good ground of our hearts, gives strength and beauty to the "tree of righteousness" growing there.
So you see, it doesn't matter how beautiful the principles of goodness that are implanted in us are if they are not continually watered by the rains and dews of the soul - by the teaching of the Divine Word - and that week after week, day after day, they will gradually fade away, and at length die out of the mind altogether. And the reverse is true about bad principles - if we starve our mind of them, they will naturally die.
People seem to think that they are immortal when it comes to receiving truth. They think they can pick it up at a department store like some trophy and let it lie on a shelf unattended. But truth it not like that - it is not an ornament but a living principle which must be fed. It is not enough to simply accept Yah'shua (Jesus) as your Lord and Saviour and sit back in the naïve and foolish belief that you have been given a free ticket to heaven. The entrance fee to the Kingdom may indeed be free but the annual subscription will cost you everything you've got.
It is not accidental that the Bible consistently uses agricultural symbols to illustrate the spiritual life. It doesn't use these symbols simply because anciently nearly everyone was a farmer but because this is the only illustration that conveys spiritual truth. And whether we are farmers or not, we do need to understand the agricultural way. I often think that those of us who were brought up in cities are at a tremendous disadvantage because we are trained to think in the wrong way when it comes to agricultural produce: we go into the store and buy everything all neatly packaged in cellophane and so have little idea of what is involved in its actual production. This makes us not only ignorant but careless when it comes to the spiritual life. Those raised in the countryside usually understand spiritual principles better than those in the metropolis.
The Word of God is frequently liked to rain in scripture. There is another striking passage in Isaiah that shows this which says:
"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it"
So you see, the word going out from the mouth of Yahweh, and accomplishing what He pleases, is likened to rain causing the earth to bring forth and bud. And actually, in this one passage, we have nearly the full range of symbols that I have been talking about these last seven weeks. The earth is likened to the mind itself; the bringing forth and budding of the earth to the bringing forth and budding of the soul, while rain is likened to the Word of God.
Once we have this set of symbols firmly planted in our understanding, the Bible becomes very easy to understand, which is why I have spent so much time on this subject. Because Yah'shua (Jesus) is "the truth" (Jn.14:6), and because it is the truth of the Word which freshens our intellects, it is said in Psalm 72:6, that He shall come down "like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth" (NKJV).
So what do we now think? Is it possible, in the light of what Yahweh has revealed here, that if we have Christian virtues blooming in us, and if we were to cease reading the Word of God, or to hear it read, that they would wither away and die? I have no doubt of it. If we do not receive into our souls continual showers of Divine teaching, I believe firmly that all the righteous principles that Yahweh has sown in us would fade away, and we would grow utterly irreligious and vile. And so when good people gather in assemblies or churches like this, or when they are reading the Bible, it may be said that they are watering their gardens and getting freshening showers for the herbs and flowers in their Eden!
This, then, demonstrates the great good which comes of reading and listening to Scripture. It is not difficult to understand why so many people, who rarely attend church or assemblies, and never read the Bible, are such languid [lacking energy, spirit, interest or enthusiasm] Christians. It is because the ground in which their Christianity grows is not like a watered garden, but like a dry and dusty field.
What, I wonder, is the difference between rain and dew? Rain falls more heavily and copiously than dew. Indeed, we have had some heavy rainfalls this summer which destroyed some of our plants. Dew drops appear through condensation as a result of nature cooling down by night - it is a very gentle and usually unnoticed phenomenon. It appears softly upon the leaves, and magically appears in the very bosom of the flowers, without ever crushing or injuring them. Dew is therefore the symbol of the truth that gently appears in our hearts whilst we scarcely know it, bringing there the sweet freshness of Yahweh's grace and mercy. Thus Job, like Moses, was able to say after reasoning with his friends: "my speech settled on them as dew" (Job 29:22, NKJV). The speech of Moses and Job is Divine truth, and in the calm, clear morning of peace and innocence, the Divine truth - teaching us of Yahweh's love and care - distils into our souls, freshening and vivifying as the dew.
This picture of dew is a very beautiful one. Yahweh says through the prophet Hosea: "I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon" (Hos.14:5, NKJV). Yahweh is as the dew unto Israel when His truth, softened by mercy and purified and brightened by love, descends into our hearts, and makes our affections grow and our understandings bloom. That is why we are enjoined to seek for unity amongst believers, and when we have obtained it, it is something very precious indeed. The Psalmist writes:
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there Yahweh commanded the blessing --
Life forevermore" (Ps.133, NKJV).
Ointment, as you have already learned, is the emblem of love, and dew is the emblem of truth. Unity is likened to love and truth, the one consecrating, and the other fertilising and blessing. And so we come to the great revelation and principle of God, and that is echad, or Oneness. It is a great mystery that is revealed in the marriage relationship - of the unity of husbands and wives, of Yahweh and His Bride Israel, and Yah'shua and His Bride the Church or Messianic Community. And God, who is called Elohim, is the same, for He is uniplural - one and many - three-in-one. Elohim or God is Yahweh the Father, Yah'shua (Jesus) the Son, and the sevenfold Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) - He is one (Dt.6:4; Mk.12:29; Rom.3:30; 1 Cor.8:6; 1 Tim.2:5), He is three-in-one (Mt.28:19), and He is nine-in-one (Rev.1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). But that is not all: He calls His angels 'elohim' too (Ps.8:5), and even the human judges of Israel (Ps.82:6; Jn.10:34-35). In other words, the love of God is reaching out and embracing angels and men and bringing them into one great Elohim family of love and truth, the one consecrating, and the other fertilising and blessing. And we come to understand very clearly from the imagery of Divine symbology that love is not without truth, and truth is not without love, just as the man is not without the woman, or the woman without the man (1 Cor.11:11), or indeed God is not without mankind, or mankind without God.
From these simple facts we have learned, I hope, how beautiful the Word of Yahweh is. The Word is the seed of righteousness, from which grow up the plants which our Heavenly Father has planted. It is the rain and the dew that enable the seed to germinate and develop into noble trees, mighty in structure and wondrous in majesty. All that is within us, and all that is begun and sustained and preserved in us, has its origin in the Holy Word.
We have spent seven weeks now looking at a wide variety of symbols in the Bible, and yet they are probably less than a tenth of all the symbols that we can find therein. As we have seen, they are not difficult to understand. All of these emblems, whatever they may be, follow a universal law, by the application of which we may easily and unerringly determine their meaning. And the law is this: we only need to learn the nature and use of a thing in order to determine its symbolic meaning. Let's take the sun as an example. The sun is the source of all natural blessings, and is therefore an emblem of Yahweh Himself. The earth, by contrast, is the recipient of blessing, and so it is plain that the earth represents the Messianic Community or Church. The sun, moon, and stars bestow light and heat to us, and the earth receives them. Thus the sun, moon and stars signify Divine perfections which shower down love and truth upon the earth, which is us, into whose bosom they are absorbed.
You will have noticed also how all these symbols are tied together. The earth is the emblem of the Messianic Community or Church; hence the trees and plants that grow in the earth are figures of the virtues that grow in and beautify the Church; trees and herbs bear fruits and seeds, and these, therefore, signify the fruits and seeds of virtue that bless and multiply continually among men and women.
We know that water is the emblem of truth. Of what is a fountain of water the emblem, then? A fountain is the source or beginning of a stream, and therefore a fountain must therefore be emblematical of the source of truth, namely Yahweh. Hence it is written in Jeremiah: "they have forsaken Yahweh, the fountain of living waters" (Jer.17:13, NKJV). Then there are wells. A well is a kind of reservoir of water, to which we can go in our need and draw from it for our use. What do you suppose, then, a well means? It is a symbol of whatever contains truth. It must therefore be a symbol of the Word itself, which is a spiritual well full of living water. And so we are not surprised to read from Isaiah: "Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isa.12:3, NKJV). The wells of salvation are the doctrines and precepts of our Saviour, full of living water, of which you know, if he drinks he will live forever (Jn.4:14).
Scripture is therefore seen to be an exact science like astronomy or mathematics. It isn't just stories or poetry. Scriptural symbols have a precision like those symbols we use in organic and inorganic chemistry. Water cleanses the body, truth cleanses the soul. Water quenches the body's thirst, truth quenches the soul's thirst for knowledge. Hence water is emblematical of truth. But that isn't all. Once you have learned one scriptural fact about water, the mind is led to a whole perception of a whole string of facts connected with it, as we saw in the instance of fountains and wells. And just as it is so for fountains and wells, so it is with regard to brooks, streams, rivers, seas, fish, nets and hooks, fishermen, ships, and all things connected with water. They are all tied together, and the knowledge of the meaning of one opens the mind to a perception of the meaning of all.
What of all the metals mentioned in the Bible - gold, silver, brass, iron - each has a certain relative value and use to the other. And when we know their value and uses, we know their meaning in the Word of God. So in the Book of Revelation we read: "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich" (Rev.3:18, KJV). Gold is obviously used as a symbol of some spiritual quality. Then there are all the pearls and precious stones; the human body and its organs and limbs; the clothing worn by the priests and people - all these have a definite meaning, and all may be easily learned by reference to this universal law.
Are not animals types of spiritual principles too? The Good Shepherd commanded that the sheep and lambs should be fed (Jn.10:11,14; 21:15,17) and told us to be aware of wolves in sheep's clothing (Mt.7:15). He called Herod a fox (Lk.13:32). And Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev.5:5).
And what is perhaps even more amazing is the fact that countries, towns, and cities mentioned in the Bible are in like manner emblematical. Most believers understand what Jerusalem and Canaan represent. Canaan is a type of heaven, the Christian's land of promise; and Jerusalem is a type of the Church or Messianic Community in its glory and prosperity. Canaan signifies the eternal home to which the believer journeys as Egypt is the state of bondage he leaves behind him. From this we learn that the symbolic meaning of all the places mentioned in the Bible depends upon their relation to the land of Canaan. Israel and the Messianic Community or Church are one and the same, as we know. The countries of Amalek, Moab and Philistia, where the enemies of Israel dwelt, symbolise the state of those who are wicked and who are therefore opposed to the Kingdom of God. Every war between Israel and her enemies is thus found to have a spiritual meaning. And fascinating though science is, it is nothing in comparison with the Divine knowledge which the Bible imparts to our souls.
The only knowledge that ultimately matters is the knowledge that leads to salvation (Lk.1:77), and that is to be found in Yahweh's Word, the Bible. And the key to that knowledge is in the symbols therein. I end this series of sermons with that beautiful hymn by Cowper on the light and glory of the Word:
"The Spirit breathes upon the Word,
And brings the truth to sight;
Precepts and promises afford
A sanctifying light.
A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun;
It gives a light to every age;
It gives, but borrows none.
The Hand that gave it still supplies
The gracious light and heat;
His truths upon the nations rise;
They rise, but never set."
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Last updated on 24 August 2002
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