“Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not forswear thyself; but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by the heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your speech be, Yea, yea; nay, nay; whatsoever is more than these is from evil” (Matt. 5:33-37).
Before delving into the meaning of these verses, let me say something preface as to why I choose it. It is this: the Lord goes through extraordinary measures to walk the line to optimize all means opportunity for Man to find salvation. People seem to be very unaware of this. He seeks to expand religion and knowledge of heaven and himself as much as possible while dealing with Man’s inclination to evil. To do this He has to accommodate mans inclination to self love, and lust for power, guide Man toward His goal, and do it without compromising freedom. It is very easy for people to look at falsities and corruptions in the church and blame God, and reject religion. The see no part of how God walked the perfect path in his infinite wisdom, in every detail, to achieve the best possible result!
We look at history and think, ‘how awful’; and it is true. But we don’t see, unless we look very closely, that God is working out the optimum outcome to bring us home. It could have been a lot worse. If we understand God uses evils to remove evils we can begin to see. Only He has the wisdom and integrity to do this. In truth, He can always be trusted, and is closest to us in the deep trials of our life.
The verse above is difficult to understand, but when we look at them through Swedenborg’s writing, which reveals the internal meaning, much comes to light. As the verse implies the Jewish people swore oaths by ‘heaven’, and ‘by God’s throne’. The reason why it was allowable for the Jewish nation to swear by Jehovah, was that they were the representative people, and, they had become extremely external men. The reason this made it allowable was that God had to continue to use them and accommodate to their nature, because as the representative people they were the church on earth that maintained the connection between heaven and earth. This was a strange situation because the Jewish church had declined and had no charity left in it, but had become completely external and legalistic.
The ‘representative people’ means that the Jewish people and their religion were used for correspondences with heaven and the Lord’s kingdom. Everything about the tribes, rituals, kings and leaders, and so on, had correspondential meaning with heaven. This is what is meant by them being the ‘chosen people’; it does not mean they were above others, but it was a very special use for the Lord’s purpose. There must always be a church on earth that is the heart of how the Lord is received, or humanity will lose its connection to haven and fall in abysmal darkness. The Jewish nation served this purpose for centuries but as the Bible shows rebelled and declined, and rejected prophet after prophet and became completely external. This was not what the Lord wanted, but He had to ‘make do’ as they became completely external.
So, while the Jewish leaders were in worship, they were in the external of religion apart from the internal. When the confirmation of doctrine comes from the external man it is effected by an oath. This represents a declaration of doctrine without insight. It is allowed because it serves the people who may still have innocence, and thereby internal reception. For those who do have a love for God doctrine enters the external from the internal; and light is stimulated in their mind and soul. They receive spiritual intelligence, an ability to reason in themself for the sake of life. Swedenborg tells that those who are of a spiritual nature, in general, use reason in themself to confirm the truths of the Word. For those who are of a celestial nature, which comes from the inmost heaven, they do not need (so much) to confirm truths by reasons, and still less do they debate about them. This is what is meant by those who, ‘let their speech be merely Yea, or Nay’. This is because they perceive and see truths from the Lord. In practice, there are many gradations between the spiritual and celestial state, and in life people develop into these states; they are partly innate to ones nature and partly something one grows into.
Now, there is a tricky situation in religion to untangle here. Evangelical or fundamentalist preachers often say to not use our own reason on the Word but to speak the truth of the scripture. From the above you can see there is truth in this, but most of those who say this are not saying from an internal place but they are saying because they adhere to the literal sense of the Word; in other words, they are external in nature and using a truth of the Word. What they are saying in this regard is not true. We need to use our mind and reason to develop in understanding of the Word and especially to apply it in life. The whole purpose of the Word is to feed and nourish our spiritual intelligence, and to reflect in examining ourself so that we may change our mind, repent, and be prepared for heaven. When one really does recognize internally that all good comes from the Lord there is a surrender to Him which allows the truths of the Word to come into us, and thus we say, ‘Yea, yea’ when we hear the truth. Deep and humble love for the Word elevates our perception and immediate response.
From all this I hope one receives a glimpse of how intricate is the Lord’s providence in negotiating and optimizing Man’s reception of the Word in a fallen world. As an example, the Lord actually ‘vastated’ the Jewish people into being completely external so he could keep using them as the representative people (its a long story); but in the same stroke, He also did this for their own protection and best potential to be saved. He did a similar thing with the Catholics and protestants before the second coming for similar reasons. The Lord also of course works this process for every Individual; for instance, the Lord keeps many people in an external state for their own good until they are ready to be opened. For if they love the Word prematurely and then later turn against it is a very bad thing. In the Word this is called profaning.
I used to be concerned about revealing these internal meanings of the Word, (of course I do so within reason), but I learned long ago that it is up to the Lord who receives. One can reveal to some all day and it has no impact (or they sometimes react to it); but the point is this: Jesus is the inner teacher of all, and wether they hear or not is up to him. The Lord has infinite wisdom in providentially guiding this process, and we see, if we even look at all, only the smallest fraction of it in hindsight.
Being able to have a small glimpse of how the Lord negotiates Man’s nature for his salvation is very important, because so many people throw away the ‘baby with the bath water’, because they only focus on ‘the sins of religion’, not the wonder of what the Lord is actually doing.