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The Tree of Life:


A New Perception of Justice

Daniel was taken captive to Babylon before the fall of Jerusalem, and lived there until after the fall of Babylon, and the release of the exiles by Cyrus, King of Persia. His name means "God is my judge." In keeping with it the first six chapters of his prophecy pronounce a judgment—the judgment of conscience—on the love of dominion, which Babylon represents, and the last six on the fatal mistake of substituting faith for the life of religion.

Conscience in a Totalitarian Age

Chapter 1. Anyone who is a slave to the tyranny of his passions is not slow to enlist religion in his cause, if he thinks it will be to his advantage. Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel and the sacred vessels in the temple to Babylon. It is then very difficult to see when we are in the wrong. Conscience, however, is not dead. Daniel is specially cared for by the king, at his beck and call. Conscience too is not without support. Daniel had three companions: Hananiah, "The Lord is merciful," Mishael, "Who is what God is?" and Azariah, "The Lord has helped." Our belief in God is not completely dominated by self-interest, which inwardly discredits the power of religion. Babylon called Daniel Belteshazzar, which means "Protect his life." Self-interest regards religion as an opiate to deaden the sufferings of this life by the promise of eternal happiness hereafter. The spirit of Babylon also denies God’s mercy, or power, or help. All reference to God is removed from the foreign names given to Daniel’s companions—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. A totalitarian state, however, cannot—dare not—go so far as to destroy the church altogether. There are some who cannot swallow the claims of nazism, or communism, which merely represent a universal spirit of the times, making the church subservient to the state. We refuse to be fed up on that diet. The better side of us loves the simple teachings of the Bible, "seeds" from the hand of the Sower, for the sustenance of the soul, which maketh man wise unto salvation.

2. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which went from him on awakening. His wise men were helpless to reproduce it, let alone explain it. Daniel procured a delay of the death penalty, and in answer to prayer by himself and his companions retrieved the dream and interpreted it to the satisfaction of the king. Conscience accepts the truth revealed by the Lord, and confirmed by the Word, that "at first, every church of the Lord has no other doctrine, and loves no other, than that of charity; for this belongs to life. But successively the church turns itself away from this doctrine, until it begins to hold it cheap, and at length to reject it; and then it acknowledges no other doctrine than that which is called the doctrine of faith; and when it separates faith from charity, this doctrine conspires with evil" (Arcana Coelestia #2417). This is the significance of the dream-image seen by Nebuchadnezzar. In the beginning from the love of the Lord men sought with zeal to extend and perfect their lives in accordance with the Word of the Lord. Nebuchadnezzar was this head of gold. Then followed the decline in gold, silver, copper and iron ages, ending in the iron and clay in the feet of the image. The rock that shattered the image and filled the earth is the same as the rock on which the Lord’s New Church is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. Nebuchadnezzar forgot the dream, which was revealed to Daniel. The meaning of revelation for judgment is given only to those who pray for the light of life which is in the Lord Himself.

"Resist Not Evil"

3. Decadent Babylon represents the love of power over men’s souls penalizing all who refuse to worship self. Our faith in God’s mercy, power and help—Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah—is put to the test. A living faith ought to withstand the hatred of others, false accusations, persecution, ostracism, or excommunication, without resentment. With the Lord’s help we are saved from the passions that consume those who place self first. Having passed through this ordeal, our judgment becomes free, and independent of opposition or restraint. Daniel’s companions retire from the scene, although they still exist secretly in the background.

4. Nebuchadnezzar had another dream, which the magicians could not interpret. Daniel’s interpretation teaches us that the church is an incalculable power for good, when freedom of conscience is held to be inviolable. But when the church arrogates the power of God to determine what others shall believe and do, its influence is degrading, justifying hateful passions seeking an outlet in punishing and condemning any and every nonconformist, and ending in gross materialism and atheism. An enlightened conscience sees this, particularly when we consider how we should feel if anyone attempted to force his beliefs upon us at the sword’s point. Daniel’s interpretation was convincing, because he said to Nebuchadnezzar, "My Lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies." How searching!

"Judge Not"

5. The judgment of Babylon follows. The abuse of power to enforce one’s beliefs and opinions on other people, even by intention, is much more disastrous than the abuse of strong drink. Delirium tremens may end in the death of the body, but hatred and intolerance plunge the soul in hell. Contempt and hatred grow with the accentuation of conflicting interests, bringing sorrow and suffering in their wake. Life in this world suffers an irreparable loss from the destruction of unity through the suicidal effort to compel uniformity in belief and action. "God is my judge," however, when I can read and interpret the handwriting on the wall. Religious hatred is worst of all. We profane God’s Word when we claim infallibility, and condemn those who do not see eye to eye with us to eternal punishment.

6. More than a theoretical condemnation of our error is necessary to clear our conscience. The real issue in adjusting our differences is whether we worship God, or self. Daniel’s enemies forced the issue whether he would worship the powers that be, or God. His example, as recorded in God’s Word, proves that no power on earth, or in hell—the lion’s den—can destroy the love of God in the soul. "In all these things," said Paul, "we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, . . . shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Romans 8:37–39).

"He That Is Not against Us Is for Us"

7. The predictions in the next six chapters have an apparent fulfillment in certain historical events in the centuries preceding the Lord’s Advent. It is impossible, however, to prove the connection of the two with certainty. Fortunately, the prophecy, as it stands, is "profitable for correction, and for instruction in righteousness," which is much more important. Members of the church are generally drawn closely together when they espouse Christianity. In course of time, however, their first love cools down, and their differences in interpreting the law, or the doctrines, estrange them. Later, they quarrel over these differences. And, lastly, they break up the Church altogether. These four successive changes in their attitude toward the Lord are represented by the lion, the bear, the leopard, and the dreadful beast with horns seen by Daniel. The "little horn" which appeared last represents the power for evil in the belief drawn from the Scriptures that man is saved by faith alone, that is, "my belief." Faith without charity separates every man from his neighbor, and men and women only unite in groups, or sects, referred to as "kingdoms" in the text, to enforce their faith on others more effectively. Hence the wars of the creeds, which contemned the love of the Lord, and desolated the Church, and which is the inside of international, racial, social, and industrial warfare today. There are always a few, however, who see the fatal error of the church, and feel the need of "keeping themselves unspotted from the world." Despotic government works out its own ruin, "but the saints of the most High" shall enter into the possession of a kingdom that is everlasting in its service of the Lord.

"Forasmuch as Ye Did
Unto One of the Least of These"

8. The text takes up again the same error of enforcing the importance of uniformity in matters of faith to the dethronement of love. The spirit of charity here represented by the ram, and the spirit of faith by the goat, is of a higher order than that represented by the four beasts in the last chapter. It recalls the judgment of the sheep and the goats in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. Again, a "notable horn between his (the goat’s) eyes" is the symbol of the destructive power of the tendency to overemphasize the importance of faith. It destroyed the ram, and reached its limit in removing "the daily sacrifice," and treading underfoot "the place of his sanctuary." The "continual" sacrifice, the lamb offered every morning and evening, is the symbol of the dedication of our lives to the service of the Lord. They who think they can gain heaven through orthodoxy justify their failure to love others as themselves by the claim that is impossible to keep the law, or to do good of oneself. They are willing to pay the price of war to enforce uniformity in belief, but not the price of peace in preserving unity in the midst of great diversity of faith and doctrine. "It is a sad time." Daniel fainted, and was sick for days, but "afterward rose up, and did the king’s business." The cure for imperiousness and disloyalty is to get down in earnest to the real business of living (Luke 2:49).

"Forgive until Seventy Times Seven"

9. Relying upon the prediction of Jeremiah, Daniel expected that the desolation of Jerusalem would end in seventy years. At the close of a moving intercessory prayer for the sins of his people, however, the angel Gabriel explained to him that it would take "seventy sevens," or 490 years, "to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness." The city would be rebuilt, war would ensue, and terminate in "the abomination of desolation" (Matthew 24:15). Clearly the prophecy covers the humiliation of Jerusalem, or the church, even until the Lord’s coming. There is no escape from the long and grim struggle to bring a defiant self-will into consonance with the Divine will. "With God all things are possible." But we must see God’s will, and overcome every obstacle. Heaven is near to sustain our efforts. Gabriel— "God is my strength"—represents a society of angels whose ministry it is to keep alive our faith in the coming of the Lord as our Savior in newness of life after trial (Luke 1:26).

"As Many as Touched Him Were Made Whole"

10. Light from the Word of God reveals wherein we know better than we practice. Daniel "had understanding of the vision. In those days I Daniel was mourning three weeks of days." He had a great vision of the Son of man. We see the Lord’s life again and again in a new light, and our own in sad contrast, and are prostrated by it. A hand touched the prophet and commanded him to stand upright, and chasten himself before God. Michael—"who is like God"—"came to help him." We are encouraged, with help from above, to live up to our ideal, but frequently pride ourselves in applying the prescription to others, and stop there temporarily. Then conscience awakes, and reproves us. Like Daniel, we confess, "O my Lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength." We lack courage. "Then there came again and touched me like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me." Yet, again, we are persuaded to be true to ourselves.

11. Thus we fall to rise and fight better. The old gives place to the new in a measure. We pass through racial experiences of revival, and languor, or depression. At times we sink so low that the Word is devitalized, and religion, the only power for good in our lives, is called in question.

12. "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book." "Near the end, a new church will begin, in which the Lord will be worshipped, and the faith of charity will be received." Those in that faith will cast out evil that has infested them throughout their lives, and enter fully into the new life at the end of their trials. "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried. . . . Blessed is he that waiteth," and endureth to the end. "But go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of thy days." "God is my judge." The separation of evil from good proceeds until the judgment is complete, and the truth has made us free.

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