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The Tree of Life:


A New Manhood

Chapter 1. Haggai persuaded the Jews to start rebuilding the temple. A few months later they had lost patience. Zechariah’s task was to renew their courage, until they had completed their work. The fate of their fathers ought to warn them to repent, and to hearken to the word of their prophets. The vision of the horses and the explanation of the angel tells how a simple rational understanding of the Word had been disseminated throughout the world—there is good in every religion—but had failed to convict men of sin. The riders on the horses reported that "the earth sitteth still, and is at rest." The angel on the red horse pled for mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. The angel with Zechariah was displeased with the heathen that are at ease. The need for rebuilding the temple is imperative to save humanity. The vision of the horns represents the powers that dismembered the church. The four carpenters, or builders, will overpower them. The life of religion, the Lord’s dwelling place, is achieved in overcoming every difficulty. Power from the Lord is within the effort simply to do right.

The Church Universal—The Living Church

2. "Behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand, to measure Jerusalem," which shall be "as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: for I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her." But Zion must be separated from the daughter of Babylon. The good life must be freed from the love of self, or the love of prestige or self-merit. This prescribes a specific for the growth of the church throughout the world beyond even reasonable expectations. No limitation, however, can be placed upon the Lord’s Work. "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. . . . Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his Holy habitation."

3. Joshua, the high priest, clothed in filthy garments, with Satan at his right hand, stands before the angel of the Lord. Joshua represents the chief function for which the church stands—the love of saving mankind. His garments represent the teachings of the church in speech or action. The filthy garments of the old church—her false teachings and immoral practices in the past— must be removed, and the representative of the new church arrayed in the clean garments of righteousness, with the badge of wisdom, a clean miter, placed upon his head. Satan, the personification of all that is false and corrupt, is close at hand to infest the new church. "And the angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by. . . . For, behold, I will bring forth my servant The Branch. . . . In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree." To the extent that we get rid of the corruptions of past ages which still cling to us, we assume the role of true missionaries, calling others as neighbors for better cooperation in the world’s work and public welfare.

Love’s Conquest

4. The vision of a golden candlestick and two olive trees. Trees signify knowledge, or perception, of various kinds that grow within the garden of the mind. The fruit of the olive tree yields an oil that is good for food, for light, and for lubrication. The olive tree on the right of the candlestick represents the growing perception of the love of God; and the tree to the left, a perception of the love of the neighbor. The oil which burns in the lamp is the symbol of the love in good deeds that shines in a dark world. In this light it is apparent that order can never be established on the civil plane (Zerubbabel) by might, or power, but by the spirit of love. Therefore every obstruction in the way of freedom of conscience must be removed. "Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain." Freedom of conscience is fundamental to the growth of religion. "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? Whom say ye that I am?" The new order cannot be built without the free acknowledgment of "the Christ, the Son of the living God." This foundation stone is said to have seven eyes in it, "the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth." His providence is universal; "He knows everything that is in man." And, wherever men bear witness to the love of God in the love of the neighbor, a kindly light streams forth to enlighten and direct them in reconstructing society.

5. The vision of the flying roll written within and without. The spirit of the Scriptures condemns stealing and swearing falsely by the name of the Lord. If at any time we catch ourselves thinking overmuch of ourselves, and turning our reputation as Christians to account for selfish advantage, we do well to reject such thoughts with hot indignation. Otherwise we should be guilty of profanation, which is signified by the vision of the ephah with the evil woman closed up inside, to be transplanted to Shinar where it belongs.

"Go, and Teach All Nations"

6. From this development in character there proceeds an influence affecting the characters of others more or less unconsciously. The strength of character as regards the doctrine drawn from the Word is represented by the chariots drawn by red, black, white, grizzled and bay horses. People who have only an obscure perception of the truth, or are ignorant, readily accept the thinking of a sound churchman. The black horse going north is followed by a white horse. Those who are highly intelligent in like manner look to a reliable leader to help them in understanding the Word. Grizzled horses went southward. And everyone is more or less influenced by the sincerity of a true churchman. Bay, or strong, horses "walked to and fro through the earth." The Lord taught with authority, because his life was in His words. "The church will be constituted of those who are outside the church." This is especially applicable to those who are in an obscure understanding of life, those in the north. "They that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord."

"I Will Draw All Men unto Me"

7, 8. Visitors to Jerusalem asked priest and prophet if they should fast in the fifth and seventh months for the burning of the temple and the murder of Gedaliah. Zechariah answered that it was meaningless to do so, because they had not repented of the very evils that brought desolation to the land. Obey the voice of the former prophets, and prosperity will follow. "Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you." There is no stronger influence that draws men of all religions into closer bonds of fellowship than a life that reveals the love of God in word and action.

Truth Lives When Bereft of Self-Love

9. "The burden of the Word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach." It is another cross to take up. The new church grows in the knowledge of the Word, but the abuse of it (Tyre, Sidon and the cities of the Philistines) is practically inescapable, because we can never keep up practice with our learning. It is a hard lesson to learn that truth without good is lifeless. "When truth appears to itself to have life from itself, then it has no life, except such life as in itself is not life. But when it is deprived of this, it is then gifted with real life, namely, through good from the Lord, who is life itself" (Arcana Coelestia #3607). It is possible to practice the truth that the Lord gives us to fulfill. Rejoice in that thought. "Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass." The Lord will reign within our hearts, and fill the teachings from his Word that have a practical bearing on our lives with a new spirit and life. "How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! Corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maidens."

10. "The Lord will spiritually bless those who seek him." False prophets will arise and mislead the people, but the Lord will provide new leaders to strengthen the good life and a better understanding of the Word for all men. "They are to be gathered together out of every religion, and taught. The Lord will protect them from falsities that are from hell, because they worship Him."

11. In the main, this chapter points out how destructive of the spiritual life is the conceit which we have in our own interpretation of the Scriptures, especially when it is grounded in a good cultural education (the cedars of Lebanon and oaks of Bashan. Apocalypse Explained #410). Teachers, leaders, parents and pastors set a bad example when consumed by their pride of learning in laying down the law to others. And they who accept false dogmas in religion or politics on authority, without further investigation, are likened to "the flock of the slaughter." The harm that recoils upon the leader is greater than that incurred by those who worship him. "Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened." His power to lead is sterilized, because he fails entirely to see the love of God in Jesus Christ. "The Lord was betrayed by the Jews because He taught them" (verses 12 and 13).

12. "The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel." Here is still another cross in the spiritual life. The doctrines of the Church are assailed. The assailants misunderstand them. A patient defense strengthens our convictions, though the enemy is blind to the truth. The church rests on a sure foundation, and proceeds on her mission to save with sore hearts for suffering humanity, unconscious and unconcerned about "the very present help in trouble" so close at hand to them.

"He Took a Child, and
Set Him in the Midst of Them"

13. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness." Idolatry and false prophecy shall receive short shrift. A more serious test of faith, however, comes to the surface. Probably due to tragic circumstances our belief in Christianity is accompanied by a curse on our childlike trust in Providence as childish and silly. "Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones." Put that to the test of practicing it, and just imagine what it means: the death knell of religion! It cannot be. "I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God."

14. Words do not end the trial. There is much beneath that may only come to light when we are ready to meet it. Jerusalem falls, an earthquake takes place, and the light fails. After a judgment the city is rebuilt, and the kingdom of the Lord reestablished. After the collapse of religion in a soul torn by rebellious thoughts and feelings that wreck one’s faith in God for the time being, there comes a deeper and a broader conception of life through self-surrender to the beneficent laws of heaven. "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one." It is the end of a great campaign that bans much that is vexatious and discordant from our nature, and makes it impossible for us to draw nearer to the Lord in worship, and rejoice in the use of everything we have learned by hard experience. The world needs religion above everything else, a religion that includes all, and excludes no one.


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