“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” – Luke 2:40
We are familiar with the story of the Lord’s life on earth. Born in Bethlehem of Judea, He was taken by Joseph and his mother into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. After Herod’s death He was brought back out of Egypt and taken to Nazareth, the home of Joseph and Mary. There He stayed until He came to the Jordan to be baptized of John and to enter upon His public ministry. One incident between His return from Egypt and His entering upon His ministry is noted. At the age of twelve He went to the temple at Jerusalem for His first Passover. The priests and doctors of the law were amazed that the wisdom of the young lad outran their own learning.
The Lord came into the world to be our Example, our Teacher, and our Master, passing through all the states of life through which we pass, from infancy to maturity. So His life is an example for all, for children, for young men and maidens, for grown men and women, and also for the angels in heaven to all eternity. This life is recorded in the Word and is available to all. He gave the Word to us that we His children might learn how to live. Without it we should have no record of His life and teachings.
We cannot believe that a loving Father would put us here and not teach us what we need to know about ourselves and about Him, and about the world in which we live, to enable us to make use of our opportunities and to accomplish the purposes for which we were created.
Also the Lord teaches us that He has deeper purposes for us than the life in this world. He tells us, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” He created the heavens, so that after our life here is finished, He may be with us there and bless us to eternity.
To Jacob the Lord gave a vision of a way leading to Himself and heaven. This way is by keeping the precepts of the Word. It is not a hard way. It is a “way of steps,” a way over which anyone can go. There are no traps in this way. It is safe and secure.
As children we start climbing this way of steps. Every animal is created with instincts; so every animal knows what to do, what food to eat, and how to live its life. It needs no instruction; it does not have to acquire knowledge as we do. But because animals are born with knowledge they can go no further. The foxes live as they always have since their creation; the robins build their nests as they always have. They can make no improvements in their homes or in their way of life. But man is born without any knowledge, and whatever we may come to know we have to learn. And for this reason there is no limit to the progress possible to us.
By learning about this world we can prepare for a satisfactory life here. And because we have the Word we can do more than this. We can prepare for life in the spiritual world, and the Lord has given us a spiritual part of the mind capable of being acted upon by spiritual forces and becoming conscious of the Lord and of heaven. Only in this way can we become intelligent and wise. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” An animal nature cannot see the kingdom of God. Natural birth will not admit us into the kingdom. Our higher faculties have to be developed, and the spiritual mind is developed by learning spiritual truths from the Word and by a life according to them.
The laws of life are summarized in the commandments. First, we must learn of the Lord, acknowledge Him, and worship Him. He created us that we might form in ourselves a place where He may dwell. He desires to dwell in us, that He may give us in ever increasing measure of His love and wisdom. We must prepare a place for Him if we desire to have Him dwell among us. And we must seek Him willingly. He does not force us to love Him. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?”
There were three metals used in the building of the temple: gold, silver, and brass. Gold is the symbol of love, but there are many kinds of love. We may love something for its beauty, for the pleasure it gives us, for the advantage it gives us over others, or for other purely selfish reasons. Genuine love – pure gold – is a love of serving others, of bringing heavenly life down into our daily tasks.
Silver, or truth, is needed in our worship. By means of knowledge we are enabled to accomplish our purposes. Whether truth will bless or harm us depends upon how it is used. We should not use it for our own advancement but in order that we may better be able to serve others and the Lord.
And brass is doing outward natural good deeds. There is not a man, woman, or child who cannot do something for the good of others. We can speak kind words, do little services for others, and gradually prepare ourselves for the greater opportunities which the Lord will in time bring to us.
And why does the Lord want us to learn and keep His laws? “That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.” Many think that keeping the Lord’s laws is hard and leads to a sacrifice of our happiness. But this is a great mistake. Learning and keeping His commandments is the easiest and indeed the only way to attain genuine and enduring success and happiness in this world or in any other.
There is a natural blessing in keeping these laws. It is a fact that keeping them conduces to a long life. Evil is the source of disease, for disease is the result of the violation of some of the Divine laws. And the violation of these laws also injures nations. Wars are the result of evils in the hearts of men, and so are pestilences and famine.
But it is not this of which the Lord is primarily speaking in His promise of the lengthening of our days. He means the progress that we shall make as we acquire more spiritual knowledge. We ourselves shall come into new states of life and attain new light for our minds and new wisdom. We shall not be standing still, the same person we were before, with no new visions or new interests. These are changes that are wrought in the mind, days that can continually increase in number and in splendor. The promise is of the multiplication of our days of spiritual growth, not the promise of mere prolongation of natural life.
The Lord is in the constant effort to lead us into the life of heaven. To many heaven seems most unreal. Life here in this world is what interests them. But the Lord says, “If ye will love me with all your heart, mind, and strength, and teach my laws diligently to your children, you will put yourselves in such a relation to me that I can bestow upon you every blessing.” He does not ask us to love Him with an angel’s heart or with the most exalted intelligence and wisdom, but with our heart, our mind, and our strength. Our love may be weak, our knowledge of little extent, our strength feeble. He requires us only to exercise in the right way the faculties that we possess.
Our days are the times when there is love of the Lord in our hearts and the light of His truth in our minds. They are the times when we are intelligently obeying the Divine laws. These days are the steps by which we ascend to the Lord, and they are as the days of heaven upon the earth.
Our natural faculties come to their prime, and gradually wane. But our spiritual faculties are of such a nature that they can be increased and perfected forever. As we develop these, we shall progress toward eternal youth, and we shall find life here fuller and richer, advancing in knowledge and wisdom. Starting from very small beginnings in infancy and childhood, the kingdom of heaven will grow within us each day of our earthly life, until it needs but the sleep and awakening of death to introduce us into our eternal homes, where we shall come more and more into the image and likeness of our Heavenly Father.