“Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” – Luke 24:49
These words were spoken to the disciples after the Lord’s resurrection, and just before His ascension. They had a definite meaning for them, for obediently they remained in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost, when, like a mighty rushing wind came the power of the Holy Spirit for which they waited.
We recall that in David’s time a man named Shimei cursed David, and David left a command to Solomon to take vengeance on Shimei. Shimei was not to be put to death but was to build a house in Jerusalem and not go outside of the city. For three years he kept this engagement. At the end of that time, for the purpose of recovering two of his slaves who had escaped, he went out and brought them back. On his return Solomon had him put to death.
Jerusalem is called a “city of truth.” To dwell in Jerusalem is to live according to the truths of the Word that we know. So will we be safe.
These narratives are not of mere historical interest. Every act described in the Word is dramatic, a representative picture of eternal truth. This fact makes Scripture the Word of God, thus distinguishing it from all other writings.
As long as the apostles stayed in Jerusalem they were safe, Jerusalem stands for right thinking and living. Disorderly thinking and living are against everything that gives rest, security, and peace. The teachings of the church bring rest to our minds because they bring to us genuine truths. Thus it is possible for us to have settled convictions, a settled faith. We have the feeling of solid ground under our feet and protecting walls about us. The years of wandering and drifting are over. We have the truth to direct and guide us, the truth to meet all our needs and hopes. Without genuine truth there would be no prospect of ever reaching our goal.
The primary value of the New Church teaching is that it renders progress possible and sure, it directs our lives to certain and sane ends to which we may look with entire confidence.
What are these truths? In Bible symbolism they are pictured as the Holy City New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven, of which the Lord is the light. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
In this picture our Heavenly Father is seen as coming down to the plane of human life, as having a dwelling-place with men where He may be with them as a Father with His children, counseling them and guiding them, helping them in their temptations, and protecting them as far as He can, always ready to fulfill His promise: “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
The teachings of the New Church bring the Lord down to us and keep Him ever before us. And they teach us about ourselves, that we are created to become His children. We are not His children by natural birth; we must be born again. We become His children as far as we choose to be such, as we seek to learn and do His will. These truths make life here clear, simple, and sane. This world takes its proper place as a world for preparation and not a world in which our life finds its fulfillment.
In this world we look for neither completeness not permanence. Positions here, experiences here, successes here are all seen to be but a means to final happiness, and as subordinate to the Lord’s eternal purposes for us. Yet we can have peace of mind and heart, knowing that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord.
And then there is the teaching concerning the Word. There is much doubt today concerning the Word. It is thought of as purely human literature, much of the most important part of it of very uncertain origin and of doubtful value. If the Word is taken away, man’s only recourse is to his own intellect. Then one might well ask, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” There is no other place of rest for the mind, no basis for a stable faith. As the Psalmist wrote, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
These truths touch our lives at every point. They solve for us the difficult problems of life, and show the purpose of all the experiences through which we pass. By means of them the mind always looks forward; old age becomes the crown of life – not a calamity. Each day becomes more happy because it finds us wiser and better prepared for the life in heaven. So Jerusalem has become a symbol of heaven itself and of a heavenly state of life.
But it is not mere knowledge of these truths that makes heaven. So our text reads, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” Clearly it means, tarry in the principles for which Jerusalem stands; tarry in the teachings of the Word until their truth appears; tarry in the truth until its mighty power is revealed – until the mighty power from God comes rushing in.
This is in accord with natural law. Truths are seeds – seeds of a new life – seeds out of which come from on high heavenly states of life when the seeds are planted in the good ground and are cultivated. The Lord is the Sower, His Word is the seed, and the good ground are those who hear and do.
We do not plant a seed in the ground and expect a harvest immediately. Some seeds bear their fruit in a season. Others require years for the harvest. In the Scriptures a man is often likened to a tree. And do we not know that it takes time for our highest possibilities to mature? The youth tarries in school until his mind has developed in strength. The apprentice tarries with his instructor until he has mastered the elements of his occupation. And the Christian must tarry in the Jerusalem of spiritual doctrine until he is endued with the power that inflows from on high. Surely no question can arise as to the truth of this, yet in applying this principle to ourselves how often we doubt the descent of power from on high into our souls as a result of simple obedience to the truth!
One says, “I do not understand; I do not know.” Then tarry in doing what truth teaches, and the light will come, convincing beyond all possible doubt. It takes time for the sun to warm the earth so that it can bring forth fruit.
“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Sometimes we become discouraged. We want quick results. Yet we may know that the Lord wishes us to progress with all possible speed. He knows that we cannot advance until certain weaknesses are overcome. In the journey from Egypt to the Holy Land the Israelites could not be led by the short way, but were forty years wandering in the wilderness. All our purely natural ambitions must die, that out of them may come the resurrection.
We wish that the world might advance more rapidly, that all thoughts of strife and war would cease, that the skies would clear and all peoples could live in mutual love, understanding, and peace.
No changing of outward conditions can bring this about. The spiritual skies must first be cleared, so that influx of new life from the Lord can inflow uninterrupted.
The temple was the pride of Jerusalem. Magnificent and beautiful in the eyes of Israel in the heart of their land, it was the center of their national life. Yet, beautiful though it was, Israel had already destroyed this temple. Reality had departed from their worship. Their rejection and crucifixion of the Lord were but the final working out of their destruction. Our writings teach us that truths are of no value as mere ornaments of the mind, and warn us that doctrine alone not only does not save a man, but condemns him.
So let us realize the need of the truths of the church, learn them and live them, that the Holy City may be rebuilt in the hearts of men, to the end that the Lord may inflow with His light and love and endue us with those powers for which He has created us.