Explanation(s) or references from Swedenborg's works:
Bible Studies:Serving the Lord Daily
By Rev. William Woofenden
For he is "as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods." Matthew 25:14
Additional readings: Zechariah 14, Matthew 25:14–30, Psalm 9, Psalm 10
The man spoken of in our text is the Lord. Our Heavenly Father in His dealings with us keeps Himself in a certain sense wholly out of our sight. With our natural eyes we never see Him. With our natural ears we never hear His voice. In consequence of this apparent removal of Himself many persons have denied that there is a God. Others, seeing that there must be some creative power and force back of nature, have thought of Him as this force but have denied His existence as a personal Being.
Various names have been given to the different kinds of belief about God. Those who identified God with nature have been called pantheists. Those who believe that nothing can be known about God and the supernatural are called agnostics. The term materialist has been used to designate the man who does not want to know about anything above matter. And last and lowest in this dismal series stands positive and defiant atheism. But all these are alike characterized by unwillingness to accept a God who is not visible and tangible.
Our text teaches that no such external manifestation of Deity can be expected. It is according to the order of His providence that the Lord is like "a man traveling into a far country." Nor are we left in ignorance as to why this is so. The parable, of which our text is a part, goes on to say that the man called to him his servants and "to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to every man according to his several ability." He left them to make such use as they would of the gifts entrusted to them. After a while he returned, and had a reckoning with them, rewarding each according to the use he had made of his gift.
This parable reveals a universal principle, namely, that the law of human life is freedom of choice and that, being free to choose, man is justly accountable for his actions. Men's happiness or their misery is in their own hands. If God were continually in sight before our physical eyes, there would be no freedom. The Lord hides Himself from us for our own good, for to take away our freedom would deprive us of everything that is human. Nor could we by any means be formed into the image and likeness of our Creator. By virtue of our freedom we can honor those who are wiser and better than we and worship the Lord, who is above all. Shunning evil and doing good because we so choose, we can conjoin ourselves to the Lord.
So the Lord makes Himself outwardly invisible. But He does not leave us without the means of learning and knowing about Him. He has given us His Word in which we can learn what is right and what is wrong. In His Word He is present with us to enlighten us and to give us power to overcome. And if our eyes are open, we can see the countless objects of nature as signs that the Lord cares for us. We did not create the sun, moon, and stars, or any of the things of this world, nor did they spring into spontaneous existence. So, even though we cannot see the Lord, we have innumerable tokens of His presence and of His ability to provide for all our needs.
It seems strange that those who doubt or deny the existence of God should complain that He does not reveal Himself to our physical senses. They should not expect that He who created and sustains the universe, whom the "heaven of heavens cannot contain," could be brought down to the perception of the gross physical senses so that they could see Him as they see a stone or a clod. If they could so see Him, they would have every reason to doubt His infinite power and greatness. Surely the fact that they cannot so see Him is the very worst reason that could be given for their lack of faith.
The truth is that the senses are not man's guides into knowledge. It is very little that they reveal to him—only a few impressions about his body and about the external world in which he lives. In the exercise of our senses something more than the body is implied. They make their report to the mind which sits within and above them. And when we speak of the mind, we speak of something that the eye has never seen nor the hand touched. We pass beyond material bounds even here into that region which is called spiritual; we come into an altogether different world, the world of spirit. And if our spiritual eyes were opened, we should become cognizant of another and greater world of which we are members.
In fact we are endowed with faculties adapted to our future as well as to our present existence. We are able to see and understand things which lie beyond the compass of the physical senses or of this earthly life. This does not mean that we can discover these things by our unaided reason. But when they are made known to us through revelation, there is something within us that can recognize and accept them.
There is a reason for much of the doubt in the world today. Traditions of men have been substituted for the Word of God. Irrational interpretations have been made by the church, interpretations that can by no means be reconciled nor even understood. But new truth has been revealed in the opening of the Scriptures; so the way is now opened to a clear understanding of spiritual things.
Man is primarily a spiritual being and is endowed with spiritual faculties by which he is able to acknowledge and receive spiritual truth when it is intelligibly presented to him. But these faculties have to be developed. He is not brought into them without effort on his part. There is one condition that must be fulfilled if we are to have our spiritual sight opened. We must realize our weakness and need of help. Those who are satisfied with themselves, who are proud of their own attainments, unconscious of any need of help from one mightier than they, are at heart materialists or skeptics.
Externally the Lord is and always will be invisible to us. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). So far as our spiritual nature is opened and developed, so far as we become regenerate, the Lord reveals Himself to us. We come to know and to depend upon His presence with us, when we pray to Him we do not seem to speak to empty air. We feel that He is with us, hears us, and can help us, and the reality of His presence grows more vivid as we advance in the way of His commandments—the way of eternal life.
But did not the Lord once dwell visibly upon the earth? Once indeed, as never before or since, He was present in the form of a man, as God incarnate, Jesus Christ. But He did not appear in His glory. His Deity was wonderfully and deeply veiled. He so accommodated Himself to our finiteness that no one's freedom was taken away. He came in such a humble guise that men did. not know Him. Those alone recognized Him who were interiorly attracted to Him by the spirit of His life and teachings. Others despised and rejected Him. Some even crucified Him.
And yet by this manifestation, so humble and lowly, so carefully guarded against all danger of compelling men against their wills to believe and obey Him, the infinite Father revealed Himself anew.
Men had lost all true knowledge of God. Spiritual darkness had come upon the earth. The Word had become falsified through the traditions of men. By means of His Advent He was again reinstated in the hearts and minds of all who freely loved Him and kept His precepts. From such His glory was not hidden. They saw His human nature filled more and more with the indwelling life of the Father until in the Ascension it became itself Divine and He could truly say, "All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18).
Today there are those who do not believe this. For He still is, as He always really has been, outwardly invisible. He is still like a man traveling into a far country. He conceals Himself naturally that we may know Him spiritually, and that by means of such knowledge we may, in the fullness of freedom and rationality, make that use of our talents which will enable us to "enter into the joy of our Lord."