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Ban giám khảo 17

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1 Trong núi Ép-ra-im, có một người nam tên là Mi-ca.

2 Người nói cùng mẹ mình rằng: Mười một trăm miếng bạc người ta ăn cắp của mẹ, mà mẹ đã rủa sả trước mặt con, và buông những lời trù ẻo chính tai con đã nghe, nầy bạc đó hiện ở trong tay con, ấy là con đã lấy. Mẹ người đáp rằng: Nguyện Ðức Giê-hô-va ban phước cho con!

3 Mi-ca trả lại cho mẹ mình mười một trăm miếng bạc ấy. Mẹ nói cùng người rằng: Tôi biệt bạc nầy riêng ra cho Ðức Giê-hô-va, để làm cho con trai tôi một cái tượng chạm luôn với cái chơn bằng gang. Vậy mẹ trả bạc lại cho con bây giờ.

4 Song Mi-ca lại trả bạc cho mẹ mình; mẹ lấy hai trăm miếng trao cho thợ đúc, làm một tượng chạm luôn với cái chơn bằng gang, để trong nhà Mi-ca.

5 Như vậy, nhà Mi-ca trở nên một cái miếu thờ thần. Người cũng làm một cái ê-phót, và những thê-ra-phim, rồi lập một con trai mình làm thầy tế lễ.

6 Trong lúc đó, không có vua nơi Y-sơ-ra-ên, mọi người cứ làm theo ý mình tưởng là phải.

7 Bấy giờ, ở Bết-lê-hem tại xứ Giu-đa, về nhà Giu-đa, có một gã trai trẻ là người Lê-vi, kiều ngụ trong thành ấy.

8 Người đó bỏ thành Bết-lê-hem tại xứ Giu-đa, đặng đi kiếm nơi nào kiều ngụ được. Ðương đi đàng, người tới núi Ép-ra-im, qua nhà Mi-ca.

9 Mi-ca hỏi rằng: Ngươi ở đâu đến? Người Lê-vi đáp: Tôi ở Bết-lê-hem trong xứ Giu-đa đến, toan đi tới nơi nào tôi kiều ngụ được.

10 Mi-ca nói: Hãy ở đây với ta, làm cha và thầy tế lễ cho ta, ta sẽ cấp cho ngươi mỗi năm mười miếng bạc, một bộ áo xống, và những vật cần nuôi mình. Người Lê-vi bèn vào,

11 bằng lòng ở cùng Mi-ca, và Mi-ca coi người trẻ ấy như một con trai của mình.

12 Mi-ca lập người Lê-vi làm thầy tế lễ cho mình, và người ở trong nhà Mi-ca.

13 Mi-ca nói: Bây giờ ta biết rằng Ðức Giê-hô-va sẽ làm ơn cho ta, bởi vì ta có người Lê-vi làm thầy tế lễ.

  

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Exploring the Meaning of Judges 17

     

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

The Story of Micah’s Idols

In this chapter, the story moves from the various judges of Israel to an anecdote that illustrates the overall worsening spiritual situation in the land. The people turn from the Lord and do more and more wrong among themselves. The last verse of the book of Judges is very telling, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The same words come in the present chapter, in Judges 17:6.

In this story, a man named Micah (not to be confused with the prophet Micah) took a lot of silver money from his mother. He confesses that he did this, and returns the money to her. She says, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my son!” She finds a silversmith to melt down the silver money to make an idol which gets set up in their house. One of Micah’s sons is then appointed as the priest to serve this idol.

The spiritual meaning of this is that an idol of any kind is a falsifying of our own worship and sense of the Lord. An idol is a ‘thing’ in a ‘place’, vested with power, whereas our worship and sense of the Lord is that he is fully everywhere and in everything. (Arcana Caelestia 3479, 3732) The essence of idolatry is that it emphasises external forms with no attention to the place and purpose of internal forms and realities. Our ‘idols’ can be whatever we love or desire or feel is important to us, over and above the Lord.

The story then shifts to a wandering Levite, a priest of Israel, who came from Bethlehem in Judah, and is looking for any place to stay. Israel had appointed six cities for Levites to live in, but this Levite is a wanderer. He eventually meets Micah, who takes him into his house and makes him a paid priest. Micah feels important because of this development.

This part of the story depicts the decline of Israel from its worship of the Lord to a state of allowing anything to be done if it seems right in someone’s eyes. The Levite is a trained priest, trained in the law of Moses, someone who should know the commandments of the Lord and also their prohibitions. This Levite is ‘looking for a place to go to’ which describes his apparent falling away from true priesthood. (See the description in Apocalypse Explained 444, about the Levites, and in Doctrine of Life 39 about priests.)

As well as indicating the extent of the spiritual fall of Israel into idolatry and wrong practices, this chapter representatively describes our own scope for moving away from a genuine worship of the Lord into a worship of ourselves and of the world, and the change that comes within us in doing this. It often changes very gradually and inexorably so that it is imperceptible even to ourselves. This is a danger, and the reason for our self-examination and vigilant care.

The name Micah means, “Who is like Jehovah God?” which is an ironical name for someone who turns away from God to substitute an idol made from silver money, in a completely false worship. In genuine repentance, we may ask, “Who is like Jehovah God?” implying that no one is like God, including ourselves, because we are all involved in wrong feelings, thinking and actions, and we know our need of and dependence on the Lord. (Apocalypse Revealed 531)

It is important to note the mother’s first words, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my son!” saying this for his confession and return of the money. She begins her part in the story with the truest of statements, i.e. that the Lord wants to bless us, even while she may just be glad to have all her money back.

“Silver” in the Word can mean truths, truths of faith and truth of good, but in an opposite sense, when used dishonestly, it means falsities. (Arcana Caelestia 1551)

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Apocalypse Revealed # 531

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531. To this I will append the following account:

I was suddenly seized with an almost fatal illness. My whole head was weighed down. A toxic smoke emanated from the Jerusalem called Sodom and Egypt. I was half-dead with the fierce pain. I awaited the end. In that state I lay in my bed for three and a half days. Thus was my spirit afflicted, and because of it my body.

And then I heard about me voices saying, "Look, there he lies dead in our city's street, the one who preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins and Christ alone, a man." And they asked some of the clergy whether they ought to bury him.

The clerics said, "No. Let him lie there for people to see."

The people went to and fro, scoffing.

In truth this happened to me when I was expounding this chapter of the book of Revelation.

I heard then the sober words of the people scoffing, especially the following:

"How can one repent apart from faith? How can Christ, a man, be worshiped as God? Since we are saved by grace apart from any merit of our own, what need do we have then of anything but simply a faith that God the Father sent His Son to take away the condemnation of the Law, to impute His Son's merit to us and thus justify us in His sight, to absolve us of our sins through His emissary the priest, and to grant us then the Holy Spirit to bring about any goodness in us? Does this not accord with Scripture, and also with reason?"

At that the crowd standing around applauded.

[2] I heard this, but could not reply, because I lay almost dead. But after three and a half days my spirit recovered, and in the spirit I went from the street into the city and said again, "Repent and believe in Christ, and your sins will be forgiven you and you will be saved. If you don't, you will perish. Didn't the Lord Himself preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and for people to believe in Him? Didn't He command His disciples to preach this, too? The dogma attending your faith - is it not followed by a lack of concern over the way you live?"

But they said, "What nonsense are you prattling on about? Did not the Son make satisfaction? Did the Father not impute this to us and justify those of us who believe it? We are led, therefore, by the spirit of grace. What then is sin in us? What then does death have to do with us? Do you not comprehend this gospel, you preacher of sin and repentance?"

However, a voice was heard from heaven then, saying, "What is the faith of an impenitent person but a lifeless one? The end is coming. The end is coming upon you so unconcerned, so blameless in your own eyes, so justified in that faith of yours, you who are devils."

Then suddenly a chasm opened at the center of that city and widened, and one after another their houses fell and were swallowed up. And shortly water bubbled up from that broad gulf and flooded the devastated land.

[3] When they were thus covered with water and seemingly drowned, I wished to know their fate at the bottom, and I was told from heaven, "You will see and hear it."

And before my eyes then the water vanished - the water in which they were seemingly drowned, because bodies of water in the spiritual world are correspondent forms, which appear therefore around people who are caught up in falsities - and I saw them then in the sandy bottom. There were heaps of piled up stones there, and the people were running among them, lamenting the fact that they had been cast down from their great city. They kept crying out and bawling, "Why has this happened to us? Thanks to our faith in the world, are we not pure, just, and godly?"

And others cried, "Has our faith not cleansed us, purified us, justified and sanctified us?"

And still others, "Has our faith not made us such that in the sight of God the Father we appear, seem, and are regarded as clean, pure, just and godly, and declared to be so in the eyes of angels? Have we not been reconciled, restored to favor, and atoned for, and so freed, washed and cleansed of any sins? Has Christ not taken away the condemnation of the Law? Why, then, have we been cast down here as though condemned?

"A brazen preacher of sin told us in our great city, 'Believe in Christ and repent.' Have we not believed in Christ, since we believed in His merit? And have we not repented, since we confessed ourselves sinners? Why, then, has this befallen us?"

[4] At that they then heard from one side a voice speaking to them. "Are you aware of any sin gripping you? Have you ever examined yourselves? Have you as a result refrained from any evil as being a sin against God? Anyone who does not, remains caught up in it. Is not sin the devil? You are therefore the kind of people about whom the Lord says,

Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.' (Luke 13:26-27)

"And also the kind of people spoken of in Matthew 7:22-23. 1

"Go, therefore, each to his own place. You will see caves opening into caverns. Go in, and there each of you will be given his own work to do, and food then commensurate with the work. If you don't want to go in, still hunger will drive you to."

[5] After that a voice from heaven addressed some people aboveground who were outside that great city - people also mentioned in Revelation 11:13 - saying loudly, "Beware! Beware of allying yourselves with people like that. Can you not understand that evils called sins and iniquities render a person unclean and impure? How can a person be cleansed and purified of those evils except by actual repentance and faith in Jesus Christ? Actual repentance is to examine oneself, to recognize and acknowledge one's sins, to make oneself guilty of them, to confess them before the Lord, to implore His aid and power in resisting them, and so to refrain from them and lead a new life, doing all this as though of oneself. Do this once or twice a year when you go to Holy Communion; and afterward, when the sins of which you have made yourself guilty recur, say to yourselves, 'We refuse to do them because they are sins against God.' That is actual repentance.

[6] "Who cannot understand that someone who does not examine himself and see his sins, remains caught up in them? For every evil is delightful from one's birth, inasmuch as it is delightful to take revenge, to be licentious sexually, to prey on others, to blaspheme, and most of all to dominate others from a love of self. Does delight not cause these to go unseen? And if by chance someone says they are sins, does not the delight you find in them cause you to excuse them, even to persuade you and by false arguments convince you that they are not sins, so that you remain caught up in them and go on doing them, afterward even more than before? And this until you do not know what sin is, indeed whether there is any such thing as sin.

"It is different with someone who repents actually. His evils that he recognizes and acknowledges, he calls sins, and therefore he begins to refrain from them and to be averse to them, and to feel the delight he had felt in them as undelightful. Moreover, to the extent that he does this, to the same extent he sees and loves goods, and finally feels delight in them, a delight which is one of heaven. In a word, to the extent someone casts the devil behind him, to the same extent he is adopted by the Lord and taught, led, withheld from evils by Him and kept in goods. This is the way, the only way, from hell to heaven."

[7] Surprisingly, it is a fact that the Protestant Reformed have a certain deep-seated resistance, opposition and aversion to actual repentance, which is so great that they cannot compel themselves to examine themselves and see their sins and confess them before God. It is as though a kind of horror besets them when they go to do it.

I have asked many of them in the spiritual world about this, and they have all said that it is beyond their power.

When they are told that Roman Catholics still do it, namely that they examine themselves and openly confess their sins to a monk, they are quite surprised, saying that the Protestant Reformed cannot do this in secret to God, even though they are likewise enjoined to do it before they take Holy Supper. Some of them there also inquired into why this was, and they found that faith alone produced in them such a state of impenitence and such a disposition.

They were then given to see, moreover, that Roman Catholics who worship the Christ and do not call on their saints, and who do not worship their so-called Vicar of Christ 2 or any of his keepers of the keys, are saved.

[8] After that I heard what sounded like thunder and a voice speaking from heaven, saying, "We are astonished. Tell the company of the Protestant Reformed, 'Believe in the Christ and repent and you will be saved.'"

So I said that, and also added, "Is not Baptism a sacrament of repentance and thus an initiation into the church? What else do the sponsors promise for the one being baptized than to renounce the devil and his works?

"Is not Holy Supper a sacrament of repentance and thus an initiation into heaven? Are the communicants not told to thoroughly repent before they approach?

"Any catechism containing the universal doctrine of the Christian Church, is it not a document teaching repentance? Does it not say there in reference to the six commandments of the second table that you must not do this or that evil, and say that you must do this or that good?

"You may know from this that to the extent someone refrains from evil, to the same extent he loves good; and that before then you do not know what good is, nor even what evil is."

Footnotes:

1. "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:22-23)

2. I.e., the Pope.

  
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Thanks to the General Church of the New Jerusalem for the permission to use this translation.


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