Commentary

 

Spiritual Judo

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By New Christian Bible Study Staff

Making a spiritual journey is like entering a judo arena.

In judo, you are trained to take advantage of your opponents' momentum to throw them off balance, and to the ground. You don't have to be bigger or stronger to win a combat.

There's a spiritual judo arena for each of us. When we start to try to shun evils, learn truths, and do good, we're entering the arena. We're going to engage in contests, combats.

We can expect that our opponent (our old, selfish mind/self, which believes false things and loves evil things) will try to use our new momentum to throw us off balance, and down. If we shun an evil successfully, once or twice, it will pull us into the evil of self-congratulation. If we learn some exciting new truths, it will yank us further into a pride in our own intelligence. If we fail a few times, it will throw us into despair or lead us to abandon the whole project.

If we know to expect these judo tactics, can we do better at keeping our balance? Yes, for sure. We can recognize that we're in the spiritual arena, in spiritual combats, or temptations. We can try to keep our balance, keeping the Word as our touchstone, and getting advice and support from people we love and trust. We can move without over-reaching, learning truths to match with new-found loves for doing good things. We can practice, over and over again, and not lose heart.

Judo is not mentioned in the Bible, but when you look, you can see the techniques at work:

Three times in the Old Testament, there are stories of good high priests - Aaron, Eli, and Samuel - who have evil sons that they don't rein in. Initially strong, good efforts get pulled off balance, either by inattention or pride or neglected practice. (See Leviticus 10:1-2, 1 Samuel 2:12-34, and 1 Samuel 8:1-3)

The three most prominent kings of Israel, Saul, David, and Solomon, all start well, but get seduced by their power, pride, or wealth, which seem to corrupt them.

In another case, during the Exodus, Moses has led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and towards the land of Canaan. He's doing well, obeying the Lord's commands. But at Meribah, he gets impatient, and loses trust in the Lord, and tries to take matters into his own hands. As a result, he's not permitted to enter the Promised Land. (See Numbers 20:6-13)

In Swedenborg's work, "The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine", there's a chapter about temptation that begins in section 196. In section 197 we find this statement:

"Temptation is a combat between the internal or spiritual man, and the external or natural man (See Arcana Coelestia 2183, 4256)"

When you set out to make spiritual progress, you're entering the judo arena. Your new-forming spiritual self will combat your habitual "natural" self. You'll be fighting to keep your balance, and -- if you stay aware that you're in a spiritual battle, you'll even be able to see ways to throw evil and falsity off-balance, to the ground.

The Bible

 

1 Samuel 2:12-34

Study

              

12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.

13 And the priests' custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand;

14 And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.

15 Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.

16 And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.

17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

18 But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.

19 Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.

20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to The LORD. And they went unto their own home.

21 And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.

24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD's people to transgress.

25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.

26 And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.

27 And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house?

28 And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?

29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?

30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.

32 And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever.

33 And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.

34 And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them.