Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Leading Thought: Josiah and the Law
The times about which we have been reading for several lessons were very sad, for they witnessed the passing away of the representative Church among the children of Israel. But the present story tells of a bright and beautiful change in this history. Josiah, the boy king, was one of the very best kings of Judah.
How far the people had gone away from the Lord, we see from the fact that they no longer read or knew “The Law,” as the five books of Moses were called. That is, they did not read the Word.
These five books had been written by Moses when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and were sacredly placed by the ark containing the two tables of stone upon which were written the Ten Commandments. The ark was kept in the holy of holies of the tabernacle, wherever the tabernacle was set up during the wandering in the wilderness and later when they were settled in the land of Canaan. But it seems that after the temple had been built by Solomon, and the tabernacle was no longer used, “The Law” was taken out of the holy of holies and kept in the temple. Later, when the people had become idol-worshipers, and cared little or nothing for the Law given by Moses so that it was forgotten, the temple was neglected, cracks appeared in its walls, and it was generally out of repair.
But under good king Josiah it was repaired, and while this was going on, a great treasure was discovered, “the Book of the Law” was found and taken to the young king, who learned from it what had been forgotten, namely that this Law promised rewards for the keeping of its commandments, and terrible punishments for not keeping them. The very things that the people were then doing would be punished by the destruction of the holy city, making it desolate and a curse. (Deut. 29:27)
When Josiah heard the Law, he was very greatly grieved, and showed his great grief, by rending or tearing his garments, and weeping.
And this was also representative, like everything else that the Israelitish and Jewish people did. And now we will learn how and why it was representative.
A garment corresponds to truth. The Psalms say of the Lord, that He covereth Himself “with light as with a garment.” (Ps. 104:2) And we know that light means truth. Therefore, He once showed Himself when on earth to three disciples on a high mountain, with His face shining as the sun, and His raiment white as the light. (Matt. 17:2)
And as He has made the angels to look like Him, He has given them garments that look like His. We know, from the angels seen in the Lord's tomb, that they also have white and shining garments. Swedenborg tells us that he has always seen angels dressed in this way. Indeed, he tells us that the most intelligent angels have garments that look like flame; other angels have garments that sparkle like diamonds; others have garments that are white like light. The garments of some angels are a shining crimson, those of others, a shining beautiful sky-blue. Others are of other shining colors. They are all exactly in accordance with the truths that the angel possess. You see, therefore, that you can have the most beautiful clothes in heaven if you want to. But you have to work for them while here. You must learn the truths of the Word, and love them, and keep them bright and shining by living according to them.
Spirits who are still in the world of spirits do not yet have such bright and shining garments as the angels. Those of them who have the truth have beautiful garments but not so lustrous. The white is more like the white of our linen or cotton. It does not shine. Rut the devils and satans in hell have ugly and ragged clothes because they have no truths, but only falsities.
The ministers or priests in heaven wear special garments because it is their duty to preach truth; and so some of our New Church ministers also wear special white garments when they conduct the worship of the Lord and preach because they wish to show thereby that they have learned the truths of heaven from the Lord, in the heavenly Doctrines, and preach these truths.
The priests in the Israelitish and Jewish Church had white linen garments; the high priest had especially beautiful ones which are carefully described in the Word of the Old Testament. (Exod. 39) They all represented different kinds of truth in the Word of the Lord.
But what about the Divine truth in the days of Josiah? Did they possess it? Alas! when Josiah read the Law, he discovered that they did not, that they had lost it. And so he tore his garments, thereby representing that Divine truth had long been lost. Not only the very book of the Law, but the Divine truth it taught had for a long time been blotted out of their hearts and their lives. Was it then not fitting, to represent this loss, and the great grief over it, by rending the royal garments?
You will remember from our last lesson about true repentance? Wherein does it consist?Josiah was truly repentant. He did not stop in his repentance merely with showing his sorrow by weeping and tearing his clothes: that was only the beginning of his repentance. He followed this up by doing. He called all the people together, and read the Law to them so that all could hear it. Next he made a covenant; that is, he promised the Lord to obey the Law; and then he carried out his promise by stopping the priests of the idols from continuing their worship, and by destroying the idols. How different he was from Ahab! He listened to the voice of the Lord, and himself did what in Israel the prophet Elijah had done. It is all told in the next chapter. (2 Kings 23)