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Out of the Depths: The Life of the Soul
ABC News Radio March 24, 2004
THE SHALLOWS AND THE SUBSTITUTES
In Tasmania, the News Radio advised from newspaper reports today, there had been a practice of having a sign with SORRY painted on it. Severely astray inmates of prison were chained to a post with this facing them. In this way, it apparently was felt, the depth of their depravity, or the force of their failures, or the extremities of their errors would be paraded to their eyes, instilled into their minds and they would be made to realise that they OUGHT to be sorry.
There was concern in some quarters, so that the sign was painted over.
This, to say no more, was rather superficial. In Amos 4, the Lord indicates how a SERIES of disasters had been wrought in Israel, a succession of indexes to remind them of their straying, of their follies and of their hardness of heart. Hardness of heart ? you say. Is this not rather old-fashioned language which you choose ?
Old-fashioned, now ? is this an ethical term! The point is not the part in the historical parade of phrases which any one of them plays, but the import. What does it bring IN to the mind ? It is moreover the PURPORT ? what is it about.
Thus in Revelation 22 you see how blessed are those who keep His commandments that they might enter in. The force of the 'that' in the Greek, can as Thayer points out in his excellent Greek dictionary, be weakened into purport rather than purpose. It seems often to move in this direction. In other words, what is wrapped up in a thing, sometimes, rather than what is actually and actively sought, that it may signify. If you bear oranges on your branches, speckled maybe, not big perhaps, some even runts alas, yet it is made known what sort of tree you are, so that the tag could be applied to you. Actually, it is BECAUSE of their washing that they enter (Rev. 7:14-15). This is the correlate of regeneration (Titus 3:3-5), found in repentance, pardon and faith in Jesus Christ.
Thus, to be sure, someone could make paper oranges, or some from plastic, and cause them by subtle devices to be affixed to the tree, but it would not take an enormously discerning eye, IF IT INSPECTED the tree, to see the fraud. By their fruits you will know them (Matthew 7) is not intended as an excuse for presumptuously exercised judgment "before the time" as Paul forbids in I Corinthians 4:5, and Christ in the same chapter where He made this advice, declaring, "Judge not!" It is rather an index to what is what, than how good something is. You CAN of course be deceived if you try to judge what is elsewhere forbidden, and make up a list of your own, to supplant that of the Lord for His judgments as in Revelation 20!
It is easy to be deceived by plastic oranges with juice never tasted in the case where they are never actually plucked and eaten. Formalities instead of faith are quite as seductive of thought as plastic faith without vitality, that is no more than opinion, ready to be swayed by every wind.
Hardness of heart is a special feature, then, of man. It means simply this, that at bottom, in depth, in the end of the analysis by a COMPETENT analyst, there is a recurrent thrust of insensitivity to God, evasion or aversion, interest elsewhere, a formalism which has no function, like a featureless plain with salt bush. It is there, but it is grey, colourless to a large extent, dun, dull, a tract of desert adorned by a species of life, as a rose by a thorn. It is indeed like a rose bush (by tag) which has many thorns of excellent proportions, but never knew a rose. It means that speak as you will, be kind as you might, pastor with functional felicity to the uttermost degree as someone may, encourage, teach, appeal as you may, the object of these cares is NOT going to respond. The heart is HARD!
Cold words may come, but not conduct comportable, actions due: for the heart is elsewhere. It is like some cold husband listening to the protestations of his jaded wife, that he is never now affectionate, who even as she speaks, has his thoughts on some adulteress of his acquaintance, who derives her name from his immoral actions.
There is no depth in such things.
David however, in Psalm 130, is crying OUT OF THE DEPTHS.
THE DEPTHS -
WHERE THE CRY TO GOD COMES FROM
Crying from the depths, David appeals to the Lord to HEAR his voice, to attune His ear, to direct it to the cry. One is reminded of kangaroos with their large and sensitive ears, which they may independently move, like some radar stations, in this direction or in that at the slightest suggestion of sound, and so better pick it up. Let your ear be ATTENTIVE, calls this child of God to his Maker.
IF, David pursues his theme, if You were to mark iniquities - as if to say, perhaps, "Ah yes, there is David. I know that fellow, for he has sinned three times in thought, four in word and twice in need in the last week. Hopeless case. Call upon Me indeed! Mere hypocrite!", then WHO WOULD STAND!
No such words does the Lord speak. A child is not expected to be perfect, to be incapable of learning and perfect from the first instant, never moved to temptation, never caught. He IS expected, if a goodly youngster, to have a HEART which seeks good, a TONGUE which studies it, a LIFE which reflects it, but perhaps dimly at times. He may need to be exhorted, reprimanded, taught, encouraged, given trials for his patience and so on, and may need some lessons with repeat marked over them. We are not dealing with robots, but people. If he errs, then we would expect before too long, a realisation of this, a desire to cut the cord that binds to error, and an endeavour FROM THE DEPTHS to have restoration of the righteous rejoicing way which so pleases God (Isaiah 64:5).
You may say, But children cannot be like that! How wrong is such a disclaimer. Like this they can be with a simplicity which appeals, as may the young men and women. Does not the apostle John, in I John 2:12ff., rejoice in just such a result ?
"I write to you, little children,
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
I write to you, fathers,
Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
"I write to you, young men,
Because you have overcome the wicked one.
I write to you, little children,
Because you have known the Father.
"I have written to you, fathers,
Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
And you have overcome the wicked one."
Fathers and children alike are coming to terms with holiness, with godliness, with that sort of life which LIVES with the Lord, hidden in His hand, washed with His sacrificial blood of atonement, kept by His power (I Peter 1:5). It is the mere form of 'Christianity' which expects nothing, gets nothing and simply panders to the flesh, whether in 'success religion' or 'purpose religion' fulfulling this or that, which may expect but little other than comfort of mind.
From the depths comes the cry, and if the Lord should mark evils, then there would be no way; but He knows His own, and realises the difference between the imperfect but sincere walk of faith, and the cold formalism, or ecstatic meaninglessness of duty doers or pleasure seekers, fulfilment adherents whose interest is their seeming sanctity, not their Lord.
The depths, you ask, what are these ?
There is in the human soul a depth which may be seen
¨ in the subtle shiftlessness of the squalid sovereignty of sin in some,
¨ in the charming deception of others,
¨ in the misleading uncertainties of others, for whom coming to the point of actually knowing God is something to avoid like the most expert defence lawyers, bent on showing that their murderous client, even if he did happen to kill someone, is anything but guilty of slaughter.
It is also seen, in worthier frame, when pleasure is bypassed by sincerity, and love avoids mere affection as its fulfilment, and seeks good with both hands and all the muscles of the spiritual arms at work.
It is not some unconscious cluster of horror, IN ITSELF, nor is it some repository of progressive changes, bearing fruits of disaster. Diseases of this and that kind are undoubtably its inheritance, for the soul can readily become lustful for money, sex, fulfilment, self-interest, revenge and pride. Yet in measure, these are options, rather like power steering. If you have the thing affixed, it may become all but part of the whole!
On the other hand, the diseases of the soul are no figment. Freud was right in principle about the depth of human depravity, but of course merely fanciful in his construction of the soul-schedule, failing even to have the MEANING of the whole, while talking about the imagined parts, and making universal, some of the diseases he happened to meet (cf. Spiritual Refreshings Ch. 9, *1, cf. SMR Ch. 4, Section 1). Jung did well to task the theory with the lack of interface between the imagined source of the motivation and the actual results. It was of course wholly unscientific, one of those mazes of human thought which are not subject to test since they are not the object of observation, mere theory.
LIFE is far wider than the questions and methods of propagation, and its proportions are not to be found in reproduction, but the production itself. Some indeed may be so pre-occupied with its reproduction and its modes, the pleasures therefrom that it becomes nauseous, a mere repository of misuse, nothing meaningful, and everything comes to the point of requiring excess. Others may find the pleasures of power more to the point; some like both; others find money a more potent force, others again friendship, and its riches; more may love it for its 'usefulness', thus abusing a good thing further, and there is no end to the devices of man (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:29).
God made man upright, but he has found many imaginations, devices, modes of self-deception, methods of straying.
WHERE THE CRY GOES TO
GOODNESS is so operative in the desires of man that he will often fail to see a rogue because he is so devoted to the mere hope of seeing something REALLY good, not fraud, a life deep in sincerity, motivated with kindness, activated in hope. Men are not such dunces that they fail to perceive the difference between manipulation and matrix, the methods of guile and the reality of what is good. Men seek it sometimes in cynicism, so dissatisfied that they take pleasure in despising it, as non-existent, so disappointed have they become. Yet they love it, in depth very often, and would do almost anything if only convinced it COULD be found, and found at last in their own hearts.
In the depths, the human heart is a design, and its distortion, like that of the bowels from pressures in an accident, conducts to man much anguish. The design, like a car, has no meaning in its parts taken one by one, and indeed, such 'parts' as these, parts of spirit, are non-geometrical, but rather functions. But to what is the design directed ? It is directed to the Creator, to the Communing Lord, to the Governing Goodness, to the King of Kindness, and if it finds Him, then it is satisfied, as one is when one sees one's face in water, and perceives that it matches. HERE is the match that is matchless, and so far fulfils all hope that hope itself rejoices at the finding!
In these depths, however in sinful man, there may be all manner of diseases, like those of some African, troubled by famine, hunted by fleas, with flesh corroded by sand and wind. Yet the depths are there. There is nothing superficial about this design, and when you use drugs, or behavioural psychology, or political manipulation, such as breaking your cheek bones in an effort to discourage you from dealing at such depths and in particular, finding the good Lord, then there is a penalty. No peace, only quiescence at best is to be expected.
FROM the depths, therefore David cried to God! It was not a mere hope of cheap forgiveness, but a thrust for pardon or bust! He reasons with God. If You were to make a list of sins, who would be forgiven in such a parade of professionalism ? But with YOU there is FORGIVENESS that You MIGHT be worshipped, delighted in, feared!
The matter is not superficial, for God is of infinite understanding! (Psalm 147), and the soul is of great depth. Its motivations can become ingrained, and unconscious, and its ways can become like an eroded road, almost impassable, even to thought. So David WAITS on the Lord. There is reason for this: the light of the Lord needs to penetrate so that all is VISIBLE, all is REALISED and all is SET RIGHT. John in I John 1 shows this: it is not only forgiveness but a CLEANSING from ALL unrighteousness that is needed. This is the OIL of the soul, with which it runs.
A mixed-up kid or a confused adult is nothing to the point. ALL the motives must be on the table, all the desires before the Lord, all the hope, and the faith with which one was spiritually born must now play on the whole. Indeed, such a seeking may even appear as WORK, for we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is GOD WHO WORKS in us both to will and to do (Philippians 2). That is the way of godly life, of course, not the free mode of its entrance (John 10:9, Titus 3:3-7, Romans 3:23ff.), but let us examine it further.
This is an energetic matter. David waits for the Lord, he here tells us, more than those who wait for the morning, hoping for the first light, blighted in the night, seeking fresh hope with the day.
Using his own experience of God, and of His faithfulness according to the covenant of agreement and the grant of His grace, David then encourages Israel to HOPE in the Lord, to act with this grace, to seek His face with this assurance, because not only does He pardon but He is rich in this grace, and not only does He pay for our sins, but there is 'plenteous redemption'. In Christ, whom David perceived prophetically in His death in Psalm 22, in His resurrection in Psalm 16, and in His coming power in Psalm 2, yes even in His preparation for incarnation in flesh, in Psalm 40, and in His overthrow of the forces of evil in Psalms 2 and 110: in Him is a redemption so abundant that it is like inheriting ten million when you need a mere fifty thousand. There is no limit to this redemption (cf. Hebrews 9-10).
WHERE THE WORLD IS GOING
IN DISJUNCTION FROM DEPTH INTO SUPERFICIALITY AND AGE
This old world is not the repository of the human soul, but a mere platform for its vitality. Its drugs and desires, its dynamics and disintegrative forces, these are not the stuff of man, but his environment.
Unwise the racing driver who worships the track and neglects his racer. Unwise the surgeon who concerns himself with his instruments, and does not study the body. Unwise the accountant, who loves the structures, but ignores the features to be seen in the figures.
It is a world which is silly with age which is coming into sharper and sharper focus. It is weary of its ways, and it wonders what to do, so that, immersed in pathology, it is doing what comes naturally more and more, killing, thrilling, milling about in ravished groups demanding vengeance or some other disorder of the soul, for its satisfaction. Its motivations become aged and wrinkled, like a fallen face which no longer has its character.
It turns to its psychologies and political myths, and is not satisfied; it looks for its ideals and hopes to make them in large building and soporific voices, but it sees that this does little or nothing. It hopes in its knowledge, but learns fast that this acts to threaten the world with the violence such natural knowledge enables; and it finds with horror, that radioactive power is so great that not only does it threaten large tracts of the earth with anti-life forces for thousands of years, but it is almost unusuable, since it spoils the land you seek to occupy, if such be the lust.
Thus the world moves like a rampant steam-roller, coasting down a winding road to the cliffs over the ocean. It is uncomfortable with its prognosis. The future does not look good, but one thing it is sure of, and it is this: NOT from the depths will it cry to God. NOT into reality will it turn, but rather into negotiation with various kinds of blood, shed to this or that extent or with this or that material destruction as an additive. By such means will it meander to its just conclusion, which appears on its very face.
Or if this is to be superseded, it will be, it opines, with shallow organisations of deep power to MAKE things go right, so leading to the next tyranny. American interventionism on the basis of this or that liberation becomes obscene for many; for they, like Spain, want the United Nations to do it. Surely here is sanctity, or at least workability. For what ? What do these so clean nations manage to do for themselves ? MAKE IT WORK. How ? By force ? Oh no ? No, then some miracle is in mind ? Or is it to God who knows how the depths of the soul work, and should work that they go ? Of course not, what a thought! Looking at the follies of force hypocritically and irrationally used by religion to shape the soul, it imagines it will be different this time. So was it with dear Adolf, for he had the German nation's interest at heart. Really ? Next time, the dictator will have the world's interest at heart. Really ? He will of course not need to use force on this shallow-minded world, as it walks with its depths disturbed by omission and neglect ? Really, how amazing.
In fact, of course, it is coming, the international version of absolutism, mundane compulsion, universal force by control, made necessary by man in the shallows in his ways, with his depths arising in this and that tidal wave, and embarrassing all his efforts, until ... in exasperation, in domination, in calculation as the case may be, and it may be multiple, he capitulates once more, but this time with no England and no USA left!
America is in such debt, that who can not wonder how long it will be free! It is so stretched that the tissue weakens. Its heart is so divided with former Christian ethos and current multiple and discordant ethics, worship, ways, witness, desire, that unless it repents, its fall seems imminent. A heart divided against itself will not stand, or a house, and the pluralism is just another name for confusion.
Europe is seeking plastic oranges, and many seem to like the flavour, or at least are learning to tolerate it: it is certainly an acquired taste.
The incumbent pastor of the world, the devil's messiah is coming (cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 2); and the Coming King is increasingly imminent also, and shortly their paths will cross (Revelation 19, II Thessalonians 1). It is amazing, the gullibility of man; and never does he seem more gullible than when he is sophisticatedly knowledgeable, immune to his own depths by cynicism (cf. SMR Ch. 3) or other delusion, and far from God by his own desire to dominate his own world, as if he made it. But he did not; nor did he make himself, as Psalm 100 reminds us. To be dominating the devices of deity is a classic effort, but it ends in only one way, and that quite naturally: in judgment. It comes in dribs and drabs now, and the world stands appalled as things develop in the USA, in Israel, in Africa, in Chechnya, in Sudan, and even wonders at India and the newly to-be-endowed Pakistan, an Islamic body to be empowered in some dream of disaster, by the USA, according to recent news!
When the King comes, the hearts which have sought Him from the depths, that they might be pardoned and strengthened and accepted and know Him and work for Him, whom to know is life eternal (John 17:1-3), these are planted if you will, set in the ground of faith in the orchard of Christ, and they have grown quite naturally, as well planted orchard stock does when well cared for in a controlled environment. These, they wait as those who wait for the morning, for Him in this life; and love Him. His grace is sufficient. They await His COMING with effusive joy, even now being filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory (I Peter 1:1-5), knowing that theirs is an inheritance incorruptible, that does not fade away, reserved in heaven, to which their all-powerful Lord has gone, from which He came, in which is their hearts desire and spirits' rest (John 14, Revelation 14:13).