O CHILDREN OF ADAM! Holy words and pure and goodly deeds ascend unto the heaven of celestial glory. Strive that your deeds may be cleansed from the dust of self and hypocrisy and find favor at the court of glory; for ere long the assayers of mankind shall, in the holy presence of the Adored One, accept naught but absolute virtue and deeds of stainless purity. This is the daystar of wisdom and of divine mystery that hath shone above the horizon of the divine will. Blessed are they that turn thereunto. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words, 69)
By studying the Sacred Scriptures we can learn about the ways God exercises His Will in the world. In Chinese we might call it knowing the rules of God, or the natural order as God intended, which is in conformity with our higher spiritual nature. When we follow God’s rules, we will be protected and blessed. On the other hand, when we do not follow the laws of our higher nature and go against God’s rules, difficulty will follow us. If we don’t know our own position and destiny in creation, we don’t know how noble we were created and we let the animal nature (lower nature) dominate our thoughts and behavior.
Copper into Gold
The principle in all that God does is the principle of Love. He created us to be noble and gives humans eternal life of the spirit. He wants us to fulfill the purpose of our creation, and bear fruits in this life. To bear fruits means to bring forth virtues, qualities and perfections. When we act with these virtues, we shine with God’s glory like a bright ornament on the tree. We shine with the fruits of virtues, qualities and perfections of our Soul.
God will purify our soul and make us change from copper to shining gold. God is holy and pure above anything else. To get closer to His purity we need to purify ourselves. The journey to return to Him is the acquisition of pure qualities in our soul. To purify our soul is metaphorically like the process of alchemy. It is a process described by medieval philosophers that involves high heat and water. The difficulties in our life are like heat and water. Our character is strengthened by all kinds of tests that we undergo in our lives. Our impurities are removed gradually in the process. The impurities in our soul are the result of our ego. This process of purification is to remove our ego, where it is an obstruction between us and God. This veil prevents us from knowing Him and understanding His goodwill toward us. It prevents us from seeing His beauty, also causes us to lose our noble identity. The purification process, or turning copper into gold is the mercy and compassion of God. It is His love, because only after we remove these impurities will we be able to see what He has prepared for us, the rich gifts and treasures that are hidden and waiting for us.
Know thou, therefore, that in every age and dispensation all Divine Ordinances are changed and transformed according to the requirements of the time, except the law of love, which, like unto a fountain, flows always and is never overtaken by change. This is of the wonderful mysteries which God has mentioned for His servants! Verily, He is the merciful, the compassionate! (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 248)
The Wilderness (Difficulty)
In the Bible, we read the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt into the desert of Sinai, where they remained in the wilderness for 40 years. This was a period of purification, of learning to rely on God. For us, the wilderness is a situation where we are removed from our familiar surroundings and comforts, and we may go through sickness, hardship, suffer loss or betrayal. It may be due to our own mistakes, selfish or cruel actions which result in our being cut off from friends and support. The wilderness is the place where we meet God. It is the place He will rescue us out of the darkness. If we seek Him, we will find His light, and His love. Wilderness that is the mercy of God, the gift He gives us, the place He transforms us, the place we find Him and return to His protection. We must not try to escape from it. It is the living opportunity to see ourselves and know who we really are.
When we read Exodus, we can’t merely look at it as a story. There are many spiritual messages it carries with it. The wilderness is the work of salvation and healing from God. The food (mana) He gave to the Israelites represents the spiritual food He provides, which is the Word of God. In the journey God showed His faithfulness to them through His power, His might, protection and grace. When we follow his commandments, we will be protected under His laws. His covenant is His protection and the symbol of His love. His grace will pour down to us when we hold firmly to His covenant. The commandments of God are His strong wings, the sign of His protection. It also is the way to transform us.
In a symbolic sense, the period of living in the wilderness is the description of the difficult life which Israelites encountered due to their own disobedience and lack of faith. Because they lived for generations under controlled and oppressive conditions as slaves, mistrust became one of their characteristics. Mistrust generates a rebellious character. The wilderness is the time for transformation, the place where God does His work on us, changing the rebellious characteristics into faithfulness through His grace. He sets our soul free from the oppression of ego. He heals us and lets our soul be healthy again. So our selfish characteristics can be transformed into nobility, arrogance can be turned into humility, bowing down before Him.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:16)
O SON OF BEING! Walk in My statutes for love of Me and deny thyself that which thou desirest if thou seekest My pleasure. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words 38)
O MY SERVANT! Purge thy heart from malice and, innocent of envy, enter the divine court of holiness. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words, part two 42)
Forgiveness is the sign of compassion. God forgives us all the time and He bestows His grace on us continuously. He never leaves us alone, no matter how unfaithful we are. God wants us to forgive others as well and have a positive influence on others with compassion, forgiveness and friendship. Our soul can be pure through forgiveness and still be able to give. This is how we can get closer to God. We all encounter someone that makes us uncomfortable or hurts us in our life, to forgive is the lesson everyone needs to learn!
A reason we may have difficulty forgiving others is our ego, when we are too proud and don’t want to admit our limitations and our own fault. It’s our pride that causes the trouble. It is an unpleasant feeling that stops us from apologizing. When we realize our own limitations it will help us understand others limitations too. Everyone has different abilities and weaknesses. When we accept our own ability and weakness, then we can be open minded to accept others’ abilities and weaknesses. We can focus on the positive qualities that each of us have, and praise God and be thankful for everything God does for us. Humility leads us to being grateful. To be humble and grateful will please God and increase our blessings.
Service in the Path of Justice
Without forgiveness and compassion will not bring out the spirit of justice. Justice is more than just right and wrong or good and bad. Each one of us carries our own past, which contributes to making us who we are. We are affected not only by our own past, but that of previous generations. It is the burden from our family, from our society, from our ancestors. It is the accumulation of ideas, values, and often spiritual ignorance from excessive attachment of earthly desires. These are the conditions that cause our suffering and misunderstanding of each other. We all carry our own story in our life and have problems to deal with in our path. If we only focus on our own story and not the cares of others, then we live in our own vain imaginations, which will never help us awaken, never ease our struggles. Unless we have a better understanding of the burden we are carrying and what make us suffer, or we will have trouble to understand what others suffer, too.
O SON OF SPIRIT! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. (Bahá’u’lláh , The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh 2)
We can only gain our own knowledge through understanding our own struggles. And this knowledge will help us have a better understanding of humanity as well. Through understanding the troubles affecting humanity we can see ourselves on the same path and connected to others. In order to move our collective life forward and created a better environment, our community and our society needs this kind of understanding. Service in the path of God requires the promotion of justice, to help others have a better understanding of humanity, so we can all live in a more just society.
Be fair to yourselves and to others, that the evidences of justice may be revealed, through your deeds, among Our faithful servants. (Bahá’u’lláh , Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 128)
Justice comes from the teachings of God in every age, from the laws of God. It also comes from understanding our own suffering and humanity. So by showing obedience, forgiveness and humility, we show justice. By showing understanding for others is the way we show our love. It will help us to connect heart to heart and remove hatred, and be willing to share.
Prove yourselves worthy of his trust and confidence in you, and withhold not from the poor the gifts which the grace of God hath bestowed upon you. He, verily, shall recompense the charitable, and doubly repay them for what they have bestowed. (Bahá’u’lláh , Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 128)
The gifts which God gives us are for everyone. If we receive a gift from God, we need to share it. The gifts from God could be wealth, power or ability. When we have more money, we can give and help take care of the poor and weak. When a person has power, they can help the oppressed. When we have an ability to do something more, then we should do more with the capacity we have. These are signs of the spirit of service. Justice can be performed through service to mankind and service to God.
O MY SERVANTS! Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits, that ye yourselves and others may profit therefrom. Thus it is incumbent on every one to engage in crafts and professions, for therein lies the secret of wealth, O men of understanding! For results depend upon means, and the grace of God shall be all-sufficient unto you. Trees that yield no fruit have been and will ever be for the fire. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words, part two 80)
God acts in our life so that we may become a tree that bears fruits. He is an expert of gardener. He knows when to provide us water and when to trim away unnecessary branches. The unnecessary branches are the attachments we have to the material world. When God takes certain material belongings away from us it is uncomfortable. If we fall into poverty, sickness, lose power, or lose something or someone we love dearly it is an act of God to remove our attachments. He is helping us so we can bear fruits in our life of the spirit. If we don’t forgive each other, we will continue to have difficulty in our life as well. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. (John 15:12)”. We must understand our own suffering in difficulty, so we can have a better understanding of humanity and be just to others. This is what God wants us to learn. The way God works is often through the difficulties we face as we learn about Him, to remove our attachments, to transform our characters, to understand humanity through our own struggles, have forgiveness and connect human hearts to one another. These are the ways of God and the purpose is for us to bear fruits and show His glory.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8)
I am a sinner, O my Lord, and Thou art the Ever-Forgiving. As soon as I recognized Thee, I hastened to attain the exalted court of Thy loving-kindness. Forgive me, O my Lord, my sins which have hindered me from walking in the ways of Thy good pleasure, and from attaining the shores of the ocean of Thy oneness.
There is no one, O my Lord, who can deal bountifully with me to whom I can turn my face, and none who can have compassion on me that I may crave his mercy. Cast me not out, I implore Thee, of the presence of Thy grace, neither do Thou withhold from me the outpourings of Thy generosity and bounty.