Wednesday, May 20, 2015 0 comments

Examining events of the sixth seal in Revelation 6-7


If you’re like me, you may have interpreted the events of the fifth seal (martyrs under the altar) as describing the Christian martyrs during in the days of the early church 2,000 years ago. 

But when we come to the events of the sixth seal in Revelation 6 – sun darkened, moon turned to blood, falling stars, major earthquakes, mountains and hills moving around, everyone trying to hide themselves—we tend to say to ourselves, “Well, that hasn’t happened yet, so I guess we’re somewhere at the end of the fifth seal.”

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the events of the sixth seal and I recently came to the conclusion that we aren’t looking at the whole story.  The problem is the chapter break that starts Revelation 7.  Revelation 7 has things that are part of the sixth seal, but because the tone is so much more positive, we don’t realize that belongs in the picture too.

So, just for the sake of this particular post, I’m going to pretend that everything in Revelation 7 has been tacked onto Revelation 6 with extra verses.  (Revelation 6 only has 17 verses, so everything after that is actually Revelation 7.)

12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
18 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
19 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
20 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
21 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
22 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
23 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
24 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
25 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
26 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
27 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
28 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
29 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
30 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
31 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
32 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
33 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
34 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Do you see how this helps us? The sixth seal doesn’t just have scary stuff in it. It has wonderful stuff too. 

If anything, we suddenly see there is a major contrast set up between two different groups of people.  The first group is “kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man,” (v15) which you’d think covers just about everybody.  But then the second group is “them which were sealed . . . an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (v21) and “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (v26).  And we realize that these are the redeemed.

Let’s explore the differences between these two groups to see what we can learn.

The first group hides in the dens and are desperate to be hid from the face of God on the throne.  They question whether anyone can stand in the day of God’s wrath.  It is easy to see they are full of fear. The second group, rather than hide from the throne, stand before it, clothed in white robes, and all seem to be celebrating the salvation of God and ascribing blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, and power to God.

The first group is scared of the wrath they anticipate is coming.  The second group is described as having come “out of great tribulation” (v31), but they don’t seem to dwell on exactly what they had to go through. But they’ve already come out of it and they look forward to salvation to come.  It seems their tribulation has been redemptive because of their faith on Christ, so they have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.

The first group has a lot of focus on their earthly status levels – kings, great men, rich men, chief captains, mighty men, free men, bondmen.  In the second group there is no mention of status.  We only know they were part of all nations, kindreds, and tongues.  This gives me a sense that there is much greater equality among the second group.

Yet another contrast between these groups is their expectations of what will happen.  The first group says fearfully, “The great day of his wrath is come,” yet if you notice, they turn out to be wrong because the angels hold back the winds to prevent hurt to the earth, sea, and trees.  There’s a delay instead.  The second group cries, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb,” which is their anticipation of salvation to come.

Do we see those two groups today?  I’d say we do. Can we tell which one we belong to? I’d admit sometimes I see what’s happening and I just fear what more could be coming. That suggests to me that as much as I’d like to be part of the redeemed, I haven’t yet developed the faith in Christ that I need to stand unshaken.  We can ask ourselves, “Am I afraid of meeting God, or can I stand in His presence with confidence?”

Now, let’s look at some other interesting things. 

You recall that the fifth seal has the martyrdom of Christians in it, and the sixth seal has 144,000 of Israel sealed in their foreheads.  So now we come to a very important question—where does the Restoration occur in all of this?  Where do we locate it?  If 144,000 of Israel are being sealed, then that means that they have the full gospel and it has already been restored.  So where is that? 

Happily, we get a little hint from Joseph Smith in his revelation in D&C 77:

8 Q. What are we to understand by the four angels, spoken of in the 7th chapter and 1st verse of Revelation? A. We are to understand that they are four angels sent forth from God, to whom is given power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to cast down to the regions of darkness.
9 Q. What are we to understand by the angel ascending from the east, Revelation 7th chapter and 2nd verse? A. We are to understand that the angel ascending from the east is he to whom is given the seal of the living God over the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, he crieth unto the four angels having the everlasting gospel, saying: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And, if you will receive it, this is Elias which was to come to gather together the tribes of Israel and restore all things. (D&C 77:8-9, emphasis added)

There’s the Restoration—the ascending of the angel in the east having the seal of God.  Now, I don’t know about you, but something about that imagery suddenly strikes me as particularly fitting for representing the Restoration.  An angel ascends in the east, gradually, almost as if he were the sun rising.  Being an angel, he probably shines very brightly.  That sounds very much like Joseph Smith’s rise as prophet.  And he has command over other angels who have the gospel to commit to every nation. He sent out missionaries.

So now, we know where the restoration is, but what about all that scary stuff--earthquakes and sun going dark, and moon turned to blood, and stars falling, and mountains and islands moving all over the place?  When did they happen?  Because verse 18 says that the Restoration happens “after these things,” meaning after the scary stuff.  Did they happen and we missed it all? 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe the scary stuff is meant to be symbolic.  (I’m not going to say that I know this for sure, and I’m not going to say that the literal disasters won’t happen, because it could, but I want to see what we can learn if we consider a figurative interpretation.)  So let’s look more carefully at the scary stuff and see if we can figure out what major events they might be trying to communicate without being literal. Also, there is Joseph Smith Translation stuff in there, so let’s look at that too.

KJV Revelation 6:12-17
JST
12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal,
and, lo, there was a great earthquake;
and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair,
and the moon became as blood;

13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together;
and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
And the heavens opened as a scroll is opened when it is rolled together; and every mountain, and island, was moved out of its place.
15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man,
hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne,
and from the wrath of the Lamb:

17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?


I think we have to start asking ourselves questions here about what kinds of spiritual truths might the Lord want to communicate to us about what is happening in the world.  If this is very symbolic, then what might earthquakes, a darkened sun, a bloody moon, falling stars, an opening heaven, and displaced mountains and islands be representing about what has happened between the time of Christian martyrs and the Restoration?

A great earthquake – major instability. Everything becomes really shaky and you can’t really depend on things. So this could communicate everything from economic to social to governmental to international instability.

The sun becomes black as sackcloth of hair – When the brightest light in the heavens is darkened, that’s really serious.  Might the darkening of the brightest celestial light represent the apostasy? 

The moon became blood – Consider that the moon reflects the light of the sun. So if the sun is darkened, then the moon is darkened as well.  If the celestial light is quenched, then it would stand to reason that terrestrial people have problems too.  Perhaps this tells us that terrestrial-level people become violent.

the stars of heaven fell unto the earth – This is a little ambiguous. If we continue with the pattern of lowered levels of light, stars could represent telestial people falling. 

An alternate idea is to consider that elsewhere in Revelation stars are used to represent particularly righteous servants of God. So here when we are told of stars falling to the earth, it may be communicating how even righteous leaders are falling to temptation.  This fits well with our knowledge of the apostasy.  Comparing these falling stars to figs falling from a tree that is shaken with a mighty wind supports this idea of apostasy.  Likewise, leaders who are not able to endure separate themselves from the main church and fall. 

Now we come to v14, which the KJV says “the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together” and the JST says “the heavens opened as a scroll is opened when it is rolled together.”  To tell you the truth, both these confuse me because the language almost makes it seem contradictory with a scroll opening as each of the roll-y thingies rolling together.  I envision them rolling toward each other, which is certainly not opening.  But I suppose a better rendering would be “as a scroll is opened when it is rolled in synchronization.”

I think the important thing we are supposed to get is that the heavens open instead of departing.  And this is very odd because we automatically think “revelation happens” along with this image, but in this particular place there is nothing said of any angels or Christ being there or anything.  No appearance of any heavenly beings. It is like the heavens open and they are strangely empty.  

You know what?  That sounds a lot like revelation of scientific advances being given.  Telescopes. Secrets of heaven and sciences given as revelation, but no heavenly beings seen in that picture.  That has certainly happened, hasn’t it? 

and every mountain and island were moved out of their places – What might the mountains and islands represent here if all that movement is symbolic?  I suspect that they may represent countries and nations.  If countries and nations are moved out of their places, then that gives us a sense of nations’ status fluctuating over time, border wars and invasions, major displacement of peoples, refugees, immigrations, colonization, wars of independence, changes of government, etc.   How much of that has there been since the Christian martyrdom?  If you’re acquainted with history, a huge amount. Lots of flux.

Okay, let’s look closely at what the scared people say and do.

15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

There are some really odd things in these verses to notice.  The first thing is the range of people who are involved.  The fear seems to affect all levels of society, from kings down to bondmen. Having ruling power doesn’t mitigate the fear, nor does having riches, nor does having authority in the military or being extra strong. 

The second thing to notice is that all these people hide themselves in dens and rocks in the mountains. This makes me think of bunkers and emergency shelters.  That action of taking refuge indicates a desire to survive.  But in the very next verse, these same people are crying to the mountains and rocks, asking them to fall on them (and presumably kill them).  Do you see how weird this is?  They have these refuges prepared to help them survive, and they try to survive, but they don’t want to survive.  Their question “who shall be able to stand?” suggests that there is major concern that nobody will be able to live through it all.  It indicates a concern that quality of life in the great day of the Lord’s wrath will be lessened to such an extent that there won’t be much left to enjoy or that the struggle for survival will become all-consuming.

Do we see and hear people worried about social anarchy and chaos in a coming apocalypse to the extent that they build bunkers and stockpile food and weapons?  They are out there. I think it is very interesting that while the church has taught us to build a year’s supply of food storage they haven’t said anything about bunkers and weapons. They encourage 72-hour kits and emergency preparedness and saving and getting out of debt, but they do not go to extremes.

A second odd thing that I notice is that while these people want the rocks and mountains to call on them (and presumably kill them), they want to be hid from the face of the Lord and His wrath.  But does dying really protect a person from the Lord’s wrath?  No, of course not. So these people don’t really understand the Lord, even if they invoke His name.  But.. they think dying will save them somehow.  That suggests that the thing they are referring to as the Lord’s face and wrath, something they fear is going to judge them, has its source on earth in mortality.  I bet that what they are really worried about is the wrath of masses of angry people.   They fear a social firestorm and angry judgment and they bunker down in anticipation.  But are mobs God?  No.  But how many times throughout history have uprisings been feared?  From what I've read, a lot.

And again, it is worth noting that the four angels hold back the winds that would hurt the earth, sea, and trees, so the anticipated destruction does not materialize as predicted by the fearful people.

Also, with a symbolic interpretation, these events don’t necessarily have to be discrete one-time-only events.  They may continue today.

At this point I have to mention that one of the reasons why I have a problem with a lot of interpretations of last-days prophecy is that it tends to focus on all the scary signs, particularly the natural disasters with a sort of hand-wringing attitude of fear and worry.  Yet somehow I don’t think that is the attitude that the Lord wants us to have.  I can’t imagine the Lord revealing stuff just to scare us.  If we’re told about natural disasters, we know what we should do—be prepared for emergencies.  If we’re told about spiritual disasters, we know what we should do—follow the prophet and keep the commandments.  When Babylon experiences tremors of instability, we know we should build a firm foundation on Christ.  When there are anticipatory worries, we know what we should do—look to Christ and anticipate His salvation.

For that reason, I don’t think the Saints have anything to worry about in the sixth seal.

Monday, May 18, 2015 3 comments

How Christ learned obedience


Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (Hebrews 5:8-9)

That first verse there has puzzled me a long time.  How did Christ learn obedience by the things He suffered?

I know I have learned obedience, but hardly ever has it been by suffering, except from suffering the consequences of disobedience.  How did Jesus learn from suffering when He did not disobey?

I’ve learned obedience by learning from other people’s mistakes, but that did not involve my suffering at all.  I’ve learned the sweetness of obedience by enjoying the blessings afterward, but that certainly wasn’t suffering.  I’ve been cajoled into obedience by parents and leaders, but I don’t know that can be called suffering either.

The only thing I can think of is if that suffering happened as Jesus had to make righteous choices and do His Father’s will.  We are told elsewhere that Jesus said, “I do not my own will, but His that sent me.” We often think those righteous choices were easy and painless for Jesus, but what if they weren’t?  What if it was just as hard for Him to give up His own will in favor of what Heavenly Father wanted as it is for anyone else?  I wonder what kind of pain Jesus went through as He worked to reconcile His own will to Heavenly Father’s. Still, we know He yielded willingly.  Every. Single. Time.  Knowing what I know of my own stubbornness, that gives me a huge respect for Jesus’s righteousness.

It’s also possible that part of the learning obedience through suffering happened as Jesus was stretched by what Heavenly Father asked Him to do.  Growing from grace to grace, He must have been stretched almost constantly.

Hmm, maybe I've learned obedience through suffering more than I thought.

What do you think?  Can you think of any other way Jesus might have learned obedience through suffering?


Friday, May 15, 2015 0 comments

Newly crowned David conquers the Philistines with help from the Lord


This is a neat story from 2 Samuel 5:17-25 that I want to go through piece by piece about how David was given divine help to conquer the Philistines after he was made king.  There are some neat things to learn from it.

17 ¶But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the hold.

When David was made king, the Philistines must have thought it would be best to put David down quickly, lest he get the advantage over them.  David’s response was to go down into the hold, which was a place of refuge or fortification. 

David is a good model to follow when opposition looms.  Fortify and seek refuge.  We know to whom we should go—Christ.

18 The Philistines also came and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim.

The Philistines must have been a fearsome sight, spread out in the vally of Rephaim.  This sight had once terrified Saul, but we hear nothing of any emotional response of David.  His heart had been made firm by much previous affliction, so it was nothing new to him.

19 And David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the Lord said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand.

David inquired of the Lord whether he should go fight the Philistines.  He had spent much time on the run, and he could keep running, or he could stay in his place of security, so while the answer seems obvious to us that he should fight, it wasn’t obvious to him.  The Lord told him to fight and assured him of victory.

20 And David came to Baal-perazim, and David smote them there, and said, The Lord hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baal-perazim.

So David went and fought and won.  We don’t have any record of the numbers he had versus the numbers the Philistines had, so we don’t how assured the victory appeared beforehand.  However, we might get a little sense of the nature of the victory from what David said about it.  “The Lord hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters.”  And he calls the place Baal-perazim.  The footnote for “breach” gives “bursting-forth,” which to me gives the image of a dam breaking and waters pouring out. 

Perhaps if we imagine the Philistines and Israelites pushing against each other, stabbing at each other around their shields, grunting and heaving, trying to get through..  Then the Philistine line breaks in a few places and Israelites push through, and the Philistines fall back and flee.. 

Of course, this is my imagination at work, but it helps me visualize why David would want to speak of it the way he did, as a bursting forth, or a breach of waters.

Also, the ‘im’ at the end of perazim is a plural form, so that makes me think it was multiple breaks or breaches, not just one. 

So when David gives the Lord credit for those breakthroughs, I think we are to understand that the Lord gave David’s army strength to stand firm for longer than the Philistines.

21 And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them.

The Philistines left idol images in their camp, so David and his men destroyed them so that they wouldn’t become a snare to the Israelites.  It is also a nice statement that the Philistine gods could not save the Philistines, nor could those gods save themselves from destruction.

22 ¶And the Philistines came up yet again, and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim.

Evidently the Philistines could not let that Israelite victory stand, so they came back to the very same place they were beaten before.

23 And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees.
24 And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.

David could have taken it for granted that he should deal with the Philistines the same way he did before, but he doesn’t.  Instead, he goes to the Lord again for guidance.  I think he is a good example of humility.  This makes me think I need to be more prayerful and ask for guidance even if a situation looks like the same thing will fix it against as was successful before.

Also, I can’t help but notice David’s ability to get really specific revelation with important details, like where to go, and a sign to look for that will indicate when to attack.

The sign that is given is “the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees,” which is really odd.  I don’t know quite what that could be, whether it was a wind, or the sound of a moving army, or what.  However, David seems to have known what it was, and he followed it and gained the victory.  I suppose listening for a particular sound would have required him and his army to watch and wait very quietly and patiently, and then to move quickly with faith when the sign was given. 

We still practice this obedience today as we wait for revelation from the prophet, and we must have the faith to act when the signal comes.

25 And David did so, as the Lord had commanded him; and smote the Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer.

Ultimately, David’s prayerfulness and humility and faith enabled him to win both victories over the Philistines.

Today, let’s approach our difficulties with prayer and humility, even if it looks like we could just easily do what we did before to conquer them.  Let’s see what more we can learn about how God can help us.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015 0 comments

If no Christ, then no God. But there is a Christ.


For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time. (2 Nephi 11:7)

The first part of that verse is fascinating reasoning that sounds very logical, and yet it leaves out many assumptions, trusting the reader to figure them out. It is instructive to think about what assumptions make it so Nephi can state this with such confidence.

“if there be no Christ there be no God” – A Messiah to suffer for all is absolutely important to the definition of God.  A Christ provides for mercy, and a God must show both justice and mercy to be God. 

That being said, we live in a world where it might seem difficult to see the justice of God.  That’s because God is long-suffering and offering mercy, holding back the day of judgment so we have time to lay hold on that mercy.

“if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation” – God must create because it is part of His perfections.  And He must create men and women to become more like Him because that is the perfection of creation.  And of course, that means He must provide means whereby He can have mercy on them, so that presupposes a Christ to suffer for their sins.

Unbelief might cause people to fall through the cracks of Nephi’s logic, but for those who don’t, we can see our very existence as evidence of God and of Christ.

Someone else has pointed out that life balances as it were on the head of a pin of perfect optimums, which if disturbed, disrupt whole systems and make life untenable on biological, chemical, and astronomical levels.  From that perspective, perhaps commandments are ways of asking us to spiritually climb onto more pins and balance, so that we can discover new optimums of spiritual creation that we never knew existed.  Naturally, there will be lots of wobbly pins and lots of falling off, but the atonement makes it so that our falls don’t nail us to the ground when we land on our faces.

Monday, May 11, 2015 0 comments

Rachel weeping for her children, and Ephraim bemoaning himself

The scripture about Rachel weeping for her children is mentioned in the New Testament with reference to Herod slaying all the babies in Bethlehem age two and younger. 

I think it is instructive to see where this comes from and see its context to learn more about it.  It is from Jeremiah 31:15, but verses 16-17 have some things to say that might startle us.

15 ¶Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
16 Thus saith the Lord; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.
17 And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border. (Jeremiah 31:15-17)

Right along with the prophecy that there would be weeping and why, there also comes instructions about how that grief can be overcome.  And I think it can also be applied to mean several things.

Concerning the slaughter of the innocents, the rest of the verses give comfort that the work these mothers have done to nurture them would still be rewarded.  None of it would be for nothing.  Also, the promise that their children would come again from the land of the enemy is essentially speaking of a future resurrection when they would receive those children back again.  They could live in hope for that day.

Another way to read these verses is as prophecy of the coming destruction and scattering of the people.  This is Jeremiah speaking, after all.

And yet, in the very next verse comes that comfort from the Lord that the children of Israel would come back again from the land of the enemy (Babylon), and for those who were killed, resurrection from death.  Further, there was still hope that they would repent, even in the spirit world.

Now, this isn’t the only cool part of the chapter.  Verses 18-20 have things to say about Ephraim.  Keep in mind that at the time Jeremiah wrote this, Ephraim (part of the northern 10 tribes) had already been carried captive by Assyria some 100 years before because of stubborn wickedness.

18 ¶I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.
19 Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.
20 Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:18-20)

Note the characteristics of Ephraim as described in these verses:
1.     He realizes he has been chastised by God.  (He’s acquired quite a lot of spiritual discernment about how the Lord is at work in his life.)
2.     He realizes he is like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. (He has acquired the ability to see the truth about himself, rather than remaining in blind pride.)
3.     He requests the help of God is being turned from his sins.  (This shows he knows he can’t depend upon his own strength and wisdom, and he trusts in Christ’s atoning power to change and cleanse him.)
4.     He has come to know the Lord and is trying to follow Him.
5.     He is aware of the consequences of his actions and the stages of repentance, as well as knowledge of the spiritual history of his people, which hasn’t been all stellar.

As I look at those characteristics of Ephraim, I can’t see how any of that can happen unless they’ve been converted to the restored gospel and restored to their spiritual blessings of being part of Israel.  None else but the humble followers of Christ have such humility, such true vision of their state, such dependence on the Lord, such a repentant heart.

In v20, Jeremiah speaks on behalf of the Lord, declaring the Lord remembers Ephraim as a dear son and will have mercy on him.  Clearly that mercy can only be brought about through Ephraim’s sincere repentance.

So, to sum up, Jeremiah prophesied that the lost (killed or captive) children of Israel would be returned (resurrected or gathered).  He also prophesied that the people of Ephraim would be restored to the truth of the gospel and would become a humble and repentant people (completely opposite from what they were when they were carried away).  Those of us who are Ephraimites can take satisfaction in knowing that we are part of the fulfillment of this scripture.  It also gives us yet another way to measure ourselves.  How well do our lives fit the characteristics of Ephraim described by Jeremiah?
·      Do we understand when the Lord is chastising us for our sins?
·      Do we recognize how we are unaccustomed to the yoke of discipleship?
·      Do we ask for the Lord’s help to change when we repent?
·      Do we consider the Lord our God to the extent that we worship Him and follow Him?
·      Do we repent?  Do we allow ourselves to be instructed?  Are we ashamed of our sins?