Monday, November 20, 2017 1 comments

Thoughts about chiasmus


A few weeks ago I went to an institute class on the Book of Mormon that talked about literary forms in the Book of Mormon. They talked about parallelism and  chiasmus and how John Welch was made aware of chiasmus in the Bible and how he discovered it in the Book of Mormon too. 

I remember my first exposure to the form of chiasmus. A BYU professor taught about it in my Book of Mormon class back in 1998, and at the time I thought it was terribly far-fetched. The teacher pointed out how a whole chapter in Alma was one massive chiasmus, and my skeptical mind doubted this was a real thing and wondered how anyone would have figured it out.

Well, this institute class answered that. John Welch had been taught to see chiasmus in the Bible (see link for 10 minute Youtube video on the story) and had opened the Book of Mormon randomly and noticed repeated two repeated words, then similar ideas above and below that repetition.  He’d stumbled on the middle point of emphasis, and then found the parallelisms that spread outward from there.  The wording didn’t have to be identical; it was the theme that could be repeated.

That made more sense to me.

And then it struck me how fabulous it was that this form was used in scripture. If it is the idea or theme that is repeated, then the exact wording isn’t as important.  In contrast, take the poetic idea of rhyme. A poem that rhymes is very difficult to translate across languages because the same words in another language may not rhyme. You lose part of the cleverness and artistry in translation.  But parallel ideas and themes presented in chiastic form will remain unchanged, no matter the language.

I’ve run across an edition of the Book of Mormon that has actually worked at all kinds of places where parallelisms and chiasmuses appear, and uses indentation to make those forms more obvious.  It’s fascinating to run your eye along the page and see the form. (But it’s more difficult to read.)

And then something else occurred to me.  I remembered Moroni’s lament about weakness in writing and stumbling over word placement, worrying the gentiles would mock his writing.  Could it be possible that he assumed the gentiles would know parallelism and chiasmus and see where he couldn’t get it to work quite right? Could it be he worried the gentiles would dismiss his message because he couldn’t achieve the highest literary form as often as he wanted to?

He didn’t know we would be so much more interested in the flow of meaning than in the form. He didn’t know we’d know almost nothing about the literary structure they were trying to shoehorn their message into. After all, chiasmus is an optimization problem, as a writer tries to structure his message in a pattern of repeating ideas. (There is always a risk that the form will start to torture the meaning and read awkwardly.)  If the Book of Mormon writers ever do chiasmus badly, and we don’t quite see how it goes, it is probably because they departed from the form in greater service to the meaning, and we can be grateful for that.
Saturday, November 18, 2017 0 comments

Power to deliver, to light or darkness


67 When I called again there was none of you to answer; yet my arm was not shortened at all that I could not redeem, neither my power to deliver.
68 Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink, and die for thirst.
69 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and make sackcloth their covering.
70 And this shall ye have of my hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow. (D&C 133:67-70)

In this section the Lord is warning what His answer will be to those who do not repent—that they will suffer the consequences of their rebellion.

The part that tells of the natural phenomena that happens at the Lord’s rebuke I used to interpret through the lens of the story of Exodus and the children of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, as though it is a promise of all the ways the Lord can manipulate nature to bring the salvation of His people. (He parted the Red Sea, parted the Jordan river, plagued the Egyptians with darkness, along with other afflictions) I interpreted it this way because a lot of it is a quotation (or a reworking of a quote) from Isaiah 50:2-3, and so many times Isaiah makes reference to the events of the Exodus to teach.

But I’ve realized there is yet another interpretation for it that is a warning. It is a warning to the Saints about the awful consequences of losing the Spirit if they sin and have to be excommunicated. The natural phenomena are used figuratively to represent the major negative spiritual changes that will happen—your sea can be dried up. Your river can become desert. Spiritual life can die. The bright sunny sky will turn very dark for you. Happiness turns to misery. At His rebuke, all of this will happen because of His great power.

That’s pretty dire, and from time to time we are reminded of accounts of a few early church members who were pretty high up in church leadership who left the church and they had this kind of experience.

So, I think when the Lord says He has power to deliver, it is a two-sided thing. He has power to deliver us from sin, but if we don’t repent, He has power to deliver us over to darkness.

None of us want that.

I’m grateful to know of the Lord’s great mercy and long-suffering and patience to us all and how many times and all the ways He invites us to come unto Him. I love verse 67 that says even though so many times we don’t answer the Lord’s call, the Lord still has power to redeem and deliver. Whether or not we believe in Christ, He still has power to save, so why not choose to believe?  We have to keep turning to Him.

Thursday, November 16, 2017 0 comments

Satan’s attempt to further destroy Zeezrom


After the tragedies and difficulties at Ammonihah, we get this little bit:

3 And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat.
4 Now, when he heard that Alma and Amulek were in the land of Sidom, his heart began to take courage; and he sent a message immediately unto them, desiring them to come unto him. (Alma 15:3-4)

I notice that Zeezrom began to be tormented about his sins, and he thought his wickedness caused the deaths of Alma and Amulek. He had no knowledge of their true fates, but he assumed the worst. It is easy to understand that he might feel like he deserved to suffer for what he did.

But on the other hand, it could be argued that he didn’t deserve to feel this way because when we look at his actions, even though he began by attacking Alma and Amulek, his heart changed, and he began to defend them instead.  But that seemed to count for nothing with him. Something made him forget his more recent better works and only remember his wickedness.

Satan really wanted Zeezrom to be miserable, so he played upon Zeezrom’s ignorance about Alma and Amulek’s fates and put a ton of blame and torment upon him, using Zeezrom’s awakened conscience against him.

Happily, when Zeezrom heard Alma and Amulek were alive and in Sidom,, this immediately showed him his fears concerning them were false. This gave him the courage to act and call them to come. It would take courage to again face those he had feared he had so badly wronged, but he did it, and through more faith in Christ, was able to gain full relief from the rest of his suffering.

I think there’s an important lesson for us here. Satan tries to make our sins seem so awful that there is no hope. He wants us conscious of our awful state, but he also wants to catastrophize the consequences and steal our hope that we can ever escape, or repent, or improve—all to make us miserable.  (And he will try to make things seem particularly bad when we are tired, hungry, lonely, bored, stressed, or sick.) We just have to remember that Satan LIES. Things are not as bad as he makes them seem.   We have to take courage and act in faith, believing that Christ can heal us, help us, give us strength, forgive us, save us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 0 comments

Answering according to the Spirit



21 And this Zeezrom began to question Amulek, saying: Will ye answer me a few questions which I shall ask you? Now Zeezrom was a man who was expert in the devices of the devil, that he might destroy that which was good; therefore, he said unto Amulek: Will ye answer the questions which I shall put unto you?
22 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord…

I love that Amulek says he will answer questions according to the Spirit of the Lord. Shouldn’t we all go through our lives with that same determination to follow the Spirit as to whether we answer questions or not, and take our answers according to the Spirit?

Amulek’s Spirit-led answers brought out important doctrines that were under deep scrutiny, and he might have had reason to feel worried about how they would be received, but he followed the Spirit, and that made his answers powerful enough that Zeezrom was ultimately affected to the extent that he decided to change and become more honest. Amulek’s spiritual honesty inspired Zeezrom to be honest with himself about the consequences of what he was doing.

I also notice that aside from revealing Zeezrom’s little trap, Amulek spoke mostly about general principles of repentance, accountability, and judgment.
Thursday, October 26, 2017 0 comments

Work revealed by fire



11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (1 Cor. 3:11-14)

I always kind of wondered about this scripture, but this time it made more sense to me. It’s saying everyone’s work is tested in a particular way to see if it can stand through trial.

Missionary work is tested through others’ indifference or persecution. Love is tested through separation, loss, common events of life, and differences of opinion. Faith is tested by seeming to be left unsupported by God. Our work is tested when it becomes difficult or thankless. Habits of scripture reading may be tested by a period when one seems to have gotten nothing from it. Good parenting is tested with difficult children or children going through difficult stages. Can it all endure the test? That is the question.

Paul says Christ is the foundation to build upon, so His way is the best way to do things. But then our motives matter as well. If we’re doing the right thing for the wrong reason, a difficult trial might stop us unless we can start doing it for the right reason. For instance, doing missionary work for praise or status would cease if one finds they lose status or are maligned, unless they can choose to do it anyway, to bring souls to God and try to help people.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 0 comments

The Urim & Thummim Principle for Internet use


Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king [Limhi], of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer. (Mosiah 8:13)

The context for this verse is Ammon telling King Limhi that there is a seer who can translate the gold plates that were found.  It is neat to think that we have prophets, seers, and revelators leading our church today, but I think there are principles here that can apply in our lives, particularly concerning our individual internet use and safety.

Note the danger that Ammon highlights—“lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish”.  We don’t know how a seer might perish from wrong use of the Urim & Thummim, but the same danger certainly applies for internet use.  There is the danger of looking at thinks we ought not, as well as spending so much time looking at less consequential things that one fritters away their life.

The principle implied for wise use of the Urim & Thummim is to be purposeful about use, according to commandment. It doesn’t specify whether it is God’s commandment or man’s commandment, but you get the idea that since it is a gift from God, you would use it according to God’s commandment. I think the same is true for use of the internet.

The situations seem a bit different in the frequency of use. The Urim & Thummim seems like something that would be used rarely (except we don’t have record of all the times it was used), whereas the internet is so embedded in our society now. Still, the principle of purposeful use according to God’s commandment (or following God’s commandments) is useful for keeping us out of trouble when we use the internet today.
Sunday, September 24, 2017 0 comments

Walking in the light, even if into danger



7 Then after that saith he [Jesus] to his disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.
8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.
10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. (John 11:7-10)

This little story always puzzled me. Was it saying somehow Jesus was reassured of His safety because He could see? What could He see? Did He know what would happen and that made it so He could avoid it?

I had to pray about this one. Gradually I realized Jesus was saying that because He had instructions from Heavenly Father to go to Judea again, by following those instructions (walking in the light), He would be okay, even if it looked like He was walking into danger. He trusted the revelation over the appearance of danger.

But if He hadn’t had that revelation, going there would be like walking into the dark with lots of things to trip over.

When you think about the kind of faith Jesus shows to do that, it is AMAZING. It’s a great example for us. I aspire to that kind of faith.
Friday, September 1, 2017 0 comments

Re-examining Revelation 12


1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12)

Our traditional interpretation of Revelation 12 in the church is according to the chapter heading: “John sees the imminent apostasy of the Church—He also sees the War in Heaven in the beginning when Satan was cast out—He sees the continuation of that war on earth.”

This interpretation basically reduces Revelation 12 to an interlude wherein the Lord backtracks and shares with John various bits of information that He wants the Saints to know about what has happened before the frame of the events set up in the Book of Revelation.  With our understanding of the three degrees of glory, we may interpret the sun-clothed women as the church, and the man child as Christ, who ascended to heaven, and then the fleeing of the church into the wilderness as the apostasy.

However, there are some things in the text that subtly create problems with this interpretation.  For instance, v1 speaks of the appearance of a great wonder in heaven (the woman). The location is a little odd. If the woman represents the church, why is the woman located in heaven and not on the earth? 

Or if the woman is in heaven (in the spirit realm), how do those on the earth see her to wonder over her? The text seems to suggest that this wonder will be generally visible. 

For another example, if the woman represents the church and the child represents Christ, why speak of this woman and the man child before recounting the war in heaven when Michael and his angels fought the devil and his angels and cast them out, which is something we identify with premortality? Why skip around so much in the timeline?  

Or, if the woman represents the church and the child represents the political kingdom of God, what good does the child do to anyone if it is caught up to the throne of God? That seems to put it in a place where it won’t have much influence, since there are a lot of people that prefer to ignore Jesus, who also ascended into heaven. If the political kingdom of God is formed then removed from earth by God, that would be demoralizing to those righteous who remain. (It would be like restoring the priesthood, creating the offices, and then translating all priesthood holders so they don’t remain to bless the church.)

Another question I had over this interpretation in the chapter is what function it serves to help the Saints in the last days, either with instruction or with reassurance. What does it tell us prophetically that we can’t get elsewhere?

 It tells us the church will be persecuted. Okay, we already know that.
It tells us there was a war in heaven. Okay, we already know that too, from the Pearl of Great Price. Also from Isaiah.
It tells us the Saints overcome Satan with the atonement, their testimony, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives. Okay, but how does that help us know what’s to come?

Suddenly, after considering these things, I started to ask myself, “ What if it is NOT about the past, but actually about the future? What if this chapter is actually still telling us about events to come on the earth? What if we’ve all misunderstood this chapter?

Ooo! Excitement! I read the chapter again. But then I was puzzled. If these events are in the future, what then are we to make of how it speaks of a war in heaven with Michael casting out the devil and his angels?  And if there will be war in heaven, how would we on the earth know it?

That’s when I realized heaven must be used symbolically as a term for something high up, something ruling. And in fact, it is a very good symbol for government. So if there is war in heaven, it can be telling us of a war in the government between forces of good and forces of evil.

Ooo! Definitely re-examination is needed!

(Fair warning: This interpretation is going to go into completely uncharted territory. You don’t have to believe it. It is completely unofficial, nontraditional, and possibly even kooky, but I’m going to run with it as far as it takes me and see where it goes and see we can get anything useful or helpful from it.  I reserve the right to change my mind about it at any time on it in the future and interpret it to mean something different from what follows.)

So then, when the beginning tells us of the woman that appeared as a wonder in heaven, that may tell us that there are righteous forces that appear in government at this difficult time. (The woman can’t be the church, because the church as a whole body can’t be elected to government, kids and all. But it could be a group of righteous members who are elected or appointed.)   Then the second wonder in heaven—the great red dragon—appears to oppose the woman. When the dragon draws a third part of the stars and casts them to earth, that could represent the evil forces somehow firing or impeaching or forcing resignation of part of the government that opposes them.

The woman is in labor and about to be delivered of a man child that will rule the nations with a rod of iron, and the dragon waits for the birth, wanting to devour the child as soon as it is born. This says to me that the good forces of government are trying to figure out who is the best one to rule over them. It could be an election caucus.  A woman in labor sounds like a great symbol for the messy nomination and choosing process of politics. But the dragon waits to see who comes out of it so they know who to target. The dragon wants to devour the man child, possibly meaning it wants to absorb him into the beast’s network by getting it to switch sides or making agreements that will restrict him from moving against the dragon, or by corrupting him, or whatever.

So the woman brings forth the man child who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and he is caught up to God and to his throne. 

What?

All along, we have assumed this being caught up to God’s throne represents Christ, His ascension, and His rule from the heavens. But if this man child is supposed to be someone in the future who rules, how will he really rule if he’s literally caught up to heaven? It is as if he is taken away before he can actually do anything to help.   HOWEVER. If this is actually symbolically talking about a political situation, then a man child caught up to the throne of God has actually ascended to power on earth and has been put into office!  And if he rules all nations, then calling that political position of power “the throne of God” seems like a pretty accurate term, even if it sounds a little blasphemous to us.

But if so, then why would the woman then flee into the wilderness? It will seem as though she has won, if her man child is in power.  Hmmm.  I don’t know… I would guess that perhaps those who put the man child in power anticipate some sort of backlash, so they hide from it.  At any rate, wherever they flee to, it has been prepared as a nourishing place, even though they are on the margins, outside of the main population centers.

Then there is a war in heaven, or a war in the government between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels. The upshot is that the great dragon is cast out with his angels. We are told they deceived the whole world, so they did a lot of lying to everyone. We are also told they were an “accuser of our brethren…which accused them before our God day and night,” so that hints the forces of evil have been prosecuting attorneys who tried to swamp the government with false accusations and with frivolous, malicious lawsuits and paperwork that wasted time and persecuted the righteous who were the defendants of said lawsuits. 

(Such a battle is not without precedent in history. There is the story in the Book of Mormon of Alma and Amulek who were put on trial by Zeezrom in Ammonihah and who warned the people the unrighteousness of their judges and lawyers were bringing destruction upon them. There is also a brief story of a time before the coming of Christ when judges were unlawfully condemning the righteous and there was an attempt to try them for their crimes.)

We are told the Saints overcome the dragon with the atonement, with their testimony, and with their willingness to suffer even to death for their beliefs. So this tells us the Saints need to stand strong. (This interpretation makes religious liberty very important, doesn’t it?)

The result of the war is that the devil (or the beast) is cast down to the earth along with his followers, meaning they are removed from power. (Hooray!) No wonder the Saints celebrate. But the dragon is mad and he persecutes the woman, since that was the source of his loss of power. The woman flees to the wilderness and is nourished, and the earth helps the woman when the dragon pours floods out of his mouth after her. (The floods may represent lies.)  So it seems there are two exits into the wilderness by forces of good.

And then the dragon is still angry, so he goes to make war against the remnant of the woman’s seed who keep the commandments and the testimony of Jesus. This tells me that the dragon targets the children. How does he target the children? The next chapter Revelation 13 tells of a beast (nearly identical to the dragon) that rises out of the sea and demands worship from everyone. It is possible the war against the woman’s children consists of trying to usurp their admiration and draw their wonder so that they stop worshiping God and worship the beast instead.

So… how does this interpretation of Revelation 12 help us? It shows us a struggle in government between good and evil. It shows us the dragon can be cast out, and it shows us that for that to happen, we have to have firm testimonies and be willing to sacrifice our lives for the truth, even if it gets us in legal trouble. (This is another reason why we need to defend religious freedom.) It also tells us it is important for us to teach our children right and protect them.

Final note #1: Probably some of Trump's enthusiastic followers would like to associate this situation with Trump. I don't though, especially since he doesn't rule all nations. I think the situation is still to come.

Final note #2: On the topic of religious freedom, I think it is important for us to defend it today because we have a whole generation of children who are starting to grow up in this time of incivility. We don’t want them to get the idea that this general atmosphere of negativity and hate is normal.  We don’t want it to be all they have ever known.  If they think that kind of thing is normal, they will do it too, and worse. We don’t want that.




Tuesday, August 29, 2017 0 comments

Diagnosing Problems with the Corrupted Trees in Jacob 5


In Zeno’s allegory of the olive trees that Jacob quotes, there comes a point when the Lord of the vineyard finds all the trees are corrupted and giving bad fruit. It is interesting to see his and his servant’s diagnosis of the problem.

First the servant tries to find the silver lining in the cloud:

And the servant said unto his master: Behold, because thou didst graft in the branches of the wild olive tree they have nourished the roots, that they are alive and they have not perished; wherefore thou beholdest that they are yet good. (Jacob 5:34)

The servant observes the roots are still good, but notice—it is a bit backward to think that the branches are nourishing the roots. It is supposed to be the other way around.

In verse 37, the Lord of the vineyard has a different take on it:

But behold, the wild branches have grown and have overrun the roots thereof; and because that the wild branches have overcome the roots thereof it hath brought forth much evil fruit; and because that it hath brought forth so much evil fruit thou beholdest that it beginneth to perish; and it will soon become ripened, that it may be cast into the fire, except we should do something for it to preserve it.

The Lord of the vineyard says the branches have overrun the roots and overcome them. (So the branches may have thought they were nourishing the roots, but they were overrunning them instead.)

Then the servant gets a brainwave in verse 48:

And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard—have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves. Behold, I say, is not this the cause that the trees of thy vineyard have become corrupted?

Loftiness of the vineyard is a great way of describing pride. Also, I notice it says when the branches overcame the roots, they grew faster than the roots and took strength to themselves. This is what happens in individuals too. When a person with no authority gets a notion they can nourish the rest of the church, they are actually overrunning it. But they think the overrun means they are stronger and better than everyone else (taking strength to themselves) and corruption follows.

I think there’s a hint of what to look out for in ourselves. If we think we are growing faster or are spiritually stronger than others around us, we may have a problem with pride. (I had this issue some years ago. It makes me shudder to think about it. I am so grateful for the Lord's mercy that He brought me to recognize my error. Because of that experience, my blogging is more to benefit me than for anyone else because the writing I do helps me learn. If anyone else benefits, that is icing on the cake.)

If we have the problem of loftiness and pride, it might be good to open our ears and see what nourishment we are missing while we think we have the answer to everything. It might be good to just focus on the basic principles and practices of the gospel for a long while to make sure we are doing all we can.



There are a few more warnings I notice in this chapter that are part of the diagnoses of the corrupted trees.

In verse 40:

And the wild fruit of the last had overcome that part of the tree which brought forth good fruit, even that the branch had withered away and died.

We might easily apply this to the Nephite civilization and point to how the Lamanites eventually overcame the righteous Nephites. However, it is true in individual life as well. If we have both good fruit and bad fruit in our lives, the bad tends to take over. It’s invasive, so we need to remove the bad branches, otherwise the good branches will wither away.

In verse 46:

…the trees thereof have become corrupted, that they bring forth no good fruit…But, behold, they have become like unto the wild olive tree…

Without good fruit, the good olive tree is just like the wild olive tree. We can’t be like other people who don’t have the gospel. We have to be different. With good fruit.

Sunday, August 27, 2017 0 comments

Jacob trying to keep his people from provoking God

 
Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness. (Jacob 1:7)

Here Jacob tells us his major concern about his people—that with their stubbornness they would provoke the Lord into decreeing that they would not enter the rest of the Lord.

It is clear to me that Jacob used the stories of the children of Israel in the wilderness as an example of the consequences of rebelling, murmuring, and not believing the Lord. He realized that this wasn’t an isolated incident, but there was a danger it would happen in each generation of Israelite descendants. (And of course that means there is a danger it can happen today in the church.)

Jacob's words seem to have been influenced by Psalms 95:7-11:

7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,
8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

In Psalms it is pointed out that the Israelites saw the Lord’s work, tested Him, but apparently hardened their hearts anyway. That provoked the Lord.

We also gain more insight about what might have been taught if we read Hebrews 3:7-19:

7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;
15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Paul’s warning to the Saints is that they make sure they don’t depart from the Lord, follow the deceitfulness of sin, become hardened, and die in their sins.  Instead, they were to hold their confidence steadfast to the end.  In short, this appears to be about the need to endure to the end.