Wednesday, February 22, 2017

God Hath Visited His People

In the story of Jesus raising the son of the widow of Nain from the dead, it is interesting to read the response of the people to this miracle.

And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. (Luke 7:16)

For the longest time, I read that and particularly the last line—“God hath visited his people”—would resonate with me because as a Christian I know Jesus is the Son of God, and it was literally true that God had visited His people.

But I started to get the sense that the Jews didn’t attach quite that meaning to it, otherwise many more of them would have worshipped Him than actually did. So it had to have a different kind of meaning to them and evoke something we have forgotten about or never knew.

So I turned to the footnotes. Exodus 3:16 cleared things up right off, since it was about the children of Israel in bondage to the Egyptians:

Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt: (emphasis added)

It seems that expression “the Lord visited His people” was used in a context when there is a miracle showing the Lord’s compassion in delivering (or being about to deliver) His people from a situation from which they can’t extract themselves.  

In the context of the miracle of raising the widow’s son from the dead, we have to remember there was no Social Security. The woman had already lost her husband, the main provider of the family, and the burden of providing had fallen on the son. Losing this son—her only son—meant she would likely become very poor. Not only was he restoring her precious child, by raising the widow’s son from the dead, Jesus saved her from a very difficult life of poverty.  He also saved the son from death. I really like how it emphasizes this saving when the scriptures say, “And he delivered him to his mother.”

The Jews probably saw this deliverance of the son from death and the deliverance of the widow from poverty and instantly took it as an indication that God saw the afflictions of His people Israel and was about to deliver them from the Romans like He’d delivered their fathers from the Egyptians.

There are many other instances in the Old Testament of the idea of God visiting His people in their afflictions with deliverance.  There are also about five instances of it in the Book of Mormon with the same kind of context.

I also ran across instances when prophets warned the people that God would visit them in His anger because of their wickedness, so the visits aren’t all happy. 

Today let’s take some time to think about how the Lord has helped us with our troubles so we can see that He visits us in our afflictions.