Deuteronomy Chapter 31

At this point in the books of Moses, the prophet had finished preaching the word of the Lord to the people. They had made covenants to keep the law, so that they could prosper in the land of promise. Moses was near the end of his mortal life at this time, and was ready to help them finish the final preparations before they continued on their way to their inheritance. This chapter begins as follows:

1 And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.
2 And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the Lord hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.
3 The Lord thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath said.
4 And the Lord shall do unto them as he did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the Amorites, and unto the land of them, whom he destroyed.
5 And the Lord shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you.
6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

At the age of 120, after about forty years of being their leader, Moses could no longer lead the Israelites. The Lord had told him that his work was done and that he would not enter the promised land. (Side note: Moses lived as an Egyptian prince for about 40 years, then he fled and lived with the family of Jethro, a priest of Midian, for another forty years. At the age of 80, the Lord called Moses to save his people, and then after about 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and leading the children of Israel, he was taken from this life. It is interesting how his life was broken up into these 40 year periods, each marking a major change for him.) Moses told the people that God would go before them, with Joshua as their prophet and leader. The nations in the land would be destroyed with the Lord’s help. Moses told them have courage and to not fear the other nations that would be in the land, because God was with them. The Lord’s promise that he would not fail them or forsake them, is a promise to all the people of God today as well. In Doctrine and Covenants 68 we read the following:

5 Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.
6 Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.

Anyone who serves God and strives to live righteously during the constant battle we wage against the adversary, has this promise. The Lord will always be with those who are fighting for His cause.

7 And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
8 And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Moses gave counsel of encouragement directly to Joshua, where he again told him to “be strong and of good courage”. Joshua had the responsibility of leading the people to victory, so that the promised inheritance would be received by all the children of Israel. They would have to fight nations that were stronger and more numerous then they were. They would also need to continue to be strong in keeping the commandments, in order for the Lord to remain on their side. Joshua needed confidence in the Lord at this time, because the task he was facing was going to be extremely difficult. He also needed confidence in himself. It would have required a great deal of faith and trust in the Lord, to go forward in this calling and it must have been difficult following in the footsteps of a spiritual leader, such as Moses. I am sure that this counsel was needed and appreciated by Joshua. The fact that Moses was instructed to say these things to Joshua and the people, reminds me of the love of God for each of us. He wants us to know that He is aware of us and our difficulties, and that he can help us to accomplish great things. The Lord promises us help as well, if we will go forward with faith in our own callings in life. I am so grateful for this promise and I believe that it is the power of the atonement that gives us the strength to endure. If we have faith in the Lord and His power, we will have the ability to endure all things well, even the giants that we have to conquer.

9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel.
10 And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,
11 When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
12 Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:
13 And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.

Moses gave a record of the law to the elders of Israel. They were commanded to read the law every seven years in the feast of tabernacles. This they were to do, so that they would know the law and continue to obey it. It would not have been long, before the message would have been forgotten, so it was important that they have the opportunity to be reminded. We are told to gather often, so that we can be instructed and edified by the word of the Lord as well. In this, we will be able to remember the commandments we have been given, the covenants we have made, and the love of God for His people. The strength that comes from gathering and hearing the word of the Lord, provides the knowledge to be obedient, and the ability to endure through the difficulties that every day life throws our way.

I think it is important for us to realize that because Moses had these words recorded and preserved, we have the words today. The books of Moses were part of the brass plates which the family of Lehi took with them to the Americas, and so they effected the people of the Book of Mormon who would then live the law of Moses. Without the law, they would not have been able to continue in righteousness for the times that they did. The books of Moses were also preserved in the old testament of our bible today, which allows us the opportunity to have these words, so that we might know and live the way God wants us to live. Record keeping is vitally important, especially when it comes to things of a spiritual or eternal nature nature, such as inspirations and commandments received from the Lord.

In their days, they did not have the ability to provide all the words of Moses in every home. They had been told to keep the commandments and covenants written and carried on themselves and placed around their homes so that they could remember, but they needed to gather together in order to hear the complete law. We are so blessed to live in a time when not only can we have a copy of the written word of the Lord in a physical book, but we have devices of all sizes and computers, which mean we can easily keep the word of the Lord with us at all times. This is such a blessing and I think it is taken for granted by many. We need to be grateful for the access we have to these words, and show that gratitude by studying them regularly and making them a part of our lives.

14 And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.
15 And the Lord appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.

Moses, who was nearing the end of his life, was commanded to call Joshua to go with him to the tabernacle. They presented themselves there and the presence of the Lord appeared there.

16 And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.
17 Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?
18 And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.
19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.
20 For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.
21 And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.

Moses was told that it was his time to die and be with those who had gone before. He was also told that the Israelites would follow after false gods, forsake the Lord and brake the covenants they had made. The Lord told the prophets that this specific law being broken so many times throughout the Bible, and it makes me think about the things that our prophets and apostles warn us of today. I that the some of the sins that are spoken about and warned against quite frequently, are those of sexual nature. One warning in particular is about the effects of seeking after and indulging in pornography, which can lead to destruction of those things that should matter most. I know that the modern prophets continually repeat their warnings, because they know this is a challenge in our day, the way idolatry was in the days of Moses. We can look back at the story of the Israelites and see that if they had listened to the warnings of the prophet, Moses, they would have been able to continue with the Lord by their side, but do we look at ourselves the same way? We have modern prophets called to lead the Lord’s people in the ways of righteousness, and we need to listen to their words of warning, so that we can also have the Lord by our side.

The Lord told Moses that the people would be forsaken and the Lord would no longer be among them. The curses that had been promised, would come to pass among the Israelites. Moses had to record the law as a witness against the disobedient, so that the judgements that would come upon them would be just. The Lord knew their weaknesses and knew what they would do in the face of temptation. I hope that I am a person who the Lord can see as loyal and faithful. I know that having the word of God in my life is the key to remaining obedient to the commandments.

22 Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.
23 And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.

Moses did as he was commanded by the Lord, both in giving the words to the people, and in charging Joshua, who would be his successor in leading the people, with the responsibilities of leadership and sharing words of faith and hope with him.

24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,
25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying,
26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.
27 For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?

The written law was to be put in the ark of the covenant as a witness, along with the commandments received at Sinai, and I believe a basket of manna. All these were to be kept there by the Levites, to be had in remembrance of the commandments, covenants, promises and blessings that the people had received from the Lord. Moses knew that the people were not a perfect people, and that the natural man in them was an enemy to God. He also knew that they would grow further from the Lord after he had been taken from them, because greater knowledge and priesthood would go with him, and they would not always remember these things they had been given. It is so important for us to have the law of God, but it is more important for us to live it so that we can be worthy of the spirit. The spirit helps us to recognize truth, and he will continually testify of Christ to our hearts, if we will listen and obey. We can keep the spirit with us, when we hold a remembrance of our own covenants, blessings, promises, and commandments.

28 Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.
29 For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.
30 And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.

Moses called the elders of Israel again, so that he could speak to them of those things that were most important. If Moses had not done this, he would have been held accountable for not doing all that he could to bring the Israelites to the Lord. In doing this, his words were a witness against all those who would choose to rebel against the commandments. Moses gave the words to those who were gathered, as he had been commanded.

There are many things that we can fear in the world today. In this day, there is easy access to some of the most dangerous and frightening things. The adversary of us all, is seeking to do all that he can to destroy the happiness of mankind by causing us to fear. The message to have courage and not fear, is so important for us today. We cannot win our own battles without the Lord on our side. We can know that we have the promise of His companionship, if we follow the commandments and put the Lord first in our lives. When we do what is right, in the sight of God, he can bless us with greater courage and faith. We will know what is right, if we make a constant effort to read, study and ponder the scriptures. These books of Moses, as well as all the other inspired words of the prophets, need to be a guide in our lives. I am so grateful that Moses was obedient to the commandments he was given, and that because of his obedience, we have these ancient scriptures today. I know that these words are for us today, as much as they were for the people of ancient Israel. My life as been greatly blessed by striving to learn and live the principles found in the scriptures. My hope is that I can influence others around me, to have a love of the scriptures as well, so that they can obtain the courage needed to endure in our day.

Deuteronomy Chapter 30

The Israelites made sacred covenants with the Lord, and were promised great blessings if they would be obedient to the commandments of God. They were also promised a lot of awful curses if they would not be obedient. Among those was a scattering of the people across the earth. This is what is called the scattering of Israel. The Israelites learn more of what will happen in this chapter. It begins:

1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee,
2 And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
3 That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee.
4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
5 And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
7 And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.
8 And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.
9 And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers:
10 If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.

The scattered people would some day be brought to a remembrance of the covenants that their ancestors made. When they remembered these things, they would return to the Lord through repentance, and obey his commandments. The Lord would then deliver them from captivity and gather the house of Israel from every place to which they would be scattered. They would be gathered back to the promised land, and blessed with great blessings, as had been promised already to the fathers. In that day, the Lord would place curses upon the enemies of the Israelites. The blessings would be had among all those who willing gave all their heart and soul to the Lord, and were obedient.

Each of us becomes separated from the Lord as well, when we disobey any of his commandments. We also, need to be gathered back in through the repentance process. We return to the Lord, when we humble ourselves enough to admit to God that we have been wrong and have gone against His word. We receive the blessings, when we turn away from any sin and draw nearer to the Lord instead. I am so grateful for the blessings of repentance in my life. I have felt a great sense of peace and love, when I have used the atonement in my life, to turn back to the Lord and remember the commandments and the covenants that I have made with the Lord to keep them.

11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.
12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

The people were reminded that the commandments and God’s law, were right there for them to live. They did not need to go seeking after it elsewhere, because it had already been given to them. When lived, they could in their mouths and in their hearts. The footnote of verse 11, for the phrase “hidden from thee”, reads, “too hard for you”. The commandments were not too hard for the people to follow. They were plain to them and anyone who desired to be devoted to the Lord, could follow them. Likewise, the commandments that we are asked to live now, are not too hard for us to follow either. In Doctrine and Covenants 93:31 it says, “Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.” These commandments are plain and so simple. I think of how often the modern day prophets have taught us, that in order to receive the blessings of God, we need to do simple things such as daily prayer and scripture study, having family home evening, attending church meetings and so on. These things really are simple and it’s easy to understand what is required of us, and yet there are many who feel these things are too difficult, and they “receive not the light”. We should desire to receive the light of Christ, through keeping the commandments near to us, in our own mouths and in our own hearts.

(Note: If you would like to know what the modern prophets and apostles have to teach us, you can learn a lot this coming weekend from the Latter-Day Saint General Conference. To read more of what General Conference is, you can do that here: What is General Conference?)

15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
16 In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;
18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.
19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
20 That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

In the words of Moses, he had given them the choice of life or death. Life, which was doing and gaining all that was good, and death, which was doing and gaining all that was evil. If they chose life, they were choosing to be obedient to the commandments and loving God. Likewise, they would choose the blessings that come from doing good. If they chose death, they were choosing to be disobedient to God’s commandments and turning from Him. If they made that choice, they were also choosing the consequence of curses, such as a promise to perish. Moses seals this promise by calling heaven and earth to record this covenant and its promises to stand against them. He pleads with the Israelites, to choose life.

What I see as the main purpose of this chapter, is the message of this last section. It reminds me so much of the words of the prophet, Lehi found in 2 Nephi 2:

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;
29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.

Lehi was a prophet who knew and lived the law of Moses. He had the brass plates, which taught this law, and he had studied the words and lived them. His testimony here is a second testimony of this principle. “Life” in the words of Moses, can read as “eternal life”, which is the greatest blessing that God has to give us. It is liberty from Satan’s power, and freedom to enjoy the blessings of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ, the “great Mediator of all men”. On the other hand, the word “death” in Moses’ words, can read as “eternal death”. Eternal death is captivity to the power of the devil, and a cursing of the misery which will come in living in the kingdom of Satan, which is hell. Both Moses and Lehi teach us here, that it is a choice we make. All of us have our agency, which is the eternal gift of choice, and we need to be active in choosing our own destiny of eternal life and its blessings, or eternal death and its curses.

Deuteronomy Chapter 29

A covenant is a two-way promise we make with God, in which we promise to do something, such as be obedient, and He promises to bless us in return. God has made covenants with His people throughout the history of the world. We learn about the covenants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob early in the old testament, as well as those of the Israelites in the days when Moses initially led the people out of Egypt. When Moses was preparing the Israelites for entering the promised land, they were also expected to make a covenant with the Lord.

1 These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.

In addition to the expectations along with the covenants of their fathers, this was their covenant with God.

2 And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;
3 The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:
4 Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.
6 Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the Lord your God.
7 And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them:
8 And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh.
9 Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.

The Israelites were reminded of the blessings of deliverance and care which the Lord had already blessed them with since living in and leaving Egypt. This reminder was to help them, so that they might desire continued blessings of prosperity. This promise of prosperity, is given to all people today who turn to the Lord, just as it has been given to the Lord’s people throughout time. When we make our own covenants of baptism and additionally when we make temple covenants afterwards, we have the same promise of prosperity in our lives. The Lord wants to bless those who want to follow Him and be obedient.

10 Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,
11 Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water:
12 That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day:
13 That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

All of the people of Israel, including men of all positions, women, children and strangers among them, were gathered to make covenants with the Lord. In making covenants with the Lord, the Israelites would be established as the people of god, just as their fathers were.

14 Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;
15 But with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:
16 (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;
17 And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)
18 Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;
19 And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:
20 The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.

The covenants made on that day, were not only with those present, but with all those who would ever join with the children of Israel. It would have been easy for someone new there, to excuse away their sins by claiming they had never made the covenants with the Lord. The Lord would hold them to the same covenant and promise as those there that day, because otherwise the people would quickly fall away. Any man among them, who did not honor their covenants, would receive the same curses and consequences promised for disobedience.

21 And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:
22 So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the Lord hath laid upon it;
23 And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:
24 Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
25 Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:
26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:
27 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:
28 And the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.
29 The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

If the Israelites were disobedient, their land would be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed before. A land of brimstone is a land of burning, or destroyed by fire. A land of salt, is one where the land cannot bring forth plants to sustain the life. Their land would become a place of desolation. Then, the land and people of Israel, would stand as an example to others, who would question why the destruction had come. Others would know that the people had worshiped other Gods, and the Lord had been angry with them for forsaking the covenants they had made.

As a side note, I was thinking of the phrase “from the hewer of they wood unto the drawer of thy water”, found in verse 11, which I think is to say that men of every profession and lifestyle, were to be there and make this covenant with the Lord. The choice of words is interesting though, because it reminds me of the Savior himself.

Jesus-Portrait

A hewer of wood, is one who cuts wood, and I can’t help but think of the carpenter that the Lord was raised as in a physical sense. Then the drawer of water, was one who draws water, and again I can’t help but think of the many references to Christ and the spiritual living water he was raised to be. It causes me to think of how the covenants we make, require that we bring our whole soul to Christ, both the physical and the spiritual. We cannot make covenants wholly, without recognizing that they require very physical actions along with very spiritual thoughts. We cannot keep our covenants in a strictly physical sense, without doing anything spiritually. Likewise, we cannot keep our covenants by just being focused on the spiritual nature of them either. This is part of what it means to love the Lord with all our might, mind, and strength. In order to keep our covenants, we must live the letter of the law physically, as well as have a spiritual change of heart within us.

A covenant is not to be taken lightly. Part of their covenant was to teach the younger generations all of these things that Moses had taught them. The covenant was meant to continue through the generations, just as the covenants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Israelites would not continue to keep the covenants throughout their generations, and it would eventually bring about the destruction that the Lord promised to them. When we make our own covenants with the Lord, we would do well to remember the consequences and promises that accompany them. The Lord has said that we can hold on to the promises when we keep our covenants, but when we do not keep them, the promises are no longer ours. We read this in Doctrine and Covenants 82:10, which says, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” I have faith in the promised blessings of the Lord and find that it is becoming necessary to hold fast to the word of the Lord and strive continually to keep His commandments. I know that if we keep the commandments and remember the importance of our covenants, we will be blessed to prosper, just as the Israelites were blessed in their day.

Deuteronomy Chapter 28

Moses gave some sermons to the children of Israel, as they prepared to finally enter the promised land. After reminding them of the commandments, statutes, and ordinances contained in what we know to be the law of Moses, they made a covenant with the Lord, to keep this law. The message to the Israelites continues as follows:

1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:
2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God.
3 Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.
4 Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
5 Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.
6 Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.
7 The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.
8 The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
9 The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways.
10 And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee.
11 And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
12 The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.
13 And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them:
14 And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

If the Israelites were obedient to the commandments, the Lord would bless them above all the nations. God would bless them in abundance in their cities and in their fields. People, animals, and crops within their land would multiply in abundance. The blessing of the Lord, such as blessings of safety, would be upon them as they journeyed and as they remained in their own land. Their enemies would be destroyed or scattered by the Lord. They would be blessed with rain in its season, in such abundance, that they would be able to give to others and never need to borrow from them. In all things physical or temporal, the people would be blessed. Likewise, they would be blessed to be the people of the Lord if they remembered to keep His word. Others would fear them, as the people of the Lord, so long as they stayed on the straight and narrow path given to them by the Lord through the prophet Moses.

Just as there are blessings promised for being obedient, there are curses promised for being disobedient.

15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:
16 Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field.
17 Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store.
18 Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
19 Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out.
20 The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.
21 The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.
22 The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.
23 And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.
24 The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.

The promise was that disobedience would bring a curse upon their land and fields. Their harvest would be cursed, they would have a cursing in the increase of people, animals, and crops. They would not have God’s blessing when they went to other lands, and they would not have it in their own land either. All things they worked to do, would be cursed until they perished due to their own wicked choices. They would be cursed with pestilence, sicknesses, wars and fighting, and mildew until their death. Also, the Lord would curse them to not receive rain from heaven, but power and dust. I am imagining that instead of rain, their would be dust and sand storms.

25 The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
26 And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.
27 The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.
28 The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:
29 And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.

The curses continue, with their enemies being able to destroy and scatter them throughout the earth. They would be cursed with incurable diseases, madness and blindness. They would be cursed with oppression without deliverance.

30 Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof.
31 Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof: thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee: thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies, and thou shalt have none to rescue them.
32 Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in thine hand.
33 The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway:
34 So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.

If they were disobedient, they would be cursed to loose their wives, homes and vineyards to other men and nations. Their flocks and other animals, would be removed from them and they would not be able to retrieve them. Their children would be taken from them and they would mourn all the time for them, being helpless in preventing it from happening. All that they had been blessed with, would be taken and destroyed, which would bring them great heartache and madness.

35 The Lord shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head.
36 The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone.
37 And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee.
38 Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it.
39 Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them.
40 Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit.
41 Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity.
42 All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume.
43 The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low.
44 He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.

Another curse the disobedient would receive, was an incurable botch (like leprosy or boils) would inflict them over their entire body. Other nations would rule over them and force them to serve other gods, just as they had done in the land of Egypt. Other nations would know the Israelites for the curses that had come upon them. Their punishments would then stand as an example to all the world, of what happens when the covenant people disobey the Lord. Additionally, they would work much harder, and not see the fruits of their labor because of locusts, worms, bad fruit and so on. Their children would be taken into captivity and others would take from them without allowing them to borrow in their need.

45 Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:
46 And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.
47 Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;
48 Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.

The Israelites would only have these curses if they would not hearken to the Lord and keep the law they had received by covenant. The results of this, would be carried with their people forever. They would be cursed for failing to serve the Lord and appreciate the many blessings that they would receive. Instead of great things, they would be forced to serve their enemies and remain in some type of bondage until they were destroyed.

49 The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;
50 A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young:
51 And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee.
52 And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.

A nation would be brought against them, or the Lord would allow a fierce nation, to come against them. This nation would not show any favor to the old or young, but would take all their animals and crops until the Israelites had no more for themselves. The Israelites and their kingdom, would be destroyed by this fierce nation.

53 And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the Lord thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee:
54 So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave:
55 So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat: because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates.
56 The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter,
57 And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.

The curse continues with a promise that they would eat their own children, because of the enemies that would come against them. Therefore, they would have cause to hate and fear one another, even those they had loved. Likewise, their wives would hate and fear their husbands and children.

58 If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD;
59 Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.
60 Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee.
61 Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the Lord bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.
62 And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God.
63 And it shall come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.
64 And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.
65 And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind:
66 And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:
67 In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.
68 And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.

The Israelites would have reason to truly fear God, if they chose a life of disobedience to the law. The promised curses of plagues and sicknesses would last a long time, for them and the generations which followed. Things that they had worried about in the land of Egypt, would afflict them sorely until their destruction came. Instead of being numbered as the stars, they would dwindle to just a few souls. If they were disobedient, they would be scattered across the earth, where they would serve all the false gods of the world. They would never find peace or rest where they were, but would feel awful things, such as sorrow and fear for their lives. The Lord would allow them to return to the physical bondage they were in before while in Egypt.

I find it interesting that the portion that teaches the simple, yet amazing blessings for being obedient, is so much shorter then the description of the awful things that awaited their disobedience. I think that it requires a greater faith and hope in the possibility of the promised blessings, and so less description requires that individuals seek harder and more diligently to recognize these righteous blessings in their lives. It would have been hard to miss noticing the results of their disobedience. Sadly, the Israelites struggled to remain faithful to their covenants, and these curses eventually came upon them to their own destruction.

We are not immune to these things in our own day. The promises of great blessings that are given to those who make covenants with the Lord today, only hold for those who are obedient. When we choose to be disobedient, negative and destructive consequences will follow. Sometimes, we fail to see the consequences of our own choice to be disobedient to the laws of God. It may be easier, to place the blame of our problems on others, instead of seeing the results of our own choices. I think this is part of why a strong foundation in the gospel is so important, because there is a chance we might then recognize how we bring things upon ourselves. Hopefully, then we can make the necessary changes by turning back to God, repenting of our sins, and trying harder to live his law each day. I am so grateful for the countless blessings that the Lord has given me and my family. I know that in trying to do what is right, and in following the promptings of the spirit, we have been blessed beyond what we thought possible. I watch loved ones suffer from the consequences of poor choices, and my heart aches for them to understand what they could be blessed with if they turned back to the Lord. I know that it is possible for all people to be a happier, more blessed and peaceful people, if the Lord’s commandments would be followed more fully.

Deuteronomy Chapter 27

The children of Israel had heard the laws of God from the prophet Moses, and had made covenants with the Lord, that they would keep this law and God would in turn bless them and their families in the land of promise. At this time, they were still camped on the Eastern side of the Jordan, preparing to enter the land that had been promised to them through the blessings of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This chapter begins with the following:

1 And Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day.
2 And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster:
3 And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee.
4 Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaster them with plaster.
5 And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them.
6 Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord thy God:
7 And thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God.
8 And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.

The Israelites were given the commandment to follow the law of Moses. As a memorial, they were commanded to establish a monument of stones just after they would cross the Jordan. These stones were to have the law written upon them. Then they would go into the land of inheritance and build and altar there. They were commanded that the altar was to be of stones that had not required the use of iron tools, but were whole. They were to use this unpolluted altar, to offer burnt offerings and peace offerings to God. This ritual of giving of their offerings was a way of showing their gratitude to the Lord for allowing them to finally enter the land of promise. Likewise, when we give of our own offerings to the Lord, especially when prayers are answered and blessings received, we show gratitude to the Lord for all that He has done for us.

It is so important to build up our own monuments in our lives, in order to remember the Lord’s promises and blessings. This is another lesson for me, of the importance of putting things in my home that remind me of what is really important to the Lord, and what should be important to me. If we fill our homes with things that remind of us worldly things, or those things that are not really of any lasting value, those will be the things that we remember on a daily basis. It’s the difference between putting up a poster of our favorite sports celebrity or entertainer, and a picture of the temple where we want to make, or have made, sacred covenants with God. Not that a picture of temporal things is bad, but how much more are we focused on those things in comparison to the things of eternal importance. What will our mind think about throughout the day, if we choose to place reminders around us of our families, covenants, and the Lord? I am grateful for the reminders in my own life, which keep me in remembrance of those things that I know are of the greatest importance.

9 And Moses and the priests the Levites spake unto all Israel, saying, Take heed, and hearken, O Israel; this day thou art become the people of the Lord thy God.
10 Thou shalt therefore obey the voice of the Lord thy God, and do his commandments and his statutes, which I command thee this day.

As covenant people of the Lord, the Israelites were the Lord’s people. As such, the Israelites were held to the higher standard and expected to keep all the commandments of the law. When we make covenants with the Lord, we become His people as well, and therefore are also held to the standard of keeping His commandments.

11 And Moses charged the people the same day, saying,
12 These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin:
13 And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.

Those who were representatives of all of the tribes of Israel, I am guessing the Elders of the tribes, were charged with what I think was consecrating the land and the people of the land. They were to proclaim a blessing from mount Gerizim and a curse from mount Ebal.

14 And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice,
15 Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.
16 Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.
17 Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.
18 Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen.
19 Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.
20 Cursed be he that lieth with his father’s wife; because he uncovereth his father’s skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen.
21 Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say, Amen.
22 Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.
23 Cursed be he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen.
24 Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen.
25 Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen.
26 Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.

After the blessing and the curse were proclaimed upon the people and the land, the Levites were to proclaim a cursing upon all those who did wickedly in the land. With each declaration of wickedness, the people were to answer the priests with Amen, I believe as they made covenants to abstain from these evil things. Among the acts of wickedness, were making secret idols, disgracing or dishonoring parents, changing their neighbors inherited property borders, being a stumbling block to the blind, perverting the just acts with regard to strangers, fatherless and widows, committing adultery with their mothers or sisters, performing sexual acts with animals, murdering their neighbors, or being paid to kill another. In other words, these were the people of God, and any who ever did wickedly and went against the law, were to be cursed by this proclamation given by the priests.

It is a good thing to dedicate lands to the Lord and His holiness and purposes. Likewise, it is good for places of worship to also be dedicated. Our homes should also be places dedicated to the Lord and His work. Dedication of these places, is our promise to use them in the way the Lord intended, and it invites and allows the spirit of the Lord to dwell among us, so long as we are faithful to the commandments of the Lord. Moreover, we can make covenants in order to dedicate ourselves to the Lord and His work. When we do this, we too are able to have the spirit of the Lord dwell with us all the time, if we remain faithful to the commandments of God.

Deuteronomy Chapter 26

There is so much in the Old Testament, that called the people to remember how the Lord had delivered them and blessed them in abundance. At this point, the Israelites were still encamped on the east side of the River Jordan, receiving instruction from Moses, as to how the Lord would expect his people to live. They had been greatly blessed already and were about to enter a developed land of plenty. They did not have to start from scratch in a barren dessert, but were going to be blessed by the work of others before them. It was fitting that the Lord would expect the offerings, which begin this chapter.

1 And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein;
2 That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there.
3 And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us.
4 And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord thy God.
5 And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:
6 And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:
7 And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression:
8 And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:
9 And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.
10 And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God:
11 And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.

The Israelites were commanded to give an offering at the house of the Lord, of the first fruits of the land. The harvest was there for them as a result of the protection and power of the Lord. As part of the ritual, they were to speak the remembrance of God’s blessings to their ancestors in Egypt. They were to remember their father Jacob, as he was stranger in the land, and how his family was blessed to become a mighty nation there. Then, they were to remember their deliverance from the bondage there. In a way, I think this would have been how they could consecrate their personal land of inheritance, to the Lord. Finally, they were to rejoice, and I would add give thanks, for all that they had been blessed with by the Lord.

12 When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;
13 Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:
14 I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use, nor given ought thereof for the dead: but I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that thou hast commanded me.
15 Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the land which thou hast given us, as thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey.

The Israelites were commanded to keep the law of tithing. In this law, they could be perfect in life. As a result, they could ask that God continue to bless their land for them. The Lord would then fulfill the promise of prosperity in the land. The law of tithing exists still today. I am grateful that I can take an account of this in my own life, and know that I am perfect in this commandment. It gives me a greater hope of becoming perfect in all the commandments of God. I am also grateful for the trust I can place in the Lord, that as I am keeping this law, I will continue to be blessed as promised.

16 This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
17 Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice:
18 And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments;
19 And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken.

The Israelite made or renewed their covenant with God, that He would be the God they worshipped, that they would keep his statutes, commandments and ordinances, and that they would listen to His voice. The Lord covenanted with them, that the Israelites would be His people as long as they kept His commandments, and that He would bless them above all nations. The Israelites were promised to be a holy people, continuing in the all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The footnote for peculiar in verse 18, says “or treasured”. I have often referred to myself as peculiar, for my devotions and commitment to study of the word of the Lord in particular. It seems like a negative term, because it’s not the popular way to be these days, but I think that I will think of this meaning of the word as I use it instead. Those who are peculiar for striving to follow the commandments and being a disciple of Jesus Christ, are treasured by the Lord.

Just as the Israelites were able to make covenants and give offerings to the Lord, we are able to make our own covenants and give our own offerings. The blessings that we can receive from these things are great and will help us to endure through this life. I believe also, that the blessings that will come in the eternities, will be the greatest there are to be received. I am grateful for the knowledge of covenants, and for the opportunity to strive each and every day to live worthy of them.

Deuteronomy Chapter 25

The law of Moses, was given by the Lord to the Israelites, in order to give them the way to be the Lord’s chosen people. Through these many laws and statutes, they would be able to learn how to love God and love others. If they lived the law, and did not turn back to the ways of some of their ancestors, they would be greatly blessed by God. Moses continued to teach the newer generation, all that had been given to him, in preparation for their entrance into the promised land. His sermon continues with the following:

1 If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.
2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number.
3 Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.

A punishment for the wicked, was explained by Moses. Judges were to decide the cases brought before them, and then do right by the innocent and condemn the wicked. Next, they were to give a punishment worthy of their wrong-doing. If a condemned man was worthy of being beaten, they were to charge him with up to 40 stripes, and no more. Anything over that, was cruel and unnecessary for any man. Our works will determine our own reward as well. God is our ultimate judge and eventually we will face him. In the most perfect and just way, He will determine if we have done righteous works or wicked works. After the Savior has mediated for us, if have repented and turned to the Lord, we will receive the punishment or blessings we deserve, according to the demands of justice. No punishment will be greater than is necessary according to the law.

4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.

My understanding, is that this means that in that day, they would place a muzzle on an ox, so that it would not eat as it worked the field of grain. The law here is, that they were not to place the muzzle on the ox. This is one of those laws that does not give its explanation and may seem strange to include in the law of Moses. I am sure there is a deeper meaning in its use, though I am not sure what it is. I don’t know that it really was about whether or not they stopped the animal from eating while working, but rather that they were to take care of those that worked for them and allow them their due.

5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.
6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
7 And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.
8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
9 Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house.
10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.

In the law of marriage, a widow who was without children, was to be taken as a wife by any living brothers of her late husband. If she was to have a son by her second husband, that son was to represent her first husband by name. If the widow was refused by the brother, she could take her plea to the elders of her city. The elders were to talk to the man. If he confirmed her claim, and would not take her as his wife, then the widow was to remove his shoe, and spit in his face. Then he would be known throughout the nation as one who had denied this duty to his family.

11 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:
12 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.

If a woman defended her husband during a fight he had with another man, she was not to grab him in any indecent way. If she did, she would be punished by loosing her hand.

13 Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.
14 Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.
15 But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
16 For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.

All things were to be done justly, including how they handled measurements and weights. I think that this referred to how they handled the giving and receiving of money and payments.

17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;
18 How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
19 Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.

The Israelites were called to remember how the Amlekites had been wicked and attacked them in their journey to the land of inheritance. This was the time, when Moses held up the rod and with the power of God, the Israelites were successful against them. God had promised Moses then, that the nation of Amalek would be destroyed. In Exodus 17:14 we read, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” Therefore, because the Amlekites had done wrong to the Israelites, they were not going to be peace between their nations. When the Israelites had settled in the land, and were no longer fighting against those that had inhabited it before them, they were to destroy the remaining Amalekites and remember how and why they had been called to do it.

***

We are shown example after example, throughout the scriptures, of how important it is to take care of widows. The manual I am studying, Scripture Study for the Latter-Day Saint Families: The Old Testament, places a focus on this, based on the Lord’s law found in this chapter. This custom is not one that is heard of today in the society I live in, but there is evidence of just how important this is to the Lord. It is never an easy thing, for a woman to loose her husband. In ancient times, a widow would have been left without the means to provide for her own needs, and I believe it was much less likely for them to remarry, than it would be today. It has always been a god-given duty for men to provide for the women in their lives, especially those who loose their husbands. This applies also, to supporting their mothers, grandmothers, and even extended family members. When the responsibility exists, it should not be taken lightly by anyone. Our first priority, should be to take care of our families to the best of our ability. If we truly intend for families, even extended families, to be eternal in nature, we need to do all that is needed to nurture them in this life.

The church, as it was established after the Savior’s resurrection, included the idea of taking care of the widows of their human family. In James 1:27 it reads, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” This teaches us that we cannot be true disciples of Christ, if we do not do what we can to help the widows we know. Likewise, in modern times, the Lord has commanded that all faithful members of His church, do what they can to provide for those who are widows or who have lost their fathers. In Doctrine and Covenants 136:8 we read, “Let each company bear an equal proportion, according to the dividend of their property, in taking the poor, the widows, the fatherless, and the families of those who have gone into the army, that the cries of the widow and the fatherless come not up into the ears of the Lord against this people.”

It seems that the higher law, does not extend only to family members, or even strictly to those whose husbands or fathers have died. This law to care for these women and children, even applies to those who are without their husbands and fathers for a season of time, such as happens when men serve in the armed forces. Moreover, it is a law to provide for those who are in need, to the best of our ability. I know that this is a good reason, for all those who are able to give generous offerings. In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have this opportunity through our fast offerings and donations. There are many opportunities for us to visit and provide the support of our company as well. I think of the great example of President Thomas S. Monson, who has taken care of so many widows in his life. He has blessed their lives, and I know they have blessed his as well. I am grateful for the opportunity to do what we can, to help others in need.

Deuteronomy Chapter 24

Moses, under the direction of the Lord, was at this point, repeating and renewing the laws of the Lord for the Israelites. He had already covered many things that they needed to know in order to be worthy to live with the Lord among them, as well as many that would keep them a happy and prosperous people. One of the things of importance, was how their relationships should be treated, especially in marriage and family. His sermon continues with the following:

1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;
4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

The law of divorcement is given here. If a man found his new wife to be unclean, or unchaste, he could divorce her and send her on her way, free from any tie to that man. If she remarried, and then was divorced again or became a widow, the first husband was not to take her as his wife again.

5 When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.

A newly married man, was not to go to war or business that would take him away from his wife, for the first year of their marriage. There is great importance in a happy and loving marriage, and there is something to be said of a marriage that starts off as a priority for that man and his wife.

6 No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge: for he taketh a man’s life to pledge.

I am not sure if I understand this completely, but I think that when the people made pledges or promises to one another, they would give something as a token of that pledge. The Israelites were not to take the parts of a millstone as a pledge token, either the upper or lower stone, because these were necessary parts of a tool for grinding grain. An individual needed this tool to be able to sustain himself and his family. I think that it meant that they were not to take something that was used as a life-sustaining tool, because it was as if they took the man’s life as the token of the pledge.

7 If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.

The Israelites were not to make slaves of each other for profit. They may have had slaves of other nations, though I am not sure on that, and they had Israelites who became their servants, but they were not to make their fellow Israelites into property to be sold. The act of selling their brothers as slaves, was a sin worthy of death. I can’t help but think of Joseph of the twelve tribes and how his brothers sold him into slavery to be rid of him, which was a big part of Israelite history, and would have been strictly forbidden by the Mosaic law, which came over 400 years later.

8 Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you: as I commanded them, so ye shall observe to do.
9 Remember what the Lord thy God did unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt.

They had been given strict laws and customs with regard to those who had leprosy. In order for their nation to continue to thrive, they needed to be diligent in following those things. They were reminded here, that the Lord could give and take away, when it came to leprosy, just as had been done to Miriam, the sister of Moses, during their journey in the wilderness.

10 When thou dost lend thy brother any thing, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge.
11 Thou shalt stand abroad, and the man to whom thou dost lend shall bring out the pledge abroad unto thee.
12 And if the man be poor, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge:
13 In any case thou shalt deliver him the pledge again when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee: and it shall be righteousness unto thee before the Lord thy God.

When others borrowed from them, they were to let them give their own pledge, or token, and were not to go into their homes searching for them. Those that had little, were not to have their pledges kept from them overnight. Probably because they would have needed that thing in order to get by, especially if the pledge was part of his raiment, or his clothing.

14 Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates:
15 At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee.
16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

There was to be no oppression of their servants. When he was due pay, they were to give it, or be held accountable for the prayers to God from that servant. I think that servants were usually paid on a daily basis, depending on the work they did, so at the end of a days work, they were to be given the payment they had worked for. Also, men were to be held accountable for their own sin. If a man sinned worthy of death or another punishment, his children would not be held accountable, or vice versa. This idea of holding anything against the family, was reserved for the curses of the Lord, who sometimes would promise a curse upon the generations of the wicked if they did not repent. I think this would only be acceptable of the Lord, because God alone can know and judge the posterity or the family of men.

17 Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge:
18 But thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee thence: therefore I command thee to do this thing.

They were not to take advantage of strangers, and especially those in need. They were instead, to remember, that they had once been slaves in need of deliverance, and the Lord had provided for them. They were commanded to do likewise and deal justly with all people.

19 When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.
20 When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.
21 When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.
22 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing.

Any parts of their fields, that were missed during harvest, were to be left for gleaning. Those who were poor and in need, had allowance from the Lord, to glean crops from the fields. The owners of the fields, were told to remember their situation in Egypt, when they were strangers in the land, but given the things that they needed.

A lot of this chapter seems to have been about the importance of treating others with kindness. Treating others with a decent amount of respect makes a nation stronger. It is so important for us to give to others what they are due, to help those in need, and to be sure we don’t take advantage of others. I think that everyone experiences times of need, physical or spiritual. We should remember those times and recognize the Lord has provided for us, often through the helping hand of others. If we desire to be active and true disciples of Jesus Christ, we need to extend our kindness to our neighbors and strangers. It is a commandment, that we love others as we do ourselves (see Matthew 22:36-40). We would not want to be treated unkindly, to be taken advantage of, or left without any help in our own moments of need. Others do not want these things for themselves, either. A happier and more prosperous people would be found, if we would remember how the Savior wants us treat one another.

Deuteronomy Chapter 23

The Lord instructed Moses to leave his people with a repetition of the law of Moses. These sermons contained commandments and instruction from the Lord, which, if followed, would have allowed the people to be holy and protected from the world. The sermons of Moses continued in this chapter with rules about who would be allowed to enter the congregation of the Lord.

1 He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.
2 A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.
3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever:
4 Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.
5 Nevertheless the Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord thy God loved thee.
6 Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever.

Those who were not well or whole (without blemish) physically, or a person born to an unwed mother and any of his family for ten generations, were not to enter the congregation of the Lord. Likewise, anyone with Ammonite or Moabite blood for ten generations, was not to enter either, because their ancestors had been a stumbling block to the Israelites as they journeyed to the promised land. Being able to attend the tabernacle and congregation, required a holiness or worthiness of the Lord’s standards. Likewise, in our day there is a standard set in order for anyone to enter the holy temples of the Lord. The standards are not the same, but the principle is. Only those who are worthy to enter and serve there, may do so. This standard applies, so that the temple will not be defiled, because it is the house of the Lord, where the Lord can be among us.

7 Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land.
8 The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the Lord in their third generation.

Those who were from Edom were not to be hated, because they were their family, the children of Esau. The family of Esau was the extended family to the Israelites, however, they were not of the covenant.
The Israelites were also not to hate the Egyptians, because Egypt had been there for the family of Jacob in a time of need and allowed them to live in their land. Anyone with Edomite or Egyptian blood, would be allowed into the congregation after three generations had passed. I am guessing that would mean being the grandchild of one having married into the Israelite nation, when they were only something like 1/8th Edomite or less.

9 When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.

The Israelites are warned to avoid all wicked things, when they went out to fight their enemies. I am sure moments when they were at war would have been very tempting times.They would have been deep in the world, surrounded by a lot of alluring wickedness, and yet expected to not be of the world. It was a standard of the times, to take the spoils of war for yourself or your nation. I am sure that this also applied to the things they would choose to return home with, or would allow other nations to give to them for their victories and strength.

10 If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chanceth him by night, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp:
11 But it shall be, when evening cometh on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again.

In order to keep others from becoming unclean, those who were not considered to be clean were to remain out of the camp until they could wash and become clean. If they did this, more of the nation would be preserved.

12 Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad:
13 And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:
14 For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.

It was necessary that they had a way to keep the land clean from their own waste. They were told to go outside of the camp and use a paddle to cover their waste. The land in their camp, was to be a holier place, where the Lord could walk among them. This was part of the early laws of sanitation and something I am so glad we don’t have to deal with where I live today.

15 Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee:
16 He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.

If a servant came to them, after having escaped from his master, they were allow him to live with them, and not return him to his master. They were also to treat him with kindness. I am not sure if this only applied to those men of Israel, who entered servitude, but it teaches that the Lord felt they were not to be treated as lost property, but as people who deserved kindness.

17 There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.
18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the Lord thy God.

There were not to make any Israelite man or woman, into a harlot or prostitute. These acts would have led to a great falling away of Israel, and needed to be avoided completely. Those who were in a life of prostitution and immorality, were also not to be brought to the house of the Lord for any vows or promises. I believe this was due to their unworthiness to make promises there.

19 Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:
20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

They were not to demand unreasonable amounts of money or goods from their family and neighbors, as part of their payments or exchanges. No additional interests were to be gained from the trades and transactions between the Israelites. This law did not apply to how they dealt with strangers, but among the Israelites, they were to treat others with a kindness and give the things they sold or used, a proper value. Because they were not to bring others into unnecessary amounts of debt and bondage, this law would promote unity and bless the entire nation of Israel.

21 When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.
22 But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.
23 That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.

It was better not to make a vow with the Lord, than to make a vow without the intent or follow-through to make the expected offerings. Likewise, in our day, it is better that one waits to make covenants with God, until they are truly ready to keep those covenants. Making covenants with God, is eternally binding. One should not take them lightly, or make them for a reason other then they are intended. This is why it is so important that covenants are made with an understanding of what they are and what will be expected of one who makes them.

24 When thou comest into thy neighbour’s vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel.
25 When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour’s standing corn.

They were allowed to partake of the field of their neighbors, but not to gather and take them or move them out of the field.

Most of this chapter, seems to be a reminder to the Israelites of the little details of life that could either keep them a holy and worthy people, or cause them to be unworthy of the presence of the Lord. The world may be different in our day, but we are still expected to live the standard of the Lord for us. If we do so, we can be worthy of his spirit among us, and of being able to make covenants and promises in the holy temples on earth today. If we fail to live according to the Lord’s standards, and have no desire to hold to them, we should not attempt to make sacred promises with God, because they will lead to our eternal damnation when we face our own judgement. I am grateful for the gospel, which teaches me how to be worthy to make and keep covenants with God, because I cannot imagine life without the spirit of God, to help and comfort me.

Lost Sheep

Today is a bit of a departure from my regular study. I ask that my regular readers please forgive the more personal nature of this post. I have been pondering on thoughts of lost sheep today, because my extended family is experiencing this as a very literal moment in their lives. The feelings I have in my heart are a bit consuming and I feel the need to share some of my thoughts. I have a family member who is missing. My 16-year old niece ran away this week, and I feel helpless in the situation, because I am far away from my sister and her family. I have thought and prayed for her and her family, with a heart full of concern and love for this young woman. Because I have chosen to fill my life with a study of the word of the Lord, I can’t help but think of the lost sheep, so often spoken about in the scriptures. In Matthew 18, we read the words of the Savior:

11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Related to this particular personal situation, I know that my Father in Heaven is also her Father in Heaven. He loves her more than I can even begin to understand, just as He loves every one of his children. We are his little ones. For some reason, his little child has forgotten this. She has forgotten the love of God. She has forgotten what she is worth. I know this must be true, because I know that the closest thing we can experience to the love that our Father in Heaven has for us, is to experience the love that our earthly parents and other family members have for us. It reminds me of a song that my kids have learned at church, called “The Family Is of God”. The first verse and chorus have the following words:

Our Father has a family. It’s me!
It’s you, all others too: we are His children.
He sent each one of us to earth, through birth,
To live and learn here in families.
God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be—
This is how He shares His love, for the fam’ly is of God.

I believe these words, and that part of the reason that He has established families here on earth, is so that we can feel a portion of his love, in a way that cannot be duplicated by anything outside of family.

The Lord also speaks of lost sheep in Ezekiel 34:16, which reads, “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick:”. I know that the Lord knows where she is and is mindful of her. I also know that she has been given the amazing gift of agency, and that if she chooses it, she may continue to be apart from her family. However, I believe, that God desires for her to find happiness within her family. I know that He is there for her, to save her, to heal her, and to strengthen her. He is there for her, just as He is there for each of us, when we have moments of doubt or fear, when we loose our way, or when we think that there is some other pasture which will bring us the things we seek. He is our shepherd, and his greatest desire is to find us and give us everything he has to offer, especially his love.

I pray that my beautiful niece can by physically found and given the help and love that she needs. I have a hope that there is a portion of her heart and mind, that will recognize or remember the things I have pondered about. I have a wish in my heart, that a moment may come when she will open herself up more, to feel the love of the Lord. In the deeper sense, I know that only he can truly save her from whatever is causing her to be his lost little child. I also know that it may take the efforts, inspiration, and love of others, to help her recognize this. I pray that there will be people out there, who will follow the inspirations they receive to find and help this precious daughter of God. I hope there is someone out there, who can be an instrument in the Lord’s hands, and help to bring her home. I hope there are those out there who can help to do this in more than just the physical sense, so that she can feel an outpouring of God’s love for her.

I know that God is real. I know that we are His children. I know that He loves each and every one of us. I know that we are the sheep of his fold and He will do all that He can to show us that love.

Update:
As of last night, she has been found and as I have been told, she is getting some much needed help. My heart if full of gratitude to all those who offered prayers, support to the family, to those who offered tips that led to her being found, and especially to God, who I am sure was watching over her and helped all those involved.


About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.

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Currently I am studying the The Old Testament. I will be studying from the LDS - King James Version of the Bible (see link below). I am studying along with the book, Scripture Study for Latter-day Saint Families: The Old Testament by Dennis H. Leavitt and Richard O. Christensen.

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