Posts Tagged 'Agency'

2 Kings Chapter 24

Judah, which had been a land worthy of the temple of the Lord, and where the faithful would travel to worship and make sacrifices and offerings to the Lord, had become a wicked and idolatrous place. Unrighteous rulers, such as King Manasseh, had led the people to follow after their own wicked ways. Because of this, the people of Judah were promised to be removed from the land by other nations, just as the other tribes of Israel had been scattered. Jehoiakim, who had been raised to be the king of Judah by the Pharoah of Egypt, was not a righteous leader. The people became subject to Egypt, and Jehoiakim taxed them in order to pay the necessary tribute. The record of the people of Judah continues as follows:

1 In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him.
2 And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by his servants the prophets.
3 Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did;
4 And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.

Jehoiakim, and his people, became servants to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon for three years, and then they rebelled against Babylon. After this, and because of the promises of the Lord, other nations came against Judah. Some of these nations included the Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, and the children of Ammon. Judah would be destroyed because of the grossly wicked acts committed there, such as the unforgivable shedding of innocent blood (see also 2 Kings 21:16).

5 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
6 So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead.
7 And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.

Jehoiakim died and his son Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah) became king of Judah. Pharaoh of Egypt did not return to take Judah, because the king of Babylon had taken much of the land from Pharaoh.

8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
9 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.

King Jehoiachin became the ruler of Judah at the age of eighteen (the second book of Chronicles says that he ruled at the age of eight). He only reigned for three months, and he did so in wickedness.

10 At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.
11 And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it.
12 And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.
13 And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said.
14 And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.
15 And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.
16 And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar’s servants besieged Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiachin. Nebuchadnezzar came against the city and Jehoiachin and his family and servants went out to him. Nebuchadnezzar took them. Then, he removed all the treasures from the palace and the temple. Many of the people in Jerusalem were carried away captive, even as many as ten thousand people, with the exception of those who were the “poorest sort”. They included seven thousand mighty men, a thousand craftsmen and smiths, and anyone who was strong enough to fight. These were possibly taken to make their own army stronger, or to stop the people of Jerusalem from being strong enough to fight or have the skill to make weapons needed to fight Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Those who were left may have been considered the poorest because they were not fit for battle against their enemies. The captives were taken to Babylon.

17 And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
18 Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
19 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.
20 For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

Mattaniah, the brother of Jehoiachin, was made the king of Judah. His name was changed to Zedekiah. Zedekiah ruled for eleven years, from the age of 21 to about 32. He was an evil king and ruled as Jehoiakim had ruled. Jerusalem and Judah did not have peace in this time, because of their wickedness. Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon (see also 2 Chronicles 36 and Daniel 1).

As a side note, it is interesting to me, to see what had happened in the land of Judah, specifically in Jerusalem, at the time when the record of the book of Nephi in the Book of Mormon begins. I had assumed some things in all my times reading the verses of Nephi, which seem to have some differences if this chapter of 2 Kings is translated correctly. I had assumed that Lehi had left Jerusalem before any of the city had been taken. However, Lehi and his family were living in Jerusalem at this time when many of the people of Jerusalem were taken to Babylon. The record of Nephi begins in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, which means that Lehi’s family were of the people described here as the “poorest sort” left in Jerusalem. If being the “poorest” was regarding their wealth, they had not been among the wealthiest there before Jehoiachin was taken. Now that those people were gone, they may have been among the wealthier of those left. If not about their wealth, they were among those who were not physically the most strong, or did not have skills for making war. In which case, the Lord was looking out for Nephi, because he probably would have been taken, seeing as he was “large in stature“. But, the family of Lehi were not seen as any prominent or important family, so they were left there. This was a blessing for them, and for all of us today who benefit from the path that the Lord led them on shortly after these things happened.

Additionally, it would not have been unbelievable then, that all of Jerusalem could have been destroyed and taken, because these things had nearly happened to them and had happened for all the lands of Israel around them. When Lehi became a prophet, he was mocked for telling the people of Jerusalem of their wickedness, not for telling them what would happen to Jerusalem and it being unbelievable. For me, this shows even more, just how wickedly the people were living there, that they could have dealt with the effects of the Babylonian attack on them, and still denied that there was a need for repentance and returning to the Lord.

We read in the chapter a part of the fulfillment of the revelations of the prophets. There was such great wickedness in the promised land, that most of the people had been scattered into foreign lands. There were some who still remained in Jerusalem, with the promise that the prophecies would be fulfilled and destruction would come to all of Jerusalem. In our day, there are still prophecies of the scriptures that are not fulfilled. We have a choice (agency) as to how we will live and how that will effect us. The Savior will come again and the wicked will be destroyed while the righteous will be blessed with peace. If we choose to live in righteousness, as Josiah of Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 2223), we will have peace. If we choose to live in wickedness, as Zedekiah, we will have destruction brought upon us. We choose righteousness, when we choose to heed the warnings of our prophets, study the scriptures and pray, and choose to keep the commandments, following after the Savior, Jesus Christ.

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2 Kings Chapter 21

Hezekiah, was the king of Judah in a time when most of the land of Israel was taken over by other nations. Hezekiah had ruled in righteousness and had the blessing of the Lord’s protection for himself and the people of Jerusalem. At one point, he allowed himself to give into the temptation to be prideful and showed all his treasures to the Babylonians. In response, the Lord promised Hezekiah that the people of Judah would be taken captive into Babylon. These things would effect his descendants in the days of his sons. When Hezekiah died, his son, Manasseh, became king. This chapter begins as follows:

1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzi-bah.
2 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.
3 For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
4 And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.
5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.
6 And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.
7 And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:
8 Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.
9 But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel.

At the age of twelve, Manasseh became king. He ruled until he was about 67 years old, or for about 55 years. He did not follow after the ways of his father, who had destroyed all the idols and repaired the temple of the Lord. Instead, he followed after the ways of many others who had ruled before Hezekiah, building the temples, altars and groves for other gods. He also built other altars within the temple of the Lord, which were designed to worship other gods there. He sacrificed his own sons and did all manner of wickedness associated with idolatry. He placed an idol in the temple, in the sacred place where great promises had been made to the faithful kings of the land, such as David and Solomon. He desecrated the Holy temple of the Lord. Manasseh led the people into greater evil than even the heathen nations that were found in the land before the children of Israel arrived there. (see also 2 Chronicles 33)

It is hard to think that the son of one who had lived so righteously, would live so wickedly. His father had only been an influence in his life for twelve years, he was young and I am sure that there were still many people who were wicked, who were able to influence his impressionable mind. It all would come down to his individual agency, or the kinds of choices he made, because of the influences he had. This teaches how important it is to influence our youth for good. Our youth will one day become those who lead the world. All future generations will be influenced by our children and their choices. We can make a difference in the future, by being the right kind of examples and giving our youth the tools they need to make good choices for themselves.

10 And the Lord spake by his servants the prophets, saying,
11 Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:
12 Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.
13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of
Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.
14 And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies;
15 Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.
16 Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.

Prophets were called by God, to speak to the people. The prophecy and word of the Lord, was that Manasseh had done greater wickedness than all those before him and had caused Judah to do these things along with him. Because of this, a great evil would come upon all of Judah and those who heard the prophecy would feel their ears tingle, a witness of its truth. The people of Judah would be destroyed and forsaken, delivered into the hand of their enemies to be killed or made slaves. The Lord also said that Manasseh had shed so much innocent blood, that it filled Jerusalem. A lot of blood can be shed by one man in a reign of 55 years.

17 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin that he sinned, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
18 And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.

These were not all of the acts of Manasseh, but more were recorded. Manasseh died and his son, Amon, became the king.

19 Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah.
20 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh did.
21 And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them:
22 And he forsook the Lord God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the Lord.

Amon reigned from the age of 22 to 24, continuing in the wickedness of his father. He did not follow after God, but chose to follow after idols and continue to lead the people in idolatry.

23 And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and slew the king in his own house.
24 And the people of the land slew all them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead.
25 Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
26 And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza: and Josiah his son reigned in his stead.

His servants conspired against him and killed him. The people of Jerusalem killed those who had conspired against the king and then made Josiah, the son of Amon, the king.

This chapter causes me to think about the Lord’s timing. There had been many years now, in which great wickedness had been allowed to continue, even after the first prophecy of the destruction of the people of Jerusalem and Judah. In their great wickedness, I am sure they would not have believed it was ever going to happen, since they had been allowed to continue to live as they were. But, how often do the wicked believe in the prophecies of the Lord? Nevertheless, the Lord has always done things at the time that was right for his purpose. His purpose being to allow the greatest number of souls to be redeemed as possible, in order to have eternal life. Moses 1:39 reads, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” The prophets seem to have been proclaiming a warning call, giving the people of Jerusalem every opportunity to repent and return to the Lord. Likewise, there was also going to be a day when a Savior would come, and the timing of their destruction would influence the lives of all the generations that would someday come from these wicked and idolatrous people. The word of this prophecy would eventually be fulfilled , and only those who heeded the word of the Lord, would be able to avoid destruction. We can learn about at least one group who avoided this specific time of destruction in The Book of Mormon (see 2 Kings 24 and 1 Nephi 1). Recognizing this, should help us to see that we have the opportunity to heed the warnings of the prophets as well. Will we follow after the world and be led to destruction, or will we follow after the prophets and avoid it?

1 Kings Chapter 13

Jeroboam had become the leader and king of ten of the tribes of Israel. He had been among those who revolted against Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. Jeroboam had been told that he would rule, by a prophet. He had also been promised continual reign and support of the Lord, if he would remain faithful to God. However, early in his reign, he turned to the worship of false idols, in order to keep his people away from the temple in Jerusalem and from returning to Rehoboam. Jeroboam had quickly become a wicked leader to the people of Israel, leading them into apostasy from the Lord.

1 And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Beth-el: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.
2 And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee.
3 And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.
4 And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Beth-el, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.
5 The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.
6 And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Entreat now the face of the Lord thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.
7 And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.
8 And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:
9 For so was it charged me by the word of the Lord, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.
10 So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Beth-el.

A prophet came to Jeroboam from Judah. Jeroboam was an the altar of one of the temples. He prophesied that there would be a man called Josiah, of the house of David, who would offer or sacrifice priests and men upon the altar. The prophet said that the altar would be broken down and the ashes upon it would be scattered. Jeroboam heard what had been said, and with the direction of his hand, told his men to grab the prophet. When he did this, the hand he used became dried up and he could not pull it back toward himself. The altar was broken and the ashes were scattered. Jeroboam told the man to ask the Lord to restore his withered had. The prophet prayed and the hand of Jeroboam was restored. Jeroboam asked the prophet to go with him and be refreshed and rewarded. The prophet said that he would not go with him, even if he had been offered half of the king’s house. He refused even the slightest offering of bread or water as well. He told Jeroboam that the Lord had commanded him that he should not eat or drink there, or even go back the way that he came. Then, the prophet left another way, as he had been commanded.

11 Now there dwelt an old prophet in Beth-el; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Beth-el: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.
12 And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah.
13 And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon,
14 And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am.
15 Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.
16 And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:
17 For it was said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.
18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.
19 So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.

In Bethel, where the prophet had come to deliver his message from God, there was an old prophet. This old man’s sons told him of the prophet from Judah, and directed their father as to which way he had gone. The old prophet rode after the prophet from Judah, finding him sitting under an oak tree. He asked him if he was the prophet from Judah and the other said that he was. He offered him bread, but the other refused him just as he had refused Jeroboam. The old prophet told him that he too was a prophet and had revelation from an angel that he was to offer him bread and water. Verse 18 says that this was a lie, which causes the thought that the old prophet was attempting to deceive him. However in the Joseph Smith Translation of this verse it reads, “Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water[, that I may prove him; and he lied not unto him]. This translation leads us to see that the Lord intended on testing the prophet from Judah, who gave in and went to his house to eat and drink. (see footnote 18b)

20 And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came unto the prophet that brought him back:
21 And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord, and hast not kept the commandment which the Lord thy God commanded thee,
22 But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the Lord did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.

As they ate, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet, and he told the prophet from Judah that because he did this thing and disobeyed the Lord, his dead body would not return to the resting place of his family.

23 And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back.
24 And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.
25 And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.
26 And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord: therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto him.
27 And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.
28 And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase: the lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass.
29 And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him.
30 And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!
31 And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones:
32 For the saying which he cried by the word of the Lord against the altar in Beth-el, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass.

After the prophet from Judah had finished eating and drinking there, he left and was met by a lion along his path. The lion killed the prophet and stood by the body of the man, along with the donkey he had ridden there. Men who passed by the body and lion, told the old prophet what they had seen. The old prophet went and found the body, which had not been disturbed by the lion. The lion had also not eaten the donkey. He took the body, laid it on the donkey, and went back to the city, where he buried the prophet from Judah in his own grave and mourned for him. He told his own sons to bury him along with this man when he died, because he knew the dead prophet’s prophecy would come to pass.

33 After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.
34 And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.

Jeroboam still did not repent of his wickedness, but continued to worship false gods. He continued to raise people to be priests, who were not of the line of Aaron. Because of this sin, Jeroboam and his line were cut off from the Lord and would eventually be destroyed.

When reading this story, one could focus on those things that happened with Jeroboam, as well as those that happened with the prophet from Judah. With either one, their is a lesson in the consequences that come from disobedience to the Lord. Jeroboam was cursed for his actions against the man of God, and eventually chose to be cut off because of sin. The prophet, who had done a portion of what he had been commanded, did not follow the commandments of God with strictness. He was then cursed for his choices as well, and served as an example to others in Israel. Both were given an opportunity to return through obedience to the word of the Lord, and both chose to follow their own path and find ultimate destruction. There is a verse in the book of Alma, that teaches an eternal principle relating to wickedness. In Alma 41:10 it reads, “wickedness never was happiness”. There will be no reward of happiness for those who choose to sin and wickedness. The consequences of sin may be immediate, as was the consequences to the prophet along his journey home. On the other hand, they might not come until we have lived a long life of wicked choices, basking in the glory of men and earthly treasures. The point is, that the consequences will come to the wicked and the reward will not be happiness, but eternal misery. I know that if more people realized just how small the time we have in our earthly life is when compared to the span of eternity, they would not choose to live for eternity in misery to have false happiness in this life. This is the reason for my hope in Christ. We all make mistakes. We all give into temptations of some kind. And we all will have the opportunity, to turn to Christ and receive forgiveness and mercy from Him who gave everything for us.

Ponderizing-Week 4 Thoughts

Jacob 2:18 is the verse that I have been ponderizing this week.

But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

What truly holds value to us, determines not only our character now, but what we will have and be after this life. I love the activity used in church to teach this principle. A teacher will place an empty jar in front of the class, along with three containers containing one of three items: sand, small pebbles, and larger rocks. The sand is representative of the things that likely have less true and lasting value, like the riches of our mortal world. The pebbles are those things that matter, but may not continue after this life. Finally, the rocks represent those things that will continue and will develop greater, lasting character, knowledge and happiness. For example, family relationships develop lasting happiness and joy. The teacher then shows the class what happens when a life is filled with the small stuff first. The sand will pile up, filling a good portion of the jar, followed by the pebbles. When the teacher attempts to place the rocks in last, they do not all fit. When we seek after the riches of the world first, we give little room for the things that truly matter. The teacher then removes the three items and begins again, placing the larger rocks in first, followed by the pebbles, and lastly pours the sand into the jar. It all will fit, because the sand will fill in the gaps left by the rocks and pebbles. The lesson is that if we seek for the things of God first, anything else we truly want in life, will not be left out, but will find its proper place.

Seeking after things of this world is not strictly bad, or even forbidden by the Lord. There are specific things that we should avoid, of course, because they are harmful or possibly addictive, but for the most part, the things of the world can be for our good. The point is, that when we use our agency, to seek after those things that will bring us closer to Christ, build meaningful relationships, develop our knowledge and talents, or cause us to serve and love others, anything else that may use our time and energy, will be done in wisdom and will be for our good.

One of the other thoughts that came to mind with this verse, is that it uses the word seek. Seek is a word of action. It requires effort, planning, and decisions. We should be active in our lives, choosing how we will live rather than allowing life to happen to us. We have the power to choose for ourselves, to what we will give our best efforts. I feel it is an eternal truth, that good choices require greater effort on our part. It is easy to choose those things that are not lasting and may not be for our good. Self-mastery is needed to choose to seek the things of God.

A simple example of this in my own life, is with scripture study. I have decided that study of the words of the prophets of old and modern prophets, is a priority in my life. I believe that it is extremely important to determining the kind of person I will be, and I know it is actively seeking for the kingdom of God. I have been asked many times about how I manage it with my already busy life. My answer always includes something about making the effort to put it ahead of other things, meaning putting it on my schedule. When I plan what my day will include, prayer and study are placed first. Because I have a life devoted to several small children who have places to be and things to do, I choose to sacrifice some additional sleep in the mornings to give a consistent place for study. It is never easy to do, but I know that God can bless me for the effort I am putting towards it. As I actively seek after the word of God, other priorities and desires seem to fall into place.

But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

President Thomas S. Monson has said that “decisions determine destiny”. I know this is true. What we choose this day can either lead us closer to God and His kingdom, or turn us from it. Sometimes even good choices can cause us to forget the Lord. Making the effort to seek after riches, or the things of the world, before seeking after the best things, will lead us down a path of temptation. I know that we can start each day with a decision to seek after the kingdom of God. Even making just one choice, will bless us greatly in this life. I have seen it in my own life and I know it will make a difference for eternity.

1 Samuel Chapter 10

The Lord gave a revelation to the prophet Samuel, that Saul was to be the king of Israel. Saul was told that he was the answer to the prayers of Israel, and was given honor at a meal with Samuel. As Samuel escorted Saul from the city the following day, he told Saul to remain so that Samuel could tell him the word of the Lord. This next chapter begins with the following:

1 Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?
2 When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son?
3 Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Beth-el, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine:
4 And they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands.
5 After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy:
6 And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.
7 And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee.
8 And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.

Samuel anointed Saul as the captain over the Lord’s inheritance. Saul was called by the Lord, and was anointed according to the ancient custom. I think anointing was possibly a way of dedicating the service of the king, to the Lord. Today, those who receive calls from the Lord to serve in his church, are set-apart by the authority of the priesthood and by the laying on of hands, and they then receive a blessing to help them in their service. Being set-apart is a way of dedicating one to the service of the Lord.

Samuel, in his role as a seer, told Saul that as he would be traveling, two men would approach him and tell him that his father’s donkeys had been found and that his father had begun to be concerned for him. Then as Saul continued on his way, he would come upon three men taking offerings to the place of worship. They would salute him and give him two of their loaves of bread. Then, Saul would go to the hill of God, where there were Philistine guards, and he would meet a company of prophets with musicians in front of them. They would prophecy and then Saul would receive the spirit of prophesy and appear as someone new. Theses things would be a sign to Saul, and he would know that the Lord was with him. Then Saul was to go to Gilgal and Samuel would go there to make offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. Saul was to stay there for seven days, until Samuel met him there.

In the course of this revelation, we can see that the Lord was looking out for Saul. First, he would have confirmation that the donkeys he had been searching for, had been found and he did not need to continue looking or worrying about them. Likewise, there would be those who could return to his father and tell him that Saul was alright. With that, Saul could continue on his way without concern that his father was worried about where he was. Next, we learned in the previous chapter, that Saul and his servant had nothing left to give when they had went looking for Samuel. When they headed to the high place, which Samuel was now referring to, they would want again to bring an offering. Along their way, they would meet three men who would give them bread which they could them take with them to the high place. The experience of being among prophets and prophesying with them, would show people, who already knew Saul, that he was not the same boy they had seen grow up. It could help some to support him in his calling as their king. In addition, these things would be able to give Saul courage and greater confidence to approach his calling, because he could know that the Lord was on his side.

9 And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day.
10 And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.
11 And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?
12 And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets?
13 And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.

God blessed Saul with all the things that Samuel had prophesied for him. The Lord gave Saul a new heart. He was met by the prophets and he prophesied with them as he was given the spiritual gift to do so. The people who had known him, were surprised at what they witnessed. When he was done being among the prophets, he went to the high place, just as Samuel had instructed.

When the spirit touches men, it changes their hearts. The spirit has the power to help us become new people. The spirit is the power that brings conversion to the Lord. I’m not sure how much the heart of Saul was changed from the person he was before, but it had an effect on him, which I believe was intended to prepare him for becoming the king for the people. I believe also, that this change of heart came to Saul, because he acted in faith. He was given instruction by the prophet of the Lord, and he followed those instructions with faith. We can also experience a change of heart, that is powerful and will convert us into the person that God wants us to be. As with Saul, this will only come to us, if we listen to the words of the prophet, both ancient and modern, and follow with faith in the Lord.

14 And Saul’s uncle said unto him and to his servant, Whither went ye? And he said, To seek the asses: and when we saw that they were no where, we came to Samuel.
15 And Saul’s uncle said, Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said unto you.
16 And Saul said unto his uncle, He told us plainly that the asses were found. But of the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.

Saul’s uncle came to him and asked where he and his servant had gone. Saul told him what had happened as they searched for the donkeys. His uncle asked what Samuel had told him. The only part of it that Saul told his uncle, was that Samuel had told them the donkeys had been found.

17 And Samuel called the people together unto the Lord to Mizpeh;
18 And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you:
19 And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes, and by your thousands.
20 And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken.
21 When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found.
22 Therefore they inquired of the Lord further, if the man should yet come thither. And the Lord answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.
23 And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward.
24 And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.
25 Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.

In Mizpeh, which I am guessing is the high place referred to earlier in this chapter, Samuel called the people together. Samuel told them the word of the Lord, which was first a reminder of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and from all other oppressors. He told them that in that day, they had rejected God as their ruler and had desired a king to rule over them. He called the people to present themselves to the Lord by their tribes. Once they did this, Samuel called the tribe of Benjamin out from among them. Saul was called out from the tribe of Benjamin, but he was not found right away. They prayed to the Lord to know where he was, and they were told that Saul had hid himself. They found him and brought him in the midst of the people, where Samuel announced that Saul had been chosen by the Lord. The people recognized Saul as the king. Samuel gave the people instructions regarding the kingdom, which were recorded, as the scriptures were recorded. Then, the people were sent to their homes.

26 And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.
27 But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.

Saul returned to his homeland, with a band of men who had been inspired to go with him. Some people among the Israelites, who followed after the false gods, questioned the ability for Saul to save them from the Philistines and other enemies. The doubted his calling and they refused to honor him as their king, but Saul kept peace, or ignored them. There will be times, and have been many times, when people do not support the callings extended to certain individuals by the Lord. This is their choice. All we can do ourselves, is to allow individuals to voice their opinions or concerns and move forward in the work of the Lord as He has inspired us to do so. I believe that we grow so much more, and in the ways that God would have us grow, when we sustain and support those who have been called to lead us. I am grateful for the blessing of the spirit, which as I have followed in faith, has confirmed in my heart that those who lead our church today, are indeed men and women called of God.

Here we see, that when the desires of the people of the Lord are united, the Lord will give them what they want. In this case, they desired for a king. I believe the wisdom of the Lord was that the people of Israel would learn from this experience, even if it was not what the Lord desired for them. God did not place people here on this earth, to force us to do His will. We were blessed with agency and God wants us to learn from choices that we make, both the good and bad. If we draw near to Him, we will know what He desires for us and He will be able to bless us greatly for being obedient and loving children. However, if we reject God, as the Israelites did, we may get the things that we want in this life, but God will not be able to give us the blessings later. Our loving Father in Heaven, will allow us to choose for ourselves, so that we can receive the consequences of our choices, good or bad, and learn for ourselves those things that we should learn from this mortal experience.

1 Samuel Chapter 8

Samuel was called to be the prophet of the Lord, when he was a young boy serving with Eli in the temple. He helped deliver the Israelites from the Philistines, through prayer and fasting to the Lord. He had judged Israel for many years of peace. This chapter begins:

1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba.
3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

Samuel began to get old, and so he caused that his sons should be judges over Israel. They did not serve righteously in their callings, and took bribes for their judgments. Rather than be unrighteously judged, the elders wanted to have a king as other nations had.

6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.
7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

Samuel did not think it wise to have a king. He prayed to the Lord, who gave his consent to give the people a king. The Lord says here that Israel had rejected the Lord, not Samuel. I believe this is because the Lord had given them a pattern of judges, and they were now choosing to do things their own way. If the Israelites began to rely on an earthly king, they would no longer seek help from the Lord. They were, in effect, choosing an earthly king over their Heavenly King. The Lord was allowing the Israelites to freely choose their leadership, because He has given us agency and knows that we will only progress if we are given the opportunity to choose for ourselves. Samuel was to allow this choice, with a protest and with teachings of what type of king they would possibly have rule over them. If Samuel did all he could to persuade the elders to change their minds, he, as their prophet and leader, would not be held accountable for this decision.

10 And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king.
11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.

Samuel told the elders they could have a king, but he also warned them of what would happen when they were ruled by evil kings. He said that a king would make their sons and daughters do what he wanted for himself. A king could claim the fruits of their labors, and they would become servants to him. He also told them that when the day came when they were oppressed to the point of crying to the Lord, He would not hear them. They were choosing a king over the Lord.

There have been other times when men of God have warned their people of this same thing. In Mosiah 29 we read:

13 Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.
… 16 Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you.
17 For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!
… 21 And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.
22 For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareth up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God;
23 And he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness.
… 30 And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads.
31 For behold I say unto you, the sins of many people have been caused by the iniquities of their kings; therefore their iniquities are answered upon the heads of their kings.

Likewise, earlier in Mosiah, chapter 23, we read the following:

7 But he said unto them: Behold, it is not expedient that we should have a king; for thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another; therefore I say unto you it is not expedient that ye should have a king.
8 Nevertheless, if it were possible that ye could always have just men to be your kings it would be well for you to have a king.
… 13 …even so I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you.

For those who heard this in the book of Mosiah, they heeded these words of wisdom and did not continue to seek after the rule of a king. This was not the case with the elders of Israel. Chapter 8 continues:

19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord.
22 And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

Even with his protest, the elders did not listen to Samuel. They desired strongly to have a king to rule over them and to lead them against other nations. Samuel returned to the Lord and told Him all that the elders had said.

The people of Israel were unhappy with the men who had become their judges, because they were choosing unrighteous dominion over the people. The elders of Israel probably felt that they would have a better life under a king, then what they were living under bribed and easily-persuaded judges. The elders looked at the seemingly great nations around them, and were desirous of that lifestyle. The nation had lost the faith in God to trust that He knew how to lead them. If more of the Israelites had been faithful and true to the commandments of the Lord, they would have been the mighty nation they desired to be. But instead of being personally accountable for the state of their lives and their nation, they wanted a king to make all the decisions for them. They were choosing to very likely forfeit their agency and freedoms, in order to be like the other nations of the world. The Lord let them know, through the words of the prophet Samuel, that this decision would not bring them happiness and they would regret it some day.

We have the promises of God today as well. Throughout the scriptures, the lesson is that those who keep the commandments will prosper and have the protection of the Lord from all enemies. If we loose faith in God, or stop putting our trust in him, and turn to the rule and support of men, we will forfeit our own agency to others. Likewise, the result will not be that we are a happy people, but that one day we will remember what the scriptures teach us. We might then desire for those things that bring true happiness, and we could possibly find that the Lord will be slow to hear our own cries. To avoid these circumstances, we should follow the words of the prophets, ancient and modern, and most of all, we should trust that God knows what is best for us and live according to His plan. This is how we can choose to live after the manner of true happiness.

Judges Chapter 21

At some point in the time of judges, the tribes of Israel had gathered together against the tribe of Benjamin, because of wickedness that had occurred among them. Benjamin put up a good fight, but because the Lord was with the Israelite host, the Benjamites were destroyed, along with all of their cities in the land. A handful of the army of Benjamin had escaped and hidden themselves during the destruction. This experience is referenced a number of times later in the scriptures, so I imagine it was a memorable loss to the Israelite nation, and something they spoke about as an example, for many years afterwards. This chapter begins:

1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.
2 And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;
3 And said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?
4 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
5 And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the Lord? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the Lord to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.
6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.
7 How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?

The men of the Israelite nation, made a covenant at the tabernacle, that they would not allow their daughters to marry any remaining man of Benjamin. The men of Benjamin had lived wickedly and were no longer living as covenant men of Israel. The Israelites gathered at the tabernacle and mourned the loss of one of their tribes, namely Benjamin. They made sacrifices to the Lord and denounced those remaining of the tribe of Benjamin, having been cut off from the Lord and from Israel. They also decided that they would destroy any who had not stood with them against Benjamin.

8 And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the Lord? And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly.
9 For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead there.
10 And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children.
11 And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.
12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
13 And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them.
14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not.
15 And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

The Israelites knew that no man of the area of Jabesh-gilead, had joined them to fight Benjamin. A portion of the army was sent to destroy the city and the people there, specifically the men and their wives. They found 400 virgins in the city, which were taken to Shiloh. Then, the Israelites sent men to peacefully speak to the remainder of the tribe of Benjamin, who had escaped the destruction and hidden themselves. The Israelites gave the virgins of Jabesh-gilead, to the remaining men of Benjamin. The Israelites were then at peace with the tribe of Benjamin, because the Lord provided a way for them to do so.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?
17 And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.
18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.
19 Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.
20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty.
23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.
24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.
25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

There were some men of the tribe of Benjamin, who remained without wives. The leaders of Israel did not know what to do for them, but they did not want to entirely lose a tribe of Israel. They knew they could not give their own daughters, because of the covenant they had made against the tribe. They told the men of Benjamin, of a yearly ritual in Shiloh, where the women would go out to dance. Shiloh was also where they had moved the virgins they had captured. The Benjamites were to go and hide themselves while they waited for this ritual. Then, they were to take their wives from the women of Shiloh. They were to return to the land of Benjamin and explain their situation to any who questioned them. The men of Benjamin went and, after taking wives, they returned to the land of Benjamin and repaired it. The host of Israel dispersed back to their own lands, and returned back to their separate lives.

The men of Benjamin were punished for standing against the host of Israel. They had defended wickedness and suffered greatly for it. Likewise, the people of Jabesh-gilead had chosen not to stand with the Lord in their fight, and were punished for it. The Lord has promised that wickedness will be destroyed, and that those who side with it, will also be destroyed. This promise is still a part of the Lord’s plan in our day. We have a choice to make. That choice is whether we will stand on the Lord’s side, or on the side of the world. If we choose the Lord, He will lead us and great blessings will follow. If we choose to side with the world, our eventual destruction will come. We, like the individual cities of Israel, might think that we can choose to sit out of the battle. If we actively stand aside and try to remain a neutral party, we are in effect choosing the world and wickedness. Blessings will only come to those who take courage and join the battle against the enemies of God.

Joshua Chapter 24

This is the final sermon of the prophet Joshua, to the Israelite people. Joshua had been one who had walked with Moses during the wanderings in the wilderness. He had remained to see and enter the promised land while the rest of his generation had passed away. He was a man of faith and courage, and was called to be the prophet to conquer and settle the promised land. He trusted the Lord, and the Lord was there to help him. His words to the Israelites follow:

1 And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
3 And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
4 And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.
5 I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.
6 And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea.
7 And when they cried unto the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.
8 And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.
9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you:
10 But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.
11 And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.
12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.
13 And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.

Joshua gathered the people to hear his words, and then called the elders of Israel and other leaders, to present themselves. He begins to speak to them of their history. The family of Abraham had lived in a foreign land and worshipped the gods of that land. Abraham was led away from the idolatry, by the Lord, to the land of Canaan and was blessed with his son Isaac. The Lord blessed Isaac with two sons, even Jacob and Esau. He told them how Jacob’s family went to Egypt, and that the Lord sent Moses and Aaron and gave plagues there. Then the Israelites were led out of Egypt by the Lord. Then when they were chased by the Egyptians, the Lord protected them and destroyed their enemy in the sea. Then they wandered in the wilderness, and the Lord led them into the land of the Amorites and delivered their enemies into their hands. The Lord stopped Balaam from cursing the Israelites, and caused that he should bless them instead. Finally, the Israelites were led into the land of Canaan, to Jericho, and the Lord delivered their enemies into their hands again. The Lord helped them to gain the promised land, where they had plenty, but they had not prepared it for themselves.

14 Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods;
17 For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:
18 And the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God.
19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
20 If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.
21 And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord.
22 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.
23 Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.
24 And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.
25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.

Joshua called the people to honor and serve the Lord, and to put away the practice of worshipping false gods, or idolatry, as their ancestors had. He reminded the people that they were free to choose whom they would serve, but they needed to make their choice. Joshua, their prophet and leader, declared that he had chosen to serve the Lord. In response, the people spoke of the commandment God had given them to serve Him alone and to forsake other gods. The congregation of Israel recognized the hand of the Lord in bringing them out of bondage, and preserving them in their wanderings. They knew that the Lord had delivered their enemies into their hands and had driven them out of the land. The Israelites chose to serve the Lord as well. Joshua told them that if they would follow after other gods, they could not serve the Lord and would not be forgiven of their transgressions or sins. The Lord would destroy them if they turned against Him. The people wanted to choose the Lord still, and so Joshua said they were witnesses against themselves, which they agreed to. He called on them again, to put away other gods and turn to the Lord, to which they made a covenant to serve and obey the Lord.

We have the same obligation to choose if we will strive to serve the Lord, or if we will serve other gods. We cannot stand on both sides of the fence, but if we choose to serve the Lord, we will be held to His standard. It is our privilege, to be able to stand and firmly say we will serve the Lord. When we make covenants of baptism, we promise to serve the Lord all our days. If after making covenants, we go against the Lord, destruction will eventually come upon us as well. I hope to be able to remain steadfast and firm all the days of my life, and continually serve God.

26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.
27 And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.
28 So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.

A record was made of these things, and a stone was raised as a reminder to the people, of the covenant they had made with the Lord. Then all the people were sent back to their homes.

29 And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
30 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.
31 And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel.

Joshua died at the age of 110. In the days of Joshua, the host of Israel had server the Lord, as well as in the days of all the elders that served with him.

32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
33 And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.

The bones of Joseph were buried in the land that his father Jacob had purchased many years before. This was a fulfillment of the request of Joseph which he made while in Egypt, because he knew that God would one day deliver the people of Israel and led them to the land of promise. Then, Eleazar, the priest and son of Aaron, died and was buried in the land of his son, Phinehas.

Idolatry was a sin which plagued the children of Israel in their time. This is why there was a need to continually remind them to love and serve the Lord alone. In our time, we have idolatry of other forms, which plague our generation. We need to be continually reminded to live in the world, but not be of the world. I feel like the greatest reminder we have from our current prophets, is that our focus must be on the family or Satan will destroy us. The strength of the Lord’s people, as a whole, depends upon the strength of our family units. If we allow Satan to break down the family, we will each stand alone and we will fall. It was so important for the congregation of Israel to heed the words of the prophet Joshua, as they heeded the words of Moses before him. Is is just as important for us to heed the words of our own modern prophets, because they speak the word of the Lord for us today. I am so grateful for the prophets which the Lord has called in our day. I am grateful for times when I can hear their words and apply them to my life. I know that they are true and can help us to be strong and courageous in our day.

(If you are interested in listening to the modern prophets and apostles, you can watch or listen to the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Click here for more information.)

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.

Numbers Chapter 25

In the last few chapters, the Israelites were encamped on the east side of the Jordan River, in the area of the Moabites. A Moabite leader, Balak, had hired Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam, who was a servant of the Lord, was instructed to bless the Israelites, but because he had a desire for the wealth of men, he told Balak about weaknesses the Israelites had. These weaknesses included issues with fornication and the worship of false gods. The Moabites would be able use these against the Israelites, to destroy them from within. Numbers, chapter 25 begins as follows:

1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
3 And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.
5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor.

While dwelling in the land of the Moabites, some of the Israelites began to fall prey to temptations. When they began to worship the fall gods, and give sacrifices to them, the Lord was angry. The Lord told Moses to hang the heads of those who had rebelled against Him, between the Israelites and the sun, so that the anger of the Lord would be turned away from them. Moses commanded that all those who had turned to Baal-peor, were to be killed. The footnote for Baal-peor says, “The idol at Peor”, so they were to kill those who went to worship the idol at the mount Peor. The Lord could not look upon sin of this nature with the least degree of allowance. This was not a small sin or a sin of omission. The Lord did not say that those who had done anything wrong ever, were to be killed. Only those who went seeking after another God, after knowing the Lord and making sacred covenants with him.

6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

While the Israelites were weeping to the Lord, an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman in to the encampment, where she was seen by Moses and the elders. I am thinking this means, he brought her in to be involved with her in sins of immorality. Phinehas, one of the grandsons of Aaron and a man of the priesthood, saw him and sought after the man with a javelin in hand. He followed him to his tent and killed the man and the Midianite woman for their adultery. In doing this, he stopped the plague from spreading among the Israelites. 24,000 people died from the plague before he was able to stop it.

Why would the Lord bring a plague upon the people at this time? Because these people had made covenants with Him. Their covenant was that if they were true and faithful to the laws that had been given to them through Moses, the prophet, they would inherit the promised land. When they could not be faithful, God had to hold to his promise that they would not be allowed to inherit it. If God had not followed through on that, He would have ceased to be the unchanging God they had chosen to worship. The lesson in this, is that we can also know that God will remember his covenants with us. Our choices will bring consequences and we can trust that they will be the consequences the Lord has promised to us.

10 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.
12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:
13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.
14 Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.
15 And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.

Phinehas was blessed for how he stopped the plague and turned away the wrath of the Lord, by executing judgment on the adulterers. The Lord gave him a covenant of peace, where he was promised that he and his posterity would continue to hold the priesthood, because he had stood for what was right in the sight of God. The man who he had killed, was Zimri, a prince of the house of Simeon. The woman was Cozbi, a daughter of a chief in Midian.

I was wondering why it was important for us to know that whom the man was, seeing as the whole tribe was not going to be punished for his sin. He was a prince, or rather, one of the heads of the households in the tribe of Simeon. As such, this man was an example for his entire tribe and family. I have to wonder how many souls would have been lost if he had continued in his rebellion against the laws of the Lord. I have watched as many adults have made decisions to go against their own covenants, and the thing that is the hardest to see, is the effect it has on the children. It brings me such overwhelming heartache, that I cannot adequately describe how it hurts to witness it. When we choose to sin, we often do it with only ourselves in mind. However, the effects of some sins can reach for generations. His choices would have caused the loss of thousands of souls, or more, over time.

16 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
17 Vex the Midianites, and smite them:
18 For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor’s sake.

In response to the actions of Cozbi, and to prevent more of the people of Midian from tempting the Israelites away, the Lord commanded Moses to vex and smite the Midianites.

I think that the Lord was allowing opportunities for the Israelites to use their agency to prove themselves. That is part of the purpose of our lives on earth. We are to make choices, with the opposition placed in front of us, and prove to the Lord that we will indeed follow Him. The Lord had every power to lead the people straight through to the promised land, but he did not. He allowed them time to live among other nations, so that they could know for themselves the good from the evil. We are not blessed by having an easy life, where we are not given choices. We can only increase in wisdom, knowledge, faith and righteousness, as we make everyday choices and learn from the consequences, good or bad. We will be given the same opportunity to use our agency and prove ourselves to the Lord. Because of this, I know that we must be ever watchful. The adversary knows our weaknesses. He knew that Balaam would desire for the wealth of the world. He also knew that Zimri had a weakness for women outside of the covenant. He knows what we find appealing. On the other hand, the Lord knows our strengths. He also knows how we can change our weaknesses into strengths. If we are willing to trust Him, He will help us to avoid falling prey to our temptations. If we are watchful, He will help us to see the stumbling blocks in our path, long before they become to difficult for us to avoid.


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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