Monday, July 12, 2010

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Lehi 1 Nephi 1

How grateful I am for the record we are given in the Old Testament of the dealings of the Lord regarding the Children of Israel. Perhaps for the first time ever, in all my studies of the Book of Mormon, I finally believe I have come to more fully understand the historical background and current issues that the Prophet Lehi and his family faced by living when they did in Jerusalem. This understanding comes, in part, because of the accounts given by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. These men, contemporaries of Lehi, were prophets of the Lord who delivered messages of repentance to a wicked and prideful people. These people, the covenant or chosen people of the Lord, had received authority to administer in the ordinances of the Temple, but had lost the “power” through disobedience, wickedness and the worship of false Gods or abominations. They had come to rely more upon the arm of flesh, than upon the Lord himself. (Again, my attention is called to Elder Boyd K Packer and his voice of warning given in conference.)
Isaiah had prophesied many years before the time of Lehi, to an unrepentant Northern Kingdom of their impending doom, or scattering, which became a reality because they were unwilling to listen to his voice. The Assyrians were the means the Lord used to accomplish this work of scattering, as He allowed them to conquer the Northern Kingdom and utterly destroy its leadership. In Lehi’s lifetime the prophet Jeremiah resounded with a similar message given to the prideful Southern Kingdom. These Children of Israel would soon follow the same path as the Northern Kingdom when the Lord uses the Babylonians to scatter His covenant people because of their disobedience to his commands.
The Babylonian “take over” of Israel came in waves. First, they quietly removed those who had wealth, education, or political power from the area and took them to either the city, or king’s court in Babylon, as was the case with Daniel, or to the outlying areas which were similar to refugee camps, which was the case with Ezekiel. Next they replaced the rightful King of Judah, who they took captive to Babylon, with a “puppet king”, one they could control, by the name of Zedekiah. It was during the first year of Zedekiah’s reign that Lehi received his call to cry repentance to the people of Jerusalem. At the same time the prophet Jeremiah was also preaching to the people in Jerusalem. Thus, we have four different prophetic accounts of the Lord’s message to His people who lived simultaneously.
It is interesting to note that the Lord instructed three of the prophets, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Jeremiah to convey His will to them, that they needed to physically surrender to Babylon but return to the Lord spiritually so that He could some day allow them to return to their land of promise. (This would be facilitated by His use of the Persian Empire, and King Cyrus who eventually conquered Babylon and, as Isaiah prophesied years earlier, allowed the Children of Israel to return and reconstruct their beleaguered Temple.) Lehi conversely was given the message to take his family and flee into the wilderness.
This is the situation that was present at the time of the record of 1 Nephi, as he informs us:
1:4 For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.
Having entered into a Covenant with the Lord, the Children of Israel could not believe that their “great city” could be destroyed. They must have been confused by the message given, after all, they had a Temple in their midst, certainly the Lord would offer protection and guidance to those He loved? This attitude is evidenced by the account of the actions of Laman and Lemuel. Their focus on the authority, or gift of the covenant, allowed them to forget the true source from which the actual blessings come, the “power” of His word. I believe that the Book of Mormon is a definitive work, or instruction manual, on HOW to tap into that power. This is the same power that President Packer warned us about, which is ultimately the only way to be saved from destruction.
As I study, I love to look for principles and patterns that show HOW to gain that power in my life. That will be my focus in studying the Book of Mormon this time around.
What will be yours?

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