Sunday, January 28, 2007

2 Nephi 18

Waters of Shiloah

The metaphor used here (v. 6-8) contrasts the peaceful waters of Shiloah (Christ) to that of the destructive Euphrates (Assyrians). Instead of choosing Christ and having peace, Israel will be destroyed for choosing evil.

“Isaiah describes and then contrasts two forms of waters—the soft, rolling waters of Shiloah, located near the temple mount of Jerusalem, and the waters of the Euphrates, a great river that often floods out of control. The waters of Shiloah are controlled and inviting, whereas the Euphrates is dangerous and destructive. The waters of Shiloah bring life to those who drink them; the Euphrates brings death to those who are swept up in its flood. Isaiah's images of the two waters are symbolic: the former represents Jesus, the King of Heaven, who is likened to the waters of life; the latter is the king of Assyria, who leads his great, destructive armies and ‘cover the earth [like a flood . . . and] destroy the inhabitants thereof’ (Jer. 46:8). Inasmuch as the inhabitants of Judah had rejected Jesus, or the waters of Shiloah, the Lord set
upon them the king of Assyria, or the strong and mighty waters of the river that would overflow their banks and cover the entire land with its destruction.” (Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry, and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 83 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 137)
The message we are to receive from these verses is that if we choose Christ, we will be protected and blessed. We will be happy and content with the manageable and predictable waters of Shiloah. But if we choose to go down forbidden paths, then our agency is taken away and we cannot control the destructive forces that rage in our lives.

Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid

The Lord promised Israel that he would fight their battles for them (as demonstrated in Joshua 10:10-11, 25) and that they should not form alliances with other countries … they should form an everlasting alliance with God. But they grew wicked and formed alliances with neighboring countries and were cursed.

In verse 9, the Lord warns them that if they associate themselves with these countries, they will be “broken in pieces.” He also tells Israel in verse 12, “neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.” What I find interesting about this statement is that the Lord doesn’t say, “fear not,” he says fear not their fear. Sometimes I get caught up in the worries of the world. I worry about finances; I worry about work; I worry about other things. In other words, I worry about things that a person who is not spiritually inclined worries about. Instead, what I ought to worry about is if I am doing what is right; am I keeping the commandments. If I obey the Lord, then all these other worries will take care of themselves (or the Lord will help me take care of them … he will fight my battles). I need not form an alliance with worldly ideas. The only alliance I need to make is with the Lord.

The reason this is significant to me is because as I lay in my bed this morning, I began to think of all the things I needed to do. I have some real concerns with regards to buying our new home and how will be able to meet the new financial demands. We’ve felt that buying this new home is the right thing to do. My wife has not really had any concerns, while I, on the other hand, have been worried about it. I also was thinking about my job at work and some concerns in that area. While I was worrying about these things, I was about to begin a prayer in my mind asking Heavenly Father for help with all these worries. Then these words came to my mind, “count your blessings.” I stopped and began to count my blessings. Then I knew that everything would be fine. After all that, I got up and began to read the scriptures and this chapter when I came across these verses (v. 9-13). It was so clear now … I simply need to trust in the Lord. That calm reassurance that the Lord had given me before (D&C 6:22-24) came to me again. I need not fear their fear (or the world’s fear). I simply need to trust in the Lord.

A Stone of Stumbling

I had never really thought of what a stumbling block or stone is before. This morning, after reading from, I had a much better understanding. This is what I read:

A man who stumbles on a rock falls on his face. He may get up again, curse, and kick the offending stone, but in doing so he only further bruises himself. The rock is never injured; the man has neither the power nor the strength to destroy the rock. His misfortune has come by looking beyond the mark, whereby he misses the rock completely, stumbles clumsily, and falls spiritually. For the Israelites, the path of righteousness was obstructed by just such a ‘stone of stumbling’ and ‘rock of offense.’

The Lord of Hosts became a stumbling block for the Jews both in the days of Isaiah and in the days of his mortal ministry. They were offended with by the wisdom, power, and authority of Jesus of Nazareth. This stumbling came because they did not understand the reason the Law of Moses was given. As Paul explained ‘Because they (the Jews) sought it (the law of righteousness) not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed’ (Rom 9:32-3).

‘But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may
stumble.’ (Jacob 4:14)

Neal A. Maxwell

“A stumbling block is defined as involving ‘something repugnant to one's prejudices’ (The Oxford English Dictionary)…A stumbling block of the Jews of Jesus' day, for instance, was their expectations about what the Messiah would do, such as emancipating them politically. To them, Jesus was not an emancipator, and his death was an unfulfilling stumbling block. This irony had been prophesied. The Greeks, on the other hand, regarded the whole idea of a resurrecting messiah as foolishness. (See Isaiah 8:14; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:8; 2 Nephi 18:14.)” (A Wonderful Flood of Light [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990], 71.)

I will wait upon the Lord

Going back to the commentary on forming an alliance with the Lord, we learn that when we form that alliance, we must “wait upon the Lord” and the Lord will protect us. Elder Hales referred to this verse in his October 1998 General Conference talk when he said, “The Lord is the ultimate caregiver. We must surrender ourselves to the Lord. In doing so, we give up whatever is causing our pain and turn everything over to Him…When pain, tests, and trials come in life, draw near to the Savior. ‘Wait upon the Lord,…look for him’ (Isa. 8:17; 2 Ne. 18:17). ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint’ (Isa. 40:31). Healing comes in the Lord’s time and the Lord’s way; be patient.

“Our Savior waits for us to come to Him through our scripture study, pondering, and prayer to our Heavenly Father….As we are strengthened and healed, we can then lift and strengthen others with our faith.” (Ensign, November, 1998).

Seek unto their God

The last part of this chapter warns Israel against seeking after “wizards that peep and mutter” (v. 19). Just as we should not seek alliances with the world to solve our troubles, neither should we seek spiritual counsel from other sources other than the Lord.

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