Category Archives: Old Testament

The Liahona: a type of the scriptures

I love, love, love the story of Nephi and his family in the book of 1st Nephi.  There is so much cool stuff that’s going on, and we get to see the details of a person’s life in much detail.  There’s nowhere else in the scriptures that someone’s life is given so much detail to their daily life and interactions with others.  I would argue that it’s even more detailed than the Gospels, because we have greater amounts of text in one situation, time an time again.

I love examples from people’s lives, because for me it brings it home a lot to the realm of practicality.  It’s easy for me to forget that life is full of both short-term and long-term application.  I tend to focus on the here and now of productivity, and don’t think much about the long-term stuff.  These samples of personal life are really rare in the scriptures.

One story that I love so much in the Old Testament is a great example, that I come back to so much.  It’s in 2 Kings 4:8-11:

8. And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.
9. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
10. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
11. And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.

The lesson here is, that the woman recognized that something good had come into her life, and she made room for it that it could stay longer.  There’s a lot more to the story that can be picked apart, such as the specific items, and how it was his decision as to when to come by and for how long (which is how Christ acts as well, in his actual appearances to people).  You could dwell on the spiritual perception of the woman as well, how she not only noticed his positive attributes, but also knew what he would need.  Also, she was prepared, since she was ready to feed him whenever he came by — which too demonstrates that she was selfless and happy to serve.  There’s no mention made of the sacrifices she’d have to make in her life or her schedule to see that the prophet was made comfortable.  Surely there were some, but they are not a part of the story, in the sense that they meant little to her.  So it is in the lives of selfless people who serve — they discount the sacrifices they have to make, considering them of little worth compared to the benefits.

Anyway.  Back to Nephi’s life.  I’m reading in 1 Nephi 16 right now.  This is the chapter where Lehi finds the Liahona on the ground one morning.  They use it in their journey to the promised land, to guide them.  The Liahona in itself is a type of the scriptures, in that there are so many parallels.  However, the one I really like is how the Lord uses it.

Lehi and the rest of his camp had been complaining about the lack of food, but more particularly, had been doubting in the Lord and complaining against him.  After they repent and are chastised by the Lord, he then directs them to look at the Liahona:

26. And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.

It’s these three scriptures that really stand out to me.  First of all, it shows how the Lord acts in a certain situation.  He points us to use the resources that he has already given us.  The Lord did talk to his prophet, and he could have talked to the entire camp if he wanted to, but it’s more practical to let everyone have access to the scriptures, so that they can read them at any time, as they want, and ponder on them.  Plus, it gives them the opportunity and choice to actually look to them or not.

It’s the second part that I find really cool, too, in that it is exactly how the scriptures work:

29. And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.

The words always stay the same, but the meaning changes, based on life circumstances, or on the level of spirituality that we have at the time.  I’ve seen this principle in action over and over in my life.  One thing that makes a big difference, is how closely I’m studying the scriptures.  If I’m just reading them, compared to doing a study, or thinking about them during my day or whatever.

28. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.

Five important elements there: reading the scriptures (he beheld the pointers), acting on them (faith), persisting in living the gospel (diligence) with conviction and determination, not indifference (heed), which are all brought about by our own choice (“which we did give unto them”).

Good stuff. :)

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Notes: Habakkuk 1

I decided to add a new category to my blog posts, just for notes that I take down while reading or studying the scriptures, or whatever I write down while in my Bible study class. These aren’t going to be full blog posts, just a collection of thoughts and ideas.

I’m going to start out today’s post with the book Habakkuk, since that’s what we covered in class this morning.

- According to the Desires of our Hearts, Neil A. Maxwell, November ’96 Ensign

- Habakkuk, “to embrace”

- Habakkuk’s ministry coincided with the appearance of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) in world history

- May have written in connection with the battle of Carchemish in which Nebudchadezznar defeated the Egyptians in 605 B.C. and before the first deportation of the Jews in 507 B.C.

- It is believed that Habakkuk lived in Jerusalem, thus making him a contemporary with Lehi in Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4).

- Habakkuk 1:2-4

2. O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!

3. Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.

4. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.

The prophet is frustrated. The Lord is teaching him a lesson here.

The Lord suspends judgement in our mortal realm for a while. God acts the same way with the righteous — He lets them go about their way for a time, He will not instantly correct them, but respects their agency.

- Habakkuk 1:12

12. ¶ Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

The Lord uses the wicked to punish the fallen covenant people. I think that, even in our fallen states, the Lord can still use us. :)

In one way, it occurs to me that it could be a blessing, in a sense, that the wicked are doing the will of the Father. Not in being wicked, but in punishing these people. I think that the Lord has purposed these people.

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My testimony of the Old Testament

When I started going to Institute this semester at the university, on the first day our instructor asked us to write down our thoughts about the Old Testament. I did mine that night, but wasn’t able to make it the next class. I finally showed it to him this morning, and I thought it’d be cool to post it here too.

As is common when giving my testimony, I often learn new things while I am giving it. This case was no exception.

Here’s what I wrote:

The Old Testament is a fabulous, amazing collection of works that it is a real blessing to have. It is the story of the ancient covenant people of God. Although its authors, prophets and people spanned many years and geographical areas, there is a unified message throughout. As we sojourn through our wilderness, if we obey God, we will be blessed with peace and rest in a promised land.

The fullness of the Gospel was had among the ancients, and though we are not treated to read of its plainness as in the Book of Mormon, the Lord has preserved it hidden in the scriptures, for those who search diligently to see. To gather the gems, I have to examine the settings and the characters closely. It makes studying the scriptures a rigorous process. By using faith in the Lord, I am able to unlock the scriptures and find applications in personal life.

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New blog

Hello there. I’ve been writing more and more posts regarding religion and scripture study on my personal blog, so I thought it might be a good idea to start a new one just for that. :)

Plus, I’ve been cleaning up my old website, nephi.org. It’s long been unmaintained, and I’m interested in poking and prodding at it a bit. Right now, it’s got a few bugs hanging about, but I’m working on it in the background on a new host and I’ll have it cleaned up proper soon.

If you want to read what this blog is about, just check out the about page.

I’m going to copy my blog posts about scriptures from my personal one over to here, just so I have them all archived in one place. So there will be a lot of content, but it’ll already be familiar to some.

Comments are enabled for the blog posts, so I’d be interested in hearing your comments if you have any to share. :)

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Filed under Book of Mormon, Isaiah, Luke, New Testament, Notes, Old Testament

Archives: zechariah chapter eight

I stumbled on this chapter the other day, when I was at my Isaiah class, and while one group of scriptures stood out to me, it’s one of those chapters where I keep bouncing around and finding cool stuff just in the whole thing.

It’s in the book of Zechariah, which is the second-to-last book in the Old Testament (KJV).  The Lord, speaking through the prophet, is describing how the city of Jerusalem is going to be safely inhabited in the future.  That in itself isn’t such an interesting or novel address in the scriptures, but so far, this one stands out to me because he goes in detail about what life will be like, and also compares it to the way things were before.

My favorite passage is verses nine to fifteen:

9. ¶ Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.

10. For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour.

11. But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts.

12. For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

13. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.

14. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not:

15. So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.

I was looking through the chapter again yesterday morning I think it was, and verse twelve stuck out to me.  One thing I’ve learned to notice in the scriptures, is to look closely whenever the Lord lists things in a sequential list.  I’ve found that there can be some significance to that.

The things that will propser, specifically:

For the seed shall be prosperous;

the vine shall give her fruit,

and the ground shall give her increase,

and the heavens shall give their dew;

What I find interesting, is that it goes from the smallest to the largest, from those who have influence in their own realm, and those whose influence stretches far beyond themselves.

The spiritual application that I’m getting from this, is that all of us, from the smallest to the greatest, will be able to reach our potential.  To some, it is given to bring forth great things, and to some it is given to bring forth little.

I know there’s a lot of pressure sometimes, in a religious community, to expect more of ourselves than is possible.  In that realm of thought, I love the parable of the talents given to the servants (see Matthew 25:14-30).  To one servant, was given five talents, and to another two, and to another, one.  The lesson is that where much is given, much is required.  The Lord’s answer of “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” was the exact same to the servant who doubled his talents, regardless of his initial investment.  The Lord gives us all, and he expects all in return.

The last part of the verse is cool as well, and it illustrates how all of this is going to happen, in both a literal sense of economic, social and agricultural stability, but also spiritually and individually:

I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

The Lord prepares the people, He is the one that effects the change, and the reason we have the scriptures is so that we can know His will and how to change our lives.  This chapter just includes some of the promises that will come as people seek to do that.

I can certainly testify from my own experience that lots of personal growth comes from actually living the Gospel of Christ.  It’s difficult, but very rewarding.

Good stuff, I tell you.  I enjoy studying this stuff. :)

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Archives: isaiah’s writing styles

I’m still studying Isaiah in my spare time, when I can find it, and I’ve just had some really cool discoveries lately. I realize that these great findings of mine could easily be found by reading a commentary on the Book of Isaiah, but I prefer to locate them for myself — they have far greater meaning, and I won’t quickly forget them (or the experience of enlightment).

Just the other day, I think it was Monday, I was itching for some reason to sit down again and just read a little bit, and see if I could pick something up. It was a long day full of work and other crazy stuff, and by the time I had a second to do anything, it was midnight and I was ready to go to bed. But I flipped open my Bible casually, and just started at Isaiah 1. I won’t go into much detail of what I found, but while I was reading it, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me for a bit, and something just clicked in my brain. I recognized Isaiah’s writing style a little bit.

The chapter is written using a lot of groups of similar sayings. Nearly the entire chapter can be broken down using them. It’s really cool, and quite poetic, as I’m guessing that was the prophet’s intent. For a quick example, see verse 4, how he describes the people in four parts, then lists their actions in three parts following that:

  1. Ah sinful nation
  2. a people laden with iniquity
  3. a seed of evildoers
  4. children that are corrupters /
  5. they have forsaken the Lord
  6. they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger
  7. they are gone away backward

There’s examples like that all over.  Really cool.  For a quick recap of some of the important parts of the gospel, see v16-17, grouped in similar pairs:

  • cease to do evil / learn to do well
  • seek judgment / relieve the oppressed
  • judge the fatherless / plead for the widow

Anyway … none of that is what I wanted to write about right now, but it does give the background a bit to his writing style that I recognized while reading this morning, in Isaiah 2.

Again, the experience was nearly similar … I was just reading along, mostly for just interest and comfort, and I noticed all of a sudden that he uses pairs a lot, or repetition to say the same thing, but with different words.  It’s actually really helpful, because his writings can be really confusing sometimes, but if you notice that he’s saying the same thing twice, then you have a greater pool of comparison to draw from.

It starts in verse 3, and goes from there.  I only copied a few examples, because once you understand the principle, its really easy to see.

  • the mountain of the Lord / the house of the God of Jacob (v3)
  • he will teach us of his ways / we will walk in his paths (v3)
  • he shall judge among the nations / shall rebuke many people (v4)
  • they shall beat their swords into plowshares / their spears into pruninghooks (v4)

Another thing I picked up on is, often times after prophecies, he will give either his own testimony or an admonition or invitation to follow the Lord.  In that example, verse 5 does that: “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

I know it’s easy to read the Bible and it can sound like the Lord is just itching to blow us all to smithereens because we are wicked and going to hell.  The way I see it is that God is trying to tell us the natural consequences of our lives if we do not refrain from sin.

For example, if you are trying to teach your children not to run out in front of cars in the middle of the street, what kind of language do you use to stress the importance of the lesson to them?  You might do something like raise your voice, or use colorful descriptions to get the point across — if you get hit by a car, your brains will be splattered all over their dashboard, and your spleen will be on the curb … for example :).

Just the same way, the Lord is trying to warn us of the bad things, in a stressed tone, that will happen.  It’s not meant to scare or frighten us, just to communicate the seriousness of the consequences.

That was the spiritual lesson I was getting from reading Isaiah, chapter two.  I still think there’s something I’m mising from it overall, as I can feel it just out of reach, so I came here to write in my blog in an attempt to see if I maybe I could find it.  We’ll see, I suppose.

I did want to recount what I summarized the chapter’s lesson as, though.  Rather than try to describe it all over again, I’ll just copy verbatim what I put in my notes this morning:

Reading Isaiah 2, he warns against the proud quite a lot (v6-22), warning them what will happen at the time of the Second Coming.  I think Alma 12:14 summarizes it nicely: “we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.” [Note: read the whole chapter for clarity, I imagine my snippet probably doesn’t make much sense out of context to a visitor.  It’s part of a bigger sermon … he is discussing the wicked there, not all people everywhere.]

The message seems to be that, while they are rich in their worldly accounts (v7) and they have sought after a life of worldliness (v8), that when the the Lord comes, they will not be forgiven (v9), and they will in agony seek to separate them (the works of their hands) from themselves (v20-21).  The Lord will bring them all low, and He alone will be exalted, and destroy their riches, and their wicked works (the idols [represent] the results of their hands) (v17-18).

When we stand before the Lord, everything that we have sought [for] with worldly desires will mean nothing.

See also 2 Nephi 9:28-30Isaiah 2 is also the first chapter quoted by Nephi [in the Book of Mormon] (2 Nephi 12).

Okay, so a quick explanation about that last part — when Nephi, the first prophet-author of the Book of Mormon (an entire civilization is named after him, the Nephites) was writing, he included a lot of writings of Isaiah, since they had taken a contemporary copy of their scriptures with them when they left Jerusalem (600 B.C.).  So, they are a more ancient source of Isaiahs writings that we have, compared to the Bible.  The chapters are nearly exact, except that you can see very small snippets that were removed from the Bible text.  In every instance, the phrases shed a little light on the verses.  I’ll include some here, with the additions — or mormon sauce as my friend Josh calls it :) — in bold so you can see the differences.  They are small, but helpful.

  • 5. O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways.
  • 6. Therefore, O Lord, thou hast forsaken thy people, the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and hearken unto soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.
  • 10. O ye wicked ones, enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and the glory of his majesty shall smite thee.
  • 12. For the day of the Lord of Hosts soon cometh upon all nations, yea, upon every one; yea, upon the proud and lofty, and upon every one who is lifted up, and he shall be brought low.
  • 13. Yea, and the day of the Lord shall come upon all the cedars of Lebanon, for they are high and lifted up; and upon all the oaks of Bashan;
  • 14. And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills, and upon all the nations which are lifted up, and upon every people;
  • 16. And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
  • 19. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
  • 21. To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the majesty of his glory shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

Well, it looks like the stuff there unintentionally, for my part, focused on how the Lord is going to smite everyone.  Whoops. :)  More accurately, though, those that are really wicked and evil.

I think it’s interesting that the scriptures that were trimmed are ones that absolve the wicked of the fruits of their works, and downplay the coming of the Lord.  I hate saying something like that, because it sounds snotty, when really I’m just trying to document an intellectual curiosity.  But I also know from experience, that when I do something wrong, usually one of my first inclinations is to rationalize it away, so that my guilt will not be intense.  I don’t like holier-than-thou attitudes any more than the next person.  I need the help of Christ as much as the next man, if not more, because I know more, and am therefore more responsible.

Ah, anyway, good stuff.  I’m loving my good ole scripture study time.  It’s one of the few luxuries I have these days, with the little time I have available to me.  I know the Lord is trying to teach us important stuff in the scriptures, not just doomday prophecies.  You have to really dig to find the lessons, sometimes, but when you do, you appreciate them all the more.  It’s fascinating stuff, methinks. :)  Good times.

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Archives: studying isaiah

I’m still reading (well, re-reading) and studying the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament (King James Version, for the reference geeks).  I already finished my preliminary run-through of coloring the verses, and now I’m just going through it again trying to see if I missed anything or can understand the scriptures better.  This is the part I really don’t like.

It’s difficult to do a secular study sometimes, because it’s so easy to look beyond the mark.  I was reading a favorite commentary on the Old Testament the other day called The Fourth Thousand Years (by Cleon Skousen), and while I was reading, it occurred to me that I was studying the secular history of the people, the promises and the events that were to happen.  It kind of bothered me a little bit — not the text, but the discovery of what I was doing.  This is a difficult point to make, so I’m going to try and carefully explain it.  I believe there is great worth in studying the history, background, and relationships of the history in general surrounding the scriptures, but I do not believe that studying the gospel should be an academic exercise only.

One scripture that can help illustrate my point is Isaiah 6:8.  In this chapter, the prophet accounts his calling from the Lord.  It reads:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

I’m finding it hard to think of any real commentary that I can add to that.  One thing I like, that Skousen pointed out in his book, is that Isaiah didn’t know or ask what it was the Lord wanted him to go and do … and it didn’t matter to him.  He volunteered, and asked the Lord to put him to use.  I can testify that when we ask the Lord to use us in His service, He will.

Okay, well, I can’t think of a good ending to write up to that, and I have a *really* hard time writing up these posts.  I feel okay about the first part, but can’t come up with anything else, and in my experience it’s better in those cases to say nothing. :)

Edit: It occurs to me after walking away for a few moments that my sense of high expectations of self will only serve to keep me from writing any more similar posts in the future, so I think I’m going to go back to my usual mix of stream of consciousness mixed with an overall sense of not trying to offend anyone. :)

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