Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chapter 1 - Deliver

One day while attending Church meetings at the Juvenile Detention Center, we sang I Am A Child of God.  It is a favorite of the kids' even though we don't often see any LDS youth there.  You can imagine that I’ve heard that sweet song often.  A while back though, I heard the words afresh, with new meaning.  The second verse includes this line: …”help me to understand His words….”  As I listened with my spiritual ears I heard an admonition to use the dictionary more often so I could better understand what God was trying to tell me.  Since that time, I’ve kept a dictionary with my scriptures and refer to it often.  On the very day that I felt admonished to use the dictionary, an extraordinary discovery came while applying that prompting.  Let me share it with you here.

I  was reading in the 58th Chapter of Alma in The Book of Mormon.  Here Helaman and his Stripling Warriors are among the Nephites at war with the Lamanites.  They are charged with reclaiming land and cities captured by the Lamanites.  They are poorly provisioned, out manned, exhausted from months in battle and they are outside formidable fortifications.  Things looked woefully bleak.  Then in verse ten we read:
10  Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God that he would strengthen and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies….
11  Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.
12  And we did take courage….
13  And thus we did go forth…
 They did go forth and were victorious and did so without any loss of life among their small army.
There are great lessons in this story. 

  1. They pled for deliverance from their enemies.  They had learned the lesson of Mosiah 7:33  “But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, HE will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.”

  2. God visited them with assurance and peace.

  3. God granted unto them great faith.  Faith is a gift from God not something we have to conjure up out of our own resources.

  4. They went forth.  Out numbered and exposed as they were, they exercised the faith and assurance they were granted and went into battle.

  5. They were delivered.
While studying this I was impressed to look up the word deliver in the dictionary.
Four definitions stood out in my mind:

  1. to set free or liberate: The Israelites were delivered from bondage.
  2. to release or save:  The Savior delivers us from the bondage of sin.

  3. to assist at the birth of: The doctor delivered the baby.  The Savior delivers us into a new life when we are born again.

  4. to carry and turn over (letters, goods, etc.) to the intended recipient or recipients: to deliver mail; to deliver a package.
 These all have important application to the story and to our lives.  One, in particular, really stood out to me on that day.  You see, I had just finished a career as a UPS driver.  I knew all about the 4th definition.  “That’s me!”, I thought, “That’s what I do!”

 I had recently purchased a fairly expensive telescope from a business in New York.  It had been shipped UPS.  I was confident that I would receive it in one piece and in a timely manner.  Having said that you must understand that I knew full well what would happen to the package as it traveled from New York to Utah.  I imagined that it was picked up by the driver in New York on a hot afternoon.  He is tired, hot and ready to finish his day.  His deadlines are pressing and he’s in a hurry.  He loads it on his truck with a gentle toss.  While hurrying down the road a bicycle messenger cuts him off and he slams on the brakes.  My package falls off the shelf and two or three others follow, landing on top of it.  It arrives at the Center and his unloader tosses it onto the conveyor and it travels through a sort system where it is shoved here and there by machines, climbs ramps, slides down chutes, hangs up on a corner and gets slammed by a following package coming down the chute.  It gets crammed into a semi trailer and a 70 pound package is stacked on top of it.  Then it rumbles over less than smooth roads for a couple of days until it reaches Illinois and runs through another rough sorting process. Another truck, another sort in Salt Lake City.  Another truck and another sort in my home town.  Then as it’s rumbling along in the package car here in town, a kid darts out in front of the driver.  Brakes again are applied abruptly and my precious package takes another hit as it falls from the shelf.  It is delivered with a smile and back slapping from a good old buddy.

I opened the box and found a box within the box.  Lots of careful packing.  My telescope was in fine shape.  On time and in one piece.

Now imagine, if you will, the person who shipped the telescope.  He too knew the journey would be fraught with possible mishaps.  He took care to package it well, up to UPS standards.  You see, UPS knows the perils attendant with the speed and efficiency we require and invites us to assist in the process by packaging our precious things well. The merchant then labels it properly and commends it to the care and keeping of the delivery company.  That act, especially, when shipping something expensive or irreplaceable requires a good deal of trust.  Just like the Nephites, as they went forth to confront the Lamanites, had to trust God to deliver them.  This kind of delivery is all about trust.  If we look at either circumstance with a critical eye, success doesn’t seem very likely.  That’s why God was willing to visit the Nephites with assurances and peace and grant unto them great faith.  It’s kind of like UPS publishing data on their on-time, one-piece delivery success and following that up with insurance and guarantees.

I thought it would be fun to use this example to help the kids at the Detention Center learn to trust God and to let him deliver them from the often horrendous problems they face.  As I was pondering that lesson, another example from the scriptures flooded my mind.

The story of the Jaredites in the Book of Ether is a classic case of God delivering His people.
Jared and his brother lived at the time of the Tower of Babel.  Indications are that the entire community was, in some way or other, involved in building the tower to get to heaven.  The Tower of Babel was a mammoth undertaking by anyone’s standards.  One apocryphal account says it would take a laborer an entire year to haul one load of bricks to the top.  So intent on building the tower and reaching their goal were they, that they mourned the loss of a brick more than the loss of a life.

God, wanting to stop such foolishness, decided to stop their progress on the tower by confounding their language so they could no longer cooperate on their gigantic undertaking.  Jared besought his brother to plead for God’s intervetion in hopes of keeping the language of they and their close associates, the same.  God grants their desire and commands them to depart to another place where he has prepared for them a Promised Land.  They do so and make barges to travel to a new destination.  The account isn’t sufficiently clear to predict where all of these events take place and there are various opinions about what direction the Jaredites travelled.  Let me use just one, not as an argument for a particular course of travel, so much as for the sake of illustration.

They made two voyages on water.  Let us suppose that they sailed the length of the Mediterranean Sea and found themselves on the beach somewhere on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula.  This seemed to be a nice place to settle.  And settle they did, for a period of four years.  At this point God comes and rebukes the Brother of Jared for failing to pray.  Here we have a man who has previously spoken with God, been miraculously saved and guided by Him and given so many wonderful blessings.  How is it that he has not prayed for four long years?

 I suspect he has prayed.  I suspect he blessed the food and had family prayer.  I suspect that he has gone through the formality of prayer.  What he has not done, and I surmise this from my own personal experience, is enquire of the Lord.  He has not asked God, what God wants him, the Brother of Jared, to do.  I suspect that upon arriving on the Atlantic shore, the Brother of Jared had a pretty good idea that the Promised Land was on the opposite side of that great sea.  I suspect that the prospect of crossing that huge body of water was daunting to say the least.  It would have been rather easy for him to figuratively, turn his back on the water and say, “This is nice spot, lets settle right here.”  How often to we do this in our lives.  How often do we fear the unknown and find ourselves unwilling to look at it, let alone talk it over with God.

Anyway, continuing with the story, the Brother of Jared, duly rebuked, repents and accepts God’s assignment to cross the ocean.  God instructs him to build more barges.  Barges that are water tight and can be periodically submerged in violent seas, while protecting their occupants.  They are directed to build eight of them.  They’ll have no windows.  They’ll be stocked with provisions to last a year.  They have no rudder or means of propulsion.  There will be no radio or telephone from one ship to another.

Lets stop a moment and consider this.  You are there.  You are helping build and provision these unusual craft.  You begin to think about what you are being asked to do.  Will you willingly climb inside, shut yourself in and commend your life to God?  Will you trust him to deliver you across this great deep to an unknown place at an unknown time, without your having any control over the situation, at all?  It’s sort of like putting yourself in a box and letting UPS take you wherever they want to deliver you.  And remember you’ll be in the box for 344 days.  Many of your loved ones will be in other boxes.  Will they also arrive safe and sound and at the same destination?  Deliver implies an act of will on the part of the one being delivered.  The Jaredites chose freely to climb into the barges.  God could not compel them to do it.  If He had He'd have interfered with their agency; some thing He will not do.

Are you with me here.  Do you comprehend the magnitude of what God was asking these people to do?  One more time, would you willingly climb into one of those boats?

While you’re deciding, remember the army of Helaman.  They prayed fordeliverance and before they went forth, God visited them with assurances, Gideon’s fleece, if you will, and He granted unto them great faith.  He did the same for the Jaredites.  He made sixteen small inert stones to shine forth with light to comfort and assure them while in the boats, while on the journey.  All they had to do to remind themselves of God’s goodness and companionship was to look at those impossibly illuminated, illuminating stones.

It think it is very significant that the story of the Jaredites’ passage across the sea is set in the same context as the story of the Tower of Babel.  First lets clarify that there is very little difference in the story between the meaning of heaven in the tower story and the meaning of the promised land in the Jaredite story.  For the lesson’s purposes they are one and the same.

In one story the people are trying to reach God (heaven or the promised land) on their own steam.  In the other God wants them to quit trying to deliver themselves and allow Him to do the delivering.  Is it not also true with us?
I have been active in the church all of my life.  Most of that time however, I was spending my efforts trying to deliver myself.  In effect I was building a tower with which to convey myself to Heaven.  I was stacking up bricks of my good deeds.  There were Home Teaching bricks, tithing bricks, genealogy bricks, etc., all calculated to build a tower big enough to get me to heaven.  My efforts were just as foolish and just and rediculous as those industrious efforts of long ago.  God, in his loving kindness, knowing my folly, confounded my efforts.  He knew if I continued, I would likely continue my self deception.  Finally, failure forced me to turn to Him.  I had long been afraid to.  His way seemed too frightening.  My pride didn’t want to relinquish control.  I simply didn’t trust Him.  I wanted to get to Heaven, but I wanted to go there on my terms, not His.

I am thankful beyond expression, to God, whose loving kindness, confounded my foolishness.  To a loving Father who has visited me with assurances, spoken peace to my heart and granted unto me great faith, I express my love and gratitude.  I have surrendered to his will and under his direction, have climbed into the box of trust and commended myself to His loving care and keeping.

While giving that lesson to those wonderful kids at the Detention Center, one of the kids, thoughtfully asked this question, “It wasn’t clear sailing after they got in the boats, how do we survive the storms, waves and buffeting of life?”

My telescope survived the difficult passage because it was covered in armor.  We too must put on the Armor of God.  I won’t go into a lengthy dissertation on that wonderful metaphor, except to tell you what the Spirit taught me on that day in prison.  All my life I have thought that I must forge my own armor.  I must make the shield, helmet, sword, boots and breastplate.  As with my tower, I was trying to hammer out my own protection.  As I read those wonderful passages in Ephesians I discovered that I am to put on God’s armor, not my own.  He is the source of the truth.  He it is, who has forged the breast plate, by His righteousness.  I am not righteous.  The preparation of the gospel is the Atonement, which He has finished.  We’ve already discovered that He grants us Faith, which is our shield.  If we are willing to enter into His covenant, He places His helmet of salvation upon our heads.  And the sword of the Spirit is His word.

How foolish I have been.  All these years I’ve been trying to get outside the box.
We don’t go home teaching, or pay our tithing, or do our genealogy to earn a place in Heaven.  We do those things and other things the Spirit directs because we love Him and want to serve Him.  We do those things as an expression of gratitude.  We do those things because we’ve offered Him our will, we’ve climbed inside the boat.
am a child of God and He has sent me here.  Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.  I am a child of God and so my needs are great.  Help me to understand his words, before it grows to late.  I am a child of God, rich blessing are in store.  If I but learn to do his will, I’ll live with Him once more.  Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.  Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him some day.

Suggestions:  In a good Dictionary look up a few words from the scriptures in this chapter, words like:  commend, trust, armor and confound.  Ponder their meaning in the context of the scriptures and see if Heavenly Father has enlightenment there for your life.

1 comment:

  1. VERY moving. I felt the spirit so strongly. Keep writing, you have a talent and a power in the written word. I will definately be reading more of these chapters when I have the time.