Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:33-36

33 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 

34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years.

35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.

36 And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.

Joseph not only interprets the dream, now he provides the solution to its problem, too. If the seven years of plenty came and no one knew that it would be followed by seven years of famine, who knows but whether they would live in rich indulgence, consuming all that they wished and selling the excess for riches, which would all do them little good when their storehouses were empty and their bellies ached. But, they do know better now, and these seven years of plenty can be years of preparation.

Joseph’s plan illustrates how incredible the harvest in the seven years of plenty will be, given that a mere fifth of each year’s yield will be enough to survive a corresponding year of famine. In fact, enough to survive and still have extra grain to sell to starving neighbors. God is providing all the resources that they need and more, if they only have the wisdom to make use of it.

This is Joseph’s counsel to Pharaoh, and it is worth noting that he is, indeed, counseling Pharaoh. To me this seems a very bold maneuver on his part. He had been summoned only to interpret a dream, and he had fulfilled that, but then, unbidden, he ventured to tell Pharaoh how to do his own job. But as we will see in the next verses, Pharaoh was not offended by Joseph’s boldness at all. On the contrary, he was delighted just to have found one who had such clarity and vision.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 35:1

1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.

After Simeon and Levi’s slaughter of the men of Shechem, things were very precarious for Jacob. For all he knew all of the surrounding clans would retaliate and destroy them. In this difficult moment God appeared to Jacob and told him that it was time to pack everything up and once again leave for a new home.

Previously he had been instructed broadly, telling him to return to the land of Canaan. Now he is instructed specifically, telling him to go to the patch of land where he had the vision of a ladder ascending to heaven. It was there that God had first promised to be with him.

I believe there is an important principle for us here about God’s directions beginning broad and becoming specific. Very rarely do we receive a clear, step-by-step plan from beginning to end. Much more common is that we prove ourselves willing to follow partial instructions, and later receive the fullness. We have to have faith that unaccounted elements will, in time, be accounted for, and they will. Jacob had proved willing to return to the land of his father and face Esau, so now he was entrusted to take the next step, too.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:9-13

9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.

10 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son.

11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.

12 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son.

13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.

Leah bore children, Rachel couldn’t so she had Bilhah bear children, and now Leah has her maid Ziplah bearing children, too. As I mentioned before, Rachel had to adapt to the unknown, and now we have Leah changing tactics, too.

And as for Jacob, all he had sought was one wife but now he had four! No doubt his life was a world away from anything he expected it would be while he was still living in his father’s household.

And what stands out to me out of all this is the futility of human plans. It frankly doesn’t matter what any of us think is going to happen in our lives, what will occur is only what God has already laid out for us. Even those who deny God’s purposes for themselves end up playing into His larger plan anyway.

It’s a hard thing to fully give up the reins to God, in fact that’s something I realize I still struggle with to this day. But if He’s the one calling the shots anyway, then life will feel a whole lot smoother as soon as I give up the illusion of control and just go with God’s flow.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 6:14-16, 19, 22

14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.

22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

God did not simply tell Noah to “build an ark.” God laid out for Noah a very specific plan for it, describing the dimensions, the placement of windows and doors, and that it should be divided into three stories. This was, therefore, a joint effort between God and Noah, and each of them was essential for its completion. God was the architect and Noah was the constructor. Without God there would have been no plan to follow and without Noah there would have been no execution of that plan.

Of course sometimes God is more explicit in His directions and sometimes He leaves the finer details up to us. But in either case, all of us were meant to work in collaboration with Him. The natural reaction to hearing a story like Noah’s is to wish that God had a plan like that for us, to be given a great calling, and to have a work to do in partnership with God, Himself.

And according to Paul (1 Corinthians 12), that is exactly what God wants for us, too! We are all meant to be a part of the plan.

Optimism in a Falling World- Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 55:8-9

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

COMMENTARY

God is not a man, that he should lie; hath he said, and shall he not do it?
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. My ways are higher than your ways

Sometimes a friend might ask me to join a cause and I don’t have faith in it. Usually this is because I can see flaws in the design, or I question his motives, or because even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. We are imperfect humans, and many of the plans we conceive of are complete folly, unworthy of trust and faith from others.
And sometimes I think we take the skepticism we have for the plans of men, and we bring it into our view of God’s plans as well. We hear bold claims in the gospel like how Jesus came to save the entire world (John 3:16, John 12:46-47) and it sound incredible. We are invited to be a part of that work and are told that by small and simple things we may have a tremendous effect in this world (Alma 37:6-7) and it sounds impossible.
We hear such tremendous, sweeping claims and we struggle to believe in them because we are so acquainted with tremendous, sweeping claims ending in utter failure. It goes against all the ways of this world to trust in a plan that is so grand. But of course, when we hold this skepticism it means we are viewing God and His capabilities as being the same as that of man. And as today’s verses firmly attest “God is not a man.” The same limitations do not apply to Him, nor to us when we act in His cause.

Optimism in a Falling World- Moroni 7:40-42

And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.

COMMENTARY

How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope? If a man have faith he must needs have hope
In my previous post I spoke of the need for faith, and how it is to be exercised before we even see the path to success. Faith is not founded upon knowledge. As these verses suggest, it is founded upon hope. For while we may not know how good will triumph over evil and a lost soul will be saved, to act in faith we must hope that these things can and will happen. God does not unveil to us His master plan, but He often does show us a corner of it, enough so that we can have hope in the rest.

And what is it that ye shall hope for? Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal
And as with my last post, our hope is not meant to be founded upon anything earthly or mortal. Frankly what makes us believe in the salvation of mankind is not what we see in mankind, only what we see in God.
This verse speaks of having hope in the atonement and the resurrection, in being brought from this fallen state to one of eternal life. And first of all we are meant to have that hope of reclamation for ourselves. Then, when we feel the reality of it, we are meant to have that hope for all our fellow man as well. For if I was once able to be so lost, yet was found, then these others are not beyond hope either.

Divided from God- 2 Nephi 2:24-25, Matthew 6:8

But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

COMMENTARY

All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things
Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him
We have already discussed how in this fallen world we feel a strange strain, one where need God’s presence, but lack the ability to commune with Him directly. Not only this, but also we are a soul divided, some parts of us craving for divinity and others for debauchery.
It is natural to wonder why are we divided so? Why is our spirit so willing, but our flesh so weak? Why do we search for God but do not see Him? Why can’t it all be more straightforward?
It is a strange, fallen world we live in, but perhaps we can take solace in the knowledge that this is how it is supposed to be. God simply would not have let us come here unless it was for our own good. God knows what we need even before we do, and provides what is good for us.
Perhaps we cannot fully understand why. Perhaps we do not need to. In the end all that we need to do is accept that God god “knoweth all things,” and that what He has orchestrated has been “done in wisdom.”

Service to Others- Personal Example #3

Why is it that we don’t do the things we know will make us happy? I’m sure each one of us could write a long list of things we wish we did on a regular basis…but just don’t. Most recently I’ve been noticing my own shortcomings in being social, giving others my time and attention, and finding ways to serve them. I don’t doubt that I will be a better person and find joy in doing these things, and yet I put them off even so.

As I’ve considered my situation, I’ve noticed that it is following the same pattern as a past experience I had. For the last several years I struggled to get into a regular exercise regime. I would start-and-stop over and over, flurries of intense workouts and then long doldrums of absolutely nothing. But then, a little more than a year ago, the struggle stopped. Today I run every workday during my lunch break, and if I happen to miss, I do aerobics at home in the evening.

Find Your Own Way)

What made the difference? Well one thing was finding my way of doing exercise. Early morning running might be great for some people, but it wasn’t for me. Leaving it until the evening never worked either, because after a long workday all I wanted to do was relax. Each time I chose a workout plan and it failed I would get disheartened and stop trying for months. But by trial and error I finally found something that worked.

It has been the same with reaching out to our neighbors. A little while ago my wife and I tried inviting a different family over for dinner every week. It went great for a little while, but it wasn’t sustainable as Summer vacations ate up so much of our schedule. Having people over for dinner is still something I want to do regularly, but I’m now adding quick cookies-and-chats visits as a fallback because they work more constantly.

You Enjoy What You Are Good At)

The other lesson I’ve learned is that when I say I do not like something, what I might really mean is that I am not good at it. For the longest while I was convinced that I hated running. But as I persevered, I found I enjoyed it more and more because I was getting better at it. During those first runs I would jog for five minutes, get winded, have to walk, try running again, get winded even sooner…it was embarrassing, so of course I “didn’t like it.” No one enjoys that experience.

Socially it is the same. At the start of my mission I was terrible at talking to people, but after being constant interaction with them all day I really got quite a bit better. Now I haven’t maintained that skill, but I know I can get it back with practice.

I think this is the same thing that keeps so many people inside of their shells. So many of us don’t know how to talk to people at first, so the experience is awkward, and of course we don’t like it. But there is a surefire way to get better at anything you want. By doing it. Yep, it’ll be awkward, stilted, and embarrassing for the first while. But then you’ll get better, and then it’ll be fun.

God’s Plan)

“Seek and ye shall find” still requires seeking. To “take his yoke upon us” is lighter than trying to do things on our own, but it is still a burden. I think many of us expect the way to be clean and paved for us when we do God’s work, but that would prevent us from having any growing experiences.

So yes, have confidence that you will succeed, that you will see miracles, and that God will show up for you. But temper that with the knowledge that it will take effort, that you will fail and have to pick yourself back up again, and that you will have to grow to make it. And then, with both those sides in mind, also remember that it will all be worth it in the end.

Our Dual Nature- 2 Nephi 2:22-25

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

COMMENTARY

Having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin
It is true that one cannot see in pitch darkness. But also one cannot see in blinding light. Vision only works by varying degrees of contrast between the two. Damnation can be living in a state of suffering, but it can also be living in a state of complete numbness. At its root damnation means simply to never progress, and one cannot progress if there do not exist both forces and opposite forces. It is only in the interplay of these contrasting forces that an entity is able to move, to turn, to reach a destination.

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy
All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things
If Adam fell to allow our existence, and our existence is to come to God and find everlasting joy, then Adam fell for our everlasting joy. This suggests that this world of good and evil was always part of the plan. Personally that brings me a great deal of comfort. It means that the path of humanity never wandered outside of God’s agenda.
It also means that my being born with flaws was not a flaw in the system. I was intended to be imperfect, so that I could grow from wrestling with those imperfections. It is a struggle, to be sure, but it is made a little bit lighter by knowing that it is supposed to be a struggle.

Sow and Then Reap- Matthew 9:36-38, John 4:35, 37-38

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.

COMMENTARY

The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few
One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour
Yesterday I examined an individual interpretation of a field being sowed and reaped, but I would be remiss to pass over the more universal meaning Jesus stressed on more than one occasion. The harvest he refers to in these passages is clearly that of bringing God’s children back to Him. It is the work of ministry.
And this isn’t just any harvest, it is one that has extended over millennia, with multiple stages of development. In this work we not only work shoulder-to-shoulder with Peter and Paul, but even Abraham and Moses.

Other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours
God has been staging this work since the very beginning of this world. He has had a specific plan directing which of His servants were called to plant, to nurture, and to reap. Moses was not to called to free the world, only the Hebrews. That sapling had been considerably wounded, and for a time required exclusive care before it could branch out further.
It was not until much later that Peter received a command that now was the time for the Gentiles to receive the Good News. A common criticism of Christianity is that the rules around it have changed throughout the years. Yet we do not question a farmer who keeps infant plants in small pots, then later integrates them into the broader field. It’s just doing what is called for at the time.

Countless disciples have worked tirelessly throughout the ages to ensure a bounteous harvest. They did their part well, for which service all of us have been made the beneficiaries.
Now the torch has been passed on to us. Our duty is to see that all the sacrifices of those that came before do not go to waste. The Lord has never rescinded the commandment to reap. We know the harvest ends soon, and it wouldn’t do to leave any fruit out there to spoil!