Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 25:19, 21-23

19 And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac:

21 And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the Lord.

23 And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

Isaac’s story only begins in earnest after Abraham has passed away. I have mentioned before that some people, such as Abraham, seem to have a story so expansive that it is necessary to get out from under their umbrella before one’s own narrative begins. Up until this moment the only word or action we heard from Isaac was when he walked through the field to meet Rebekah for the first time. Here, though, we learn that he, like his father, had a special relationship with God. Rebekah was unable to bear children, so Isaac spoke to the Lord for her sake, and God healed her.

That exchange sounds very simple. Evidently God was more than ready to heal Rebekah, but perhaps He waited for Isaac’s petition to start cultivating that God-Son relationship with him. Admittedly the relationship between God and Isaac is only briefly touched on in the Bible, not nearly so much as it was detailed with Abraham, his father, or as it will be with Jacob, his son.

However, we do get some special insights into God’s relationship with Rebekah. In these verses we read how she felt her twin children struggling in her womb, and went to inquire of the Lord why it was so. This already shows her quality of faith, believing that she could receive understanding for the simple matters of life. And indeed, she did. Long before the drama would play out between Esau and Jacob, Rebekah already knew from God what would happen and who would prevail over the other. Later on, when she helped Jacob to secure his father’s blessing, she was only helping him into the larger story that she already knew God intended for him.

Spiritual Analysis- Genesis 18:16-21

16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.

17 And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;

18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

20 And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;

21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.

I’m not sure if there are any other passages in the Bible that give as clear a picture into the mind of the Lord as this one does. We see how He weighs the quality of Abraham before telling Him that He will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

And this marks an important shift in the relationship between Abraham and God. This is God opening up to Abraham about His private plans, plans that deal with other people and not just Abraham. He is inviting Abraham to give Him his opinion, to counsel with Him, to be a partner and not just a servant. Jesus called out this exact sort of shift in relationship in John 15:15: “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends.”

And, as we will see tomorrow, Abraham does have counsel to offer. He will make a case to God, and God will take it very seriously because He respects Abraham’s opinion.

Optimism in a Falling World- Luke 6:32-35

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

COMMENTARY

If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
If ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again.

At times I have looked at the people around me and said “I don’t think it would be worth investing in this community. I’m only here temporarily. I could give my all to this place, but nothing lasting would come of it, so why try?” At other times I have tried…just once. I’ve invited my neighbors over for dinner, engaged them in some small talk, and if things took off we became friends…but if not, then I’d be polite, I’d smile and wave from across the street, but we would never become anything more than “acquaintances.”
Why would I try to have a relationship with someone if that relationship was not beneficial to me? Why would I engage with someone if there wasn’t something about them that was interesting or pleasant to me about them? What would be the point?

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Well thank goodness God doesn’t feel the same way! There isn’t a whole lot of value He can get out of His association with us either. Yet He spreads love to children that will never be able to pay Him back for the investment. He spreads love to children that don’t ever acknowledge what He does for them. He spreads His love to children that even label themselves as His enemies! He gives all of them breath and life and beautiful sunsets and depth of emotion and the offer of His peace.
God does not limit His love to the places that return a profit and neither should we. We should not decide our relationships based simply on what they can do for us. For even if this world was falling apart and beyond all reclamation, it would still be worthy for us to pour our love into it. For even if doing so did not have the desired effect on the world, it would still have the desired effect on us.

Leading to Water- Matthew 16:17, Matthew 19:17, John 16:7, 20 (NIV)

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.

COMMENTARY

Blessed art thou: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father in heaven
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God
Jesus was the literal son of God and only perfect being to walk the earth, yet even he urged his disciples to look higher than himself. He was stressing to them the importance of getting personally connected to the Maker, rather than trying to work through any secondary source.
Perhaps this was because Jesus spent his youth and early adult life getting to know his father before fully embracing his ministry and role as the savior (Luke 2:52). He was simply preaching what he had practiced.

It is for your good that I am going away. You will weep, but your grief will turn to joy
This next verse is very interesting. Jesus is informing his disciples that he will very soon leave this earthly realm, and he is saying that this is a good thing for them. At the time that might have seemed a very strange pronouncement, but he was able to see the bigger picture, and how much his disciples needed him to leave them.
Because while his disciples meant well, they were still using him as a crutch. This is made evident in how clueless they initially became after he did leave them. They didn’t know how to go on and tried to return to the life of lowly fishermen (John 21:3).
But as we see in the rest of their stories eventually they did reach their full maturity, and they only did it after Jesus’s ascension. They could only became the spiritual giants they were born to be after his departure, and so it truly was for their good that he was going away.

Leading to Water- Ether 3:1, 4, 6

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height, and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:
And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

COMMENTARY

The brother of Jared went unto the mount and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he cried again unto the Lord, saying: touch these stones with thy finger, that they may shine forth in darkness
Yesterday I examined how the brother of Jared came to the Lord with two problems: the vessels he had been commanded to build had neither light nor air. The Lord addressed the matter of getting air but turned the problem of light back to the brother of Jared.
And I think what the brother of Jared did next was very wise. He worked to make something special, refining rock until it became totally transparent. Surely with God’s omnipotence anything could have been made to glow, even the nearest patch of mud, but the brother of Jared wasn’t so disrespectful as to offer the Lord something like that. Instead he chose to bring the best that he could. He chose to put in personal effort and ingenuity until he could bring something special to the table. Then he asked for help to bring his offering the rest of the way.

And the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord.
The Lord turned the problem over to the brother of Jared and the brother of Jared put in real effort to solve it. It might seem a small thing, but this approach alters the relationship between God and man from being “Master and servant” to “partners.” The brother of Jared had entered a more intimate alliance with God and this was signified by the miracle of seeing his Maker’s finger. This is the sort of relationship that God is seeking with each of us as well.

Who Am I?- Genesis 1:27, Matthew 23:9, John 15:15, John 13:14, Mark 10:45

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

COMMENTARY

So God created man in his own image
For one is your Father, which is in heaven
But I have called you friends

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister
Tied up with the question of who we are is the question of our relationship to divinity. For if God created us, and Christ re-creates us, then who we are depends upon the interaction that we have with them.
I have heard it argued that many Christians come into trouble by trying to have the “wrong” relationship with God or Jesus. But I have heard that same argument being argued in both directions.

  • This generation wants to be all buddy-buddy with Jesus, and have forgotten He is their master.
  • The real problem is that you’re so concerned with fearing God, that you don’t have any more space for Him to love you!
  • You need to respect Christ, not be coddled by Him.
  • God’s grace is more abundant than most of us are comfortable accepting. He wants to save us, and we just need to let that in.

So which voice is correct? Who is God to us? Is He our creator or our father? Should we fear Him or worship Him? And who is Christ? A brother or a friend? A master or a servant?
Well, if the verses that I’ve shared above are any indication…all of the above. Divinity represents the most transcendent and complex beings in the universe. Would not our relationship with them have to be complex and multi-faceted as well?
The simple truth is that if we can only be friends with God, but never respect Him as our Lord, then our discipleship will suffer for it….And vice versa. And if we can only serve Christ, but never be served by Him, we’ll never reach that relationship’s full potential either….And vice versa.
But that’s where many of us are: only comfortable with a partial connection to divinity. I was always ready to serve a Lord and Master, but struggled to accept the love of a kindly friend. The solution was not for me to try to fence off those difficult parts of God, though, that would have handicapped me for the rest of my life. The only way to progress was to start opening myself to receiving all that my God, my Father, my Savior, my brother, my master, my minister, my friend, and my advocate have to offer.

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Personal Example

Of all the reasons why God’s children seek witnesses from Him, surely one of the most common is to know if He is even real. As small children we are able to accept the existence of God on authority, but over time we start to require greater proof. If I have not seen it, then how am I supposed to know that it is real?

We especially require greater proof if the thing is doubted by others. I have never seen Australia, but I have never met anyone that disputes its existence, so I don’t really struggle to believe that it exists. The existence of God, however, is most certainly disputed, and so a child that used to believe in Him without question, now wants a reason to continue doing so.

The trouble, of course, is that if you ask God if He is real and you do not receive an answer…have you received an answer? Is silence proof of non-existence? No, you cannot prove a negative.

A common next step is to say “well, I can only be expected to wait for an answer for so long. God, you need to tell me that you’re out there by this date, or else I’m out of here.” One might even have specific stipulations for how they need to be answered. “People in the Bible saw angels, so I want to see them, too.”

If God knows my heart, and this is what my heart needs to believe in Him, then surely He will meet me on those terms, right?

Well…no. If we cannot be faithful unless He manifests in the way that we want Him to manifest, then why would he do so? To win a conditional follower? A relationship does not work with stipulations like “speak to me, but only say these words.”

I have seen these frustrations in others, and I have felt them in myself. In my personal experience, “I will follow you if…” has never worked with God. That simply is not what He’s about.

What did work for me was deciding that I could follow Him in some ways whether or not He showed me that He was real. I wasn’t necessarily ready to do everything, but I could do some things. Thus I put forth an unconditional faith. It was small, but it was real. And when I did, He was willing to give me a witness of His existence. It was a witness that came on His terms and in His own way, but it was real.

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Revelation 3:15, Ether 12:6

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

COMMENTARY

I would thou wert cold or hot
Relationships can be positive or negative. We can be reaching for God, chasing after Him with a vibrant fire, or we can be steeling ourselves against Him, cold and bitter in our hearts. In either case, there is a connection, and our passion will be met with a response.
But what a relationship cannot be is tepid. If we feel indifferent towards something then we have no meaningful interaction with it. If you are idly sitting on the fence about God, apathetic about whether He exists or what He is like, it’s going to take a lot longer for Him to get your attention.

Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith
I held a spiritual apathy for many years. I was “okay” with God, and that was it. I did not try to push our relationship in any way. As such, I received no spiritual witness. But God loves us too much to leave us in a neutral state. So my life started to unravel, my faith revealed its limpness, and I felt truly miserable. Then there was no shortage of strong, even if conflicting, feelings towards God. I was both desperate for his reality, and frustrated at the life He had given me. It was then that I finally started to get some spiritual witnesses.
This process worked to get me started, but I have since realized that I have the power to instigate the trials of faith myself. They don’t only have to occur whenever something bad happens…they can also be when I try to do some new good thing. Whenever I stretch myself beyond my comfort zone and put myself on shaky ground, then God manifests Himself to me again.
So if you’ve been following God on autopilot and wonder why He hasn’t shown up for you, try doing something meaningful!

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Luke 11:5, 7-9, 13

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

COMMENTARY

Because of his importunity he will rise and give him
The parable of the friend at midnight is somewhat amusing. A neighbor comes, asking for food in the dead of the night. At first the homeowner refuses, but relents after some persistence from the neighbor. It is very similar to the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18, who nags an unjust ruler until he gives her what she wants, just to finally be rid of her.
Now the point of these parables is not to suggest that we should pester God into giving us things that He does not want to. You cannot nag Him into solving your every problem like a genie. Rather, Jesus is saying that even if flawed friends and rulers can be convinced to grant a correct desire, then certainly God will be even more willing to do so.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened
If ye know how to give good gifts: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

But even if God is willing, Jesus suggests that we still need to ask. I have found that God has had many spiritual blessings that He was ready to give me, but He wouldn’t do so until I asked for them. This is clever. For one thing, it fosters a relationship between He and I. To ask Him for something, I must be praying to Him, and thus I have a strong self-interest to talk to Him regularly, the very thing that He wants me to do.
Additionally, if I decide to ask Him for something, I often have a moment of checking in with myself. For example, if I am going to ask for a greater portion of the Holy Spirit, even before I get the words out I might realize that I am actively living in a way that offends it. Indeed, I have gone to God intending to ask why He was not manifesting Himself more in my life, but along the way changed it to asking forgiveness for shutting Him out myself.

Divided from God- Question

There is an interesting dilemma that many experience in the gospel. They are taught of a God that is ever-near, full of compassion, and able to be petitioned for one’s daily needs. These are beautiful and encouraging thoughts, ones that the inner soul desperately craves for.

However then there is this matter of a God unseen. Initially it can be hard to resolve the notion of an ever-present Father with the reality of never directly perceiving this entity. God appears to be lurking just out sight, only able to be guessed at, and never truly known.

It would seem that we have been consigned to a state of frustration, ever wanting to know God more, but lacking the capacity to have our fill of Him. And yet Jesus promised that we would, in fact, be able to be filled and never left wanting again. I have found this statement to be true, though it frankly surprised me that it was.

With this study I would like to explore how God discloses Himself by degrees to those that come seeking Him, and how He does so in unexpected ways. We will consider how He is able to meet our need for divinity, even while remaining behind a shroud. Finally we will seek to understand the reasons behind His methodologies, exploring the reasons for His perceived absence.

In the meantime, have you ever found yourself wishing for a more immediate connection with God? Did He ever answer that need, even if not in the way you expected? What advice can you offer for how a neophyte can maintain patience while waiting to know God better?