Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 17:7, 9-10, 14

7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

The promises that God had for Abraham were not for Abraham only. In order for the promises to come true, they would need to be reiterated to all of Abraham’s willing descendants. Abraham wasn’t going to have a nation of children immediately in the next generation, so his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond would all have to be included in the promise of raising a great nation and possessing the land of Canaan.

This is a very special sort of perpetual blessing. Usually when I think of a promise from God what comes to mind is a personal thing. I receive my promises from God and you receive yours, and just because God gives one person one thing does not mean He is likely to give the same thing to someone else. But, evidently, sometimes a promise from God is made to a group, or even to an entire line of posterity.

And this is a foreshadowing of the New Testament covenants that Jesus would later introduce. Covenants that would be offered even more liberally, to the entire human race instead of just one family line!

Though not necessarily all of Abraham’s descendants were going to be part of his covenant, and not necessarily all of humanity will be part of the New Testament covenants either. All of Abraham’s descendants could be, but it would depend upon them showing God a specific sign, which was being circumcised, and following a specific law. And the New Testament covenants are also fully entered into by showing God certain signs, such as baptism, and by following Jesus’s higher law.

Leading to Water- Genesis 32:9, 11, 24, 28

And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

COMMENTARY

And Jacob said, O God, Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children
Over the past two days I have shared how Jacob entered into a covenant with the Lord in his moment of want and began a partnership with him. From that foundation he gradually accumulated the family, the wealth, and position that would define him. Together with God, Jacob had found himself.
But then, after he had gained so much, he came to a moment where he might lose it all again. Esau, his brother, had previously sworn to kill Jacob, and was now approaching with a battalion of men.
Jacob was in danger of losing everything that he had gained, and not only that, but even of losing the little he had always had, even his own life. In this moment of desperation he once again turned to God and petitioned for help.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God.

On the eve of meeting his brother and receiving his judgment Jacob was left in total solitude. He was alone with his fears, and here he had another miraculous encounter with God. This one was a bit different more active than the vision he received in his sleep, though! This time he physically wrestled with the Lord, just as he had been wrestling with his fears.
And while I do not know the exact state of Jacob’s mind, I can personally see how in the moment of great duress I would benefit from a moment of exertion and struggle, a time to get out my fearful energy before the calming reassurance was given.
Ultimately Jacob prevailed and his request for preservation was granted. Not only this, but he grew even more fully into his true identity. He proved worthy of a new name, one that would define both him and the nation that issued forth from him.

Our Own Reality- Exodus 8:25, 28, 30-32

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
Only ye shall not go very far away: entreat for me.
And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord.
And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

COMMENTARY

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Pharaoh was a man who constantly bounced between the fear of God and an insistence to have his own way. When Moses first demanded that Pharaoh let the Israelites go he countered by having his own priests replicate the miracles being shown to him. Rather than accept the sovereignty of Jehovah, he was able to still rely on his own gods.
But then things began to escalate. Plagues arose that his priests could not counter nor reproduce. Having no alternative, he was forced to accept the reality that the Hebrew God was the only one who could be entreated for relief. And so he relented, in order that he could get the reprieve he desired.
But though he had come to accept a new reality in his mind, he was not converted to it in his heart. Rather he tested the Lord’s patience by recanting his promises, refusing to let the Israelites go, even after he had said that they could.
Yesterday we considered how we can be reluctant to fully embrace the reality that is staring us right in the face. Pharaoh is an excellent example of this. Like him, sometimes we try to have our cake and eat it, too. We point to God’s reality with one hand, but also hold to our own reality with the other. Of course things didn’t work out very well for Pharaoh when he tried this, and it won’t work for us either.

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- Matthew 7:7, Malachi 3:10, 1 Corinthians 14: 1 (ESV)

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

COMMENTARY

Ask, and it shall be given you
Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing
When it comes to spiritual witnesses, some might feel that it is inappropriate to ask for them. “Do not test the Lord” we are frequently reminded. Yes, there certainly are things that are inappropriate for us to ask, such as for God to grant our every passing fancy. But when it comes to spiritual blessings, we are not only sanctioned to pursue these, we are encouraged to!