Lehi writes how Jacob was born “in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness.” (1)
This phrase makes me wonder about Lehi’s feelings after he took his family from Jerusalem. What must he have thought taking them from their comfortable position of wealth and status and leading them into a harsh wilderness?
He’d been commanded to leave and had wholeheartedly obeyed. But his family suffered—starving during the broken bow incident, thinking their sons had perished when they were sent back to Jerusalem for the plates, family discord, a perilous journey by sea. They lived crudely in tents for 8 years!
Why didn’t God make life easier for them, since they were keeping His commandments?
Lehi tells Jacob, his firstborn in the wilderness, that he “hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.” Yet Jacob knew the greatness of God.
Life doesn’t have to be easy or comfortable to have joy in our Redeemer. Even in our trials—maybe because of them—we can come to know the power and majesty of God.
Lehi gives a precious morsel of wisdom to his son.
And he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”1 Nephi 2:2
When we use the atonement of Jesus Christ to repent, we come to know God better. We gain a testimony of His greatness and mercy. That allows Him to consecrate all our suffering for our gain.
As a novel writer, I’ve come to realize that a great story and great characters emerge out of conflict. Lots of it. When a character experiences pain and suffering, their true nature is revealed. Their strengths. Their weaknesses.
So it is with us. God sent us here to prove to ourselves who we are. Our challenges reveal our strengths and weaknesses. If we’re smart, we will turn to Christ for help in overcoming our weaknesses or fatal flaws that could doom us otherwise. And we will plead for His enabling power to help us triumph over trials.
Though Jacob had been born and raised in adverse conditions, he had come to know God intimately. He had “beheld in [his] youth his glory.” (4)
Each of us can behold God’s glory when we turn to Him with a humble heart and repent of all that makes us unworthy of our perfect Lord. The more we learn about—and then use—the atonement, the more humble we become.
The Fall of Adam
Verse 5 outlines the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve.
- 1) No flesh was justified
- 2) Men were cut off from God—temporally and spiritually
- 3) They perished from that which was good
- 4) Man became miserable forever.
Scripture remind us of our fallen and helpless state, but is always followed by hope.
Because of the fall, “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. (6) Behold he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law (that made those effects above), unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (7)
This good news needs to be shared with all the inhabitants of the earth “that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.” (8)
Christ is the ONLY ONE who can save us.
He intercedes on our behalf, not because we are worthy, but because we believe Him.
Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.”1 Nephi 2:6
I find the wording interesting. Redemption cometh IN the Holy Messiah….and Redemption cometh THROUGH the Holy Messiah. What’s the difference between those 2 prepositions?
- 1) used as a function word to indicate inclusion, location, or position within limits. Plugging this verse into this definition, redemption ‘includes’ all fallen men, or Christ is the ‘location’ of redemption. He is the only one in a ‘position’ to redeem us.
- 2) used as a function word to indicate means, medium, or instrumentality; Christ is the ‘means, medium or instrument’ of redemption.
- 3) used as a function word to indicate limitation, qualification, or circumstance; We are redeemed IN Christ only within the ‘limits’ of repentance. We must ‘qualify’ to be redeemed (at least for the spiritual part);
- 4) used as a function word to indicate purpose; Christ’s whole ‘purpose’ is to redeem mankind from death (without limitation) and to sanctify us (through the qualifying merits of repentance, showing we want to be saved)
- 1) used as a function word to indicate movement into and out of a treatment, this would indicate that Redemption is a transformation. Before it, we are a natural man; after being redeemed, we are a new creature in Christ.
- 2) used as a function word to indicate means, agency, or intermediacy: it implies a relationship—for example, related ‘through’ their grandfather. Redemption guarantees us a relationship with Christ—for everyone, as He saves all mankind from the effects of the fall and physical death. We will all stand before God again to be judged.
- 3) used as a function word to indicate exposure to a specified set of conditions; Redemption ‘exposes’ all of us to a new set of conditions that overcome the conditions thrust upon us by the fall of Adam.
- 4) used as a function word to indicate completion or approval; Christ ‘completes’ us through His atonement.
The Savior is described as full of grace and truth.
What is grace?
The Bible Dictionary says: Grace is the help or strength given through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the grace of God, everyone who has lived will be resurrected—our spirits will be reunited with our bodies, never again to be separated. Through His grace, the Lord also enables those who live His gospel to repent and be forgiven.
The key words I picked out were HELP, STRENGTH, ENABLE.
- Grace helps us overcome our fallen nature.
- Grace strengthens us to do all that God wants us to do.
- Grace enables us to repent, which takes the action of faith to achieve.
Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.”2 Nephi 2:7
We have hope of not being miserable forever. Christ gave Himself up for a sacrifice for sin; He answered the demands of justice that we could not—no matter how good we lived or how hard we worked. We never would’ve been able to appease justice. But He did.
I love that God requires a broken heart and contrite spirit. God loves broken things, because He can make them whole.
What does it mean to have a broken heart?
One idea I had was that our hearts must break with the knowledge of how powerless we are to access God’s presence alone. We absolutely need Christ. He is the ONLY way back to the Father. Knowing these truths break our hearts, bringing us to our knees.
Lehi tells his son that Christ’s atonement is the only one way back to God—
…there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.” / “Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.”2 Nephi 2:8-9
To intercede means to try to help settle an argument or disagreement between two or more people or groups: to speak to someone in order to defend or help another person. Christ is the only One who can settle the demands of both justice and mercy—the two parties grappling for our souls—and redeem us.
What we need to do to receive His intercession and be saved is to “believe in him.” (9) Some in the world translate this to mean we only have to say the words: I believe in Christ. After that, they don’t think it matters what we do…as long as we say we believe. But truly believing in our Savior goes far beyond mere words we might spout out in church.
When we believe something, our actions align with that conviction. If we truly believe in Christ, we will follow Him, heed His commandments, want to please Him, not want to add to the cruelty He suffered on the cross retroactively, or mock His atonement by willfully doing our will instead of His.
Believing Christ means to submit our wills to Him. We want to keep His commandments, because we know they are good. We want to serve Him and our fellowmen, because we know He did the same. We want to repent daily, to have His Spirit with us in all we do…so we will recognize Him when He returns again, because we will be like Him.
Because of Christ’s atonement, all men (wicked and good) will return to the presence of God to be judged of Him. The Fall of Adam cut men off from God. Christ’s atonement fixes that and brings us back.
We will “stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him.” (10)
If we have willfully disobeyed God, it will be painful and uncomfortable to stand in His presence. How much better it will be if we can stand before Him knowing we aren’t perfect, but believing that Christ, standing beside His Father, will intercede on your behalf because you have lived your life for Him. His perfection becomes ours through His infinite grace and mercy.