This chapter tells about a man named Sherem. This is some years after Jacob’s preaching in the previous chapters. Sherem appears, seeking to “overthrow the doctrine of Christ.” (2) He “labored diligently that he might lead away the hearts of the people…” (3) and he was successful.
Isn’t it interesting that Sherem labored diligently?
God and His prophets often use those same words to encourage us to do good. Satan works just as hard to get his followers to labor diligently as well. Because of this opposition, we cannot be casual in our relationship with God.
Wolf disguised as a Sheep
The enemy is never satisfied, even when Sherem gains many hearts. He “sought much opportunity that he might come unto me.” (3) He wanted to corrupt the source of true doctrine—Jacob, their living prophet and leader.
Jacob describes the power Sherem has, but then clearly states the source.
And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil.”Jacob 7:4
The devil gave Sherem the ability to appear as a sheep, even though he was really a ravenous wolf. He gave him marvelous ability to use flattering words and charm to seduce the people away from God’s strait and narrow path. He gave Sherem power to twist words for evil to deceive and confuse those that were sitting on the fence spiritually.
Don’t ever underestimate the devil’s power. Making light of him or reducing him to a powerless being brings him much delight. He can do so much more harm when we don’t take him seriously. He loves nothing more for us to view him and his followers as harmless sheep
In opposition to the devil, there is our God, who is mightier than Satan can ever dream of being. He is called The Good Shepherd because he loves His sheep. He created the earth and heavens and has power to control them. But He will never control us.
I think that’s why we need to take the devil seriously. He WILL try to control us and force his way into our lives. That’s why his power is something not to brush aside or ignore. We must faithfully engage in righteousness and choose to follow the Good Shepherd every day, because the second we let down our guard, the wolves will be there, forcing their way into our thoughts, planting doubts, stirring up negative feelings, and doing everything in their power to chip away at our love for God, our fellowmen, and ourselves.
Don’t be casual
Jacob is not lax in his relationship with God. He had many revelations and had seen angels. He’d heard God’s voice, so his faith could not be shaken.
- Do I hear God’s voice in my life?
- If not, what can I do to listen better?
The devil and his followers work tirelessly (diligently, even!) to shake us from our faith. If they can plant one doubt, one fear, one offense, they rejoice. The key to not being shaken is to have our faith firmly built upon Christ, our foundation. The more we know about Him, the more we come to love and trust Him. The more we trust Him, the less vulnerable we become to Satan’s attacks. Christ becomes our fortress against the wolves.
The devil’s subtle art of bullying
Sherem approaches Jacob with smarmy charm, weaving in just enough mockery in his tone to bite.
Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard and also know that thou goest about much, preaching that which ye call the gospel or the doctrine of Christ.”Jacob 7:6
Whoa! Did you catch those tricks? The jabs hidden under layers of friendly bullying?
Listen again: “Brother Jacob…” He calls him brother.
The dark side flatters and pretends to befriend. That’s why so many people fall for it. Salesmen use this tactic, calling you by a shortened familiar name to try to pretend they are your best friend, so you will trust them…and buy their product.
“…thou goest about much, preaching THAT WHICH YE CALL the gospel or the doctrine of Christ.”
So subtle. He basically calls Jacob a liar and casts doubt on what he knows to be true, by twisting words around, yet he does it with a smile as he calls him brother. But he’s bullying, saying that Jacob is teaching something he’s calling the truth, but it’s lies. Then he pretends to be his friend and set him straight. But the underlying tone is:
You’re wrong if you don’t believe as me!
After leading in with the subtle jab, he pulls out the hard punches that bullies always use eventually, accusing him of perverting the law of Moses and blaspheming because he’s preaching things that’ll happen in the future, that no man can know about yet.
The Spirit keeps us on firm ground
Jacob still isn’t shaken. He is on firm ground.
But behold, the Lord God poured in his Spirit into my soul, insomuch that I did confound him in all his words.”Jacob 7:8
Jacob asks him if he believes in Christ. Sherem gives him a slimy answer about if there was a Christ he would believe, but he knows there is not.
Jacob asks if he believes the scriptures, and Sherem says yes. Jacob replies:
Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ. Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.”Jacob 7:11
God’s words in scripture are vital to testimony development. Their whole purpose is to testify of Christ so we know who to turn to for light and life..
Jacob gives additional testimony of how important and essential Christ is in our lives:
…and it also has been made manifest unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, I know if there should be no atonement made all mankind must be lost.” (12)Jacob 7:12
Oh no, you didn’t!
Sherem demands a sign. Not good.
Jacob prays and says the Lord’s will be done. If He wills it, let Sherem have a sign so he knows Jacob speaks the truth and “also, that Christ shall come.” (14)
This is a good example of why we shouldn’t be sign-seekers. It never works out well when our hearts aren’t right before God. We don’t get marvelous manifestations. God curses us instead, like he does Sherem.
Sherem falls to the earth and is nourished for a few days, before he asks the people to gather so he may say a few words before he dies. He confesses to having been deceived by the devil and that he has lied before God. He fears for his eternal salvation. After he says these words, he dies.
Satan never upholds his faithful followers. Once he has accomplished his task by making them miserable forever, he considers the relationship with them null and void.
With Sherem’s death, “peace and the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures, and hearkened no more to the words of this wicked man.” (23)
One wicked person can do a lot of damage. But vice versa. One righteous man or woman can do a lot of good.
Which one will I be?
Labor to reclaim and restore
The people pour themselves into missionary work, and “many means were devised to reclaim and restore the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth; but it all was vain.” (24)
Jacob’s people labor diligently to reclaim and restore their brethren, the Lamanites, to the truth. They didn’t just stand around hoping God would convince their brethren—their enemy—to believe again. They used their creativity to find ways to teach their brethren and remind them of God’s covenant path. Their efforts were vain at this time, but they still never gave up hope. God never gives up on His children. Neither should we.
Labor to fortify
The Lamanites had “an eternal hatred against” their brethren at this time. “And they sought by the power of their arms to destroy us continually.” (24)
The world continually seeks to tear good and righteous things down and destroy it with worldly, carnal views. The Nephites show us what to do.
Wherefore, the people of Nephi did fortify against them with their arms, and with all their might, trusting in the God and rock of their salvation; wherefore, they became as yet, conquerors of their enemies.”Jacob 7:25
They worked diligently to fortify themselves physically, but we must also fortify our spiritual selves by doing what they did—trusting God, our Rock!
Fortify means to protect with defensive means to strengthen. If we fortify our personal lives through defensive measures—scripture reading, fasting, prayer, temple worship, service—we will be strengthened by God. He will be our fortress and help us conquer the enemy. But we must labor diligently to do good, so we aren’t overcome by the enemy, who are also working diligently to bring us down.
How will you labor diligently this week to do good?