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Cover image: “The Good Shepherd” by Del Parson.
Overcoming Through The Lamb
As we come to an end of the New Testament we find that we have come full circle from Genesis. The days that marked creation are now marked by angels, trumpets and destruction that is meant to prepare the earth for its sanctification and Celestial glory.
John interweaves a great many symbols into his imagery of the earth’s history and the last days. While not everything was perfectly clear as we read, there were some ideas which seemed particularly significant.
Ask and It Shall Be Given You
The first came as we cross-referenced D&C 77 where Joseph goes to God seeking greater understanding of many of the symbols contained within these chapters.
While we certainly appreciated the clarification this addiitonal revelation offered, the principle that stood out most was that, even after seeing our Savior and God the Father, the Prophet Joseph still did not know everything. Throughout his life whenever he lacked wisdom, he continued to ask of God and seek understanding through study and prayer.
This led to a discussion about how it is OK to have questions, to lack understanding and to hold wonder in our hearts alongside our faith.
The important thing is not whether we have all the answers in the Gospel, but whether we are willing to continue to ask, seek and knock as we make our way along the covenant path and aspire to greater light and knowledge.
We particularly enjoyed the symbolism of 3:20:
“Behold I stand a the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Here again we see the full circle of our seeking after God and his after us, much like the father of the prodigal son who goes running when his son is yet afar off.
How oft in our lives do we find ourselves searching for God’s light and love and understanding in the far corners of doing “some great thing” while he stands just outside ready to abide with us if we will but open our hearts.
To Him that Overcometh
We had fun making a list of all the things mentioned and promised to them that overcome in this life:
- Receiving a white stone and with a new name written on it (2:17)
- To eat of the hidden manna (2:17)
- To eat of the fruit of the tree of life (2:27)
- Power over the nations (2:26)
- Being clothed in white raiment (3:5)
- I will confess his name before my Father (3:5)
- Made a pillar in the temple of God to go no more out (3:12)
- Receiving the name of God (3:12)
- Sitting with God on his Throne (3:21)
All of these are amazing promises and worth pondering deeply.
That last one particularly, perhaps given the proximity of the Christmas season and kids lining up to see Santa, I couldn’t help but imagine us, God’s children, sitting with him and talking about what we want for eternity.
The question that followed was what does it mean to overcome?
I think we often have a view of overcoming that looks something like us climbing our way to a lofty mountain retreat where the world no longer has any sway or influence in our lives and we are immune to the buffetings of mortality.
While this paints a pleasant picture, it largely misses the role of the Lamb mentioned in this book of Revelations who was the only one who could open the book and its seals bringing to pass God’s plan of Salvation.
“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain, and has redeemed us to God by thy blood…” (5:9)
Overcoming requires that we give all while trusting God to lift us beyond our abilities and greatest efforts. Indeed even as we carry our dreams of reaching incredible heights, overcoming is often enough a climb from the depths of earthly trials. Even as Christ did not ascend to his Father until he had first descended below all things where he could be sure to reach us in this mortal probation.
The alpinist inspires, by the heights his feet have trod
Intrepidly ascending those peaks so near to God
His bravery’s applauded, achievements published wide
After all, so goes the logic, he really could have died
Unnoticed though the climber who rallies from the deep
Without the light of day to illuminate the steep
In isolated silence, he slips but doesn’t quit
With clenched determination to scale the endless pit
His battles are fought daily oe’r many trying years
His fingers growing numb gripping rocks made slick with tears
And when at last emerging dogged hand o’er dogged hand
The crowd remarks with smugness, “but here I already stand”
Yet if they could have seen it, that summit so forlorn
That desperation painful keen that leaves mankind reborn
With marks that go much deeper than a simple planted flag
A soul’s true excavation rings so hollow in a brag
Its crown is ever humbly worn, in memory of the pleas
To overcome life’s loneliness and find long-buried peace
A treasure only seekers know who have rightly plumbed the depths
And then returned to sunlit lands; appreciate its breadths
While such may not the limelight find, their journey still inspires
To strength and grit to those below who gaze upon their fires
Their song’s the ballad old and fair still ringing cross the vale
Whatever comes, do hold to Hope: their live’s bear out this tale
For in the deepest trials on earth; in times where our heart wrenches
We find what condescension means; for God is in the trenches
A Tender Shepherd’s shoulders bear the lamb once left to roam
Now carried at a cost he chose; for joy to hold it home