Hello, we’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come, Follow Me podcast where today, we’re going to be studying Deuteronomy chapter 6-8, 15, 18, 29-30 and 34. And we have with us a special guest today to discuss this.
We’re so glad to have Dr. Kerry Muhlstein with us again. This is so fun to be able to discuss these things with him. He has spent a lifetime, a career studying these things, teaching these things, spending time in the Middle East, enjoying seeing these things open up to his mind and heart and we’re so grateful to be able to discuss these things with him today.
Kerry is the author of a number of books including God Will Prevail, which Maurine and I have both read and love and also one of my favorites is I Saw the Lord, which is a book about the First Vision. Kerry took the nine different accounts of the First Vision and kind of put them into one flowing text of the First Vision. I absolutely love it. I’ve read it a number of times and just enjoyed so much his insights into the First Vision.
And as we begin this discussion today, Kerry, we start in Deuteronomy and it looks like we have a lot of chapters to study and the church curriculum seems to think that this Deuteronomy must be pretty important if we’re going to study all these chapters. Deuteronomy itself is a really important book, isn’t it?
It is. It’s one of the most important books we can study in in some ways. Deuteronomy is the summary of everything from, in some ways Genesis 12 through the end of Numbers, certainly Exodus through Numbers. This is Moses summarizing the covenant and the process that Israel has gotten through to be a covenant people and what the covenant is and what they need to do about it.
So, it’s really important for them at that stage in life. This is really Moses’ valedictory address. They’re about to go into the promised land, he’s going to leave them behind. This is really important for them. But it’s equally important for us as a covenant people, who are trying to embark on building a Zion society, to have this wonderful summation of what it means to be a covenant people and the journey that it takes to really be covenant keepers.
Well so, this Deuteronomy chapter six has some extremely important verses and four through nine really matter. And let’s just read the first couple. It says,
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Now, this is beautiful and important to all of us. So, let’s talk for just a minute about why this particularly matters to the Jews.
Yeah. And let’s say to the Jews, but it should matter to us as well. I hope it’s as meaningful for us as it is for them. So, and if it’s alright—and hopefully I can remember this correctly—but I’d just love to read it the way that our Jewish friends would. Shema’ Yisra’el, Adonai ‘Elohenu, Adonai ‘echad
And that’s something that they will say again and again and again, and you get this idea; I said Adonai, it really is Jehovah that it says there. But the Jews, out of respect for the name of the Lord, how important that is, how much they should reverence it, and not take it in vain; don’t say that name. And so, they substitute it.
Sometimes they’ll substitute the word Shem which really means name. So, for instance, this year’s youth theme “trust in the Lord” is often said Batach Beshem, “Trust in the name”. That’s just their way of saying “trust in in Jehovah” without saying that that name. But most often, they substitute the word Adonai which means Lord, as in master, or the person who you swear fealty to; this person who is over you.
And so, they’re saying, hear Israel that the Lord or Jehovah is our God. And He is one, there are no others, there is no one else to worship. There’s nothing else that should take that place in your heart. So, if we go back to our discussion that we had when we talked about the ten commandments and the fact that you have no other gods before God, that nothing else prevails more in your life. This should be the creed of your life. This should be the thing that you think of all the time. I worship God and nothing else. I love God more than anything else. Nothing compares with the place that He has in my heart.
And that’s really what is at the core here. And that’s what they’re supposed to think of constantly and be reminded of constantly. And it’s what we should be reminded of constantly; that there is only one thing. One, I shouldn’t say thing, but one being. But in a way, I mean things because sometimes we put things above God and what a silly tragedy that is in our lives. But sometimes we do it.
But there should be only one being that has that spot in our hearts and in our minds and in our lives.
So, what does it mean, then, to love God with all thine heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might. It seems like it’s with all your emotions, all your will, all your intellect. Everything you have to give, you give to worship God. And love him. Love him. That’s what I like; the loving connection we have.
Yeah. And we’re familiar with this verse in its New Testament iteration. Because when they ask the Savior, what’s the most important commandment in the law—Now keep in mind that keeping the commandments is our primary obligation under the covenant—So, what they’re really asking Him is what is the most important thing we have to do in the covenant?
And the Savior just asked him, well, what do you think? And of course, they go to this verse. This is, again, the foundational, the identity verse for covenant Israel. So that should be anciently, in the Savior’s day, in Moses’ day. It should be in our day.
This should be our identity; that we are someone who loves God. And let’s kind of break these words up. It might help us understand when the Savior quotes it, at least the way we get it in Greek, and I’m sure He was speaking in Aramaic. So, this may not end up being exactly, you know, we have to take this with a grain of salt, but he adds in mind. Right?
So, we have here in Deuteronomy “love the Lord, thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might.” But the Savior adds in “with all thy mind” and all thy might and we’ll look at perhaps why that is as we go along here. But this idea that, more than anything else, we love the Lord with our heart.
And I think you’re right that the heart symbolizes emotions, right? What you feel, your passions, everything about what you feel. And then we get this phrase “with all thy soul.” And the word for soul, it’s not just the Hebrew word, and it’s who you are inside. So, when I say soul in some ways, I mean your spirit. But in some ways, it’s more than your spirit, it’s who you are, what you are. Everything you think, everything you feel, who you are.
And so, this is part of where we’re going to get that mind coming in is that that your spirit has to do with who you are and how you think about things. But the interesting word is the one that is translated as “might”. I think it’s just a little difficult to know how to translate this word. The word is “meod”. And that’s the word you use like for much or very right. So, like if I were going to say I’m very good, I’m tove meod. Or you know, if I do something very much, I say meod. So, if we’re going to literally translate this, we’d say with all your “muchness” with all your “veryness”, right?
I think it’s a way of saying with all that you are, and more; when you’re at your most, as much as you can be. So, it’s your heart and your soul slash mind at the very most that they can be. That’s what you worship God with. So, that “might” is the strength, I guess the volume, the intensity that we need to do the other things with; the soul and mind and heart. We should love God with that.
So, for example, and I’ll just say in my book on the covenant, God will Prevail, there’s a paragraph in there that I feel I was the most inspired when I wrote it. And I should probably have pulled it out, so I could quote it exactly. But, I have in there a phrase that I feel like encapsulates–It’s my favorite paragraph I’ve written, I think–where it encapsulates this. I can kind of paraphrase it here, but it says something about, that this should be the identity of a covenant keeper. It’s the essence of who we are, the heart of how we think of ourselves and our very identity is someone who loves God. It should define who we are.
It seems to me like that is something that grows inside of us. We love the Lord when we’re little Children, but we haven’t had much experience. But as we have experience with Him, we’re more able to love Him, because we remember that when we knelt at the very limits of our endurance, He was there. We remember that he comforted us. We remember that His presence changed our lives.
And as we have that accumulation of experiences, we love Him and we are more able to keep this commandment to love him with all those facilities.
I think one of the wonderful things is that He increases our capacity to love everyone, including Himself. And so that love, for all the reasons you just said, and for the reasons, like the joy we feel when we love Him, but also because He changes us into more loving beings, we, our capacity to love is increased over time.
I can remember feeling like when I got married that I loved my wife as much as you could love a person. And now, I feel like I barely knew what love meant, right?
Being married to her for a long time, having children, those things increase your capacity to love. So that you recognize that the love you felt–as much as I was in love at the altar when we got married–I don’t think I had the capacity to love like I do now. And I feel like I was kind of a foolish teenager, almost, even though I was 26. But I feel like I was a foolish teenager pretending to know what got what love meant. And I suspect that another 20 or 30 years from now, I’ll look back on how I feel right now and say yeah, you didn’t really know what love meant. God increases our capacity to love and that includes our capacity to love Him.
You know, Kerry, I’m taken as we study this Shema’ Yisra’el that you just quoted in Hebrew a couple of minutes ago, I love how the Jews really reverence the true name of God. So much so that they really won’t even say it. I mean, the real orthodox Jews won’t say the name. But it kind of reminds me of in the Doctrine and Covenants when we learn the true name of the priesthood. Before the day of Melchizedek, it was called the Holy priesthood after the order of the Son of God.
But out of respect or reverence, this is, of course, in section 107:3-4, out of respect or reverence to the name of the supreme being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of His name, the church in ancient days called that priesthood after Melchizedek. So, it really is the priesthood, you know, after the order of the Son of God, this most holy name. And I just think that’s fascinating to me to have this holy name–because we live in a world where holiness is not really brought to the fore anymore, you know, what is holy? And in the Church of Jesus Christ, we use the word holy a lot, and we go into the temple and we cross under a place where it says Holiness to the Lord. And I just, I love the reverence of holiness.
I agree. Well, and like you said, the reverence of holiness and the reverence of that name. We live in a day where any of the names for deity are taken so slightly and used so whimsically and without thought. And to a lesser degree, but still to some degree by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I always remember a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants and I can’t remember where it is, but I remember the impact it had on me when I read it, where he said, beware how you take my name on your lips. And the idea was don’t take it in emptiness or vanity. And so, like for myself, you’ll find that I almost always refer to the Savior as the Savior or one of his other names and I don’t use the name Jesus without stopping and thinking about it.
I don’t. I have lots of friends who teach about the Savior who just use that name just so quickly in all of the time. And I am not going to assume that they aren’t stopping to think about the Savior, but I know that for me, I can’t, I can’t do it that quickly with the reverence that I want to do it. And so, I’m very careful how I use that name. Either Jehovah or Jesus are names that I take very seriously
Well, and I was taught by a friend of ours who’s a sealer in the temple, in our local temple here Mount Timpanogos temple, he said that he feels the same way of what you just described. To the point where, and I’ve never forgotten this, because he said even when we’re saying blessings on the food, he pauses a little bit before he ends a blessing by saying in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I mean there’s just that little pause and it’s a pause of reverence. And I have never forgotten that. And I changed the way I pray.
Yeah, yeah. I’ve had that same effect. It was Elder Gene R. Cook that pointed that verse out to me and gave me those ideas. I can’t take credit for that myself. But it’s changed my reverence for the name as well.
I love that the Jewish people have the mezuzahs at their door that have these very verses rolled up inside of them, so that as they come and as they go, the name of the Lord and this idea about God being one God and loving Him with all our heart, soul, and might, is always with them. And the same thing with their phylacteries that they wear the little frontlets; little boxes on their forehead when they pray, and then down their left arm.
I think it’s really a reminder that we all need to have that name and that blessing with us all the time; that God is with us all the time. We need to be reminded of that. And as we love Him more, we feel that more.
I could not agree more. And if we just were to read the next couple of verses, I think it will highlight how much God thinks we do need to be reminded of this.
So again, remember that these two most important verses are verse four and five:
Here O Israel the Lord. Our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord, thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might.
Now listen to what he says, “and these words, which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart.” He’s telling us you’ve got to have this in your heart. You can’t just say these words, it has to sink down into who you are.
And then look at this, “and thou shalt teach them”, now that the Hebrew word there is the word you use for sharpen. To wet your sword, or sharpen your blade. You’re going to sharpen your children is what he’s saying. But, I mean, I think the idea is teach, I think it’s a good translation. But let’s keep in mind that connotation that we’re making our children the kind of sharp people they need to be.
So, thou shalt sharpen them diligently unto thy children,
and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (v. 7)
This is that idea we get in the Book of Mormon, the importance of teaching the rising generation and he’s telling them, this idea that you love God and only God and more than anything else, you need to be constantly talking about it, whenever you sit down, whenever you’re getting up in the morning, whenever you’re laying down at night. Whatever you’re doing, you have to be doing this to remember Him.
And um then we get verse eight and nine,
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. (v. 8)
Now this is taken very literally by Jews. That’s where you get the phylacteries that you’re talking about or tefillin that where these verses are written, and they’re placed in a little box and you strap them on your head or on your arms. And then we get verse nine, “and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house and on thy gates”. That’s the mezuzah; that little thing that where these same verses are written and they’re posted there on the door post. They’re posted in a little box that has on it, the letter sheen, which is the letter, the first letter in Shema. So, Shema’ Yisra’el right there.
It’s so that, even when they see it, they remember that they’re supposed to hear and listen to this and be reminded that more than anything else, as their primary defining identity, they are someone that loves the Lord. And that’s one of the great themes of the Book of Deuteronomy, is to remember. Remember what God has done for us.
Now, I find this really interesting. And one day I’ll have to do an actual study, like a statistical study. But even when I was on my mission, I got the sense if you were to just go through the Book of Mormon and just list themes and the number of times something is talked about; the first theme is Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. That’s talked about more than anything else. The next one I would say is the covenant with Israel. And the next one is to remember and what are you supposed to remember? Jesus Christ in the covenant with Israel.
In the Book of Mormon or the Old Testament, and really the Book of Mormon is, I think, heavily influenced by the Book of Deuteronomy. But in either of those books, you will find one of the major themes is to remember what God has done for us, and remember to love Him. And the more things we can do to help ourselves remember that–wherever we go, whatever we do, if you have to put mezuzah up or if it’s a picture of Christ for you, or whatever it is–have 100 things to remind you throughout the day to stop from your busyness and think about the Lord for a minute. What a difference that would make in our lives.
And it becomes natural over time. It does become your conversation because it’s your favorite thing to talk about. Something that you just learned in scripture becomes your favorite thing to talk about. Scot and I talk endlessly about this because we love it so much. And it’s bonding between us. We are bonded by this love for the Lord.
Let us go on to these verses that are 10 through 14 (of chapter 6). And I’ll just read a little bit of that.
10 And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,
11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;
So, the Lord is going to be an abundant giver even more than what we have possibly earned. There’s no way we can earn His gifts. He’s just going to give them to us. And I’m interested in your thoughts on that.
Yeah. Now there’s an interesting element of this here, because He’s bringing them into a place where someone else has done that, but it’s emblematic of the idea that He will provide for us. Whether it be through someone else or through miracles that He brings about, or whatever it is, He will provide for us things that are beyond what we have done or are capable of doing.
And that is the great theme of Deuteronomy, is the blessings that come from keeping covenant. And of course, it starts out here with our obligation in the covenant did love God. But the great theme is the blessings that come from keeping covenant and the importance of remembering that.
So, in fact, if you’ve gone to that next verse after you’ve gotten all these things that you didn’t earn and that are beyond what you can do. And that’s the thing we have to remember. There are so many ways that applies to our life that we don’t earn the blessings that we receive, we won’t earn exaltation we don’t deserve them.
And we shouldn’t feel bad about that. God’s happy to give it to us, even though we haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it. Just like my grandson shouldn’t feel bad when I give him a gift that he didn’t earn it or deserve it, right. He shouldn’t feel bad about that. I’m giving it to him because I love him and I want to, but um but we should remember that they come not because of our own greatness, but because of God’s greatness. And you’ll see there in verse 12,
12 Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
So, it’s that remembering thing again. And this brings us to a really, really important element of the Book of Deuteronomy and of the covenant in general. And we’ll understand it best if we also think of some of the chapters that we’re supposed to read, and a few that they didn’t have us read.
But if you were to read chapter 28 through 30, it’s one of the best summations of the covenant anywhere in scripture. I’d say Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28 through 30 which basically go over the same things. There’s this fantastic summation of the beautiful, amazing, marvelous blessings that come to us when we keep the covenant. But in each case, in the Leviticus iteration and in the Deuteronomic iteration, we get, not just the blessings of the covenant, but the phrase they use is the “cursing”. We could call it kind of the natural consequences that come when you break the covenant.
So, when you make the covenant, you’ve left neutral ground forever. You can no longer just be kind of in the middle. You either keep the covenant and you get these amazing, amazing blessings; wells which you didn’t dig, and trees which you didn’t plant or you get the opposite of it; the water is going to dry up and the trees are going to die and no fruit is going to come and no rain is going to come and nothing grows.
You don’t get anything in the middle. You get either the great blessing or the complete lack of that blessing. Not just a lack, but like a negative space for that blessing, right? It goes the opposite way. And there’s a reason for this, it’s not just because God is mad or something like that, it’s because that’s the tool that God uses to remind us that the blessings weren’t because we’re so great. The blessings were because we kept the covenant and He gave them to us.
And so, he set up in the covenant a cycle or a pattern. And we’ll see this cycle or pattern all over the place. In the Book of Mormon, we call the pride cycle. In the Old Testament in general, we can call it the idolatry cycle. But what it really is, is it’s a covenant cycle or we could call it a covenant corruption cycle. Where when we keep the covenant, we are blessed abundantly. But as soon as we forget that those blessings come from God and we think that they come because we’re so great, then we are humbled.
And the form of that humbling is the covenant cursings or the reversal of covenant blessings. And when we’re humbled and to the point where we finally remember God, then we’ll start to keep the covenant again and we’ll start to get those blessings again. And so, this covenant corruption cycle we’ll see it everywhere in scripture and each culture has their own little difficulty that they struggle with. In the Book of Mormon, it’s pride in clothing and apparel and turning to their own ideas. In the Old Testament, it’s turning to the idols and so on.
But it’s the same cycle with the same kind of idolatry, you just change what your idol is. And it all revolves around whether you remember God and keep your covenant or you forget God and don’t keep your covenant.
You know, every time we go to Egypt, I think about this because as you well know, Kerry, one of the big water bottle companies–now, it sounds like I’m going off track here, but I’m not—the name of the company is Baraka and that means blessing. And so I, every time I drink one of those bottles of Baraka, I just think, this is the blessing. And then there’s the other side of that, I think if I pronounce it right is Qelalah is the cursing.
And so, I always think about Baraka and Qelalah because I want to have that Baraka when I’m thirsty and I just need that water, I just think of the blessings that the Lord has for us.
And the dichotomy that you just set up there is beautiful and perfect and it’s exactly what God wants. So he has Moses do this and then Joshua will do it later, where you get half of Israel on one place and half on the other side and one side recites the blessings you get from keeping the covenant and the other side recites the cursings that you get when you break the covenant, and God wants you to think of it in those terms: “I’m going to bless you like crazy beyond measure uh with things that are beyond your capacity if you keep the covenant, and you get the opposite when you don’t.”
And so, I love the way you, you thought of that, let’s have keep in mind our blessings and the commensurate cursing is if we don’t keep the covenant.
I think what’s interesting about that in my mind, it’s not that God curses them by sending bad things, it is, like you say, the natural consequences of having His Spirit withdrawn because the Spirit is an organizing spirit, the Spirit brings harmony and love and understanding. And of course, when those things are withdrawn from us, cut off from us, then everything changes, everything is different.
So, I think it’s tempting for people to read these chapters and think that God is cursing them. But, in fact, he’s just letting them curse themselves because He’s withdrawn.
I think you’re right. Most or maybe at least much of what happens is the natural result of losing that spirit of those blessings. But I think there is an element that God will specifically humble us. He will find the individual tutoring that we each need. And if that means bringing some tough things into our lives, He’ll do it.
He is determined to bring us back into the covenant. I often say, we can have Him bring us back the easy way or the hard way. And if it takes the hard way, I think God will do it that way. So, sometimes I think it does get to where He’s bringing specific difficulties to us. At least, we see that with Israel as a whole. In some ways it’s natural, in some ways it’s not. Now, I’ll bring Assyria on you. And then naturally what happens is, if I’m not helping you, you lose. You don’t win this battle without me. So, that’s the natural thing. But I think He did kind of bring Assyria, right? So, you’ll see some of both in this way that God works with us as He tries to bring us back to Him.
It reminds me of C.S. Lewis writing the Narnia tales, and he made the Christ figure Aslan the Lion because he said God was always stalking him until he would turn and discover who he was. And I think that these covenant cursings are that very thing.
It’s the Lord calling to us and turning our head another way because we can see what a mess we make of things without Him. Or we understand that a trial cannot be solved without His help. So, it’s a kindness to us.
I agree, and to use that same idea, in the same story. One of the phrases that stands out the most to me from the Narnia series is when they say, Aslan is not a tame lion, right? You don’t control him. He could turn on you, if you aren’t doing things the right way. He could turn on you, you should be careful. He is not a tame lion.
I do love that.
Now let’s get into Deuteronomy 7 for just a minute because our time just goes so quickly when we’re together like this, we’re having so much fun.
But in Deuteronomy seven in those first couple of verses, it says, “when the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land, whither thou goest to possess it,” this is the promised land that had been given to Abraham Isaac and Jacob, by covenant, “and hath cast out many nations before thee”.
So, there are seven nations that they’re going to go into; greater and mightier than they are.
And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them, thou shalt make no covenant with them nor shew mercy unto them.
And so that’s an interesting thing, because generally we go into nations and preach the Gospel. We’re supposed to gather them into the fold. And this is an interesting view as the Lord brings them into the promised land.
He says, you’re going to have to destroy all these nations. What does that mean to us? And how do we understand this now?
There are so many elements to that. And they’re all worth exploring. So, let’s touch on several for at least a moment. We could go into all of them really in depth. But one of the things we have to remember is that they have had the gospel being preached to them. We don’t usually think of that and we wouldn’t know much about it. But we get to really good clues. One is that Abraham is told that his seed will have to be in Egypt for 400 years, because the land is not ready for them. The land is still the Canaanites’ land. And then we couple that with what Nephi teaches us in first Nephi 17 when he says that the Canaanites had rejected every word of God that had been preached to them and that they hadn’t repented when they’ve been given the opportunity.
And you put those two things together and you get the idea that, well, first of all, we know that Abraham was there and that he taught the gospel to at least some people. He had converts and so on. But you get the idea that there are more than Abraham that for 400 years they’re given the chance to repent.
So the gospel is preached to them for twice as long as the gospel has been in this generation, right? We just celebrated 200 years since the First Vision. They had this opportunity for twice as long and had completely and fully rejected it. So, let’s keep that in mind that they have had opportunity and they have not accepted that opportunity. They’ve very much rejected it.
So, the gospel was preached to them. That’s important to keep in mind.
Second, we need to remember, and we talked about this a little bit when we talked about the tribe of Levi and some of the destruction that happened when they built the golden calf. But let’s remember that their destruction, while it seems like a huge deal to us, and it is, I don’t want to make light of, of death. For mortals, this is a big deal.
But from God’s perspective, being removed from this life and taken to the next life is just stepping from one room to the other. It’s not such a big thing, you’re just putting them in another place where God will continue to work with them as we talked about before.
But the last thing to remember and this is really important and this is what God is emphasizing in chapter seven and it is, you cannot have anything in your life or your culture that will lead you away from me. Get rid of all of it. The way that that Moroni would say it is strip yourself of all ungodliness. You have to get rid of everything. This is a huge theme in the scriptures. The way the Savior would put it is, if your eye offends you pluck it out. If your hand is a problem, cut it off. Or leave your father and your mother if you have to.
Leave behind whatever you have to leave behind, anything that is leading you away from God will be to your detriment. You have to completely and fully purge it from your life.
This is a huge theme in Isaiah. Leave Babylon behind. I love how Elder Maxwell talked about how we’d like to leave Babylon behind, as long as we can keep a summer cottage there, right?
We want to go, we want to be there a little bit every now and then. And that’s the natural man in us. We like our sins, we have our favorite sins. The reason we’re sinning is because we like it and it’s pleasing to the carnal side of us, but we have to get rid of that and say I’m going to have nothing to do with ungodliness.
Now we’re going to need God’s help to do that, just like Israel will need God’s help. They have all these people in the promised land, that if they intermingle with them in any way, will lead them to idolatry. And God says, you have to completely get rid of everything that would lead you to idolatry. The only way they could ever do that is with God’s help. And when they turn to God, He does help them.
But they don’t do this fully. And it turns out God is right. These nations that they don’t fully get rid of lead them to idolatry. It takes them to exactly where God said it would, and takes them away from the covenant and away from him and gives them the same problems that the Canaanites were having.
So, we have to remember that it’s with God’s help, and only with God’s help, that we can get these things out of our lives, but we have to completely get them out of our lives. And that sounds harsh when we’re talking about people, right, you have to get these people out of it. And the Savior says that sometimes, if you have to cut these people out of your lives, cut them out of your lives, if that’s what it takes to not be unholy.
Now, that doesn’t mean, for example, let’s say that you have a sibling who has made choices that are different than yours. We can still love them and try to bring them back. But if that person is leading us to sin, then we need to cut that off. If we can lead them to goodness, then we don’t cut that off. Right? That’s the difference.
But in this case, God knew these people were going to lead them to sin. And again, when we’re talking about people, that sounds so harsh. But we have to remember that in God’s timetable and in the eternities, these people being removed from mortality and sent to the spirit world just meant that they were being given a chance to be preached to by some better and more powerful missionaries, that had a better chance of working with them. And that’s really all it means from God’s perspective. Well for us, it seems like such a big deal because the spirit world is something we’re not overly familiar with.
And yet, we know that at the time of the flood, Enoch saw a vision of the Lord weeping for the wickedness of his Children and weeping for their destruction. So, I don’t think he takes it lightly either. I think it’s a very painful thing even for God to see this happen.
And as a parent, I think we can identify with that. When I was a child and sometimes I’d get punished–It turns out I wasn’t always perfect—well I’m still not, but you know, sometimes I was punished. And I can remember my parents saying, “this hurts me more than it hurts you”. And I thought that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say. And then as a parent, I realized it is absolutely true.
When I’ve had to say to my children, “sorry, you can’t go do this thing that you really wanted to do because you didn’t behave correctly”. I think I honestly do feel worse about them not being able to do that than they do.
In fact, I was just talking with my oldest son the other day about a time where he really wanted to do something and I had to tell him he couldn’t, and we left without him and he didn’t do it.
And it still pains me to that this day to think about it. He doesn’t remember it at all. It’s like gone from his memory. It was not that big of a deal. But I think about it all the time. It still causes me pain to think about when I had to leave him behind. So, I think you’re right. This is difficult for God. But it’s what is best for the Canaanites and it’s what is best for the Israelites. It’s best for both.
And so, He does it on this large scale rather than thinking of it in the short term, which is what we had to do as parents, is to think of the long term when we punished our children, not the short term.
It reminds me of when the Children of Israel were at the Red Sea and they’ve crossed the Red Sea and then the seas close up on the Egyptians. And there’s an apocryphal work that says that the angels in heaven were rejoicing because the Lord, you know, socked it to ‘em and took out the whole army. And in this apocryphal work, it said that He silenced them and said, “these are my children too”. So, he doesn’t just do this lightly.
But like you say, Kerry, for him, death is not death. I mean, it’s like Wendy Nelson said, you know our ancestors are anything but dead. They do not like to be called dead. They are very, very much alive.
The reference you made to Abraham being told that the land of Canaan was the promised land, but it wouldn’t be theirs until the 4th generation, because, what is said in Genesis, is because God had to wait until the iniquity of the Amorites was full and it was not yet full. And I think that is interesting because it suggests also that children couldn’t have grown up there. Spirits sent to earth, couldn’t have grown up there with any chance to choose the Lord. And I think that that is an act of generosity, not an act of terror.
I agree. We can compare it to that idea of the flood, that this is an act of mercy. That children didn’t have to come down into this terrible situation. And so, I kind of read that to mean I’m going to work with them until it’s clear that no one is going to listen and no change is going to happen.
And then we put them in a different room where we work with them there. You know, we send them to their room, give them a while to cool off, and we’ll try again, is how I read that idea that their wickedness is not full.
Thank you all for joining us today. This has been a delightful time together with you, our wonderful listeners, and with Dr. Kerry Muhlestein.
This is Scot and Maurine Proctor and next week, we’ll be studying Joshua 1-8 and chapters 23 to 24 in a lesson called “Be Strong and of Good Courage”. That comes from one of our favorite scriptures that we’ve memorized.
We thank Paul Cardall for the wonderful music that he provides that accompanies this podcast. And also, we’re grateful to our producer, Michaela Proctor Hutchins.
Have a wonderful week and we will see you next time.