Monday, August 9, 2010
In Sunday School, yesterday, we studied 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament and applied it to our day. (I will be leaving out the ellipses that show I have left out words. If you want to know all that was said, go to 2 Chronicles and begin reading from chapter 29, King James Version.)
Hezekiah said to the people, “Sanctify now yourselves and sanctify the house of the Lord and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place, for our fathers have trespassed and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their backs.
“Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem and he hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing, as ye see with your eyes; for, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.
“Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that his fierce wrath may turn away from us.”
They sent forth a decree that said, “Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren which trespassed against the Lord god of their fathers, who therefor gave them up to desolation, as ye see. Now be ye not stiffnecked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary [the temple], and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you. For if ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land; for the Lord you God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.”
The reaction was interesting. Some laughed them to scorn and mocked them, but some listened and obeyed the advice given. They came and they broke down the images and groves, everything that had to do with idol worship (I leave it to you to decide what, in your life, constitutes idol worship - most people become very angry if their “sacred cows” are attacked; so you find your own sacred cows; I’m not about to point them out to you.)
And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God and in every work that he began in the service of the house of God and in the law and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.
Then comes the test. Sennacherib invades Judah and besieges her cities. Hezekiah’s response was to tell his people, “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him, for there be more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.”
And the people rested (relied) on the words of Hezekiah.
But good ol’ (not!) Sennacherib sends his servants to try the type of thought control that has been happening in this country for years. In part, the people are told, “Hezekiah is persuading you to die in this siege by telling you that your God is going to deliver you. Don’t you know what I and my fathers have done to the people of other lands? Were their gods able to deliver those people from my hand? Noooo. If their gods couldn’t deliver them, why in the Sam Hill do you think your God is going to deliver you?” (Of course, Sennacherib would have only used the lower case G for Israel’s God, but do I think he deserves that respect, to copy him and put in lower cases for a person who really exists? No)
“C’mon, guys, your God can’t deliver you. Hezekiah is feeding you a pipe dream. He’s deceiving you. Seriously, don’t believe him. No god of any nation has been able to deliver their people from me. I mean, look at my batting average, for Pete’s sake. A hundred out of a hundred. You can’t get better than perfect, believe me. I promise you, Hezekiah’s God doesn’t have any more power than anyone else’s. Make it easy on yourselves. Give up before you all starve to death. I mean, how can you be my slaves and pay tribute to me if you’re dead? Think about it. He’s feeding you a farce, a dangerous one, by the way.”
This guy even sends letters around, flyers, posters, sky-writing, whatever works. The radio is going and there he is. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift. He used all the media available at the time to get his point across.
The spoke in the Jews’ native tongue so that everyone could understand, and why? To scare the pants off them, to trouble them, to make them doubt. That’s how Satan works, you know. If we can be made afraid, anxiety-ridden, tense, doubtful, then we just might shut down and/or be easily coerced into doing what is most definitely not the right thing for us to do.
So what did Hezekiah and Isaiah do? They prayed, folks. Plain and simple. They cried to heaven, so this wasn’t just prayer #346; this was real, true, from-the-heart praying.
Then what happened? The Lord sent an angel that cut off the enemy. We aren’t told how. Could have been dysentery. Could have been anything. The point is, the Lord did it. He fought the battle. The people didn’t even have to come out from their walls. They weren’t really a match for these enemies, though I expect God could have strengthened them. But these people, these people who had destroyed their own idols and had worshiped faithfully in the Lord’s temples were delivered miraculously.
And old Sennacherib returned “with shame of face” to his own land. And what happened to him there? He went to the house of his god and his children (I presume “sons” or maybe even “grandsons”) killed him with a sword while he was there.
The Lord, the scripture says, “saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria and from the hand of all others and guided them on every side.” And what did the children of Israel do? They were grateful; they humbled themselves.
In our class, this was likened unto us: if we cast away our idols from us and worship in God’s holy temples, God will give to us a very real protection. I don’t know if anyone has noticed yet (facetious, here) but we live in very frightening times. Our freedom is pretty much gone and what little is left is being eaten away. No matter how much we have voted or gotten involved in politics, our freedoms have been eaten away by “conspiring men”, hidden in a treaty here, a bill there, an executive order elsewhere, and so on.
We are in very real and physical danger - of starving, of being killed, of suffering from diseases and manmade catastrophes. We have been told that it is vital to attend the temples in these last days and I had my witness to the fact that it can help us in our struggles with temptation.
There's a man on one of the forums I frequent whose username is Mateo. He gave me permission to quote the following:
I realize that I must write a book on my experience of overcoming same-sex attraction. So many members and non-members are struggling with this. It is very disheartening.
I used the ARP program that the Church offers to overcome this addiction and others that have plagued me.
"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" I emphatically declare, no! If we are willing to lay our sins upon the altar, he will help us overcome them.
I am a living testimony of how the power of God can change a man's life.
I once had a friend of mine say to me, "Mateo, I wonder if you will teach others how to overcome same-sex attraction. Imagine if in the next life, someone were to say, I couldn't overcome it, it was too difficult. The Savior could very well turn to you and say, well my son Mateo did it. If he did it, so can you."
Temple attendance is vital in this fight against the adversary. I look forward to serving in the temple each Wednesday night!
Temple attendance can help us, can give us power in some very real ways.
One of the things Satan and his minions do is try to convince us we are not worthy of going to the temple when we are and, in fact, going often would help us overcome the things S/minions convince us can never be changed. Heck, he’ll put thoughts into our minds, then tell us, “Look what you’re thinking! Shame on you! You’re so evil! There’s no hope for you now. You might as well just give up.” And if we need help from a bishop or a stake president S/minions will tell us that they are our enemies, or that we can’t bear to have them know the truth about us/think badly of us. Sometimes, there are “bad” or uncompassionate leaders out there, but I think we need to trust God on this. I think he can lead us to the right people, if we need them to help us. At the same time S/minions will be trying to put hurtful people in our path, trying to convince the good people to say and do hurtful things often “for our own good”.
Trust God. That’s the bottom line. The atonement of Jesus Christ is very, very real and very, very powerful. That, I promise you. He’s there. He is always there.