Tuesday, September 14, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 35 - God Reveals His Secrets to His Prophets

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 35 - God Reveals His Secrets to His Prophets
Amos 3; 7-9, Joel 2-3

Prophet Amos

The Book of Joel

Joel is a combination of the names Jehovah and Elohim, and means “Jehovah is God.” In the Masoretic text (the King James Bible is based on this), the book of Joel is divided into 3 chapters, while in the Septuagint and Vulgate (Catholic Bible) it is divided in 4 chapters with chapters 2-3 equaling chapter 2 of the Masoretic text.

The book of Joel is broken into two main portions. First, the prophesies of destruction that are soon to come upon the people of Judah and Israel. Second, the forthcoming restoration and blessings to be brought again to a repentant and righteous nation. Chapter one discusses in depth the scourges to fall upon Israel. We are told they will have a series of insect infestations that will destroy the crops.

“That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.” (Joel 1:4)

The pestilences will be so severe and consuming of all vegetation that there will be nothing left for an appropriate sacrificial offering in the temple. Instead, the priests can do nothing but mourn and proclaim a fast. We then find that the rivers are completely dried up, and wild fires have destroyed the forests and grass lands needed for the animals to graze. They are in abject poverty and starving to death. And yet, in chapter 2, we find that things get even worse.

The Greatest Army in the World Invades
Joel 2

Even after all the plagues, famine and pestilence, Israel did not repent. The Lord then sends forth his great army, in this sense it is the Assyrian army, ready to lay waste to anything that moves:

“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand;
2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
3 A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
4 The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.
5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.
6 Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.
7 They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks:
8 Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.
9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.
10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining” (Joel 2:1-10).

Here we see that this army is not just any old army. They are bullet proof. They fall on their swords and are not injured. They leap across the mountains, as if they were running across a meadow in the Garden of Eden. Yet, their destructive ways would leave even the Garden of Eden desolate. Nothing can stand in their way. Nothing can move them, as they do not break ranks. Israel’s puny army is less than mosquitoes against this army of destruction.

So terrifying are they that the very heavenly lights do fear them. Given that many in the ancient world worshiped the Sun, moon and stars, we can surmise that the gods of the nations feared the Assryians.

The only salvation is to turn to God, repent with “fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.”

Israel is commanded to
“rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God?” (Joel 2:12-14).

Israel has been wicked for so long that there is no guarantee that God will save them from this great army of the north. But it is their only hope. And if God does return to save them, he can also bring back rains and prosperity, so that Israel can once again offer a sacrifice to God again.

These prophesies suddenly hold a futurific vision, as Joel describes things that have not happened yet. He will foresee the literal darkening of the sun, moon and stars prior to the great and dreadful day of the Lord (the Second Coming). When modern Jews and Christians forget God and turn to the worship of other gods (materialism and narcissism usually are what we worship today), they lose his protective grace. Wickedness brings about consequences, some natural, which can devastate a nation or group of nations. Because of greed and lust on Wall Street, Main Street, and Capitol Hill, we have felt the effects of a prolonged economic downturn caused by that greed and lust. Only repenting and turning back to righteous and sound principles can protect us from another huge crash like this, but it seems that few have truly learned the lesson, and so the Great Recession of 2008 seems likely to continue on.

History has shown even global leaders have collapsed over internal affairs, becoming third world nations and often never recovering. The once mighty Soviet Union destroyed its economy and in the early 1990s broke up into many smaller nations. Many of those smaller nations still struggle economically, due to corruption and inept policies. It is not so far off to think that such a thing couldn’t happen to even the United States, if it does not get its economic house in order.

Yet, something like the Great Recession does not compare to the abject poverty brought upon the people. We do not have the majority of the people struggling to find a blade of grass to eat. Nor do we currently have the great and devastating army at our doorstep. But that army is eventually coming. Ezekiel describes it as Gog and Magog (Ezek 38-39), and the apostle John saw that the desolating army at Armageddon would be 200 million strong and would slay 1/3 of the men on earth (Rev 9:16-21).

The Valley of Jehoshaphat
Joel 3

In chapter 3, Joel foresaw that all nations would be at war. When Assyria thrashed the nations around it, it must have seemed like a world war. Yet he foresaw that this would again happen in the last days. It will be during this period that God will plead for Israel, which is still scattered among the nations.

God is angry with the cities of Tyre and Sidon, which belonged to the Philistines and Phoenicians, Sea People that were originally from the Greek Isles (This area is now in Lebanon and Syria). The Lord demands recompense, for they have previously desecrated the temple, and ransacked it for its gold and silver. If they do not repent and turn to him, he shall ransack them with the desolating armies of Gog and Magog.

The heathen nations of the Gentiles are called forth to a great war, centered on the valley of Jehoshaphat, or the “valley of decision.” The valley, now known as the Kidron Valley, runs through the right side of the city of Jerusalem, near the Mount of Olives. It is here that King Jehoshaphat massacred the armies of Moab, Ammon and Edom/Esau. The name Jehoshaphat or Josaphat means, “Yahweh/Jehovah Judges.” It will be in this valley where the great King of Israel, Jehovah/Jesus Christ will return in power and glory, then judge the armies of the Gentiles and find them wanting, during the last battle of Armageddon. Christ will come at the time when the Gentile armies will have taken half of the city. He will step down upon the Mount of Olives, rending a new valley from it, or perhaps enlarging the Kidron Valley. The Jews will flee into this valley for safety. It will be here that they will see the wounds in his hands and feet, and understand they have slain the Lamb of God (D&C 45:47-54, Zech 12:9-10).

So, in our own time, we need to give heed to the warnings of Joel, as they definitely apply to us.

My Spirit Shall Be Poured Out
Joel 2:28-32

During the period of great duress and trials, the Lord will not only judge the wicked, but he will pour out his spirit upon all the righteous.

28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.

Many Christians and others no longer believe in miracles, inspiration, or revelation. Many believe that all such things ended with the apostles. Yet, we see that during the times when the world and heavens will be in commotion, as even the sun will be darkened, the children of God will prophesy and see visions. This is partially fulfilled by the spiritual movements in many churches that seek to restore such ancient gifts of the Spirit. As they seek the Lord’s inspiration, he will give it to them at the capacity they are ready to receive (Alma 29:8). This prophesy was partially fulfilled on the original day of Pentecost, when Peter quotes Joel to explain why the spirit had been poured out on so many that could understand him in their own languages. Yet, it was not fulfilled at that time, as the wonders in the heavens had not happened yet. This is completely fulfilled in the restoration of of the ancient Church in these latter-days, as we prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. Joel foresaw Armageddon and the great destructions of our day, and saw that in the times of trials, the Lord would not abandon the righteous and faithful believers of Christ. Instead, he has sent angels and the Holy Spirit to restore ancient gifts, powers and blessings, so that men in these last days may turn to God, and be blessed so as to avoid much of the disasters and destructions awaiting the world.

Living prophets and apostles give guidance and warnings to help us, if we will but listen. In the October Conference of 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a very power economic lesson to the priesthood brethren:

“Now, brethren, I should like to talk to the older men, hoping that there will be some lesson for the younger men as well.
I wish to speak to you about temporal matters.
As a backdrop for what I wish to say, I read to you a few verses from the 41st chapter of Genesis.
(he quotes concerning Pharaoh’s dreams of the good and bad years)....Now, brethren, I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future. But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.
So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings....I repeat, I hope we will never again see such a (Great) depression. But I am troubled by the huge consumer installment debt which hangs over the people of the nation, including our own people.....Consumer debt as a percentage of disposable income rose from 16.3 percent in 1993 to 19.3 percent in 1996.
Everyone knows that every dollar borrowed carries with it the penalty of paying interest. When money cannot be repaid, then bankruptcy follows. There were 1,350,118 bankruptcies in the United States last year. This represented a 50 percent increase from 1992. In the second quarter of this year, nearly 362,000 persons filed for bankruptcy, a record number for a three-month period.
We are beguiled by seductive advertising. Television carries the enticing invitation to borrow up to 125 percent of the value of one's home. But no mention is made of interest....I recognize that it may be necessary to borrow to get a home, of course. But let us buy a home that we can afford and thus ease the payments which will constantly hang over our heads without mercy or respite for as long as 30 years....We are carrying a message of self-reliance throughout the Church. Self-reliance cannot obtain when there is serious debt hanging over a household. One has neither independence nor freedom from bondage when he is obligated to others.
In managing the affairs of the Church, we have tried to set an example. We have, as a matter of policy, stringently followed the practice of setting aside each year a percentage of the income of the Church against a possible day of need.
I am grateful to be able to say that the Church in all its operations, in all its undertakings, in all of its departments, is able to function without borrowed money. If we cannot get along, we will curtail our programs. We will shrink expenditures to fit the income. We will not borrow....I urge you, brethren, to look to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage. “

Those that paid heed to his warnings had a decade to prepare for the current Great Recession. I know of several Latter-day Saints that because they listened to a living prophet’s voice, had paid down their debts, had money tucked away, and had their food storage in place. When the housing and banking bubbles burst, some of them lost their jobs. Yet they knew they were in decent shape, because they were not like most Americans with tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt, nor had they purchased an expensive home. They will likely manage through this difficult time.

For those who did not give heed, many are seeing their homes being foreclosed, and declaring bankruptcy. Things they had worked hard for for years, are now being carted off by creditors. Some are having to move in with parents or children, just to get by. As with the Israelites in Joel’s vision, it seems as if the palmerworms and caterpillars have eaten up all they’ve possessed. And as in Pharaoh’s dreams, the years of plenty have quickly been swallowed up by the economic famine.

Study the scriptures. Listen to the living prophets. Be prepared for the days of good and evil.

The Book of Amos

Amos was born in Judah and prophesied in Israel approximately 765-750 BC. Unlike Isaiah and other prophets that were actually wealthy and a part of the royal family, Amos was a plain shepherd. Before his call as prophet to Israel, we have no evidence of his ever going forth to preach. As a shepherd, he probably would not have been literate nor had any status of any sort.

Amos was called of God in a way similar to many of the other prophets:

I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered” (Amos 9:1).

Seeing God on his throne, or upon the altar, which often represented his throne, was a common way in which prophets received their call (see Isaiah 6, Gen 28:10-18). His challenge for the Israelites was to listen to and obey the prophets of Jehovah, even if they were but shepherds.

“Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying....Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy? Publish in the palaces at Ashdod, and in the palaces in the land of Egypt, and say, Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria, and behold the great tumults in the midst thereof, and the oppressed in the midst thereof. For they know not to do right, saith the Lord, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces” (Amos 3:6-10).

Amos first begins by letting them know that it is the Lord that gives the warning against all Israelites. He states in various ways that the Lord has given them many warnings to follow him, but they have still chosen another path. He then explains the pattern that God has always used to warn and protect Israel: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). This is a pattern that continued after Amos, and is found again in the restored Church of Jesus Christ. It is so very easy for us to be like the ancient Israelites, taking the living prophets for granted, because we have the dead ones to fall back on, who do not specifically attack us for our current lifestyles. David Larsen explains on his Heavenly Ascents blog that the “secret” that Amos refers to is the “sod”, a secret kept by the divine council in heaven. This would be the decisions they make regarding to how they would manage the actions of men on earth. The only way that mankind could know or understand the mind of God, and the decisions made in the holy and divine council, was through the living prophet.

In Amos’ warning, we see a very big danger that is common among nations ready to be destroyed: the rich and powerful take unrighteous advantage of the poor. When the rich use violence to take away from the poor, the nation is ready for destruction. When King David stole Bathsheba from her husband, the prophet told him he would suffer for his actions, and his nation was temporarily overtaken. The Zoramites were chastised for how they mistreated the poor, and it led to their destruction in the book of Alma. Amos, Isaiah and many other prophets will condemn the Israelites and Jews for such actions. Even Jesus maintained that the powerful Jews of his day would forcibly keep others from entering heaven.

Amos 8-9

Joel insisted that the famines and pestilence of Israel were due to their rejecting the Lord God. Amos also foresaw another, just as insidious, type of famine that came upon the wicked.

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:
“And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).

Amos saw the famine coming in his day, as it would in any period where people rejected the prophets. Eventually, God pulls his Spirit and prophets away from the people, and allows them to get what they deserve. When drought and pestilence destroys the crops, people starve. They wander from place to place hoping to find enough sustenance to stay alive. When the knowledge of the wisest people is not enough, people will search for answers. Today, people seek happiness in drugs, sex, overeating, video games, and expensive stuff. While it may work for a short time, it cannot make them truly happy. And they again seek for happiness where they think they can find it. Yet they never look to God for the happiness and joy that he offers. It seems to simple an answer, or is a stupid idea that God can act in our lives. Many do not believe in the gifts of the Spirit, or that God can reach them if they but reach to him. They seek happiness in temporary things, which never is enough. They become desensitized to drugs, and need more. They get bored with their partner or video game, and seek a quick thrill somewhere else. They fill a rush in buying new things and filling their stomachs. But eventually their stomachs will be empty again, and they will again seek.

Christ taught the Samaritan woman that he offered living waters:

“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this (well) water shall thirst again:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 11:13-14). Again, Christ is the Bread of Life: “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:33-51).”

It is in following Christ and his living prophets that we receive the secrets of heaven, the water and bread of life.


Joel, wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_%28prophet%29

Valley of Jehoshaphat - wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_of_Josaphat

Joel - New Advent (Catholic Encyclopedia): http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08419a.htm

Gordon B. Hinckley, “To the Boys and the Men”: http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-22-20,00.htmlhttp://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-22-20,00.html

David Larsen’s Heavenly Ascents Blog on Lesson 35: http://www.heavenlyascents.com/2010/09/10/god-reveals-his-secrets-to-his-prophets-ot-lesson-35/

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