Saturday, May 22, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #21 God Will Honor Those Who Honor Him

1 Samuel 2-3; 8

(Teachers may want to have a vision screening chart posted at the front of the classroom.) 

How important is your vision?  Imagine for just a minute what it would be like to become blind.  If you wear contacts or glasses, remember what it was like to put them on for the first time.  What if we didn't have glasses?

"The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness" (Luke 11:34).

Now think about your spiritual vision, "the light of the body."  Do you remember what it was like before you had the amount of faith you do now?  What if we didn't have scriptures, prayer, a prophet, commandments?  How little would we be able to see?

"And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad" (Ether 12:19).

Even with glasses, there are limits to our vision.  There are things to see beyond the abilities of the human eye.  Scientists working with infrared light must trust their instruments to see things that are beyond their own vision.  So do doctors using MRIs and CT scans.  Faith is vision beyond our own spiritual eyes, trusting in the Lord to see for us.

"Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes...the design of God...and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation" (D&C 58:3).


(In the Old Testament Video Presentations, there is a nice 3-minute segment about Hannah.)

Hannah was so emotionally stricken by her lack of children that she could not eat.  She was sick with worry, and terribly sad.  But after visiting the temple and being promised of the prophet that she would have a child, she "went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad" (1 Sam. 1:18).  This little sentence tells us a lot: that before she even left the temple, Hannah was certain her prayer would be answered.  She had a true eye of faith.

Hannah offered her only son as a Nazarite for life.  She apparently went beyond the basic Nazarite requirements found in Numbers 6 (never cutting hair, touching a dead body, or consuming alcohol), to actually "lend him to the Lord" for a lifetime of service at the temple (1 Sam. 1:11,27-28).  This might have meant that she was giving up her security in old age, as well as the progeny of her family if he did not marry--almost all the material reasons why a woman would have wanted a son--for the joy of being a mother.  Offering to give the thing she wanted the most proved her worthiness to the Lord.

Although Hannah gave her child Samuel to the Lord, she still acted as a mother for him, and expressed her love for him with the annual visit and coat (1 Sam. 2:19).


The following psalm is a classic form of Hebrew poetry called "synonymous parallelism," which means it says the same thing multiple times, each time in a slightly different way:

"(1)The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
"(2)The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 
"(3)The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart:
"(4)The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes...
"More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psalm 19:7-8,10). 

So by keeping the commandments,

(1)our souls become converted, which is the same as saying
(2)we become wise, which is the same as saying
(3)our hearts are rejoiced, which is the same as saying
(4)our spiritual eyes are enlightened. 

This is the simple process by which we develop an eye of faith. 

But didn't Hannah have a whole different set of commandments than we do?  In detail, yes, but in spirit, exactly the same:  the shema.  (See "Prayers" in a a previous post.)

The shema is found in all four of our books of scripture:
  • Old Testament:  Deut 6:5
  • New Testament: Matt. 22:36-40
  • Book of Mormon:  Moro. 10:32 
  • Latter-day Revelation:  D&C 59:5
1 Cor. 13:13 tells us love is greater than faith.  Why?  Because faith is fueled by love (Gal. 5:6).  Without love, there is no faith.  As we know and love the Lord more, and have more experiences with His love, our faith and trust in Him grows.

So how can we learn to love the Lord more?  (Scripture study, service to others, Sabbath observance, etc.)  It all comes down to keeping the commandments.  When we understand this, we can see that John 14:15 is actually a redundant statement:  "If ye love me, keep my commandments."  The two parts of that sentence are the same thing, stated in different ways.

"If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:15-16).  Keeping the commandments brings the Spirit to us.  The Holy Ghost is our infrared camera, our MRI, our guide beyond what we can see.


There is a little parable about a child who has a string of dime-store pearls.  They are her dearest treasure.  Her father asks her to give him the pearls.  He gives her no reason except to prove her love for him.  She hesitates for a long time while he continues to ask.  Finally, she gives him the pearls, and is surprised to receive from him in exchange..a real pearl necklace.

Anytime we give something to the Lord in faith, we come out ahead.  So it was with Hannah.  "And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The Lord give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the Lord. And they went unto their own home. And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters" (1 Sam. 2:20-21).  Hannah did not ask for anything beyond the one son, but because of her faith and commitment, the Lord gave her much more than she asked for.

D&C 59:5, the Latter-day statement equivalent to the shema, reads, "Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him" (D&C 59:5).  The "wherefore" in this sentence signifies that the reason for this commandment is given before it:  "Behold, blessed, saith the Lord, are they who have come up unto this land with an eye single to my glory, according to my commandments. For those that live shall inherit the earth, and those that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them. Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength. And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me" (D&C 59:1-4).

In order to develop this "eye of faith" that brings such great rewards, we must learn to be guided by the commandment: to love the Lord our God in everything we do.  The more we love Him, the more we trust Him, the more we find we can live by faith, the more wise and joyful we will be.

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