labor with God
Week 15 is scheduled for study April 8-14, 2024. The lessons say “the Lord labors with us,” but how? Look for God’s involvement in each of this week’s lessons.

Day 1

Jacob 5 – Jesus Christ is the Lord of the vineyard.

In 2020 this lesson began with this exact title. I addressed some of my thoughts in that article. I recommend you take a look at it before going on here. There is even a good side article for you to explore on the whole grafting process and what it means.

Jacob 5-7 – The Lord Labors With Us

The manual goes on to say this: “Jacob 5 is about Jesus Christ. Look for Him as you read. What do you learn about Him … ?” I had already read the recommended verses several times, but when I went back and read them one more time I saw more than I did before. For example, read these three verses again.

40 And the wild fruit of the last had overcome that part of the tree which brought forth good fruit, even that the branch had withered away and died.

41 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard?

42 Behold, I knew that all the fruit of the vineyard, save it were these, had become corrupted. And now these which have once brought forth good fruit have also become corrupted; and now all the trees of my vineyard are good for nothing save it be to be hewn down and cast into the fire.

Why do you think Jesus wept when the last remaining branch succumbed to the corruption all around it? When I looked at verse 42, his explanation of why he wept, it occurred to me that the vineyard isn’t just some plot of ground with some plants growing on it. Jesus isn’t some dispassionate gardener tending to what needs to be done with some non-sentient plants. The fruit of these trees represent the children of God, and Jesus has a direct stake in what happens to their souls. His goal is to get as many of us back to our Father as he can, and here the last remaining faithful Saints had rejected him and embraced the teachings of the world/satan, and there was no longer any good in them, and now they would have to be burned along with the rest of the world. It’s not that he just doesn’t want to punish the wicked. Jesus sorrows over the loss of happiness we are causing ourselves. He sees us as forgoing the happiness we could have had had we accepted him and exercised faith in him. That breaks his heart, and he weeps over our lost souls and the misery we have brought upon ourselves.

Verses 46-47 explains this idea further. Jesus sees those he had wanted so much to save, because he loves them, turn away from him and embrace other teachings that will only bring them misery and sorrow. This is why he looks within himself and asks ‘What more could I have done?’

Day 2

Jacob 5:61-75 – The Lord invites me to labor with Him in His vineyard.

These verses bring up an interesting thought. There is power in the gospel Christ has given us. He even goes so far as to tell us that if his doctrines aren’t tempered or softened before the members are ready for them that the doctrines might overpower the members. So he specifically gives his prophet instructions not to give the branches of the tree more than they can handle and to clear away the most corrupt only a little at a time. This way the branches will be able to handle the power of the roots of the tree as they are ready for more of what the roots have to offer them.

The Saints sometimes wonder why the Lord didn’t give us everything all at once at the beginning of the Restoration. This is the explanation. All that truth dumped in our laps would have overwhelmed us. We simply weren’t yet ready for many of the teachings. Those new teachings came along as the Saints became able to handle them. This is how Jesus is keeping the gospel and our needs in balance, or as these verses put it, the roots and branches. This tells me that there is much more to come, but we won’t receive the new teachings until we are spiritually ready for them. When you look at how obedient you are to the words of the prophet today, can you see that many of us still have a lot of repenting to do in order to be sufficiently prepared for the higher laws and ways that the Lord is waiting to be able to bless us with?

One of the ways in which the latter-days are different from all other dispensations of time is this idea that the Lord of the vineyard will call “other servants” to help with the work of tending to his vineyard. The responsibilities given to each and every member of the church is unlike any other period of time in the history of the world. He only calls in help when He is preparing for the final harvest before the whole vineyard/world gets burned.

Yes, the Lord of the vineyard is concerned about the whole world, for his responsibility is the salvation of every soul who is willing to be saved. But our responsibility is much smaller. Our sphere of influence, our talents, and our capabilities are much smaller. That is why our responsibility is to do whatever we can to help. That is all God requires of us. He does not require from us what we cannot give or perform. But if we can be kind to a stranger and demonstrate the kindness of Christ, if we can be tender with someone hurting, show compassion for someone experiencing loss or hardship, or teach someone a principle of the gospel who needs to be uplifted, then we are acting as Christ’s servants in digging and dunging to fertilize his trees.

The promise Christ makes to those who are willing to do whatever they are able to do in the process of helping him complete his work before the end of time is that we will rejoice with him over the souls that are saved in the day of judgment. This is all part of being a savior on Mt. Zion. We are engaged in God’s work to save His children, and we are promised to share in Christ’s joy in their salvation.

Day 3

Jacob 6:4-5 – The Lord remembers His people in love and mercy.

Today’s verses are good for a pondering session. They are talking about and comparing God’s devotion to us, His children, as opposed to our devotion to Him. Recently I had my eyes opened. Someone I know posted a conversation on Facebook about their teenagers. I was shocked to hear that he is blessed with children who never get into trouble, most always obey the house rules, and are headed off to make something of themselves when they leave the house. They have all served missions, etc., etc. My reply to him was that between our five children we had gone through almost everything you can go through, except murder. I can’t even imagine having such an easy time raising children. Definitely not my experience.

God knows everything that will happen in the future, so when He made His covenant with Abraham’s family He knew already that Abraham’s posterity would give Him no end of grief through disobedience and betrayal. Yet even knowing this God still chose to make the covenant, and for the last several thousand years He has been honoring those promises made to His faithful servant and has been looking out for Abraham’s family.

God’s promise to us, Abraham’s family, whether by blood or adoption, is that if we will turn to God with full purpose of heart, and “cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you” He will save us in His kingdom. The Lord still has His arms extended to each of us, beckoning us to come home. It is we who have been gainsaying (to contradict, deny, or oppose) Him. His promises to us are sure. God still loves us and wants all the blessings promised to Abraham to be ours to experience. We just have to be willing to stop fighting Him and submit to His plan for our happiness. It is, after all, our only option for happiness in the eternities.

Day 4

Jacob 7:1-23 – I can stand strong when others challenge my faith in Jesus Christ.

I hope you have just read the verses for today. They need to be fresh in your mind for this to work. Let’s look at our two players in this drama between Sherem and Jacob. Jacob has been ministered to by multiple angels. He has also listened to the voice of God talk to him and give him instructions – he has been taught directly by God, Himself. Now along comes Sherem. Sherem has no revelation, and may not have ever experienced it. He only knows the gospel from an intellectual standpoint. He relies on his prowess with their language to make his point and gain the favor of others. To someone who has no view of eternity, such power over others can be intoxicating and addicting.

Evidently Sherem had never encountered someone who actually had a testimony of Christ like Jacob had, one born of personal spiritual experiences and a deep respect for God and His commandments. Sherem was no match for this kind of knowledge. This was something with which Sherem had no experience. He was out of his depth. Sherem’s only reason for trying to subdue Jacob to his way of thinking was for the influence such a conquest would give him. He was in it for the personal power and reputation he could gain by swaying the most influential member of the church Sherem claimed to be a part of. But he was ignorant and unaware of the nature and power of spiritual experiences. Jacob, on the other hand, knew the mind and will of God intimately, because he had been obedient to God’s commandments for years. He had gone about doing God’s will every day. Over a period of years he had learned to think and act more and more like God, because he had been trying to live a Christlike life.

Jacob may not have had the verbal dexterity that Sherem was blessed with. But Sherem was trying to intellectually attack someone who had an intimate knowledge of God and His ways. There is no comparison. When we are faced with someone who has a superior command of our language, social position we haven’t experienced before, or is just one of those intimidating people who is able to cow (to intimidate or overawe) everyone they meet, it can be difficult to maintain our position.

Dealing with someone like Sherem reminds us that what is physical and right in front of us can sometimes drive out of our minds the power we have come to understand and experience from God, who we can’t see. The key in such situations is to remember that we have had very real spiritual experiences that have given us confidence to live a good and worthy life up to this point. Now is not the time to be backing down in the face of a social bully just because they are more rich, more intimidating, more fluent in the language, or whatever, than we are. Rely on what you have experienced with God in the past. Trust it. Nothing can argue with a testimony. Nothing. Stick to it and don’t get sucked into debates over things that are not important. When you stick to what you know, even if it is only something very simple, you will not be swayed by the Sherems of this world. Your heart will be at peace at the end of your confrontation.

Personal Study

Teach doctrine

The key to this discussion on doctrine is that the Spirit is not to be found in conjecture, supposition, and what ifs. The Spirit is found in talking about the doctrines Christ has revealed to us, for they are the words and the will of our Father in Heaven. It can be heady and exciting to head off into the doctrinal weeds of left field where there are no clear answers, for none have been given. To speculate and discuss can be somewhat of a thrill. But such discussions don’t convert, don’t invite the Spirit, and don’t help anyone draw closer to God. They are like empty calories. They taste great, but with enough of them you will starve to death.

If you want to be one of those teachers people remember fondly for generations to come, be the person who sticks to the written and revealed word of God. These are the people who build other’s faith in God, who gives the weak confidence in their own testimony, and who lifts others spiritually to do those things that will land their souls at the feet of Christ at the last day.

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BoM15-2024 – The Lord Labors With Us