salvation of the Lord
Week 15 is scheduled for study April 4-10, 2022. What a glorious week! The salvation of the Lord is bound up in all the ways He demonstrates His love for each of us, and what we need to do to love others.

Day 1

God commanded Moses to write about his experiences “for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it” to Joshua. Similarly, recording your spiritual experiences will help you and your loved ones remember the Lord’s goodness.

(Note: Including the rest of this year, the summary for almost every week’s lesson for 52 weeks a year, for four years, will have told us to put pen to paper and write down what the Spirit is saying to us as we study the scriptures. I am beginning to sense a pattern here. I wonder if I would ignore the prophet’s voice if he personally counseled me to write or journal my experiences with the Spirit that often. What has been your reaction to these consistent and persistent directives to journal the voice of God in your life?)

Exodus 14 – God has the power to deliver me.

This is perhaps one of the greatest visuals ever given in the scriptures. The Israelites were camped on the edge of the Red Sea when they saw Pharaoh and all his vast army of chariots pursuing them in the distance. Their cries of desperation went up to Moses, and they weren’t any too kind about what they accused him of. After all the plagues of Egypt, they still were not able to see past the ends of their noses. Their first reaction was that the God who delivered them was nowhere in sight. They were all surely going to die.

As soon as they had left Egypt, the Lord sent an angel to guide them with a pillar of cloud in the daytime, and a pillar of fire for light in the night. This moving pillar of the elements never once left them for the whole duration of their forty years in the wilderness. It was perhaps the longest, most sustained miracle the world has ever witnessed. As soon as the people realized they were about to be overrun by the Egyptian army the angel moved from the front of the camp to the back. The pillar was positioned between the advancing army and the camp of Israel.

The amazing thing about this pillar is that it now split into two. On one side of the pillar it became an overwhelming darkness to the Egyptian army, causing them to have to stop, because they couldn’t see where they were supposed to go. But to the Israelites, the pillar acted as it did for the whole forty years. When the night came it turned into a pillar of fire, giving light to all of the Israelites, while it held the armies of Pharaoh at bay.

In the meantime, Moses had used the rod of God to cause an east wind to blow hard all night long. Not only did it part the waters of the sea, but it dried out the sea bed so the Israelites could cross it on dry ground. In other scriptures they describe the waters as being gathered as in a heap on either side of the Israelites, as great walls of water. This is the corridor they passed through early the next morning.

When Israel was safely enough across the stretch, the angel moved the pillar of smoke back to the front of the Israelite camp, allowing the Egyptians to see what was going on in front of them. Despite the remarkable scene that lay before them, they hardened their hearts and pursued them with their chariots. The Lord slowed them down by locking the wheels of their chariots so their horses had to drag them through the sea bed. Once all the Egyptians were within the walls of water, Moses used the rod of God to release the waters. They returned to their place, drowning the entire Egyptian chariot army. The narrative doesn’t specifically say that Pharaoh was in the water, but it does say his horse was drowned. So I’m voting for what seems like the obvious, the even Pharaoh went down that day. In the song of Moses that followed this event, it says they sunk like stones in the water. There were no survivors.

The Israelite perspective

It takes time to see the long perspective when it comes to living with God in one’s life. We have to have experiences with Him over and over again to learn that He is ever present and ever aware of us. In the meantime, we are like the Israelites were at this time, only seeing what is right in front of us, not knowing what might happen, and only fearing the worst. In this regard, we are all like ancient Israel. Again, it takes time for us to learn to have faith in the Lord and to trust that He will, in one way or another, come to our aid. This is one of life’s lessons that is best and most frequently only learned through the school of hard knocks.

When the children of Israel saw the might of the Egyptian army, one of the most feared forces in the known world at that time, bearing down upon them, all they could see was that they were trapped between the sea and an army bent on their deaths. They did what most of us would have done, they wept and bemoaned their misfortune. They turned on Moses, accusing him of stupidity by insisting they could out fox the Pharaoh. Now they would all pay the price. ‘Woe is me!’ was their cry.

Mind you, they had a moving pillar of cloud/fire leading them every day. This was an ever-present miracle for them to look at, and to look to. I guess in their extremity, a benign miracle like a cloud that gave them shade in the dessert sun didn’t carry much weight. How often are we so focused on our fear that we ignore the miracles taking place around us? So the Israelites were fearful because of the Egyptians, they were fearful in the midst of the great deep as they crossed the sea with towering walls of water on each side of them. Then they were fearful as they stood on the other side and saw the Egyptian chariots chasing them through the same corridor that they had just traversed.

Imagine the change of heart they all had when Moses lifted his hand over the waters and the walls came crashing down around the army of Pharaoh, killing every last one of them. Almost in an instant they saw their delivery from what they felt was a sure and tragic death. Now they believed in the God Moses had been preaching to them. At least for now. Now Moses felt like a real prophet to them, and they honored him for delivering them.

What about us?

The trick for today’s lesson is for each of us to take all this information about an ancient people and figure out how it applies to me, personally. Do I see myself in any of the scenarios of fear? Have I had times in my life when it seemed that all was over, that I was doomed to certain destruction? Has my personal scenario of sorrow and fear ended suddenly, almost without warning by the Lord stepping in and rescuing me from my own seemingly “certain disaster”?

When I was rescued from what was so overwhelming at the time, did I suddenly have greater faith in the Lord, a faith that wasn’t there an hour ago? I hope you can honestly say the Lord has never had to rescue you from something so painful as to bring with it a sense of imminent destruction. I can’t say that about myself, for I have faced my own personal crisis where I saw no way out, and only ruin in front of me. And literally within a few hours all was resolved and I was safe. Just like Israel saw that it could only have been God who could have wrought such a miracle, so I saw that no mortal could have done for me what He did for me that day. I say that I hope you have never had to suffer like Israel did at that time, but often this is the only way for us to have our own parting-of-the-seas experience. Most of us will, at one time or another, have this experience. If we are aware, and are willing to give credit where credit is due, we will recognize God’s hand in our life and glorify Him for His tender mercies and great power of deliverance. We won’t have literal walls of water we must pass through to escape the trouble behind us, but any experience that causes that same sense of despair and desperation qualifies for our own parting-of-the-seas miracle.

Day 2

God commanded Moses to write about his experiences “for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it” to Joshua. Similarly, recording your spiritual experiences will help you and your loved ones remember the Lord’s goodness.

Exodus 15:22-27 – The Lord can make bitter things sweet.

Have you ever had the experience where someone was doing something and asked you if you had any questions, and the only honest response was “I don’t know enough to know what questions to ask.”? When Israel arrived at the waters of Marah, because they were bitter or undrinkable, they only saw that they were thirsty and would die if they didn’t get some drinkable water soon. They had no idea that something as simple as putting a particular tree limb into the water would “cure” it and make it drinkable. To them this was a major miracle. Once again they were saved from imminent death.

This last paragraph looks at this story in a very literal way. If you go to this link you will see some different ways of reading this story that you might find eye opening. The author of this link (not LDS) looks at some Jewish interpretations of the Israelite’s experience. You might be surprised at what you find. Be sure to put yourself and your own experiences into the story to see how it might apply in your own life.

Day 3

God commanded Moses to write about his experiences “for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it” to Joshua. Similarly, recording your spiritual experiences will help you and your loved ones remember the Lord’s goodness.

Exodus 15:23-27; 16:1-15; 17:1-7 – I can trust the Lord, even during difficult times.

Whatever really happened at the waters of Marah, the biggest problem they faced was that they didn’t seek the Lord’s help. Instead, they turned on God’s prophet and “murmured against Moses.” They didn’t like the way he was running things, and they were going to let him know they were not happy about it.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell addressed this topic in this clip from one of his Conference talks entitled, “Sin of murmuring.” Take a look.

One who murmurs finds ways to excuse themself from the demands the mouthpiece of God has set upon the true follower of Christ. We point the finger of scorn at times and declare that ancient Israel was  fickle and weak in the faith. What we aren’t admitting is that there are plenty of those who murmur within the Church today.

Who are these people who murmur? Here are some modern topics that have had the murmuring Saints reveal themselves. Warning: this list, though short, may trigger those whose sensitivities are easily offended.

  1. Some feel the Priesthood is reserved only for the patriarchy, men. They feel the priesthood should be equally shared by the women.
  2. The Blacks received the priesthood, and there were those who felt it was only in response to social pressures on the Church.
  3. Some disagree with how the Brethren, the Apostles and the Prophets, spend the Lord’s money. They feel they know better where those funds should be put to use. This also includes those who disagree with the savings program of the Church, which is used to stay out of debt and provide relief to those in need all around the world. Those who murmur would have that money spent on projects of their choosing close to home, and in ways that differ with what the Brethren are doing.
  4. The prophet asked every member of the Church around the world to get vaccinated against the latest pandemic. Immediately there was backlash from those who strongly disagreed with him. Many excused themselves and proclaimed that he was speaking as a man, and not as God’s mouthpiece, so they had no requirement to follow him in this thing.
  5. The Church also mandated masks in meetings during the pandemic, and meetings were either canceled or only broadcast for quite a while.

On a more local level

  1. The Bishop made a decision, and a whole segment of the ward was furious, claiming that he didn’t know what he was talking about.
  2. Home/Visiting Teaching was replaced with ministering, and many members of the Church felt they had been “excused” from ever having to visit anyone ever again. Many of them have not visited someone assigned to them since the Prophet introduced ministering, and it has been years now.
  3. A member of one of the quorums of the Seventy realign Stake and Ward boundaries, and people are upset, because they feel those making the decisions don’t know what they are doing.

The list could go on and on. Do you see the pattern here? Murmuring is the act of placing ourselves above the inspiration of those called by God to serve us. As our leaders (and leaders serve others in this Church) they are responsible for doing what they feel is best for those they are called to serve. Also, the Lord is preparing us, as a people, for his second coming. This isn’t done all at once, but in small increments. This means that change is a constant in the Church. Nothing but the doctrine remains the same.

Sin of murmuring

So who is guilty of murmuring? If you make the above list long enough, probably most of us would fall into that category at one point or another. I know that I try to always be supportive of the Brethren and trust that they are being led by inspiration. Yet, for all my efforts, when the Prophet asked every member of the Church to get a vaccine for the pandemic, my first reaction was to rebel. It took days of soul searching and praying for me to find peace with that “non-doctrinal” request from the prophet. I got the vaccine, because I finally decided that I never want to have to face the Savior and admit that I felt I knew better than his ordained servant. And if the vaccine killed or maimed me for life, then at least it happened because I was obedient to the directive from God’s servant. Whether I am alive here or on the other side of the veil doesn’t matter to me, the only really important thing is that I am obedient to God and His mouthpiece on earth.

My point for today’s lesson is this: We need to be constantly aware of our reaction and response to what happens in the Church, whether it happens by a local leader or the Lord’s Apostles. The world has been stirred up by Satan. The people are in a constant state of offense over one thing or another. We live in the same world as these people. We are not immune to what we hear.  And we need to be careful about how we react, and what we do and say, when our leaders (at all levels) in the Church make decisions. The prophet won’t always say “Thus saith the Lord” when he gives us God’s counsel. When life seems hard or unfair, like it seemed to Israel at the waters of Marah, do we seek comfort from God, or are we also all too quick to murmur against the Lord’s anointed servants?

Day 4

God commanded Moses to write about his experiences “for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it” to Joshua. Similarly, recording your spiritual experiences will help you and your loved ones remember the Lord’s goodness.

Exodus 16 – I should seek daily spiritual nourishment.

The following is a list of three ways in which the mana sent to Israel is a similitude, or likeness, of how the Spirit works in our own lives.

  1. The mana (which means “what is it?”) that Israel received six days of the week, was governed by some sound principles. The flakes of mana were small, like bits of hoar frost. This means it took effort to gather enough for the family to eat each day. You could eat it plain, but it was more common to grind it then use it like flour to make bread. The way we receive spiritual nourishment from our studies in the scriptures and from our prayers is much the same way. We receive knowledge a little bit at a time, and it takes effort and practice to learn how to use what we have received so that we gain the full benefit from our prayers and our studies.
  2. Gathering mana each day was also a proving exercise to teach the people they could always trust the Lord to do as He had told them He would do. God told them that gathering more than a certain amount each day would cause what they had gathered to spoil, and when they did, it spoiled. He also tested them by telling them to gather twice the needed amount on the sixth day, so they could rest on the Sabbath. Surprise! The mana they gathered on the sixth day did not spoil as it would have on any other day. This small, but effective exercise was meant to help them understand, and believe, that the Lord keeps His promises. When God commands things to be done in a certain way He makes a way for things to happen, even against all reason.
    When we keep the commandments the Lord fulfills His promises. Like those who gathered mana each day, we don’t have to know how the Lord does what He does, just that His promises are always kept. We don’t have to have explanations for the miracles to come into our lives, only faith.
  3. The mana only lasted on the ground for so long each morning. If you didn’t go out and get it when it first appeared, you were likely to end up going without that day. How often have we each experienced something similar when inspiration comes to us? We must heed the inspiration and act or it vanishes like the mana, and we go without. Like the mana, inspiration is nourishing to our soul. We learn, with practice, that it is more important to our wellbeing and happiness than food. We also learn, with practice, that inspiration must be treated with respect and as something that is precious.

Can you think of other ways in which mana to the Israelites can be compared to ways the Lord teaches us today?

Day 5

God commanded Moses to write about his experiences “for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it” to Joshua. Similarly, recording your spiritual experiences will help you and your loved ones remember the Lord’s goodness.

Exodus 17:1-7 – Jesus Christ is my spiritual rock and living water.

This story is one of the first examples of a mighty prophet of God who forgot whom it was he served, and the punishment that followed. Two of the most frequently used images of Christ used throughout the scriptures has to do with how Christ is the rock upon which we must build our lives, and our faith. The imagery is clearly taught that if we aren’t centered on, or built upon, Christ, we will fall, and all our efforts will be in vain. The other image is that of Christ being the living water, that knowledge that flows only from him that brings with it the possibility for eternal life and eternal joy.

When the children of Israel had traveled without water for days, instead of turning to God for help, they forgot God altogether and turned on Moses and Aaron. They accused them personally of bringing this disaster upon them, declaring that it would have been better had they died with their brethren back in Egypt than to suffer as they were in their newly found state of “freedom.” Moses and Aaron went and presented themselves before the Lord and told Him that the people were almost to the point of wanting to stone them. They asked God what they should do to find them water.

The Lord’s response combined both of His so often used symbols of His own power, the rock and living water. He told Moses and Aaron to go to a particular rock, take the rod He had given to Moses, and to strike the rock. He promised them that he would split the rock and give the congregation the water they so desperately needed and wanted. This demonstrates to us that when we seek the rock of our salvation, Christ, he will freely give us of his living water, just for the asking.

Moses and Aaron took the congregation to the rock, and this is where Moses made his big mistake. In Numbers 20:10 he says to the people –

10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

This was a miracle from God. This particular miracle was meant to represent to Israel their relationship with Christ, or Jehovah as he was then known to them. Instead of emphasizing who was performing this miracle in their behalf (Jehovah), Moses took the credit for providing them the water they sought. This very human mistake, one that might have received only a slap on the wrist for someone without his knowledge and experience with the Lord, instead cost Moses his right to enter the promised land.

In so many ways, the life of Moses is a foreshadowing of the life of Christ. But in this thing especially, we see that Moses had his own weaknesses. He was as mortal as the rest of us, for all his righteous works. We all need to repent. And in this example, we can see that it is important to always recognize and give credit for the miracles in our life to the one who provides those miracles, even if we have done all in our power to serve Him faithfully in all things.

FHE/Personal Study

Exodus 17:8-16 – Sustaining and being sustained

The Lord declared to Abraham that his posterity would be the sword of the Lord’s justice in destroying the nations that currently occupied the lands He promised as an inheritance to Abraham’s seed. The very first of the people they conquered were the people of Amalek. In this week’s lessons the war with the Amalekites was only starting. They fought with the Amalekites until they were utterly destroyed, but this took years to complete. We are concerned here with what happened in their first battle with the people of Amalek.

Moses learned from his vantage point above the battlefield that as long as the people could see that his hands were raised they prevailed in the war. When Moses lowered his hands, the Amalekites prevailed. This was obvious enough that Aaron and Hur placed a stone for Moses to sit on, and they stood on either side of him and held his arms aloft so the people could prevail against the Amalekites. They stood there and held up the prophet’s hands all day, until the setting of the sun, which was when the battle had to stop for the day, as they couldn’t see well enough to fight.

This story of Aaron and Hur sustaining the prophet is a quaint little tidbit of information, until we look at it a little closer and think about how sustaining someone applies to us. Let’s first consider what this act of sustaining meant for Aaron and Hur. Firstly, they needed to see how important the prophet’s work was in order to do what was needed to sustain him in fulfilling his calling. Secondly, they expended a lot of energy and effort to hold up an old man’s arms all day long in the hot sun. This was the sacrifice needed for their people to not just prosper, but to survive. Thirdly, this was a necessary kindness for the prophet. The Lord gave him able bodied helpers to enable Moses to accomplish what the Lord required him to do. True, Moses was an old man. Even truer Aaron was older than Moses. But He was still able to hold just one arm up for the whole day. Even that would have been exhausting work for even a much younger man.

What about Moses? Have you ever considered how exhausting it must have been, especially at his age, to hold up his arms in the blistering desert all day long? Just standing still that many hours in the hot sun would have caused many to swoon. Yes, he was able to sit down, but when was the last time you tried to spend 8-10 hours holding your hands above your head? All the blood would have drained from his arms, and they would have ached something awful!

I don’t think this exercise was easy for any of these three brethren. It was a painful ordeal for all of them. And it took all of them to pull it off so the army could prevail against their enemy. I hope this gives you something to think about when you raise your own hand to sustain someone in Church. We have promised to sustain every person who has any calling at all in the ward or branch, or Stake for that matter. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to help them keep their hands up as they struggle to fulfill their calling? This is what we promise to do when we raise our hand to sustain anyone. Sustaining is a real act of commitment, an active promise, not just an acknowledgment of a calling.

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OT15-2022 – See the Salvation of the Lord

Week 15