I decided to add a new category to my blog posts, just for notes that I take down while reading or studying the scriptures, or whatever I write down while in my Bible study class. These aren’t going to be full blog posts, just a collection of thoughts and ideas.
I’m going to start out today’s post with the book Habakkuk, since that’s what we covered in class this morning.
– According to the Desires of our Hearts, Neil A. Maxwell, November ’96 Ensign
– Habakkuk, “to embrace”
– Habakkuk’s ministry coincided with the appearance of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) in world history
– May have written in connection with the battle of Carchemish in which Nebudchadezznar defeated the Egyptians in 605 B.C. and before the first deportation of the Jews in 507 B.C.
– It is believed that Habakkuk lived in Jerusalem, thus making him a contemporary with Lehi in Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4).
2. O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!
3. Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.
4. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
The prophet is frustrated. The Lord is teaching him a lesson here.
The Lord suspends judgement in our mortal realm for a while. God acts the same way with the righteous — He lets them go about their way for a time, He will not instantly correct them, but respects their agency.
12. ¶ Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.
The Lord uses the wicked to punish the fallen covenant people. I think that, even in our fallen states, the Lord can still use us. :)
In one way, it occurs to me that it could be a blessing, in a sense, that the wicked are doing the will of the Father. Not in being wicked, but in punishing these people. I think that the Lord has purposed these people.
Camels and gnats
My commentary this time covers Matthew 23 a little bit. I love the whole chapter. When I was looking at verses 23 and 24, they got me thinking.
The Lord is coming down hard on the scribes and Pharisees for not keeping the weighter matters of the law, or the gospel. The same thing happened in Isaiah’s time as well, and he covers it beautifully in chapter one:
One problem I’ve noticed in my own life is that as I start getting into a good rhythm — as I am observing the camels — there creeps into my life a tendency to start to focus on the small things a little bit. It is borne out of either temptation or anxiety, I’m not really sure which, but my focus on the smaller matters of the gospel tends to cause problems for me, almost to the point of superstition or karma (if I don’t do this small thing, I will lose God’s favor, for example). This has the effect of putting a huge burden on me, for every little action is filtered through the judgement of morality, or, I suppose, a strict interpretation of the law. This intense focus on small things, the gnats, becomes such a burden that I usually give up trying to be religious at all for a time, because of all the expectations I put on myself.
This week, in fact, I was wrestling with this problem. On Sunday I was considering the principles of observing the Sabbath, trying to think of what’s okay to do and what isn’t, and I was in my mind going over the minutae of things. Later on, though, I realized that I hadn’t been seeing to the more important things that week — I hadn’t done any scripture study, I missed my Bible study class because I couldn’t make it, I hadn’t been to the temple recently, and I missed my church meetings for some reason. I was skipping the big stuff and focusing on the small, and it was causing my mind to torment itself. That’s one thing I love about living the gospel, is that when you take care of the big things, everything else just falls into place and naturally makes sense. There are small course corrections, to be sure, but they do not come when you are neglecting the basics.
I’ve also noticed that whenever I find myself in any state of spiritual apathy, I tend to think that there is some special action that I should do that is tailored to my condition. But when I seek for special instruction, the answer is always the same: to do the basics. Read my scriptures, pray regularly, attend services, fast, go to the temple, and do whatever practical things I can with my immediate environment to invite the Holy Ghost. It’s not gnats at all that the Lord is concerned about, it’s the weightier matters.
After finding this revelation, it has been hugely rewarding for me to let go of my focus on the small, imperceptable matters. I know that we are commanded to watch ourselves (Alma 13:28), but again, this is to be done in wisdom and order (Mosiah 4:27).
Finally, I think it’s worth noting that if a camel dies, that small flies would devour it’s carcass. I think that’s what had happened in Jesus’ time, and it’s certainly what happens to me when I push myself too hard.
The grace of God will cover all the imperceptible imperfections. I’m grateful for that. :)
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Filed under New Testament, Personal commentary