How to Understand the Old Testament: Three (More) Key Themes

Hello my lovely readers! So you may or may not have read my original post on 'How to Understand the Old Testament: Three Key Themes.' If that sort of thing interests you, then you can read it here.

This is just a continuation of that. I wanted to talk about three more important themes in the Old Testament - prophets, trusting the Lord, and tithing.

This post has transformed from my most recent elevated learning assignment for the Institute of Religion classes I take.

The Old Testament has been such a pleasure to read, and is one of the most foundational religious texts out there. Most of Western literature and culture can be traced back to the Bible; moreover, the Old Testament (as the New Testament is even referencing the Old Testament most of the time).

Enjoy this read! :)

Why does God call prophets?

The role of prophets through the ages including the latter-days is to receive revelation to guide the entire Church. Prophets also “testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They speak boldly and clearly, denouncing sin and warning of its consequences. At times, they may be inspired to prophesy of future events for our benefit.” (“Prophets,” In simpler terms, prophets act as the mouthpiece for God. In D&C 1:38 it states, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” In Amos 3:7 the Lord assures us that “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets.”

Moreover, the Lord calls a prophet, not man. For example in in Jeremiah 1:5 and 7 it reads, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations…But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child, for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.”

The Lord also sanctifies ancient and modern day Israel through His prophets. He promises in the scriptures that if “Thou shall give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.” (D&C 21:4-6).

Another example of the Lord’s blessings promised to his people if they hearken unto the prophets is found in 2 Chronicles 20:20 – “And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshapat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe in his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” (Emphasis added).

I am so thankful for having prophets to guide us and to have the ability to give us access to the saving ordinances by having the proper authority and priesthood keys on this earth at this time. Without our prophet, we would not have a living Church, in the sense that we could receive revelation on behalf of the Church constantly through a proper channel. I am also thankful for the fact that the prophet and his apostles dedicate their lives to ministering for Christ. They are true examples of consecration. They are true examples of those who put God first. I am thankful for the opportunity to have lived to see a prophet pass away, and a new prophet to be called. That opportunity has strengthened my testimony of prophets being called of God and sustained. I am thankful for the protection that the prophet provides, through instruction, through prophetic teachings and policies, and through his continuous prayers, fasting, and obedience.

How do I put my trust in the Lord?

In addition to their constant dedication to serving the Lord and his Church, prophets also exemplify an all-embracing trust in the Lord. I think this is most apparent in the fact that prophets, like us, are not perfect people. Just because we are even called to a certain position does not mean that we are inherently the most qualified for that position. However, the Lord qualifies us, and through complete reliance on Him, and a commitment to following His will, and not ours, we become qualified to a calling – even one as gravely important as a prophet.

The Lord will bless us when we are serving him, just as he does with prophets. When we put our trust completely in the Lord, we are not alone. This is evidenced by this passage, “And whoso recieveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88). Thomas S. Monson promises us that “when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” (Monson, 1996 “Duty Calls”).
It is also not through a mortal knowledge that things are known to a prophet. It is by the spirit that things are made known. Thus, prophets place their trust in the Lord. In Nephi 22:1-2 it states, “And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had read these things which were engraven upon the plates of brass, my brethren came unto me and said unto me: What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh? And I Nephi said unto them: Behold they were manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit; for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets, which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh.” (Emphasis added).

Trusting in the Lord does not just come from having him help us with a difficult task or calling either. One of the most common times we must put all of our trust in the Lord is when we undergo trials or suffering. There are many blessings that can come from trials and suffering when we put our trust in the Lord. The Old Testament has many examples of people going through trials and suffering, but receiving great blessings.

One great example of this is Job’s story. Despite Job’s trials he is quoted near the end of his story saying “All is well All is well!” Job eventually accepted all that had happened to him without feeling that such circumstances should lead to questioning the Lord. He learnt that although it is difficult to live with trials, the Lord will eventually give us the answers or comfort or blessings we require. Trials are given that we can rise above them, that we can spread out our reach and impact, stretch and grow. President Kimball stated, “Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified? If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 97.)

So then how does trust in the Lord help us overcome our personal trials? Through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Elder Fransisco J. Vinas of the seventy said, “Through our experience in life, we learn that joy in this world is not full, but in Jesus Christ our joy is full (see D&C 101:36). He will give us strength so we will not have to suffer any manner of afflictions save they are swallowed up in His joy (see Alma 31:38).”

Dallin H. Oaks explains that, “In mortality we have the certainty of death and the burden of sin. The Atonement of Jesus Christ offsets these two certainties of mortal life. But apart from death and sin, we have many other challenges as we struggle through mortality. Because of that same Atonement, our Savior can provide us the strength we need to overcome these mortal challenges. “
Alma describes this part of the Savior’s Atonement in the Book of Mormon when he says: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11; also see 2 Nephi 9:21).

President Boyd K. Packer further explains this passage by stating: “He had no debt to pay. He had committed no wrong. Nevertheless, an accumulation of all of the guilt, the grief and sorrow, the pain and humiliation, all of the mental, emotional, and physical torments known to man—He experienced them all.”1

When we face adversity we are never alone. We may feel tempted to think that nobody knows our struggles, and partially this may be true. Most people will never know the struggles we go through, or how we experience pain and sadness. No one may ever know how I have felt in a particular moment, or a trial I have been through. Except for our Saviour. He actually has been through the exact same thing you have. That was part of the atonement. You are not alone. You are never alone. The furthest distance between you and your Heavenly Father is the distance between your knees and the floor. Pray. Ask for his love and peace and you will find it. He knows you, your name, and he has even felt what you are feeling right now.

How is my faith manifested in paying my tithes and offerings?
The reason for tithing is a very simple one for me. Obedience, sacrifice, and consecration. Tithing exemplifies almost all of the covenants we make in the temple. It makes sense then, that abiding by the law of tithing, is a necessary in order to be worthy to enter the temple. (Which as Andrea brilliantly pointed out in class, is one of the greatest blessings you can receive from the law of tithing is the blessings of temple attendance, but I digress). Elder LeGrand Richards states, “In addition to giving ourselves, and giving our services, the Lord has asked us to give of our means and our substance. We have men in the Church who give their time, they will go when they are asked to preach, they will perform a public duty, but it is hard to do the little duty that is seen in secret by them and God alone and their presiding officers. And so we are asked to contribute our tithes and offerings, not only because the Church needs money to build itself, for before there was an organization of the Church, God introduced the principle of sacrifice in order that his servants and his children might be tested, that they should bring the best of their lands and their herds…They were burned upon the alter of sacrifice; but the giving sanctified the souls of those who have…” Malachi is the most infamous book in the Old Testament to emphasize tithes and offerings. (See Malachi 3:7-9)
There are many blessings we can receive from following this counsel. As I mentioned briefly before, temple attendance is a great blessing that comes from tithing. In addition, the blessings of perfect obedience can be ours, when we perfectly obey the law of tithing, (a law that is actually quite attainably perfectible). The Lord also promises to “open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10).

I am so thankful to be able to have the law of tithing. I have seen it bless my life. I have always had the means to pay my tithing, and meet my needs. I have been blessed in the temple. I have been blessed by the opportunities I have to help my fellow men through humanitarian aid, fast offerings, and missionary work. I am also thankful to be able to know that I can measure my obedience in this law, and easily keep track of where I am at with a basic spiritual principle. I am also thankful for tithing helping me to be more aware of my money, help me with taxes, teach me better budgeting, and many other small and simple temporal blessings that such an act aids with.

I know that when we follow the prophets, put our trust in the Lord, and pay our tithing, we are engaging in three simple ways to come closer to God, just as those in the Old Testament had the opportunity to, so do I. I am very grateful to have a consistent God, who expects a high standard of me and Israel in ancient and modern times alike. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.
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