We are still visualizing, this post and six more.
It is sometime between 600 and 592 BC. Lehi and his extended family are in the valley of Lemuel near the Red Sea. They have been through many trials up to this point in their travels in the wilderness, some of them may feel lost and alone, others may simply be confused, but being obedient. Some, with strong faith, may have confidence in their situation.
As this chapter begins, Nephi is still explaining their father’s vision to his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel. His brothers are upset with him, because Nephi has told them the truth and what they see as “hard things, more than we are able to bear.” I can close my eyes and see Nephi standing righteously in front of his brothers, not haughty and puffed up, but strong and true as he tells them that he knows they seem hard, but only to those that are wicked, these are not hard things to those that are righteous. I can feel his words, and I know in my heart that they are true. Have you ever read something in scripture and thought how hard that might be, only to realize that if you think that it is hard, then you must be doing something that is wicked? What great changes can be brought around in someones heart when this realization comes to them! We read again in verse 4 that Nephi exhorts his brethren to keep the commandments of God. Remember to exhort is “to strongly urge (someone) to do something,” this according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. Once again the brothers of Nephi repent and “humble themselves before the Lord.” Sometimes when I think of Laman and Lemuel, I ask myself: “why don’t they get it?” And today, as I write, I realize that I should not be thinking this at all. Is the Lord looking down at me saying “why doesn’t she get this?” He may be, but that’s His job and certainly not mine. Have you ever been there? We would be wise to remember to “judge not;” even of those in ancient times.
Verse 7 is pretty short and sweet, but as we are using the visualize study skill, can you imagine this? “I, Nephi took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also Zoram took the eldest daughter of Ishmael to wife.” That’s at least five weddings. Yes, I know they are in the wilderness, there was not as much fanfare as there would have been if they were still in Jerusalem, but, can you imagine the joy that was surrounding Lehi and Sariah as they were blessed to see their sons get married? Five weddings.
Lehi is then commanded that he should take his large family further into the wilderness and when he gets up to do so, he finds the Urim and Thummim on the ground outside of his tent. Can you see the look of bewilderment on his face and on the faces of his family as they look at these items with “curious workmanship?” Can you feel the anxiety of a close-knit family packing up to go where ever God may lead them to? Can you feel the weight on the shoulders of Lehi, or even imagine what that weight may feel like?
Wandering through land, that is described as fertile… I visualize tall grass with snakes and mosquitoes and all kinds of creepy crawlers. I do not see a pleasant hike through the woods. I imagine that this was a difficult and ominous task, but Lehi takes and leads his family as the Lord commands. Lehi has incredible strength.
As the family stops to rest and gather food, a tragedy occurs. Nephi’s bow breaks. The other brothers bows had already stopped functioning and they were only left with what Nephi had to hunt with. This growing family had to be fed. Many family members begin to murmur (complain) a great deal about everything that they have been through, not only were they complaining about their present situation, but they were so upset that they began to complain against God himself. Nephi, though, stood his ground after a bit and told them to just stop. Nephi then went to work…. he will go, he will do. He made a bow and an arrow our of some wood and took a sling shot and off he went to go talk to his father. Nephi not only had the wisdom to go and do, but the wisdom to go and talk to Lehi and get Lehi to be the prophet he was chosen to be. Moses needed Aaron, and Lehi needed Nephi. Close your eyes and imagine this scene. See the child coming to the father and saying “Dad, I need you to ask the Lord where I should go and hunt? This is your deal Dad and I am just trying to do the right thing. Please let me know what God wants me to do.” Have you been in Lehi’s shoes as a parent. Have you been in Nephi’s shoes as a child, even as an adult child, what a significant moment this is.
Lehi is “truly chastened” in verse 25 because of his complaining and he was “brought down into the depths of sorrow.” Heavenly Father then spoke to him and told him to “behold the things which are written.” Through this writing, the Lord shares many things with the family of Lehi to the extent that the family was frightened. Have the words of the Lord ever scared you and caused you to tremble? I have not been in those shoes, I have not traveled with a prophet who, at times, struggles with following commandments and direction. Can you imagine how this family is feeling, I know that if I were chastened by the Lord up close and personal and this family was, I would probably be curled up in a ball on the ground. Out of this experience though, Nephi was given the direction that he needed to go and hunt, and he came back from his hunt with a bunch of food. It would be time for a celebration for the family, a time for thanksgiving and gratitude to the Lord.
Right back to complaining though. I know that this is an eight year span, but in my thoughts, I think, this family sure complains a lot. Ishmael passes away, and his children are of course, saddened. I know that I will grieve when I lose my father, but will I blame others for the choices that I have made? Will I be so upset that I make a plot to kill my younger brother (I don’t have one, so probably not)? Will I be so off that straight and narrow path that the voice of the Lord is booming over me chastening me to repentance? I pray not.
This chapter is full of blessings and murmurings. May you receive the blessings, and as your imagine yourself wandering through fertile lands in time of old, remember the Lord and all that He has given you. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.