29 November 2010

The Allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees, Jacob 5

Jacob 5

This chapter is the story of the tame and wild olive trees, which according to the record of Jacob, was actually first recorded by the prophet, Zenos, to the house of Israel. Remember what Jacob explained in chapter 4, he says that he would use this to illustrate how it is that God would gather Israel after they had rebelled against Him. Below are some verses that have stood out to me in this reading. 

Vs. 22 - Having separated small, young branches from the main olive tree, that had begun to decay, the master of the vineyard observes: "Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit."

I feel much like one of these young branches being placed in a poor spot of land, yet being frequently and abundantly nourished by the good word of God.

I find it curious the emphasis on good and evil fruits. Indeed, the measure of one's righteousness can be determined according to the fruits that they bring forth. Why is that important? Because it can be used to determine how well we are doing.

Vs. 48 - After taking inventory of the fruits of their vineyard, the Lord of the vineyard weeps for the utter loss of all the trees of his vineyard. Then he asks this question: "Who is it that hath corrupted my vineyard?" in verse 47. Then in verse 48, the servant of the Lord, makes a wise observation, in effect answering the Lord's heartfelt inquiry. "Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard -- have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves."

This is why they were not able to bear good fruit, because the branches had become presumptuous, proud, and almost larger than their roots.

There is a lot going on in the final round of attending to the vineyard, which is interesting, because it is the time in which we live. The branches that had in times past be planted elsewhere throughout the vineyard have now been brought back the main tree, where the roots where the strongest. The heritage that is involved in being a part of that greatest of all works that has existed since the beginning is notable to consider.

The wild branches haven't  been fully removed from that tree until the good branches have grown and become sufficiently stable and strong. This is the curious instructions given regarding the growth of the vineyard. Only discard the most bitter fruit, and leave the rest of the wild fruit until the good branches have received sufficient strength (see vs. 57).

In this final round there is nourishing, digging, and pruning of the trees, this is the time in which we live. Much of what happens to us as individuals and as a people (both as a church and as a human race) have to do with the pruning, shaping efforts of the Lord. It becomes more noticeable and comprehensible the closer we are to God, but this is our time in which this is the reality of things as they really are. All this is done, so that ultimately, the good may overcome the evil (vs. 59).

Later in this final labor, one of the chief tasks of the laborers was to keep the roots and branches of the tree equal to one another, so that they could grow. Surely this must have been disappointing  to those branches that grew beyond what their root could support. "...They did keep the root and the top thereof equal, according to the strength thereof," (vs. 73).

10 November 2010

"The Great, and the Last, and the Only Sure Foundation," Jacob 4:14-18

Jacob 4:14-18

There are several interesting thoughts presented in these final verses that could be each treated individually. For example, verse 14 talks about God ultimately allowing all of his children to do what they will do, even if it will lead to their destruction. "...And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble." Not that God will take away the consequences of bad behavior, but He does work according to our desires. On the the flip side, if our desires are God's desires, then how great are the blessings that will result.

Another interesting thought: the stone, or the sure foundation, which God had given the Jews to build upon. When Jacob gave this prophecy, he was anticipating that the Jews would reject "the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation." (vs. 15) Jacob goes further to say that this stone is the only way that God will provide for their redemption. Jacob also knows that God will redeem His people. So it is for him a great puzzle, of sorts, trying to figure out how the Jews would ever accept Christ as their Redeemer. For He is to become "the head of their corner." (vs. 17)

There is a footnote on verse 17, on the word "ever" in the question that goes like this: "How is it possible that these [the Jews], after having rejected the sure foundation [Jesus Christ], can ever* build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?"

Jesus taught in Matthew 19:30, "But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first." In Doctrine and Covenants 29:30, the Lord reveals that He has not committed all His judgments unto man, and then goes on to explain that all his words must be fulfilled, including those just mentioned from Matthew 19.

Ultimately, what Jacob is preparing us for in posing this question is the allegory that is to follow in the next chapter, which goes on to reveal the great love and purposes of the Lord in having made covenants with the house of Israel.

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Quietly, the Spirit of the Lord says: Because I love them, I have planned and prepared the way for the redemption of all my children. I am in command of my holy work as it moves across the earth.