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Question 5 -- Part I WHAT DID ISRAEL SEEK TO KNOW, THAT THEY COULD NOT UNDERSTAND?
Our next question deals with what the children of Israel wanted to know, yet would not be able to
understand even if they were told? As we have read, Jacob emphasized this spiritual paradox in these
words: “The Jews ... sought for things that they could not understand... [So] God ...delivered unto them
many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God
hath done it, that they may stumble.” (Jacob 4:14)
Of all of the twelve questions, this one was the hardest for me to find an answer. As I did so, what I
found began to turn many of my fixed and concrete ideas up-side-down. In fact, it was one of the most
difficult concepts to accept. So be prepared to handle this with prayer, study and meditation. I certainly
CURSED BY THE LAW OF MOSES
The first key to the answer is given by Jacob. He says the children of Israel received what they
sought. Well, what they received was the complex Mosaic Law. As an angel told king Benjamin., “The
Lord saw that His people were a stiffnecked people, and He appointed unto them a law, even the law of
Moses.” (Mosiah 3:14) But what couldn’t they understand about the Mosaic law?
What Israel did not understand is that their divinely revealed law was not the solution to their problem
but was given to expose them to their problem. Their shortcomings, of course, were that they were
stiffnecked, despising the words of plainness and looking beyond the mark.
When their pride would not allow them to put off the natural man, what did they do? Well, they still
desired to be blessed and favored by the Lord above all other nations. So they wanted God to tell them
what outward things they could do to demonstrate their worthiness.
BELIEVING IN THE REDEEMING POWER OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE
In other words, as we learn from Israel’s example, the natural man wants the Lord to decorate the
tree of knowledge of’ good and evil with precise definitions of what is good and what is evil so that he
can know how to self-improve the natural man to perfect righteousness.
So, Israel, instead of being blessed, was put under a scourge and judgment because, as the natural
man, they could not obey a strict and purposely contradictory law. Contrary to God’s careful warning,
they still believed the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil would be the answer to their needs.
So when Moses revealed the first one-hundred commandments to the people, they were delighted.
“And all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we
do.” Then Moses wrote the commandments in a book and repeated them to the people. And again, in their
pride and self-confidence, they said, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, AND BE OBEDIENT.” (Exodux
24:3 & 7)
Obviously, they were getting what they felt they needed. With this law, they were sure they could do
exactly what was commanded, and then they could be given all those blessings the Lord had promised.
Right? No! As they were soon to see, they were very, very wrong indeed and have been paying for it
THE LAW GUARANTEES THAT THE NATURAL MAN IS CUT OFF
I used to think that whenever the scriptures talked about the “law,” I could insert the word Mosaic in
front of it and that, since that law was fulfilled in Christ’s coming, I was not involved in the problems
associated with it. But then I had a rude awakening. I found that a law of good and evil (the fruit of the
tree of knowledge) is given to all mankind, for all are looking beyond the mark. Let us review again how
Lehi explained this to Jacob.
And [all] men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And [this] law is given unto
men. And by the law no flesh is justified, or [in other words], by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the
temporal law they were cut off, and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and
become miserable forever. (2 Nephi 2:5)
So “law” means the knowledge of good and evil which is made available to all people by the Lord so
that they can be cut off and dwell in darkness. Remember, as Lehi taught Jacob, the purpose of the fall
was to enable the heavenly children of light to experience the opposite to their light so that they could
KNOW AND COMPREHEND the light that they were. Otherwise, they could have “no joy for they knew no
misery.” At the conclusion of his explanation, Lehi said,
But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom Of Him who knoweth ALL things. Adam fell that
men might be [in darkness], and men are [in darkness] that they might [eventually] have [infinite and
eternal] JOY. (2 Nephi 2:24-25)
DO ALL NATIONS HAVE A LAW OF GOD?
So the next question we might ask is this: “In what way do other nations have a divine law given to
them by which they, too, will bejudged?”
The Book of Mormon makes it very clear that every nation on the face of the earth is taught their own
particular knowledge of good and evil by those in their nation who are prophets of God. Nephi quoted the
Lord as saying:
I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH...
For I command ALL men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the
islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which
shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is
written. (2 Nephi 29:7 & 11)
So we have clear information that all nations have their own inspired law of do’s and don’ts by which
they, too, are being judged and found wanting. As the Lord says, “The whole world lieth in sin, and
groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.” (D&C 84:49)
THE LAW IS DESIGNED TO BE UNFULFILLABLE
So at this point, I was now ready to ask my next question about the stumbling-stone law given to
Israel. If they had not been looking beyond the mark, desiring things they could not understand, would they
have been given a law at all? Let’s read again what Paul said about the law:
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that
every mouth may be stopped, and ALL THE WORLD MAY BECOME GUILTY BEFORE GOD.
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the law is the
knowledge of sin... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:19-23)
So would Israel have been given a law if they had “listened to my voice” and not been looking beyond
the mark? Get ready for this. It may shock you, at first, as much as it did me. The answer is NO! ‘The
reason is that if they would have had the pure love of Christ filling their hearts, they would not have
needed it. They would still have received counsel and instructions, of course, but there is a great
difference between “counsel” and “demands.” As the Lord declared in our day:
For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things [by
being commanded with promises of great rewards and threats of terrible punishments] the same is a
slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of
their own free will, and bring to pass MUCH RIGHTEOUSNESS. (D&C 58:26-27)
ONLY THOSE WHO STAY UNDER THE LAW ARE CONDEMNED BY THE LAW
It is Jacob, again, in the Book of Mormon, who helps us understand that the law and commandments
are not the strait and narrow way. This information is found in one of his sermons which Nephi included
as the Ninth Chapter in his second book. Jacob declared:
Wherefore, He has given a law and where there is NO LAW GIVEN, THERE IS No .. CONDEMNATI0N...
But woe unto him that has the law given, yea, that has ALL THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD, like unto us,
and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation,for awful is his state!
0 that cunning plan of the evil one! 0 the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When
they are learned [in the law] they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel [still small
voice] of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves [by their pride and confidence as
students of the law], wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall
But to be learned [in the law] is good IF THEY HEARKEN UNTO THE COUNSELS OF GOD. (2 Nephi
So as Jacob taught, there is nothing wrong or harmful in knowing and obeying the law, itself, which
is the preparatory gospel. The critical key is that we are not to over-ride the inner voice of pure love with
our fixed pre-judgments and biases. Nor are we to believe in the law as our absolute, infallible god.” We
do that if we believe obedience to it provides the actual basis for our salvation, and disobedience to it
assures us severe punishments. Instead, we are to rely only and singly upon His gift of inner grace, the
pure love of Christ, which guides us moment by moment, like the calm breeze of true wisdom, justice and
mercy. That is what we will discuss in the second part to this question, covered in the next chapter,
“How Were They To Give up What They Did Not Understand?”
Israel--representing to us the believing but not understanding natural man, sought for instructions
from God that would enable them to be “wise” so they could know HOW to proudly fulfill the conditions of
being good and not being evil. Thus the Lord loaded their tree of knowledge of good and evil with great
masses of ordinances, performances and, sometimes, contradictory commandments so that, possibly,
they would stumble enough to wake up to the one and only way, which is the gift of Christ’s pure love.
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