Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lift Up Your Eyes And See!

In the Bible we read of how discouraged the Children of Israel became because life was difficult. Over and over they let this discouragement overtake them, and over and over the Lord tried to teach them they didn’t need to be discouraged. From our vantage point it is easy to see that their discouragement made their trek longer and harder. But they couldn’t see that. They only saw the events immediately facing them. On one of those numerous discouraged occasions (Numbers 21:4-9), the people claimed God was leading them to death and angrily complained about the food they had been given. In response, God showed them that things could be worse. He sent a plague of “fiery serpents” among the people. When bitten by a serpent, the people experienced high fevers and many died. This jolted the people into a realization of what they had done. Remembering God now, they asked Moses to pray for a solution. In answer to Moses’ prayer God instructed Moses to place a brass pole in the center of the camp with a brass fiery serpent on top of the pole. Moses did so and then told his people that if they were bitten, they should look to the pole and they would be healed.
This story is referred to four times in the Book of Mormon and each time we learn a little more about it. Nephi tells us that after the pole was erected many who were bitten would not look “because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it” (1 Nephi 17:41) and therefore they died. Alma tells us that “few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them” (Alma 33:20). Another Nephi also retold this story and explained that the fiery serpent was a symbol of Christ (see Helaman 8:14-15) and that all who look upon Christ will live.
Discouragement is part of life. We all feel it from time to time and if we let it dwell in us, we like the Children of Israel will wander in life without obtaining our Promised Land. But if in times of discouragement we look to Christ, trusting, hoping, believing, patiently expecting the best, the discouragement will fade and we will feel ourselves lifted and healed. Christ’s power is not just enough to save us at the day of judgement. Christ’s power is enough to save us every day–if we, when "bitten" by the negative feelings of life, will just look to Him.


Patrea said...

Thank you!! You give me that encouragement that I need when I read your blog!!

Wendi said...

This is one of my very favorite stories and doctrinal concepts elaborated upon in the Book of Mormon. I love how this symbolism and the Tree of Life symbolism inter-relate so well.