Wednesday, December 6, 2017

That They May Stumble

Jacob 4:14-16
[T]he Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and 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. [B]y the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation. But behold, according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.
The Jews rejected and killed the prophets, despised plain words, and sought for things which they could not understand. So God took away his plainness and gave them many things that they could not understand, because they wanted it; and because they wanted it, God did it, that they could stumble. And this stumbling caused them to reject Jesus Christ, his gospel and his rock and his salvation, the only sure foundation upon which can be built.

The blindness of the Jews came by looking beyond the mark. Sin means "to miss the mark," according to the concordances. James tells us that sin is transgression of the law. If transgression of the law is to miss the mark, then the mark the Jews looked beyond was the law and commandments of God. They weren't interested in the plainly stated message of repentance and faith in God, therefore they did not obtain nor were they led by the Holy Ghost.

The Jews wanted to know what the future held in part for the purpose of making a profit, and they wanted to know about the ordinances of God as part of their conceit as the covenant people of the Lord. So God, by the prophets whom the people had rejected, told the people of the coming of the Lord, the redemption of Israel, the establishment of Zion, and the millennial reign of Christ. They spoke of priesthoods, powers, authority, endowments, and anointings. These were things the people couldn't understand, because they lacked the Holy Ghost, because they would not keep the commandments given in plainness. God gave the people what they wanted once they rejected the prophets' initial message of repentance.

The prophets know they are giving people things which will bring them to stumble and fall. As the Lord said to Isaiah:
Isaiah 6:9-12
And [the Lord] said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
Isaiah taught repentance, and gave the covenant people things they could not understand, and they eventually killed him.

One can see this pattern in the ministry of Jesus Christ himself. His first message to the people was the gospel: his doctrine and his law and commandments - the Sermon on the Mount. Once they heard the gospel, he taught in parables which the many unrighteous - which means disobedient - could not understand, while fully explaining them to the few righteous - the obedient. He gave hard sayings which offended the unbelieving and did not explain them even to the righteous. Eventually his covenant people killed him.

So when you hear the prophets speak of priesthoods and powers and authority and orders of angels and other matters of the unseen heavens and rites and the coming of Zion and the latter-day temple and the millennial reign of the Lord, it means the people have rejected the prophets' message of repentance and faith in Christ, and God is giving them what they want, so that they can stumble and fall.

The first message a prophet brings, to turn away from wickedness and keep the commandments of God, is the most important. If that message is rejected, so is the prophet.

Listen to the Lord's words through Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 33:30-32
As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their lips they profess to love, but their hearts follow the profits. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.
Even while acclaiming him as an "authorized servant," a "true messenger," they rejected Ezekiel's teachings.

We're doing it now. The first message was the one that mattered.