Dwelling in Righteousness
For a people to be Zion they must dwell in righteousness. This expression contains a two fold meaning that gives us additional information on how to be Zion. If this characteristic was important enough to be used in Moses’ description of Enoch’s Zion then perhaps it would help us to understand what righteousness is and what it means to dwell in righteousness.
In describing Enoch’s Zion Moses stated:
“And from that time forth there were wars and bloodshed among them; but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness. The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish. And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7: 16-18)
The phrase “dwelt in righteousness” although simple is packed with meaning. To understand what it means to dwell in righteousness we must understand what righteousness is from a Hebraic point of view.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word. Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments. My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law (Torah).” (Psalms 119: 5-9)
To an Israelite his walk with God is the path. Just as the Hebrew word resha (wicked) carries the meaning of departing from God’s path, the Hebrew word tzadik (righteous) carries of the meaning of walking in God’s path. God’s commandments and instructions are the path of righteousness. To uphold, correctly interpret, protect, and carry out God’s commandments is righteousness.
Righteousness is not some mystical state of bliss but a condition of being where people establish and carry out God’s commandments or laws amongst them. In describing who would dwell in the holy hill and in the presence of God’s tabernacle, King David demonstrates God’s definition of righteousness as condition, attitude, and most importantly actions:
“[[A Psalm of David.]] LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” (Psalms 15)
God’s Presence- His Tabernacle
By establishing a community or society based upon God’s commandments and instructions we create a condition of dwelling in righteousness. In doing so we create a literal place governed by righteous, God given laws where people can dwell in peace (shalom).
Another important aspect connected to the idea of dwelling in righteousness is the realization of the presence of God. When the people took upon themselves the terms of God’s covenants and enacted his covenant instructions God placed his tabernacle (or presence) in the midst of the camp of Israel. Notice that in connection with the people dwelling in righteousness how Moses describes God dwelling among Zion, ““And from that time forth there were wars and bloodshed among them; but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness.”
God (YHVH) is righteous and to dwell with him in his presence is to dwell in righteousness. Just as the ancient tabernacle in the wilderness was a fulfillment of establishing God’s throne among his people so do we also seek the fulfillment of establishing a community or society based on God’s law where his Tabernacle (Yeshua) can come and abide with us. This condition of God dwelling with his people and his people upholding and carrying out his laws is what is called Zion.
“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3)
When we hear the word Law images of police cars, handcuffs, and swirling red and blue lights come to mind. When many Mormons read their Israelite scriptures their approach is that of western protestant Christianity that is based upon a Greek-Gentile Mindset and culture. They read Hebraic expressions such as “I have come to fulfill the law” from a gentile paradigm.
“2 And it came to pass that when Jesus had said these words he perceived that there were some among them who marveled, and wondered what he would concerning the law of Moses; for they understood not the saying that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.
3 And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new. 4 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses. 5 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end. 6 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled. 7 And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come. 8 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me. (3 Nephi 15)
Verse 2-3: Old and New-- The word for new finds its root in the Hebrew word Chodesh. The word Chodesh that is translated "new" relates to the idea of the NEW MOON. It draws upon the picture of a cycle. The moon goes through its phases from Dark to light to back to darkness. What we call the New moon is actually a RE-NEWAL OF THE MOON every month. So for old things to become new in a Hebrew concept draws from the idea of a cycle of birth-maturity-death and then birth again, but in the end while we call it a "new moon" it is actually the same MOON Reborn. The Law God gave to Moses had its birth and through the applying of traditions and apostasy it matured and waned but through the Messiah it is re-newed just as our Moon is renewed every month. Same law in its original state and intent or as Mormons might understand it-- IT WAS RESTORED.
4-5 Fulfilled- From a Gentile point of view fulfilled means it literally has an end, i.e so we don't have to follow it anymore. As such that means I get to worship other Gods, disrespect my parents, steal, murder, and sleep with your wife, etc as the law is fulfilled and done away. To FULFILL the Torah to a Jew means to PROPERLY INTERPRET AND PERFORM THE TORAH. So when the Messiah says he comes to FULFILL the LAW he means that he comes to give us the correct Interpretation and performance of the commandments he gave to Moses at Sinai.
The part that trips us up is the "it hath an end" part. Hebraic thought is rooted in cycles-- what we in the LDS world might call an eternal round. In Greek culture and though to have an end is similar to the idea of crossing the finish line in a race-- it is done and you finished the race. In Hebraic thought "the end" is the purpose for which something is Given. Hebrew is rooted in function. Like a cycle of the Moon we go through a cycle but in the end it is still the same moon. To accomplish the "end" of something is to accomplish it's purpose. The section of scripture above is part of a poetic structure and if you will notice the Messiah himself tells you what the end or purpose of the law, "but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me." In other words the law given to Moses is to bring us to the Messiah. That is it's purpose. There is one path, one way, one Messiah
Just like the United State of America has a Constitution to govern its people and to establish unity or oneness so does God’s Constitution Found in the Scriptures provides us with the foundation for unity or Oneness. The ultimate expression of this is found in the greatest law as expressed by the Savior:
“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, The Shema) The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (quoting Leviticus 19:18)’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." (Mark 12:28-33)
To dwell in Righteousness we must dwell in Love. The Love that permeates Zion is no fleeting emotion or new age touchy feely rehashing of the doctrines perpetrated by the Greek love god. The Love of Zion is a covenant love based upon God’s definition of love as taught in his instructions to his children:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments… Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”(John 14: 14,21)
The Master did not leave us without instructions. Following classic Israelite style he gave the Sermon on the Mount as his “HOW TO” Manual to fulfill the commandments he gave at Mount Sinai. Lay the foundation of Zion. Start by embracing the Ten Commandments as your covenant boundaries and the Sermon on the Mount as the Messiahs instructions on how to interpret and correctly perform those commandments. In doing so, we will see the literal fulfillment of Nephi’s words:
“And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth. (1 Nephi 22:26)
Without God’s laws we live in a state of iniquity (lawlessness). “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked (1 John 2:3-6)