Many people have heard the above referenced quote from the Book of Chronicles quoted in both religious and political arenas. Unfortunately, many who hear this quote do not know that the promise conditional upon keeping the terms of the Covenant given by God to the House Of Israel as they entered The Land of Promise recorded in Deuteronomy 28:
"And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God...Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field...Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock...The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways...The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways...And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them..."
In contrast if the terms of The Covenant are not kept, the the curses of The Covenant are poured out:
"But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field...The LORD will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me...The LORD will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish...The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth...A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually...All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever...The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young."
It takes the blessings of The Covenant to overturn the curses of the Covenant that come about through disobedience. In order to secure these blessings we must understand the terms of the covenant that specifically applies to the covenant land grant that we occupy. For America this would be The Book of Mormon.
BUILDING BLOCK 1: THE GOD OF THIS LAND
The First Pillar of Israelite Covenants commences with the Declaration of the God of the Covenant and his absolute authority. We see this Declaration of Dependence upon God declared in The Title Page of The Book of Mormon:
"...Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations..."
Those who wish their homes and communities to be Cities of Light and Refuge must be established on the sure foundation of the Eternal God and the terms of God's covenant. There is no wiggle room here. Just as with ancient Israel, God has sworn (i.e. testified under legal oath) the following regarding the land of America:
"And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them. And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity (Lawlessness). For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off." (Ether 2:8-10)
The idea of our absolute dependence upon God is the first pillar in our relationship with him. In fact is the greatest commandment, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is bone Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27)
BUILDING BLOCK 2: MEDIATION AND AT-ONE-MENT
True repentance commences when a person or people commits to be established on the Messiah of Israel and his absolute dominion over civil and spiritual affairs in their covenant domain. But establishing ourselves on his sure foundation also involves upholding and sustaining his mediation and atonement as well as his Law- both civil law and his holiness code of the heart.
The idea of oneness with God was expressed in the law of Sacrifice as given to Adam and Eve:
"And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore." (Moses 5:6-8)
For some reason we as modern Americans get caught up in the cultural expression of animal sacrifice, but fail to understand that it represents a state of oneness epitomized in the declaration, "Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore." part of the equation.
So what does this mean to a community? How then shall we do all that we no in the name of The Son? In the Israelite mind to act in the name is to conduct ourselves (our outward behavior and our inward thoughts and desires) after the pattern given by Christ. In the Book of Mormon we find two prime examples of this:
King Benjamin's Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot):
"And moreover, I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord. And I give unto them a name that never shall be blotted out, except it be through transgression." (Mosiah 1:11-12)
In Israelite thought, just as we take upon ourselves the name of God through our actions and our desires we may also find the name we take upon ourselves to be blotted out through our actions and desires of transgression. In other words, a person or community takes upon the name through their actions and desires not just through a symbolic ritual of water immersion (aka. Baptism).
King Benjamin is the epitome of a righteous King in Israel who recognized and declared his dependence on God:
"But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me." (Mosiah 2:11)
In recognizing his dependence, he then proceeded to reinforce the protective hedge or barrier that God gave in the 10 Commandments:
"Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you."
The 10 Commandments given to Israel sets up the civil boundaries or standards of God's people. In establishing these boundaries, we are given the righteous building blocks that make up the protective wall for families and communities of light. Without this barrier, a family and community leaves itself vulnerable to enemies both foreign and domestic. We are now witnessing the results of removing this protective boundaries in The United States of America as this article is written.
The opposite picture of a community or nation in danger of being enslaved and destroyed is found in the account of King Noah. In this case, the Prophet Abinadi attempts to uphold this protective barrier to King Noah and his wicked priests:
"And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses.
But now Abinadi said unto them: I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved; yea, if ye keep the commandments which the Lord delivered unto Moses in the mount of Sinai, saying:
I am the Lord thy God, who hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other God before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or things which are in the earth beneath.
Now Abinadi said unto them, Have ye done all this? I say unto you, Nay, ye have not. And have ye taught this people that they should do all these things? I say unto you, Nay, ye have not..." (Mosiah 12:32-37, 13)
The protective wall or barrier of the 10 Commandments is a gift and a covenant responsibility to every Man, Woman, and Child in the community. If we erect the wall, we are delivered by the matchless power of God. If we disregard the wall, then our enemies have the inroads they need to bring us into bondage.
COMMUNITIES OF LIGHT AND SACRED SPACE:
Besides the protective wall of the outward civil code (10 Commandments). A community of light needs and ideology and standard of the Heart. If we do the works of the King and if we correct our hearts by bringing them into oneness with the desires of the King, then we are the King's people and are called by his name. If we follow this Israelite thought process out, then King Benjamin's address paints the picture of the actions and behaviors of a community of people who take upon them the name of Christ:
"And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order." (Mosiah 4:26-27)
THE SERMON AT THE TEMPLE:
The Sermon at the Temple/Mount is what is termed a Holiness Code in Israel. It comprises teachings regarding the conditions of the Heart. In the condition of the Heart, Sacred Space is created or destroyed. If the 10 Commandments represent the outward protective wall or civil code for the community, then the teachings at the Sermon at the Temple represent the atmosphere of holiness and pure desire that exists inside the wall where the inner city is built -i.e. the heart of the community. The sermon commences with the description of the state of being blessed.
The word "Blessed" comes from the Hebrew word barukh. When an Israelite blesses God or God blesses someone or something the word barukh carries with it an awareness of the closeness of God. In fact being blessed is being in a state wherein the very presence of God fills the air. The idea of blessedness carries with it deep Israelite connotations of the presence or spirit of God being felt in our minds, our hearts, even the core of our very souls. The idea of being blessed or even in blessing God is that our hearts and minds should be awakened to the understanding that God is making himself close to us to draw us into closeness with him. In other words, the declaration of a blessing or declared blessed is that of the awareness of the presence of God right now.
With that in mind now consider the words of the Messiah as part of his covenant declaration:
"2 And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.
3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
7 And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
10 And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you. (3 Nephi 12)
Now for a moment as you read the words of the Sermon at the Temple/Mount consider that the Messiah of Israel is making a declaration of blessing (i.e. blessed). In each of these declarations he is declaring the Promise of the closeness -EVEN THE PRESENCE- of God in the here and now as we conform to the image of those blessed who are the poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted for the sake of walking in his name. In other words, the presence of God is already in them and with them. These principles of desire and the heart are not something that can be legislated like a civil code, but must be planted in the hearts of the people and nourished with love and mercy so that the roots will dig deep and grow into a Tree of Life.
Now more than ever, do we need to restore the protective wall give by God to all Israel for our homes and communities. Now more than ever do we need a return to the ideology of the teachings of the Sermon at the Mount/Temple to restore the atmosphere of covenant peace in our communities. While our nation is diminishing due to its lawlessness and unbelief, we as families and communities can still uphold these pillars of righteousness.
By our homes and communities establishing these pillars of covenant righteousness, we will see the words of the Prophet Isaiah fulfilled:
"Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard...
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in."
In doing so, let us remember the declaration of Jesus Christ- Yeshuah ha Moshiach:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house; Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil..." (3 Nephi 12:14-17)
Cities of Light (Part 3)- To be continued.