Abide: 1 Samuel 8-10; 13; 15-18
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In Mosiah 29, Mosiah says that “if it were possible that you could have bjust men to be your kings, who would establish the claws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father dBenjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.” However, commandment-keeping kings aren’t always available or a possibility. So, as we go through several chapters in 1 Samuel, what can we learn about Kingship? Both their preparations and their reign? We’ll discuss that and much more in this episode of “Abide: A Maxwell Institute Podcast.”
In Mosiah 29, Mosiah says that, “If it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings who would establish the laws of God and judge this people according to his commandments. Yea, if you could have men for your kings who would be even as my father Benjamin did for this people, I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.” However, commandment keeping kings aren’t always available or a possibility. So as we go through several chapters in 1st Samuel, what can modern Latter Day Saints learn about kingship, both in Kings preparation and in their reign? We’ll discuss that and much more in this episode of Abide: A Maxwell Institute Podcast. My name is Joseph Stewart. I’m the Public Communications Specialist at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. Kristian Heal is a research fellow at the Maxwell Institute. And each week we discuss the week’s block of reading from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Come follow me curriculum. We aren’t here to present a lesson but rather to hit on a few key themes from the scripture block so as to help fulfill the Maxwell Institute’s mission to inspire and fortify Latter-day Saints in their testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and engage the world of religious ideas. Today we are once again joined by Joanna Olson, one of our research assistants. Joanna is a pre-business major here at BYU from Fort Collins, Colorado. After Joanna graduates, she plans to go to graduate school to get into medical administration. Welcome back, Joanna.
Joanna Olsen: Thank you, Joey.
Joseph Stuart: Kristian, this section and come follow me this week is 1 Samuel 8-10, 13 and then 15 – 18. Although of course, we may also spill into other chapters as well. What’s going on in this part of Samuel?
Kristian Heal: So the chapters from 1 Samuel chapter 4 through 2 Samuel chapter 4 cover the ministry of Samuel, the kingship of Saul, and the call, anointing and early career of David. It’s important to remember that the two books of Samuel are really one book that has been artificially split to accommodate them to the practical length of scrolls in antiquity. In fact, the history that begins with 1 Samuel chapter 1 continues until the end of the second book of Kings. It begins in Samuel, with the United monarchy of Saul and David then continues in the book of Kings with the glorious reign of Solomon. Only three kings rule the United Kingdom before the monarchy is divided between the southern and northern kingdoms. The book of Kings also records the end of the northern kingdom of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians and 722 BCE, and the end of the southern kingdoms of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 BCE. So we’re beginning here, the story of the kings of Israel. The books of Samuel have more narrative coherence and consistency than the books of Kings. And in them, we are presented with brilliantly nuanced studies of faithfulness and folly, devotion and deviance, power and gentle persuasion. The story of David in particular, is one of the parts of scripture that genuinely deserves to be considered among the greatest works of all of ancient literature.
Joseph Stuart: Thanks for that overview Kristian. Why is it that Israel wants to have a king? And how do they come to have a king to rule over them?
Kristian Heal: So it feels like from the book of Deuteronomy onwards, there’s almost an inevitability to a change in government that leads to kingship as almost a sort of a forward-thrusting movement that’s going to lead us to this point. And one of the arguments that’s made, especially throughout the book of Judges, is that this system of judges simply doesn’t work. It’s breaking down, it’s leading to moral strife, to political strife. It’s also clear that it’s not enough just to have, say the Ark of the Covenant, this incredibly powerful artifact in the midst of Israel to sort of save them. So the judges are not necessarily working, having the Ark of the Covenant in Israel doesn’t save them from their enemies. And so they look to something else to benefit them. Even the priests can’t be relied upon to have a sort of a dynastic fidelity to God, as is shown with Eli and his sons who became corrupt priests. Even Samuel who functions as something like a judge, he sort of continuing this idea of being judges as the rulers, appoints his own children to be judges but they’re seen as being corrupt. And so we have a situation in which the ways of governing and the ways of feeling safe in the land and feeling protected from the enemies that are surrounding them are not working.
Joseph Stuart: It reminds me of Doctrine and Covenants 121, where we read that, “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men as soon as they get a little authority as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” And I’m thinking about how the Ark of the Covenant is present, the order of priesthood is there. But nevertheless, because these men who are supposed to be acting in authority on the name of God, because they’re not acting the way that they should in righteousness, that the authority ends up being not to them.
Kristian Heal: Yeah, there’s no sort of security, there’s no sense of succession who’s going to come next. And I think that uncertainty was disconcerting for Israel. And so they looked around them to, this seems to be the way that this is sort of presented, they looked around them to the nations that were around them, who all had kings and were governed by kingship. And their cry is, they go to Samuel in 1 Samuel 5 and say “Appoint for us a king to govern us, like other nations.” Samuel, of course, is disturbed by this idea. He knows that kingship is not a sort of an ideal system, that it will bring burdens. And so he introduces this. His response to this is to go to God and say, Look, you know, the people are asking you for a king. And God’s response is just sort of both beautiful and telling. “It is not you that they have rejected, it is me that they have rejected as their King.”
Joseph Stuart: Joanna, what does it mean to have God as one’s King, whether for Israel or for individuals?
Joanna Olsen: So I think that that really means accepting His will as your own. And in this case, God had promised them that He would fight their battles. And so instead of trusting them, they decided to take the easy way out. And even though Israel is made up of a people, oppressed by kings in the past, they decided that they would revert back to that, and trust in Kings over God.
Joseph Stuart: I think that there may also be a case of wondering if the grass is greener on the other side. Saying everyone around us has a king, why can’t we have a king too, which reminds me of me trying to talk my parents into letting me bleach my hair while I was in high school. While this has much longer lasting consequences for Israel, it’s important to keep in mind that we all succumb to pressure of wanting to be like everybody else. But that doesn’t mean that everyone in Israel agreed on what a king should do.
Kristian Heal: There’s definitely a debate over kinship that we see worked out in these opening chapters of Samuel. And in fact, it feels as though, and scholars have suggested, that we have sort of different sources representing different points of view juxtaposed here to really flesh out this debate for us. There’s clearly a claim in Deuteronomy, and from Deuteronomy onwards, that righteous kingship and in fact, we find the same claim in the Book of Mormon, righteous kingship is actually a good system of government, if you can guarantee that the king will be righteous. And unfortunately, in the 400 plus years of monarchy rule in Israel, both in the United monarchy and in the separated kingdoms, it seems that only six kings were entirely good out of, you know, a couple of dozen. So this is not working out this theory. The evidence suggests that kingship was not a good plan, even though at the beginning, the kind of book ends almost have this experience are David, who is seen as establishing this Davidic line, faithful to God. And we’ll talk in future episodes about the sort of full-arc, narrative arc of David’s kingship. But he begins and ends his life in a state of pleasing God. But Josiah as the other point too, as we get to him, we’ll sort of see that it seems that this whole story is pointing towards him as the ideal faithful King who’s willing to be obedient to the law and willing to kind of raise the law as the law of God above his own sort of objectives.
Joseph Stuart: I think it’s difficult for folks who haven’t had a leadership position, where they’re responsible for dozens of people, or hundreds or thousands of people to understand the pressure that comes with it, and with the understanding that you have to be able to take criticism, but also have to have confidence in what you’re doing. And then with the added difficulty of trusting that you are doing what God has asked you to do, and there are characteristics given in the book of Deuteronomy, for what it is to be an ideal king, but being able to describe what an ideal is doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone is going to be able to live it.
Kristian Heal: And I think this is the great, great lure of ideals, is that in the sort of hope that they can be realized, right? If we can articulate an ideal, then there’s some hope that we can have that ideal. In many ways this is the sort of power of language to create a vision for us, which is desirable and possible, and therefore we kind of yearn for it and hope for it and work for it, even despite the kind of warnings that it might not turn out exactly as we plan. And so some of these elements of an ideal King are sort of prohibitions, an ideal King won’t do these things. For example, they won’t have many wives, or they won’t have mass silver and gold to access. This is from Deuteronomy 17:14- 16. They will do certain things, certain other things. For example, it says, “When he is seated on his royal throne, you shall have a copy of his teaching, written for him on a scroll by the Levitical priests. Let it remain with him, and let him read in it all his life, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God.” This is getting at what Joanna was pointing out that one of the problems of Kings is that they don’t recognize that God is the ultimate authority. They begin to think that they are sort of an authority unto themselves. And so we’re creating a situation in which you’re expecting somebody to have ultimate authority, and also to realize that they don’t have ultimate authority.
Joseph Stuart: Right. Because this is something in an ancient Near Eastern context, that the ancient Israelites are having the king be subject to the law, rather than the source of law.
Joanna Olsen: Going off of that, kings easily forget that they themselves are subjects. And so in this plight to help their people and to like, lead their people, they forget to look up, and instead look inwards to themselves.
Kristian Heal: Yeah, exactly. And we’re gonna see some interesting examples of that, especially with Saul. And it seems to be this sort of this sense that the king is the law giver, the king becomes almost like a God to the people, this hope is in Israel, this sort of hope against hope is that these excesses will not come about that the law will somehow check the kind of natural inclination of these kings. And so there is this sort of hope in this, this idea of kingship, but it’s a hope that’s going to be continually dashed.
Joseph Stuart: So something that this reminds me of is President Campbell’s great sermon, The False Gods We Worship where he talks about how people don’t consciously reject God. But rather, they come to rely on things that they can see that they can appreciate, that they can hold that they can speak about, that they can refer to with some sense of authority that other people can recognize, rather than rejecting God outright. It’s not like we make idols by saying, Hey, let’s go into the garage and make this great idol out of aluminum. It’s saying, No, we need to trust in what we can see to be able to deliver us. Is that something that you see going on in this section, that it’s not just about rejecting God, it’s about rejecting God’s promises through his covenant?
Kristian Heal: It does seem as though the people of Israel are trying to establish a different relationship with God. It kind of reminds us a little bit of that moment where God invited all of Israel to kind of come up to the mountain into His presence. And they said, no, no, just send— let Moses go up, and we’ll, we’ll receive our word through Moses, and they’re creating these kinds of surrogates, who can be in the presence of God and be loyal to God, and they, in turn, will be sort of loyal to them. Although, as we’ve seen, that never works out entirely well and so it’s this, this desire to abdicate personal responsibility perhaps that we can see going on in this search for a king. In the Mosaic Covenant, Israel was required to be righteous entirely as a group. And we saw examples in the exodus of individuals who did, who went against the kind of commandments, causing the whole of Israel to suffer. They wanted to enter a relationship with success as a nation was dependent upon the righteousness of the king, not on the righteousness of the individual. It’s interesting to compare this to the Book of Mormon. And you began nicely by kind of reminding us of Book of Mormon ideal of kingship. It’s interesting to compare the shift. There’s an interesting recent BYU studies article by Gregory Dundas, in which he talks about this idea of shifting the government in the Book of Mormon from Kings to judges. He says, “The historical record clearly shows that instead of leading to an absence of contention, the new government seemingly spawned an endless series of political dissensions, rebellions, assassinations, and civil war.” So even in the Book of Mormon, the shift from kingship to judges, we see the opposite thing happening in the Old Testament, isn’t actually an unalloyed success. It doesn’t bring about generations of peace and prosperity by not having gains, because what you’re dealing with is people who have power, and that produces its own experiences. But what drove the people, it’s interesting, is not a desire to abdicate responsibility. What drove the people to, as it were relinquish their desires for a king, as it says in Mosiah 29 was because, “They became exceedingly anxious that every man should have equal chance throughout all the land. Yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.” And this is a sort of a really interesting dynamic that we have here that in Israel, it seems as though people are trying to abdicate their responsibility to answer for their own sins. Whereas in the Book of Mormon that shifting government is one towards which individual responsibility resigns, and that there seems to be a sort of a perhaps a better argument for that, even though ultimately, the system proved to be kind of what they hoped it would be.
Joseph Stuart: The hope for Israelite kingship comes in the form of Saul, and it seems crucial to me to remember that Saul at the beginning is not the Saul that we made as the narrative goes on. Though he begins as a modest and handsome man from the tribe of Benjamin, who stands above his fellows not only in height, but also faithfulness, seeking guidance of the hand of the seer as he takes care of his father’s flock. And in 1 Samuel, chapter 9, verse 21, it reads, “I am only a Benjaminite from the smallest of the tribes of Israel. My clan is the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin. Why do you say such things to me?”
Kristian Heal: This is the kind of moment in which Saul is called to the kingship. And actually, we have kind of several, if you kind of tease out and read carefully, what it looks like is that we have kind of a series of calls, a series of descriptions of the call to Saul to leadership. Some of them remind us of the call of judges that we will find earlier, especially as we think of Saul having this prophetic experience, this ecstatic experience, and this transformation. But Samuel reassures him in this opening count, by giving him a series of signs, all of which come about, and that’s one of the ways by he can know that he has really been called by God. And so we’re establishing right from the beginning, that this calling isn’t because of any virtue of your own. It isn’t because you’re particularly humble, or because you’re particularly handsome, the call comes from God. And that is the most important thing, in all of these things, that the thing that is most important to remember, and seemingly the easiest thing to forget,.
Joseph Stuart: Right, thinking about Enoch and about how he says that he can’t speak and about how all the people hate him, or Moses is a murderer, or just in general thinking about how God has only ever had imperfect people to work with. But that a desire to work with him and for him seems to be a basis of a call not only for priesthood responsibility, but for responsibility for anything in general. At least, to do whatever tasks that you are given to do it well.
Kristian Heal: Exactly. And sort of, you know, we have the old adage that the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies. And this definitely happened with Saul, he has this transformative experience. And we have, it’s a sort of slightly odd experience, because one of the things that we haven’t spoken about, but that is clearly the case is that the rise of kingship seems to correspond with the rise of Prophethood. The prophets appear with the kings and the prophets sort of disappear from Israel, with the disappearance of the monarchy. And so there’s some connection between prophets and kings. These two institutions seem to belong together. And occasionally they merge and in one of these interesting cases, and we also see different kinds of prophets throughout this period. We have these marginal ecstatic figures, who seem as though they’re like charismatic prophets, speaking in tongues or speaking ecstatically, kind of out in the sort of wild places of Israel. We have prophets who seem to be counterparts to kings. And as we, as we look at a little bit later at Elijah, and Elisha, they kind of fill these roles. And as we move from this section of books, which in the Jewish canon is called the former prophets to the kind of later prophets, we start to encounter what some scholars called the writing prophets. So we will then have to go back through the history of Israel and see how these writing prophets, Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, kind of interact with the kings. And so prophethood and kingship kind of belong together. But right at the beginning, they seem to sort of coalesce. And in 1 Samuel, chapter 10, we hear this story. And this is one of the things that Samuel says, to Saul, it will happen, “…that you’ll enter this town,” called the hill of God, “…you encounter a band of prophets coming down from the shrine, preceded by liars, timbrels flutes and harps and they will be speaking in ecstasy,” and we don’t know exactly what this means, but maybe they’re prophesying, maybe they’re speaking in sort of speaking in an ecstatic state somehow there’s a spirit of God is within them, “…and the Spirit of the Lord will grip you, and you will speak in ecstasy along with them and you will become another man.” And this is fulfilled a little bit later on as Saul turned around to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all those signs were fulfilled that same day. And so we see right at the beginning, this kind of connection between prophethood and kingship. But also that God actively transformed these people who he called, something remarkable happened to them and yet despite that all doesn’t work out well.
Joseph Stuart: For those who haven’t read far enough ahead, yet Saul does eventually fall. And what it contributes to is losing God’s favor and thus, the confidence of the people.
Kristian Heal: So Saul does have a period in which it all is going well, in which he seems to be responding and rising to the challenge of being the ideal king. But things start to deteriorate pretty quickly in the story. It’s interesting that both of the scripture mastery passages from the book of Samuel that I learned as a youth relate to the demise of Saul’s kingship, the one that survived the reduction of prescriptive mastery passages from 40 to 25, which is 1 Samuel 16:7 has to do with the choice of scrawny David, over the tall and handsome Saul. The one that was lost is 1 Samuel 15:22, which reads, “And Samuel said, hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Now the problem that’s been confronted here is that Saul was not obedient with exactness.
Joseph Stuart: It reminds me of Cain’s sacrifice when we went through Genesis that, we have no evidence that Cain was holding back in his sacrifices that he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to. But it was the intentionality with which he was doing it and with whom he expected the glory to go to.
Joanna Olsen: Kind of going off that it’s important to note that Saul would not sacrifice his will; he only sacrificed the animal. So he didn’t do it the way that God wanted him to. He knowingly didn’t do it the way God wanted him to because he was getting antsy, like the people needed hope, and they were in war. And he decided to go ahead without God’s permission, because he didn’t have that trust again.
Kristian Heal: Exactly. Saul thought he knew better. And this is the dividing line between good and bad kingship that so many kings sort of cross. They begin by acknowledging God’s law, God’s rule, God’s council, the council of the prophets. But at some point, for those kings that sort of crossed this threshold, some begin with this threshold, they feel that they know what needs to be done better. And so, what Saul was required to obey was an instruction regarding the Amalekites. Now as we remember, back in our reading thus far, the Amalekites were that heartless bunch of people who hunted the Israelites in the wilderness when they were hungry and weary. And God tells Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. And the Hebrew behind this phrase that’s translated, “utterly destroyed,” is rendered in other translations as these people are prescribed, or that they should be put to the ban in other places. And so this is referring to passages in Joshua, Joshua 6:17-18. And you can also see this same idea in Leviticus 27:28-29. And what it means is that the kind of theology of this being prescribed means that this people are sort of consecrated to the Lord to do as he wishes. So Saul understood this, when he was told, “Thus said the Lord of Hosts, I’m exacting the penalty for what Amalek did to Israel for the assault he made upon them on the road on their way up from Egypt. Go now, attack Amalek, and prescribe all that belongs to him. Spare no one, but kill alike men and women, infants and sucklings, oxen and sheep, camels and asses.”
Joseph Stuart: Is this typical sort of warfare and the historical context?
Kristian Heal: So where it breaks down, actually, is this desire for God to destroy everything from this conquest from this from this battle, to kill every person and to destroy every piece of property that they had. Because ancient warfare was conducted in a different way. And in fact, it was as James Kugel says, “a most profitable enterprise in many instances. War was,” he says “…unbelievably brutal, although the circumstances and precise measures varied, captured enemies, whether combatants or not, were regularly taken as booty. People were enslaved, both men and women.” And as Kugel says, “…as for the domestic animals and other material possessions of the defeated party, these were likewise divided up by the victorious army.” And so what Saul was doing, was sort of operating warfare like other kings around him. If you go against the enemy, you take the best of the things they had, and you divide it among yourselves, and that is your reward for doing this thing. So, Saul found himself caught between the usual signs of success and obedience to God. And this was not simply an arbitrary obedience. James Kugel again explains, “Haven’t been offered to God as his spoils, indeed, perhaps her way of ensuring his help in the conquest, the booty could not then be used for the conquerors and gain, to do so would be the equivalent of taking anything else that belonged to God, the firstborn of the flocks and the herds, or the first fruits of the harvest, and keeping them for one’s own. This was the gravest of sins.” And so this is why, immediately at this moment, Samuel comes and says, What have you done? And Saul tries to explain the way that his behavior, tries to justify it. But the reality is, as described in scripture, Saul, and the troops spared Agag, so the leaves of the Amalekites, and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the second born, the lambs, and all else that was a value. They would not prescribe it, so put it to the band, destroy it, they prescribed only what was cheap and worthless. So we can see exactly what is going on here. Saul made a judgment call. Okay, God doesn’t really want us to destroy all this valuable stuff and maybe we can offer a few of these things as sacrifices. He tries to use this as an argument. God surely can’t want this. And so as soon as we start to enter into that mindset of God can’t really want us to do this. What he really wants is some sort of more rational version of this command. And so Samuel at this point, essentially withdraws the kingship from Saul. The promises that God had made to Saul that the kingdom would stay with his house are withdrawn, and God turns his attention to another candidate. Already has in mind someone else who will be, who’s going to be the king. And so he rejects— Saul is rejected. Samuel tries to plead his cause. But God says, “How long will you grieve over Saul since I have rejected Him as King of Israel?”
Joanna Olsen: So when I first heard that part, like how long will you reject Saul, that kind of surprised me, because obviously Samuel and Saul were kind of like working together all this time. They were building a friendship or building some sort of relationship and helping each other and then for it to suddenly be cut off, just like that, like that must have been really hard for Saul. And so my first thought was just kind of like, surprised by that. But then I realized that God is kind of gently guiding him towards things like putting his energy and focus into things that are going to help him more. He’s saying, “It’s time to move on, I have something better for you.” Saul couldn’t be a very effective instrument in the hands of God, if he’s living in the past and if he’s not trusting that God has something better to move forward to.
Kristian Heal: Yeah, and I think this is what we’re going to see in the remainder of the story, because of course, Saul remains King until his death in 2 Samuel chapter 4. But what we see is a king who has kind of lost that transforming spirit that he was given by God and sort of resisting God’s efforts to sort of make him a different person. And we see this sort of embittered, embattled King who is still winning victories, still sort of doing things, but something has happened to him. Something changes in his life as God moves away. And in the end, the message is that God is going to choose the king. The king doesn’t choose themselves. The king doesn’t choose another king. God, if this kingship model is going to work, it has to be the one who was, “…chosen by the Lord your God,” as it says in Deuteronomy 17:15.
Joseph Stuart: So another king that God chooses is David, of the story of David and Goliath. And Joanna, you notice something in studying for this that the first battle that David enters into that he may not be expected to win wasn’t against Goliath. Could you say more about that?
Joanna Olsen: Yeah. So basically, when Saul came to David with doubt he said, your buddy is young and he’s no match for this big Philistine man that was a man of war. David referred to his experiences fighting a lion and a bear while tending to his father’s sheep. These trials were preparing him for something bigger. Had these animals not attacked David’s flocks, he would not know his abilities when he relies on God, nor would he have any experience to hold on to when he went to fight Goliath.
Joseph Stuart: Those sorts of experiences can be really difficult because I think it’s easy for us to look back and say, oh, those experiences made me who I am. But that doesn’t mean that they were fun or enjoyable or seemed redemptive in the moment that they were happening.
Joanna Olsen: Yeah, that’s so true. When I picture David fighting these animals, this lion and bear, I would assume that he’s less than thrilled to say the least. He was probably wondering why God allowed these animals to attack his sheep, especially why he allowed this to happen when he was so obedient. He was following the commandments and doing what he’d been told. So kind of going off of that, do we ever find ourselves wondering this in our own lives? When things go wrong, it can be kind of hard to understand why God would allow certain things to happen, and why he allows it to happen, even when we’re following his commandments and doing what he wants.
Kristian Heal: I think this is really lovely, the way to kind of bring out David’s preparation during here, to kind of relate it to our own sense of preparation and being daunted or undaunted by these kinds of trials that we’re facing, and to realize that they are somehow preparing us somehow transforming us. And a lot of this comes down to our kind of image of David, like how do we think of him, he was clearly not sort of a, you know, Saul. Saul’s armor sort of enveloped him, and he wasn’t able to move in it. But he had sort of other character traits. He seems to have a sort of confidence. And there’s a lovely statue of this moment where David confronts Goliath done by Bernini that’s in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. That just moved me so much when I first saw it, because it captures a determination on David’s face this sort of focused determination. That made me think of David in sort of different terms. And I think that we can think of ourselves in these terms. I think we often feel that we’re not able to deal with the trials and the things that are confronting us. But I wonder how often we actually have a kind of a focused determination, right? An actual —that maybe were more, maybe there’s more to us than we even think, than we can even kind of imagine or see. And that sometimes it takes somebody looking from the outside to realize, actually, you’re kind of approaching that trial with a lot more determination than you think.
Joseph Stuart: Are there any scriptural examples other than David and Goliath that you can think of where previous trials end up contributing to someone’s triumph in the long run?
Joanna Olsen: In the story of the brother of Jared, they are faced with this huge trial. They have to go across this ocean with raging winds and lots of storms in these barges. And that was a huge task for them. But it was that very storm that was raging, the winds from that storm, or the winds that brought them to the promised land. And in our own lives, it is our trials that are bringing us closer to God and bringing us to our Promised Land. God wants what is best for us, and he does nothing, save it be for our benefit.
Joseph Stuart: I think that this connects in important ways to because with the story of the Jaredites, the brother of Jared doesn’t know how they’re going to be able to see and he doesn’t know how the Lord is going to be able to fix the situation so that while they’re on the water, they will be able to have air and visibility. But nevertheless, he approaches the Lord understanding that he’s going to help him. And I see that in the story of Jonathan as well, where he says, “It may be that the Lord will work for us.” What do you think about that, Joanna?
Joanna Olsen: My first thought was, maybe? Like what do you mean, maybe? He’s seen so many blessings and so many miracles. Like why would he doubt that? But then I realized that this wasn’t an expression of a lack of faith. This was an expression of Jonathan’s faith in the Lord as well as his submission to the Lord’s will. In times of great trials we often want things to work in a certain way, and we have our own will that we sometimes wish to impose on God. God loves us enough to not give us what we want. Accepting God’s will is an act of faith. Jonathan went on to say, “There’s no restraint to the Lord, saved by many or by few.” So in our own lives, we often want to be the many or the few that God decides to save. But what happens when we’re not the many or few? One phrase that has stuck with me ever since I first heard it is having the faith not to be healed. In the church, we hear many stories of miraculous healings, tender mercies, and instances where the Lord has saved lives and heal what is broken. But sometimes it is not as well for someone to be healed and in those times we must have the faith not to be healed and to keep on the covenant path with complete faith, even though we may have a limited understanding.
Joseph Stuart: Yeah. It reminds me of thinking about faith, not in a way of saying everything’s going to work out, meaning everything’s going to be okay in the end, but rather to say, no matter what happens it’s God’s will and being able to face it. And I think about this too with David being chosen by God to be the king. This isn’t a career I’m sure that he sought after or maybe even day dreamed about while he was a shepherd tending his father’s blocks. But nevertheless, he accepted the challenge with faith that God would make him the king that he needed to be.
Joanna Olsen: So even though we see that David is chosen by God, he’s not exempt from trials and hardships. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Shortly after he was anointed David was thrown into a world of pain. Saul is jealous and subjects David to a series of plots in hopes of deterring or defeating him. David was hunted, trapped, betrayed, lived in exile and hid in caves right up until the end of 1 Samuel. It seems as though David is anointed with the Spirit of God and then a world of trouble begins. Clearly David was chosen by God. Yet, following his obedience and anointing, which was what they did for covenants at the time, he experienced trials of every kind, bad things happen to good people, trials shouldn’t be seen as a punishment, rather as a part of life and an opportunity to grow. In the same way that fire allows refiners to shape metal, our trials help God to shape us into better people.
Joseph Stuart: That’s the perfect place for us to end today. Have a blessed week, y’all.
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The views expressed here and in Maxwell Institute publications are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)