This week we finished my dear Old Testament class. I can’t tell you enough how much I have learned and been changed by this book. I didn’t used to really like the Old Testament, but now I can honestly say that I LOVE it. I am so thankful for my professor, Brother Muhlestein, for opening my eyes to the countless applicable lessons in it and instilling in me a passion to study it throughout my life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the last lesson he taught us, which is this: Eternal life is the greatest gift God can give us. To receive that gift, we must become like Him. We will not become a Christ-like being on our own. Thus, the commandments and the atonement are some of the greatest blessings to help us obtain the greatest gift of eternal life. These things, along with repentance and the ability to change, are some of the greatest gifts of this life, because they enable us to one day receive THE greatest gift.
I’ve also realized that trials mold us into being celestial material, too. Thus, trials are a gift because they make us better able to become Christ-like. We may feel that because we are following Christ, we should be exempt from pain and sorrow. While we will be blessed, we will also have to experience much pain to receive the reward. He will not completely remove the yoke or burden, but He will pull along beside us and bear our burden as we come unto Him. As Jeffrey R. Holland says, salvation is not cheap. How can we expect that following the Savior will always be easy, when His path was never, ever easy? (I highly recommend this talk, particularly the second half where he talks about this. If this isn't long enough, you should also watch this video, too.)
I could write a post everyday for the next year each with a different lesson I’ve learned in this class alone. But, here is just a sampling of the treasures of knowledge I gleaned:
1. Trust in God! So many times the Israelites forget the God who delivered them from Egypt and turn to false gods and idols. Yet, like He will for us, He forgives them after they repent no matter how many times they leave Him.
2. Trust ONLY in God. For example, Nebuchadnezzar worshipped Jehovah, but He also worshiped idols like Ba’al and forced his people to worship Ba’al, too. If they didn’t, he would cast them into a furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not worship anything but God, so they were cast into the furnace. They did not know that God would deliver them, but they knew He could. They were not burned, just as we will always be blessed when we choose to stand as a witness of God, even until death.
3. Be faithful in hard times. Obedience does not always lead to immediate blessings. Joseph refused to lie with Potiphar’s wife and was put into prison for it. He could have wondered why God didn’t bless him for that, but instead he was faithful and was eventually brought up as high as he could go. Job was faithful and had every blessing taken from him. Joseph Smith was faithful and was persecuted. Be steadfast and peace and happiness beyond our imagination will come.
4. Do the best you can and God will make it enough. “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.” ~Neal A. Maxwell. Many people in the Old Testament, like Gideon for example, felt very inadequate when God asked them to do something. We will all be asked to do things we think we cannot do. Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies.
5. Do not give lame sacrifices. In Malachi the people offer blemished animals as sacrifices. Am I giving my best to the Lord, or whatever is convenient to give up? Instead of setting aside time for scripture study, do I just lamely read a few minutes when I can fit it in?
6. To obey is better than anything. Saul was asked to destroy ALL the creatures of the Amalekites, but he saved their best animals to sacrifice. Sacrificing was a good thing and Saul had good intentions. However, God had asked him to destroy them all. Do I sometimes think that I am an exception; that my own idea is better than what the Lord said? No matter how good something is, it is never better than exact obedience.