2 Nephi 30:7-18 — LeGrand Baker– Poor and Meek

2 Nephi 30:7-18 — LeGrand Baker– Poor and Meek

2 Nephi 30:7-18
7   And it shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ shall also become a delightsome people.
8   And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth.
9   And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
10   For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire.
11   And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
12   And then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling, together; and a little child shall lead them.
13   And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
14   And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall
put his hand on the cockatrice’s den.
15   They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
16   Wherefore, the things of all nations shall be made known; yea, all things shall be made known unto the children of men.
17   There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed; there is no work of darkness save it shall be made manifest in the light; and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed.
18   Wherefore, all things which have been revealed unto the children of men shall at that day be revealed; and Satan shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more, for a long time. And now, my beloved brethren, I make an end of my sayings.

In these few short verses Nephi carries us from the time of the gathering of the Jews to the beginning of the millennium. He goes so quickly that it almost causes one to try to catch him and ask, “You have just skipped through the events of my lifetime, but where am I in your story.”

I suppose, if we could do that, he would respond, “I have told you already, that’s why we have read so much of Isaiah together.” At least, I think that’s what he might say, because as I read the parts of these verses which speak specifically of the members of Christ’s church, my mind moves back to Nephi’s emphasis on Isaiah, then, almost with transition, forward to the Beatitudes (for it’s all the same story). Now, as I sit here, my mind replaying some of the things Nephi has taught, I just go “WOW,” and wonder what to write to make that “WOW” intelligible to my friends.

It seems to me that in these passages Nephi does not write about our times as much as he writes about us – individually. The verse I have in mind is the one which he quoted from Isaiah before (Isaiah 11:4 quoted in 2 Nephi 21:4), and which he now pulls from its original context to paraphrase again here. In Isaiah’s code words (as I read the words) Nephi sums up our lives and our missions. He paraphrases Isaiah, “And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth.”(2 Ne. 30: 9a )

I think what I would like to write today, is a review of the meaning of the code words, especially “poor,” “meek,” and “judge.” In looking at the meaning of “meek” we will have to look at other code words, like “way,” “path,” “secrets (sode),” and a few others. For some of you who have been a part of our Book of Mormon Project for about as long as I have, what I am going to write may contain nothing new. Some of you will recognize parts of this as being lifted almost verbatim from other things I have written. To you, I apologize for the redundancy, and suggest you may want to stop reading now. But for others of you, some of these ideas may be new, and may even have some value. I believe it is important in order to understand our verses, to observe that the two major code words which are used here are the same ones which are used in D&C 88:17. “And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.” The earth, as I understand that passage in its full context, was created, and will be celestialized, for the express purpose of being inhabited by the “poor” and the “meek.” Those are the same words which describe the people in our Book of Mormon verse. So our quest to understand either verse needs to begin with our discussing the answers to the questions: “Who are the ‘poor?’ and Who are the ‘meek’?”

First, Who are the poor?

The place to begin to look is in the Beatitudes (I will quote the ones in 3 Nephi 12 rather than in Matthew 5.), where verse three reads, “Yea, blesed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Non-LDS scholars don’t know (and most are honest enough that they say they really don’t know) what “poor” means in the Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (3 Nephi version rather than the one in Matthew) However these scholars do insist that “poor” has nothing to do with poverty, or a lack of spirituality. The Anchor Bible translation uses ‘pious’ or God-fearing as a substitute for poor. That substitution makes sense in the first part of the verse, but it does not account for why the Saviour used “poor” as the requisite condition of those who will ultimately own the Kingdom of Heaven (It says, “theirs is the kingdom” – It does not say, “they shall be citizens of the kingdom”) People to whom kingdoms belong are called “kings” and “queens,” or, if it is an ecclesiastical kingdom, “priests,” and “priestesses.”

Some scholars have noted that the first three Beatitudes seem to be something of a paraphrase of Isaiah 61:1-3, which speaks of a coronation ceremony, of comforting those who mourn, and of the “meek.” In fact, Isaiah 1:3 is a review of the ancient royal and priestly coronation ceremonies. It mentions a washing (symbolized by exchanging ashes for a crown), anointing, clothing, and giving of a new name (“called”). (See: Margaret Dee Bratcher, “Salvation Achieved, Isaiah 61:1-7, 65: 17-66:2,” in Review and Expositor, Spring, 1991, Vol. 88, No. 2, p. 177-187; Paul D. Hanson, Isaiah 40 – 66, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, John Knox Press, 1995), p. 223-226; George A. Knight, The New Israel, A Commentary on the Book of Isaiah 56–66 (Grand Rapids, Mich., Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1985) p. 50-57; Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40 – 66 (Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1969), p. 364-367.)

That coronation setting reenforces the idea that the “poor” to whom the kingdom of heaven belong, are its kings and queens rather than just its citizens, but it still doesn’t answer the question of why this adoptive royalty should be described by the word “poor.”

I believe the Book of Mormon gives us the answer to that question by telling us the sequence of the Saviour’s teachings. Third Nephi reports that one of the first things he did was to instruct the people about a fundamental change in the law of sacrifice. He told them the only appropriate sacrifice would be their own broken hearts and contrite spirits. That was not a new teaching, it was also found in the Psalms. The thing which was new in the instruction was that the outward sacrifices were to be discontinued, where major importance would be placed on the inward sacrifices instead. Soon after giving these instructions he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit….”

(Other scriptures which suggest the same conclusion are: Psalms 34:18, Psalms 51:17, Isaiah 29:19, Isaiah 57:15, Isaiah 66:2, 2 Nephi 9:30, 2 Nephi 2:7, 2 Nephi 4:32, 2 Nephi 27:30, 2 Nephi 28:13, Helaman 8:15, 3 Nephi 9:20, 3 Nephi 12:19, Ether 4:15, Moroni 6:2, D&C 20:37, D&C 52:15, D&C 56:17-18, D&C 59:8, D&C 109:72 )

It seems to me that one who has sacrificed a broken heart and contrite spirit can legitimately be called “poor” in the only sense which is perfectly consistent with the meaning of the first Beatitude. For that reason, I often read that Beatitude this way: Blessed are those who have sacrificed a broken heart and a contrite spirit, who come unto Christ, for they are the kings and queens, priests and priestesses in the Kingdom of God. At least, I think that is what it means.

If I am correct, it squares well with the statement, “And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor,” because ‘righteousness’ denotes the propriety of temple ordinances and covenants. Let me explain.

The word “righteousness” is the English rendition of Zadok if it is a proper name, or zedek if it is an adjective as it is in words like Melchizedek (“king of righteousness” or “my king is righteous”). The man Zadok was the High Priest who anointed Solomon to be king, and who later presided at Solomon’s Temple. After his death, according to tradition, all the legitimate High Priests who presided at the Temple (until sometime after the Babylonian captivity when the office of High Priest became a political appointment) were descendants of Zadok. Thus, to do something “in zedek-ness” or “with zedek-ness” means to do it correctly, in the manner of the High Priest. That is, to do it with the right authority, dressed the right way, in the correct manner, in the right place, and at the right time. Thus the words, ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness’ have to do with the correctness of the rites of the ancient Israelite temples.

“Judge” is also an important word which has both kingship and temple connotations. To judge can mean to condemn, but it can also mean to justify. It can mean to choose or select (as judging the best cake in a baking contest at a county fair) It can also mean to establish a standard of excellence by which one may conduct oneself, and to help one adhere to that standard.

It seems to me that what Nephi’s “And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor,” is saying this: the criteria with which the Lord will judge (justify, select, give directions to) those who have sacrificed a broken hart and contrite spirit, will be ‘Zadok-ness’ — that criteria which is established by the covenants and ordinances of the temple.

Now let’s look at the next phrase, “and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth.” Here, we must go back to where we began before, with the understanding that the earth was prepared so the ‘poor’ and the ‘meek’ may inherit it. And, once again one must go to the Beatitudes to discover the meaning of the word “meek.”

The Beatitude in question is “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” It says the same thing as D&C 88 and is lifted almost verbatim from the Psalms. In the scriptures, when those scriptures speak in a temple setting, the word “meek” seems always to mean the same thing – and that meaning is not “humble,” and it is not “timid.” Some people choose to interpret this Beatitude is if it said, “Only non-self- assertive people will inherit the earth,” with the implied, sometimes stated quip, “and they will have to inherit it, because that’s the only way they can get it.” Those folks miss the point. The scriptures suggest that the word “meek” is the very opposite of a lack of assertiveness, and that the meek do not inherit the earth by default, but it is theirs as a legal heritage – it belongs to them by right. (Again I refer you to D&C 88 where the words “poor” and “meek” are words which describe the people in this world who will ultimately become celestial persons.) – and for whom the celestial earth will be created.

That use of “meek” is consistent with the way the word is used elsewhere in the scriptures. An example is in the coronation passages of Isaiah 61 we have already referred to. Isaiah wrote that the Lord was anointed “to preach good tidings to the meek.” Joseph F. Smith quotes that passage and also says that among those to whom the Lord preached were “the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.” (D&C 138: 42, 55) So, for those people at least, the quality of “noble and greatness” and the quality of “meekness” are apparently represented as being the same quality. This is also shown in the Bible where we learn, “the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3) Those who are “meek” are meek before the Lord. For example, in my view, Abinadi, standing defiantly before king Noah while delivering the Lord’s message to him and his fellows, is a splendid example of true meekness. Abinadi’s “meekness” is descriptive of his attitude toward God, but not of his attitude toward men.

One is meek before the Lord, when he keeps the covenants he has made with the Lord, that is, when one obeys the instructions he receives from the Holy Ghost about what to do in order to keep those covenants. This idea is clearly taught in the scriptures.

The Beatitude “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth,” seems to be a composite of two Psalms, which, together, speak with amazing power. The Psalm from which the Saviour is actually quoting in the Beatitude is 37:11. In context it reads:

7   Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his [his own, rather than the Lord’s ] way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass .
8   Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
9   For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
10   For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
11   But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace (Psalm 37:7-11) .

To “wait” means to be to wait, liking siting at a bus stop and waiting for the bus to come. The implications of that are clarified in Psalm 25. I’ll show you when we get there. For the present let’s just observe that it is apparent from that scripture that to “wait on the Lord” means to be alert to keep the covenants which one made with him at the Council in Heaven and patiently wait for him to fulfill his part.

Here in our present Psalm (37:11) the important relationship of the Psalms with the Beatitudes is shown in more than in the fact that the Lord quoted the Psalm almost verbatim. Verse 11 reads, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

In the Beatitudes, the Saviour not only quotes the first part of that verse, but he quotes it in its own sequential context. Notice the sequence in the Beatitudes:

5   And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. ….
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.

The key to the meaning of “peacemakers,” is Mormon’s introductory statements on the first page of Moroni 7.

In that sequence, verse 8 brings one into the presence of God, and verse 9 sits one on the royal throne of God as his legitimate heir. Please let me explain. The coronation setting of the Beatitudes was established in the first three verses, as we have already mentioned. In verse 9 the subject is given a new name or king name, which is “child of God” (“…for they shall be called ‘the children of God’.”). A “child” is a legitimate heir. If such a new-name, or king-name, is found, as this one is, in a coronation context, one can guess that the name “child” probably suggests that the person is being recognized as a legitimate heir to the throne. It appears that in the Beatitudes the king-name “child of God” occurs just as it does in the final anointing rites in the kingship sequence of the ancient New Year’s festival, as suggested in Psalm 2:7. Some scholars believe that in the ancient Israelite New Year’s festival, the final anointing of the king was apparently a dual ordinance, both of adoption and coronation. It had to be, they assert, because anyone who was anointed king, and who sat upon the throne, but who was not a legitimate child, would be a usurper. It is a question of legitimacy. Before one can sit upon the throne, one must be adopted as a legitimate heir. In the ancient coronation ceremony, the king-apparent had first to be acknowledged as a child of God, before he could set upon the throne of God. Thus the anointing ordinance answered both needs. The other Psalm which the Saviour’s Beatitude about meekness refers to is 25:9-14. Even though the direct quote is not there, in many ways this psalm is even more explicit than the other. Let me quote it all to you, then look at it more closely.

9   The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10   All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11   For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
12   What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
13   His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
14   The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant (Psalm 25:9-14).

Lets begin by looking closely at the concluding verse, 14, then go back and examine the other verses in light of that conclusion. It reads, “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”

The word “secret” is the same Hebrew word as in Amos 3:7, which reads “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” The word translated ‘secret’ is the Hebrew word SOD (“sode” in Strong). It means the secrets or the decisions of a council. In these and similar contexts, it refers to the decisions of the Council in Heaven. [Raymond E. Brown, The Semitic Background of the Term “Mystery” in the New Testament (Philadelphia, Fortress Press,  1968),  2-6.]

What Amos says, then, is that the Lord will not do anything until after he recalls to the prophet the covenants and decisions made in Council. What our Psalm says is that the Lord will teach the decisions of the Council to those who fear (respect) him, and “will shew them his covenant.” I understand that to mean that God, by the power of the Spirit, will teach each individual the covenant he made in the pre-mortal existence, relative to that person’s expectations of the mission he would do while on the earth. The psalm introduces that idea by associating the word “meek” with those who remember and keep that covenant. The remembering comes as a gift from God; the keeping is a matter of one’s faith and integrity.

Now lets re-read the portion of Psalm 25 which is quoted above. I’ll put the words of the Psalm in caps and my comments in lower case letters.

The following verses are from Psalm 25:

9    “THE MEEK [those who keep their eternal covenants ] WILL HE [the Lord ] GUIDE IN JUDGEMENT,” [To judge righteously, that is to be a righteous judge, is the first and most important function of a king. It is represented in verse 7 of the Beatitudes, immediately before one sees God, as “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” If the meek are to be the kings and priests of a celestial world, they must learn how to judge righteously. To not learn to judge righteously, is to disqualify oneself. Those who keep their covenants can learn that requisite lesson, because the Lord will be their “guide in judgment.” ]

9-b    “AND THE MEEK WILL HE TEACH IN HIS WAY.” [In a temple context, “way” is a code word which usually means the sequence of the ordinances and covenants. (The Beatitudes, especially as they are reported in the Book of Mormon, may thus be seen as a quick map of the “way.”) ]

10    “ALL THE PATHS [same code meaning as “way” ] OF THE LORD ARE MERCY [Another reference to the primary responsibility of kingship ] AND TRUTH [ Truth is knowledge of reality – things as they were, are, and will be (D&C 93). So, the “path” of kingship includes learning judgement which is based on an understanding of reality.]

10-b    UNTO SUCH AS KEEP HIS COVENANTS [ The covenants, in this context, would be the ones which one made at the Council and which one re-makes in this world. ] AND HIS TESTIMONIES. [Scholars aren’t sure what “testimonies” mean in this and similar contexts. Some believe it was something which was worn on the body, and that the wearing of it was a testimony of the covenants which one had made.]

11    “FOR THY NAME’S SAKE, O LORD” [God has many names, just as covenant people have. New Names are always associated with covenants (For example, one takes upon oneself the name of Christ when one is baptized and takes the sacrament.) Therefore, in a temple context, one can almost always replace the word “name” with the word “covenant” in a scripture without changing the meaning of the scripture. In this instance that is true. The name is question is “LORD,” i.e. “Jehovah,” which the scriptures and our own Bible’s dictionary suggest is the Saviour’s king-name or covenant-name. In which case “Jehovah” is probably the new name given him when he was anointed King of Israel at the Council. (Our Bible Dictionary reads, “Jehovah. The covenant or proper name of the God of Israel.” p. 710). The phrase, “for thy name’s sake” would mean, “for the sake of the mutual covenant which we made at the Council, and which is represented by your king-name, Jehovah.”]

11-b    “PARDON MINE INIQUITY; FOR IT IS GREAT.” [This is an obvious reference to the powers of the atonement. At the New Year’s festival, before one could be anointed king, the king- designate had to be ceremonially cleansed (washed and pardoned) before he could continue in the sequence of ordinances and covenants. In our case, the Saviour’s atonement must be applied for the same reason.]

The next three verses of our Psalm are a reiteration of the blessings of those who receive the ordinances and covenants already referred to. These verses begin with the question,

12    “WHAT MAN IS HE THAT FEARETH [love, respects, as being in “awe” of, gives honor to] THE LORD?” Then it answers its own question:

12-b    “HIM [the man] SHALL HE [God] TEACH IN THE WAY [ I presume “in the way” means in the way. In other words, as one moves through the sequence called the “way,” God will teach him, not only the sequence, but also the meaning and significance of the steps.]

12-c    HE SHALL CHOOSE.” [As I read it, these words mean God will teach the man “in” the “way” so the man may know which options he should choose in order for him to have both the means and the opportunity to keep the covenants he made in Council.]

13   “HIS SOUL SHALL DWELL AT EASE; AND HIS SEED SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.” [This is an enlargement of the promise we read in Psalm 37. Here the blessing that one’s soul will “dwell at ease” is tied to a further declaration that “his children shall inherit the earth.” Thus, the Beatitude, “Blessed are the meek,” carries with it all the promises of exaltation in the eternal bonds of family.

14    “THE SECRET [ sode — decisions of the Council ]OF THE LORD IS WITH THEM [the meek ]THAT FEAR [ respect, honor ] HIM; AND HE [the Lord] WILL SHOW THEM [the meek ]HIS COVENANT.” [which, I presume, means: The Lord will show him the covenant assignments made at the Council – and also remind him of the covenant provisions made at the Council which would guarantee that one would be able to fulfil those assignments]

As a review, let me get out of the way so you can read the scriptures as they are written, without all the stuff I put in between. They simply say,

7   Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
8   Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
9   For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
10   For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace (Psalm 37:7-11) .

9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
12 What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
13 His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant ( Psalm 25:9-14).

Jesus summed all that up by saying simply, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth..”

If one adds to that, Albright and Mann’s statement that the classic Greek word translated “blessed” literally means “in the state of the gods,.” (Anchor Bible, Matthew, p. 45, fn 3.), what we hear the Saviour saying is this:

“In the state of the gods are those who keep their eternal covenants, for it is they and their children who shall inherit the celestial earth.”

Now let us return to our original Book of Mormon scripture where this discussion began, “And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth.”

The direct object of ‘judge’ is ‘the poor’, but the direct object of ‘reprove’ is not given. Presumably it is also the poor. In which case the words might be read, “And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove [the poor] with equity for [the sake of] the meek of the earth.”

I think what that says is that the Lord will judge the poor by the covenants they have made and that he will direct the affairs of the meek so they may fulfill those covenants, in order that the Lords purposes on this earth may be fulfilled. That, you will recall, is what Ephesians chapter one is all about.

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