2 Nephi 9:41-43 — LeGrand Baker — Jacob cites 24th Psalm

2 Nephi 9:41-43 — LeGrand Baker — Jacob cites the 24th Psalm

2 Nephi 9:41-43

41   O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
42   And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.
43   But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever—yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints.

In the ancient Israelite temple drama, Psalm 21 tells of the king’s approaching the veil of Solomon’s Temple. Here, in verses 41-42 Jacob seems to allude to the same thing (see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord).

The words of Jacob are full of the same kind of temple imagery and code words which are found in the 24th Psalm, and some that are in the 23rd as well. Before examining the relationship between the psalms and Jacob’s words, lets look closely at the 24th Psalm. It has rightly been called a “temple recommend.” It reads:

The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof;
the world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas,
and established it upon the floods.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD?
or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;
who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive the blessing from the LORD,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of them that seek him,
that seek thy face, O Jacob.
Lift up your head, O ye gates;
and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
he is the King of glory (Psalm 24).

From the days of Gunkel and Mowinckel, biblical scholars have almost universally acknowledged that the 24th Psalm was a part of the Israelite New Year’s festival, and they have pretty much agreed on when and where, during the festival, that psalm was sung (For a discussion of the ceremony and the context in which the psalm is sung, see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord).

Now, let’s read Jacob’s words in light of the ceremony implied by and anticipated in the Psalms. We will read it as a single unit first, then take it apart phrase by phrase.

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous.

In our time, the first two code phrases used here are so casually used and casually read that they seem to have almost lost the power of their meaning. But the power remains in the scripture, nonetheless.

The phrase “beloved brethren” connotes a covenant relationship. “Beloved” suggests a covenant made in the bonds of charity (hesed). This is serious stuff. Jacob is evoking the whole breadth of their covenants, and they ( and we ! ) had better listen.

41b   come unto the Lord, the Holy One.

The phrase, “come unto the Lord,” or “come unto Christ,” is much over-used and consequently much under-understood. In almost every scriptural context, it is an invitation to come to the temple, but not just to the temple, to the throne room, the place where God is.

The next code word in Jacob’s sermon is “name.” In the Bible, the 23rd Psalm reads, “He leadith me in the paths of righteous for his name’s sake.” Here, as elsewhere, the word “name” suggests a new name associated with a sacred covenant. An example of such a new name is that one takes upon himself the name of Christ when he is baptized and when he takes the sacrament.

Jacob’s use of the word “name” suggests the same thing. He wrote: “Remember that his paths are righteous….he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” There is such a close relationship between Jacob’s idea and the sentence in the 23rd Psalm, that one might be justified in suggesting that Jacob is deliberately paraphrasing the Psalm.

It is within that context, that is between the two phrases I have just quoted, that Jacob describes the “way,” the “gate,” and its “keeper.” He wrote,

41c   Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

This use of the word “way” reminds one of the Lord’s promise in Isaiah 48:9-11, and probably also of the Council assignment to John in Isaiah 40:3.

In the 24th Psalm, the way is the rout followed by the procession through the gates of the city, through the gates of the temple precinct, through the gates of the temple itself, through the veil, and into the Holy of Holies. At each of those four stations, one may say, symbolically the Lord is there. But in the last, in the final analysis, he employs no servant there. He guards the way to the most holy place, “and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” If “name” means here what it means elsewhere, it is the only key which gives one access through the veil and into the presence of God.

Jacob’s next phrase “And whoso knocketh, to him will he open;” calls to mind the Saviour’s words in the Sermon on the Mount which he also spoke to the people in America: “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” Here again, we seem to be at the gate or the veil which leads into the presence of God, and to the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s Temple.

Once again Jacob calls upon the idea in the 24th Psalm which asserts that those who may go through the gates are those who, after having been ceremonially washed, and given a pure heart, have not elevated themselves by vain things. (“He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, …”) Jacob’s words are more explicit, and precisely to the point: “

42   …and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches–yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.

Jacob’s final words in this chapter confirm and magnify the temple context of Jacob’s sermon. He speaks of hidden things — and they are hidden, have been hidden from the foundation of the

world, and ever will be. But what he speaks of as hidden is neither the sequence of the path nor the coronation beyond the veil. Rather it is the eternal consequence of that coronation. He promised:

43   But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever–yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints.

Jacob’s word’s are more than just a challenge, more even, than just a threat, they are a promise of the happiness one can only know when one has walked the full length of the “path” and entered into the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s Temple.

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