When the children of Israel were afflicted in the wilderness with fiery (poisonous) serpents the Lord instructed Moses to erect a brass serpent and place it upon a pole, “and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9)
But even after seeing their fellows saved by this simple act, there were some whose hearts were so hardened, “that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.” (Alma 33:20)
Alma asks, “if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes . . . would ye not behold quickly?” (Alma 33: 21). I can almost hear a “oh for crying out loud” tone in his question. If all you had to do was look at something to save your life – why wouldn’t you? The answer is, it was too simple. They didn’t believe something so common, and so simple, could save them, so they refused to look – and it cost them their lives.
A few chapters later, Alma expands his teaching to include the Liahona, which was fashioned by the hand of God to guide Lehi through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. It was a physical object, like the brass serpent which Moses raised up, which if they looked upon it, they would live. But, for a larger part of their journey they did not look, and they “tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst.” (Alma 37:42) Why didn’t they just look? Because it only worked when they believed God “could cause those spindles [to] point the way they should go.” (Alma 37:40) When they didn’t believe God “could” or “would” cause the Liahona to indicate His will, it didn’t matter if they looked at it – all they saw was brass spindles – not the will of God.
It is easy to read about their stubborn unbelief and shake our heads, feeling sure that if we had been there, that we would not have allowed unbelief keep us from looking upon the serpent, or into the Liahona with believing eyes.
The Liahona was not a one-of-a-kind work of God. It may be the only time this work was executed in brass, but God has done this same thing throughout the long eternities. Lehi was given the Liahona because they needed a physical witness of God’s directing hand. Without it, they would not have arrived in the Promised Land.
For you and I, we stand upon a taller ladder because of the faith and teaching of our parents, and because we are not surrounded by barren wilderness, but by millions of believing souls, by the greatest collection of scripture of all time, and by living prophets. So, we do not have, or apparently need, a Liahona. But, this directing work of God did not begin with the Liahona, nor did it cease after it.
Then, and now, the “word of Christ” is our Liahona. Christ speaks to us in our hearts, rather than through spindles of brass. These words of direction are empowered or disabled by our own belief that God truly is in the little pointers in our heart. If we doubt it, then they cease. When we believe and take them as our guide, then “just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.” (Alma 37:45)
On the UnBlog we have harped and hammered and belabored this principle unrelentingly. The reason is – most in this world are still not looking. After one knows that Jesus is the Christ, then hearing and obeying His voice is the pivot point of salvation. This is our Liahona, and most people only glance in times of need. We peer at them when we’re in trouble. We try to believe when we are in pain and sorrow. But, we don’t “look”. We don’t turn our spiritual eyes and ears upon the Holy Spirit, which is the “words” which Christ speaks, and our Liahona spindles, and then never take our eyes away.
Every person I know who has chosen to look – and then never look away – has accomplished vast and eternal things in their lives. They walk with faith and joy toward God’s destination for their lives. They have a calling in their lives. They know what to do each moment, largely without seeing the broad picture of where it is taking them. They are at peace because when each footfall is directed by the voice of God, then the only possible destination before them is safety, miracles, joy and exaltation.
The funny thing is that it is actually very easy to do – as easy for us, at least, as it was for Lehi to look upon the Liahona.
“Do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we look we may live forever.” (Alma 37:46)
If your eyes are even distantly focused upon Zion, consider what “we may live forever” might mean to that approaching destination.
Next on the UnBlog: The Simpleness of the Way
© June 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.