Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Journey to the Promised Land -- 1 Nephi 18

What Happens
"The ship is finished—The births of Jacob and Joseph are mentioned—The company embarks for the promised land—The sons of Ishmael and their wives join in revelry and rebellion—Nephi is bound, and the ship is driven back by a terrible tempest—Nephi is freed, and by his prayer the storm ceases—The people arrive in the promised land."
1 Nephi 18 Chapter Heading


Commentary
In our last episode, Nephi had just shocked his brothers, as instructed by the Lord.  That got them to help with the boat, or the ship as it is called in this chapter.

Nephi mentions that the ship wasn't built after the manner of men, and that kind of got me to thinking--maybe Nephi's lack of ship-building experience, rather than being the detriment that his brothers thought it was, was actually a benefit.  He didn't have any preconceived notions about how things had to work.  He just consulted with God.  Maybe a good lesson for us, in being open to God's ways, even if they seem to conflict with the world's ways.

When the ship is finished, Nephi's brothers humble themselves again, seeing how awesome it is, and knowing that it is the Lord's work.  This is a really good sign, but unfortunately, it doesn't last.

God commands Lehi to pack up his family and get them all into the ship.  I like that God is talking to different people here.  The task to build the ship was given to Nephi, but the task to lead the family still belongs to Lehi, so the Lord talks to him about it instead.  Theoretically, the Lord could have been talking to Laman or anyone else in the company as well, if they were open to it.  Revelation is for everyone, not just prophets.  Unfortunately, in this case, I think that God's messages to Laman were mostly of the shocking and threatening kind, because that is the only thing he would listen to.  That's another good lesson for us, perhaps.  We need to be diligent in listening to the Lord, so that we don't end up having to learn the harder way.

They get all loaded up with food and seeds and people, and they set out on the great adventure of crossing the sea.  Everything is going well until some of them decide to throw a party.  We know there was dancing and singing, but the only description of what they did wrong is "exceeding rudeness," and Nephi mentions that they were forgetting that God brought them there, so I'm guessing that the rudeness involved some kind of blasphemous talk or actual sin.

Nephi stands up to give another lecture, and interestingly, when his brothers act predictably and tie him up this time, God doesn't loosen his ropes, or fill him with power to wither or shock them as he has previously.  He lets it happen.  What he *does* do is cause the compass (I'm guessing the Liahona is the compass referred to here) to stop working, and sends an increasingly powerful storm to drive the ship the wrong way.

It's an interesting move by God, and perhaps it accomplishes more than if Nephi had just walked out of the ropes himself.  Instead of facing their bossy younger brother, they are facing God, and they have to figure out for themselves how to fix their relationship with *him.*  It takes four days and a huge storm, but they eventually get it.  They let Nephi go, and they can clearly see that they need him, and God, if they are going to survive.  Which is also true for us, though it sometimes takes us more than four days to figure it out. :)

After Nephi is released, the compass works, the storm dissipates, and they are able to continue on their journey.  And they get there. :)

A cool and interesting thing at the end of this chapter is Nephi saying "we did call it the promised land" (verse 23).  Sometimes when we think of a promised land or Zion, or a utopia given to us by God, we think it will come with furnishings.  You know, mansions, grocery stores, lighning-fast internet, etc.  When Lehi's family got there though, it kind of looked like... wilderness.  They planted seeds and were blessed in abundance, but after camping out for so long, it surely could have been disappointing for them when they had to start from scratch.  And yet, they still called it the promised land.  They pitched their tents and got to work exploring and finding all that the Lord had to offer them.  A good thing to remember in our own lives, when our promised lands don't look like much either.  The promise God offers us is the potential, but we still have to work for it, and make it into our dream place.

Tune in next time for the continuing adventures of Nephi and his family in the new world.

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