The Temple of Solomon had a “sea” for washings of the priests. The description of that “sea” is found in 1 Kings 7: 23-26. Significantly the “sea” sat upon the backs of twelve oxen. (verse 25.) Three were facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east.
In the time of the First Temple, these twelve oxen foreshadowed the scattering of Israel to the four corners of the earth. The destruction of the First Temple completed the scattering, which began at the death of Solomon, who was responsible the construction of the First Temple. When he died, the kingdom was divided north and south. The northern kingdom contained ten tribes, which would be taken into Assyrian captivity at about 725 b.c., and then be lost to history as they scattered northward. The remaining two tribes of the south were taken captive by Babylon at 600 b.c., and then a “remnant” returned. They were finally dispossessed of their land at 70 a.d. by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, and scattered throughout the Roman Empire.
We also build fonts in Temples with twelve oxen bearing the font of water used for baptisms for the dead. These twelve oxen are also divided into groups of three facing north, west, south and east. Now, however, the oxen signify the gathering of scattered Israel. They also signify by their number, three, the concept of presidency or organization under restored priestly authority. The circle of twelve also are a symbol of restored, reorganized Israel in the latter-days to once again exist as a united people upon the earth.
When Christ taught publicly and could be heard daily, there was no need to approach Him at night in private. However, Nicodemus, a Pharisee member of the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus to examine Him “by night” without his peers knowing that he was making this contact. Christ knew the heart of Nicodemus, and put the matter squarely to him:
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3: 3.)
The assertion made here is:
“Verily, verily”–meaning that Christ was capable of announcing truth.
“I say unto thee”–meaning that Christ was capable of making commandments, establishing conditions, announcing the requirements for salvation. Indeed, Christ was putting Himself into the position of Moses, becoming a lawgiver.
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” –meaning that if Nicodemus intended to see heaven, Christ was declaring the condition for entry. Becoming a new creature was essential. Without newness, new birth, a new approach to life, all things which Nicodemus followed would lead away from the kingdom of heaven.
Nicodemus responded: “How can a man be born again when he is old? Can he enter the second time into the mother’s womb, and be born? ” (John 3: 4.)
This isn’t a rhetorical or meaningless question, nor does it announce ignorance. Nicodemus is testing Christ. If this is a new lawgiver, and possessed the capacity to announce conditions for entry into heaven, then He needs to explain His meaning. This is a Pharisee Rabbi, asking a young, new Rabbi to set the matter plainly.
Christ responded: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 5-8.)
Now it is put plainly:
Born as a new man, by water (baptism) and Spirit (receive Holy Ghost) is required to “enter into the kingdom of God.” Without receiving these new ordinances from the new officiators (John the Baptist and Christ), the old ordinances will no longer be accepted. This is a call to Nicodemus to receive the new prophets then preaching. Without accepting these new prophets, he could not enter into God’s kingdom.
Flesh is just flesh. What is required to be able to go where God is will require every person to receive a new Spirit, new life, and become connected with heaven.
Heaven is unruly, unpredictable and blows without predictability. The Spirit is unruly, requiring things which men do not anticipate. It takes you places you have not been before. You cannot just sit within the councils of the Sanhedrin and reason with men’s understanding. You must become inspired by a higher source. You must accept that new direction from above, or you will never enter into God’s kingdom.
Brilliant. Christ taught the teacher. Now the matter is put to him: Will he receive a new life, and leave the old one? Will he become born again.
How hard it must have been for a man in Nicodemus’ position to approach Christ. The fact he came at night testifies to the discomfort of his circumstances. Yet Christ, in patience, told him how to receive eternal life.
What a revealing encounter. We are the richer in our understanding for it having occurred.
Here was my thought to the kids last night as they were getting ready to for bed:
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13: 2.)
I believe that. I think it happens more often than people generally believe or even think possible.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, in a fullness, with power to save and exalt, remains intact on the earth. Whenever there are those who come to Him, He will quickly come to them.
Since salvation is always an individual event, the failure of others to search for and obtain the great blessings which He makes available to His followers is not and never has been predicated upon the success of a group.
It is enough for one to seek Him. But when two or three are gathered in His name, He will not leave them comfortless, but will respect their faith, heed and diligence.
Lamenting about the decay all around you will not help you draw closer to Him. If you detect that decay, then your eyes have been opened, and you should do something about it in your own life. Condemning the failure of others has not advanced a single soul in history. It is true enough that the Lord may require by the constraint of the Spirit that people be “reproved betimes with sharpness” but only “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 121: 43.) But the Gospel of Jesus Christ consists in gathering light and truth, which is not accomplished by focusing upon the failings of others. (D&C 93: 28.)
Adam and Eve could not have children while they were in the Garden of Eden. They lacked the capacity to bear children in the innocent state in which they then existed. See 2 Ne. 2: 23.
They had been given the gift of childbearing as an endowment from God. The endowment of the capacity did not mean they had the means or understanding at the time to act upon it. Without the fall, they would not have been able to act on the endowment. They were like little children who are born male and female with the capacity to one day become parents, but who are immature and innocent, and therefore unable to bear children.
The great offense was in Satan’s control of the timing. Had they remained in the Garden throughout the Sabbath day of rest then they would have received the commandment to partake of the fruit in the Lord’s timing. At this point they would have moved from their innocent state into a condition not unlike the Millennial day. The “fall” would have transitioned to a Terrestrial state, rather than a Telestial state.
The psalmist’s words, “by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer[.]” (Psalms 17: 4) refers to all the words of God. Not just those in scripture alone, but also those that came from “thy lips” O Lord. The Lord visited with the psalmist as he recorded: “thou hast visited me in the night.” (Psalms 17: 3.)
This idea of God’s visitation with those who follow Him is as ancient as creation itself. Belief was always intended to grow into faith. Faith was always intended to grow into knowledge.
James promised the Lord would answer those who lack knowledge and ask with a sincere heart (James 1: 5-6). The Prophet Jeremiah made a similar promise. In Jeremiah’s promise the words are a quote from the Lord. He said: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29: 13.)
He is approachable. He wants us to approach Him.
Those who receive a Terrestrial estate include “they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.” D&C 76: 79. This means that they actually did have a testimony of Jesus, were on the right path, received the Gospel and accepted it, but failed to be “valiant” in their testimony.
I do not believe this means rigid, dogmatic, insistent or bellicose. In fact, the religious people having these qualities have historically been the greatest persecutors of the few, humble followers of Christ in all generations.
I believe this means they were willing to suffer much for the Lord. To follow Him in meekness, gentleness, kindness, persuasion, and love unfeigned. To bear the crosses of this world, and to return good for evil. Valiance is measured by the patience you show to your fellowman when they say all manner of evil against you falsely, for His sake. It is measured by the things you suffer willingly and without complaint.
It is not to get a reward in this life. Nor is it to be given acclaim, recognition, applause or chief seats.
It is to minister to others, rather than to be ministered unto.
When I think of the greatest examples of such conduct as would be truly described as “valiant,” I think of mothers and what they have done and do to bring, bear, love and raise children in this world. Creation itself is renewed every time a new, innocent life is brought into this world.
My car insisted it was 5:36 this morning as I drove my daughter to Seminary. The Honda was not yet in on the collective conspiracy to sustain the loss of an hour by our common consent.
My daughter got out the owner’s manual while we were driving and helped me convince the car to sustain the new hour. Now the Honda is also in on the conspiracy by common consent to change our bearings in the universe.
It still gets light and dark as before, but we call it something different. Happily, the Honda does not contradict that illusion anymore.
We cannot control the reality in which we live, but we can use our collective agreements to pretend it is otherwise. Now we awake and arise at a different time, but call it an hour later. Common consent is a powerful thing. It can be used to change how we look at time itself.
Ceremonial uncleanness under the law of Moses could be spread from the unclean to the person who came in contact with them. Uncleanliness could be spread.
A tradition grew among the Jews that the altar of the Temple could not be profaned, and that if an unclean person came into contact with it, the altar did not become unclean but instead the person coming into contact with the altar became clean. We have two examples of persons relying upon this tradition in the case of Joab in the Old Testament and Zacharias in the New.
Joab was to be killed by Solomon, and he knew he was to die. To die in contact with the altar was to die clean, and so Joab fled to the tabernacle, took hold of the altar and was killed there. The ones sent to kill him hesitated because they also knew they were killing a clean man, and had to be told a second time to kill him by Solomon. (See, 1 Kings 2: 28-34.) Solomon did not care that Joab would die clean.
In the case of Zacharias, his death is not recorded other than in a passing reference by Christ as He confronted the scribes and Pharisees. (Matt. 23: 35.) Joseph Smith said this reference was to John’s father.
In the case of Christ, the tradition had fulfillment. He touched the unclean, but communicated cleanliness to them. Whether it was the woman with an issue of blood, a leper, or the dead, touching them did not make Him unclean, rather it made those whom He touched clean.
We celebrated Daylight Savings by neglecting to reset the clocks and missing Sacrament Meeting. Apparently this was a widespread celebration in our ward, with less than half making it to the meeting on time. I sense a family tradition in the making here.