Tuesday, November 27, 2007

He's Got Us Covered

I like metaphors. Turn me loose on scriptural symbolism, and I'm in heaven. I get along really well with Isaiah and Revelation, because they're like beautiful, meaningful puzzles to me, and I get excited when I get a chance to unravel them. The Lord is a master of beautiful symbolism--it must come with being omniscient. =)
For instance, here's one I love:

Imagery throughout the scriptures indicates that when we partake of the Atonement, we are "washed in the blood of the Lamb" (Ether 13:11). It seems like a silly thing, really. Who ever heard of washing yourself in blood?

The Lord also constantly refers to His children as His "sheep." Considering what stupid animals sheep are, I'm not sure that that's a compliment. But in this case it's instructive.

In times past, before the massive sheep ranches and modern medicine we have today, lambing season used to be awfully hard on a flock. Ewes would have trouble giving birth, and there would be lots of dead ewes and dead lambs. Unfortunately, the mothers and the babies didn't match up.* Simple, right? Just pair the orphaned lambs with the childless ewes, right? Nope. The mothers could tell their babies apart by their smell, and weren't about to suckle a lamb that wasn't theirs.

But the shepherds got smart. They learned that if they would skin the dead lamb, and drape the skin, with the lamb's blood on it, over the living lamb, the ewe would smell her baby's scent on the wool and would accept the orphaned lamb as her own.
When we think of being washed in the blood of the Lamb, we would do well to remember this practice. The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar, which means "to cover."** As we partake of the Atonement, our sins are "covered," or washed away, by the blood of the Lamb of God, who gave Himself a ransom so that we could be "the children of God" (Galatians 3:26).

My tendency to love symbolism gets me into trouble sometimes. The Lord isn't always being witty or poetic when He says things. Sometimes He really means what He says. For instance, when He promises that if we always remember Him, we can always have His Spirit to be with us (3 Ne 18:7,11), maybe that isn't hyperbole--maybe He really means it! When He commands, "Look unto me in every thought," (Doc. & Cov. 6:36) or "Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things," (Doc. & Cov. 59:7) maybe He wasn't exaggerating!

The Lord gives some amazing promises, and many of them involve absolutes--"all," "always," "every," etc. I've started looking for them as I read the scriptures, and pondering if the Lord just might mean what He says. Here's one promise I know He meant:

"And by giving heed and doing these things which ye have received, and which ye shall hereafter receive—and the kingdom is given you of the Father, and power to overcome all things which are not ordained of him" (Doc. & Cov. 50:35, emphasis added).

What a beautiful promise! Through our obedience and the grace of God, we can overcome all things, because Christ already has. "Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me"*** (Doc & Cov. 50:41). What a great gift it is to have God's grace, His love, and the power to overcome all things that comes from the Atonement--the marvelous covering--of His Son.

*I learned this from Donna Nielsen. I highly recommend her book, "Beloved Bridegroom."
** I learned this from Sherrie Johnson. I highly recommend her book, "Man, Woman, and Deity."
*** I learned this from God. I highly recommend a book that testifies of Him and His Son, "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ."

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