12 august 2014

Micah and the Last Days

I've been trying to figure out how to prepare for next Sunday's lesson, on the books of Jonah and Micah. I think Micah is more interesting, simply because everybody already knows about Jonah.

However, Micah is pretty cryptic. I read it a few times, focused on a few references that I recognized from other places in the scriptures, and then went looking for some of those other references to make sense of things.

Here are the bits I recognized:
  • "For, behold, the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place." (Micah 1:3-4)
    • "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." (Isaiah 40:4-5)
  • "All the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate..." (Micah 1:7)
    • "Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made... and the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish." (Isaiah 2:8, 17-18)
  • "Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds!... and they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage." (Micah 2:1-2)
    • "Wo unto them that join house to house, till there can be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!" (2 Nephi 15:8, also Isaiah 5:8)
  • "But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shlal flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Micah 4:1-3)
    • "And it shall come in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks--nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (2 Nephi 12:2-4, also Isaiah 2:2-4)
  • "Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies." (Micah 4:10)
    • "Awake, awake again, and put on they strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city, for henceforth there shall no ore come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive duahgter of Zion." (3 Nephi 20:36-37).
    • "Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles and make the desolate cities to be inhabited." (3 Nephi 22:1-3, also Isaiah 54:1-3)
  • "Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth....
    And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver." (Micah 4:13, 5:8)
    • "And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver." (3 Nephi 21:12)
There are probably a lot more, but these were the ones that jumped out at me. So the next task is to put events into a timeline, because as I read these verses, I realize that the popular interpretations are most likely misapplied to past events.

To do this, I focused on the prophecies of Jesus as given in 3 Nephi--that seemed to be the closest to the book of Micah, and definitely easier to understand. At first glance it's not a little confusing, because 3 Nephi 20:10-46 all seems to describe a single point in time--the fulfilling of the covenant the Father made with his people--but a ton of stuff happens at once. But then in chapter 21 Jesus gives us "a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place," specifically, when exactly God will "gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion." So I am going to put chapter 21 into a timeline so we know what's coming.
  1. The Gentiles find out about the remnant of Jacob (the Nephites/Lamanites) and take this knowledge back to the remnant of Jacob. (v. 2-7) Presumably this refers to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The Gentiles will be pretty hard-hearted and will consequently have a hard time of it, but if they repent, they can join the remnant.
  2. Something big will happen that will be a big surprise to everyone, and will possibly shut down the government. (v. 8-9) We usually say that the "marvelous work and a wonder" is the Book of Mormon, but this is something that clearly (to me) happens after the Book of Mormon returns from the Gentiles to the remnant of the house of Israel. It is something that some people will refuse to accept, even though it's obvious, and will make kings "shut their mouths", which makes me think it is a surprise that will render all current governments unable to function. My current working theory is a solar flare that shuts down all electronics all over the world--that would certainly make all our existing infrastructure irrelevant, wouldn't it? And we just had a close call in 2012, apparently.
  3. The Lord will protect his servant, and will heal him. (v. 10) I wonder if this is a particular person, or a general reference to all those who serve God. Maybe both!
  4. Those who don't believe Jesus Christ will be cut off from His people. (v. 11) 
  5. A remnant of Jacob will be as a young lion in a flock, treading down and tearing in pieces in the midst of the Gentiles. (v. 12-13) Who knows who these will be? I have never understood this prophecy, so I guess I will have to wait and see how it is fulfilled.
  6. God will destroy the works of men. (v. 14-18) A list of what I think this will include follows:
    • Transportation system destroyed (chariots, v. 14)
    • Cities are too big to be supported by nearby agriculture, so they will be "cut off" (v. 15, 18). "Strongholds" might refer to places like downtown areas populated by skyscrapers.
    • Our financial system, which operates primarily in the virtual world, will disappear (witchcrafts and soothsayers, v. 16)
    • Entertainment industry (graven images, standing images, v. 17) will disappear
  7. All lyings,  deceivings, envyings, strifes, priestcrafts, and whoredoms will disappear(v. 19) How will this happen? Whatever surprising event happens (#2), it will be something that takes away all reasons that anyone might want to do anything from this list. What would make it useless to lie, deceive, or be envious, or contentious? I think of the people I know who lie and are envious--what would it take to make them change? The only thing I can think of is if they lost everything, and if everyone around them also lost everything, so they would have nothing to covet. This paints a pretty bleak picture.
  8. People will be divided into two groups: those who believe and repent, and those who don't. Then those who don't will be cut off, and experience the Lord's fury. (v. 20-22) 
  9.  Those who repent will be numbered among the remnant of Jacob and assist them in gathering everyone in and building the New Jerusalem. (v.23-24)
  10. The power of heaven will come down among them, and Christ will come to the New Jerusalem. (v. 25)
So that's my timeline. Probably 3-9 will all happen together as an ongoing process, rather than sequentially. Also, preparations for all of these events and premonitions of the bad stuff are already evident.

The important thing to take away, I think, is that we are right at the beginning of this process, and the next step, whatever the marvelous work and wonder turns out to be, will take the entire world completely by surprise. There will be no gradual escalation of events; it will be sudden, and completely devastating to the world as we know it. I can't think of any cataclysmic natural disaster that would do it, although a bunch of them all at once might. However, the idea of a massive solar flare putting out the lights of the world would accomplish almost all the things on this list, because it would destroy all our idols and the works of our hands by default.

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