In eight days, a new year will begin. What lies on the horizon? In the scriptures, the number eight is a symbol of rebirth, of new life, of being born again, of new hope. Today also begins the first day of Hanukkah, the season when many remember the great miracles of God in the past. In the 2nd century BC, Israel had been mercilessly attacked physically and then spiritually from a Hellenistic state. Over time, Israel compromised with Greek culture and thought until they were spiritually enslaved and physically persecuted. In an effort to destroy the faith, the Greek king declared war on the word of God and on the Temple. The House of God was invaded and defiled. Anyone who dared to raise their families according to the law of God, anyone who dared to keep the Sabbath and anyone who dared to resist was put to death.
Had God given up on His people? It certainly appeared so. However, our Savior is a Redeeming God and He always has a plan, if His people will trust Him enough to enact it. God works through small and simple means and this period was no exception.
The Lord raised up families to stand and restore. Some men and women made the difficult sacrifices to stand up. It wasn’t easy. It required all of them and more. Fools mocked their resolve. Were they really going to take on this empire? They did, and in a story not unlike the American War for Independence, these consecrated, faithful individuals eventually drove out their oppressors.
The day came to enter the city and then (oh joy of joys!) enter the temple itself. Instead of rejoicing, however, the hearts of the men broke on entering the sanctuary. This former house of glory had been desecrated. Pagan idols and imagery adorned the edifice. This was no longer God’s house. This was a pagan temple. The Israelites threw out the idols, they cleansed and rededicated the temple to God.
“Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days.” (Perseus.tufts.edu, Jewish Antiquities xii. 7, § 7, #323; http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/h
We live in a dark time and the future will only grow darker. In the midst of this darkness, we have been given light and hope. Joseph Smith came and outlined the correct principles to build Zion. We have the blueprint, we have the tools! We know the Lord will perform miracles for us, just as He did for our forefathers.
Nephi said that in the last days even the humble followers of Christ would be led in some ways by the philosophies of men. (2 Nephi 28:14) All of us carry “baggage” inherited from our own “Greek”, humanistic and socialistic culture. Our understanding of education, our sensitivity to clean media, our methods for changing behavior, our solutions for healing, our understanding of the family, our diet, our music, our recreation, our priorities in life, our goals, our dreams and more has been polluted by a culture that once knew God, but has replaced Him with the arm of flesh.
Do we trust God enough to enact His plan to change? To redeem Israel and build Zion?
In the Old Testament, there was another man of active faith who came to a sense of his own awful situation. Nehemiah was living in Babylon when he received word from his fellow brethren who had returned to Jerusalem, “The city lay in ruins, the wall was broken down.” His reaction? He fell on his face before God and “wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,” Nehemiah prayed:
5) And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
6) Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. . . .
7) We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.
8) Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
9) But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
10) Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.
11) O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper. (Nehemiah 1:4-11)
God hears the fervent, heartfelt, passionate prayers of His children. The story of Nehemiah can be summed up in his call to his fellow Israelites, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build . . .” (Nehemiah 2:20)
During this, the darkest time of the year we rejoice that in spite of the darkness around us, the light of the Lord has come to shatter the darkness. In the midst of challenge, we have no fear. This is a season of joy! This is a season in which we should praise the Lord and turn from our wicked ways. This is a period for sober reflection, of humble repentance and thanksgiving before God. We should remember the miracles that were performed for our fathers, purify ourselves and pray for the strength to accomplish great things for God in the upcoming year! Miracles, signs, and gifts of the spirit always follow them that believe. (Mormon 9, D&C 58:64, 84:65, Ether 4:18) The Lord has a lot in store for the year 2017 and He will prepare the way before us. (1 Nephi 17:13)
I invite you to join myself & several other families as we rededicate ourselves to God.
The Lord will pour out miracles and fruit if we turn to Him now. Let us recommit ourselves to accomplishing everything the Lord requires. All of us can do more. From this day forward, let us no longer compromise. Let us no longer halt between two opinions, but pour our full heart into the Lord’s work. Let our hands be strong and let us be valiant in our testimony of Jesus Christ. Let us arise and rebuild!
God bless you in the upcoming year!