In verse 37 and 38, we begin talking about the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. I think we all have heard this analogy. There is one part that sticks out to me. I’ll copy in the parts of the verses that meant something.
“…Gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice.
Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.”
As I was reading this for the first time this week, what stuck out to me was the fact that the good shepherd, Jesus Christ, has called and continues to call us. No matter what happens in our life, good or bad, God continues to call us. There is always a way back. Think of it using the shepherd analogy. If a shepherd lost a sheep, would he not go look for that sheep till he found it? Of course! That sheep is precious to him, even though it may have ignorantly wandered off, not fully comprehending what it was doing. He calls after us till he find us.
Taking Upon Us the Name of Christ
Another thing that stood out was that God is calling us by his name, Christ. When we were baptized, we witnessed we were willing to take upon us the name of Christ and become a member of the flock. If you imagine someone who has gone less active or inactive, or perhaps a wayward child, in a very real sense, they are called for by the name of Christ. The missionaries and ward/branch leaders visit less actives or inactives and share messages about Christ and invite them to come unto Christ. Parents try to teach their kids about Christ and invite them to join in activities that strengthen their faith and testimony in Christ. So yes, all those who have received the name of Christ, but who have wandered off a bit, continue to be called for by His name.
The Shepherd Finds His Sheep
Going back to the sheep analogy now. As the sheep is wandering around, it’s told by others the shepherd is looking for it. The sheep is coaxed to go back so the shepherd can find the sheep. Occasionally the shepherd will find the sheep first. Maybe something happens. Perhaps a death or another event that gets us really down. Hitting “rock bottom” so to speak. That’s when Christ finds us. It’s raining, we have stopped, we don’t want to go on and that is when the shepherd finds us, attempting to find shelter from the rainstorm of a cruel world. Then, in our pathetic state, He picks us up, puts us on his shoulders and begins the journey back to the flock. Along the way, he feeds and nourishes us back to health.
Qualities of the Shepherd
That’s my spiel. Time for cross references. Matthew 9:36. This is Jesus casting his eyes round about the multitude. He has compassion on them. He says they are like sheep without a shepherd. I’m imagining this. Throughout his life, Jesus was followed by large amounts of people, desiring to hear the things he taught. I think when he said this, he was imagining them as sheep.
Proverbs 1:24-33. It is being lamented that although God has given counsel, stretched out his hand, nobody would listen. he has done everything he could to help, and save his people but it was all for naught. No one is listening. Therefore, when the calamities, trials, whirlwinds, and famines all come, THEN they will call upon him. But he will be slow to hear because when he was trying to save them earlier, they didn’t want it. They chose to walk after their own ways. Those that heed God early on are fortunate. Always fear God and stay on his good side.
Alma 34:38. Stop contending against the Holy Ghost. Take upon you the name of Christ. Live the life that God wants you to so he can bless you. The only thing stopping us is ourselves. Ooooohh that reminds me of another quote I read somewhere. It said that before, the law of Moses required an animal sacrifice on the altar. After Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, what was required was that we put the animal in us and sacrifice it. Deep huh? God wants us. All of us. The more we hold back, the more we miss out on blessings of the Gospel. That’s hard to do.
The Prophetic Tense
A cool think I noticed in verse 45-48 is about Alma bearing his testimony. He says that the words he IS speaking to them are true. He knows the words that HAVE been spoken by the holy prophets are true. And he knows that the words which he WILL speak unto them are true. This is the first time I can recall seeing the prophetic tense in the Book of Mormon. This is big news! I’ve seen it in the D&C, Old Testament, and New Testament. Now I can add Book of Mormon to the list. In a nutshell, what it is, is when prophets use the past, present, and future tense to teach something. Here he bears his testimony of past, present, and future things to illustrate his testimony is eternal in nature. Perhaps the most common example found in written word (I use this example every time) is that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Signifying that God’s character is unchanging in all times of history, or forever. Here is the phrase that Alma uses:
“45. I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true…
47. …It has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true…
48. I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come is true.”
It’s a little out of order but all three tenses are there.
An Inverted Parallelism to Make a Point
Verses 53-56, Alma is asking the people if they can persist in their evil ways. I want to look more closely at what he says to the people. In verse 53, Alma points out a few things. Being puffed up, prideful, wearing costly apparel, setting hearts upon things of the world, specifically riches. In 54-56 he continues the list, supposing they are better than another, persecuting their brethren, turning their back to the poor and needy, withholding substance from them and otherwise continuing in wickedness generally. The reason I bring this up is because it is similar to a list of things they were doing earlier. In verse 28-30, Alma lists pride, envy, and mocking your fellow brothers as things they ought not to do. I wonder if this is an inverted parallelism (the same letters below will match up with the center being the main point.)? Let me go back and look through the scriptures and see if I can discern anything. Looking over it, I think you could pull out a small one. Definitely not the entire chapter. What I’m about to write down could be stretching the definition of Chiasmus but I think it is a valiant attempt for the first time.
A. v28 Are ye stripped of pride?
B. v29 Is there one among you who is not stripped of envy?
C. v30 Is there one among you that mocketh brother or heapeth persecutions?
D. v35 Bring forth good works and you won’t be hewn down and cast into the fire.
E. v37 You will not hearken to the voice of your shepherd!
F. v38 The good shepherd, even Christ, is calling you.
E. v39 Ye are of the fold of the Devil.
D. v52 Every tree that will not bring forth good works will be cast into the fire.
C. v54 Will you persist in mocking your brethren?
B. v53 Will ye persist in wearing costly apparel and having your heart set upon things of the world?
A. v53 Can ye be puffed up in the pride of your heart?
Hey, that’s pretty nifty eh? Not bad, not bad at all. The cool thing about this is that the main point is always in the center. In this case, It’s that Christ is calling you! I had a thought yesterday while I was at church. Someone was bearing their testimony and they were speaking in Chiasmus! I don’t think they realized it. Their entire testimony wasn’t that way but a part of it was. My thought was that the more connected your are to the spirit, the easier it is to talk with these “eloquent” forms. The Holy Ghost is dictating what you say and inverted parallelisms seem to be an effective way of communicating gospel ideas. That just what I thought. You are entitled to your opinion.
The Shepherd Knows His Sheep
The next thought doesn’t fit in with a particular verse but it is something I was reminded of just now when reading about how Christ is the good shepherd. I was reading the institute manual for the Book of Mormon yesterday and it made a remark about shepherds that impressed me. It quoted a shepherd as saying that if you had blindfolded him and brought his sheep to him one by one and let him feel their face, he could tell you which ones belonged to him and which ones didn’t. What a powerful image! Christ is the same he knows his flock. How does he know? He spent time among them. Walked, taught, healed, prayed, died for them. He is the good shepherd. And just like a shepherd, he knows how to tend his flock.
An Invitation to Become Part of the Flock
The last verse of chapter five is something I’ve heard in general conference before. I’ll copy it in for convenience.
“I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those that do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation saying: come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may also be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life.”
I know at least David A. Bednar has said a similar thing in general conference. Members of the church aren’t the only ones watching general conference. Therefore prophets and apostles not only instruct the members and call them to repentance but also invite them come and partake. Sup with us. We aren’t asking you to leave your faith in Christ but merely to add to it. I think that is one of the most wonderful parts of this church. Add to what you already have. More happiness, more peace, more faith, more everything. Christ wants us to experience eternal joy. Not a worldly joy, but something that words cannot describe.