And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.
In our current age tolerance is frequently affirmed as the supreme virtue. One aspect of this I’ve seen expressed in a number of places is the belief that the only acceptable attitude to other people’s actions is one of unconditional approval, lest on be guilty of the modern sin of “judging”. Some people seem to have a genuine outrage that someone, somewhere, might disapprove of their actions, while others seem to have misunderstood the whole business of “judge not, that ye be not judged” (something I’ve covered a couple of times before).
There are some others, however, who seem to have formed the opinion that the only loving response to others is to endorse all and any of their actions. Jacob’s attitude here is a distinct contrast to this: having been ordained a priest and teacher (an important point, since in our private capacity our primary concern should always be our own sins), he did not express his concern for the people by telling them everything they were doing was okay. Instead for him it was a sacred duty to point out sin, and if he did not “their blood would come upon our garments”. Jacob knew that the only moral response was to warn people of things that would otherwise bring them eternal sorrow, and that if he did not he not only would not be acting in a loving fashion, but would be potentially be held responsible for not speaking up.
I was struck by Jacob’s statement in verse 5:
For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen unto them.
That faith was a prerequisite for their revelation comes as no surprise; what’s interesting is the role played by their “great anxiety”. It reminded me of those periods in my life when I had some really powerful spiritual experiences. I remember a year or so later, too, when I was reflecting on that in my journal, but reflecting I hadn’t quite had anything of the same magnitude at that point, and wondering why, and realising that part of that was down to the desperation I felt at the time of those experiences. My desire for guidance and reassurance from the Lord was fuelled by the significant emotional trials I was experiencing at the time, so that I didn’t just want and need such help, I was desperate for it. In short, I too was experiencing “great anxiety”, but that paved the way for great experiences that at the time served as oases for my soul. We cannot force the spirit nor the Lord’s timetable, yet sometimes the key to spiritual things is not just whether we want the right things, but how badly we want them, and what we are prepared to do to obtain them.