While serving in the palace of the king of Persia, Nehemiah was devastated to learn of the sorry state of the city of Jerusalem. The people who were left there were “in great affliction and reproach.” The walls of the city were broken, and the gate had been burned. As Nehemiah pleaded with God for help, he appealed to the promises God had made to the children of Israel hundreds of years earlier, long before they were conquered by the Babylonians:
Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
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.Nehemiah 1:8-9
I’ve been thinking today about what those promises meant to the children of Israel during the Babylonian Captivity. Like Nehemiah, many of them were likely aware that Moses had prophesied this would happen before the children of Israel even entered the promised land. At least three times, he had described in great detail the consequences they would experience if they turned away from God, culminating in the loss of their land and their freedom. (See Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 4, Deuteronomy 28-30.) But on all three occasions, he didn’t stop there. He went on to reassure them that, even in captivity, they were not forgotten:
- “When they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them…. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors” (Leviticus 26:44-45).
- “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul…. He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them” (Deuteronomy 4:29, 31).
- “If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it” (Deuteronomy 30:4-5).
I can imagine passages like these providing great comfort and reassurance to those people when they were in captivity. Reading those words, they would know two important truths:
- God knew that this would happen.
- They were not forgotten.
One of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is for “the remnants of the house of Israel” to know “the covenants of the Lord,” in order to reassure them “that they are not cast off forever” (Title Page). Lehi’s son Jacob, in particular, found comfort in the scriptural promise that God would remember His people who were upon “the isles of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20-21).
Many things can happen which make us feel cast off and forsaken. I’m grateful for the scriptural reminders that God does not forget His children and that He honors His covenants with us.
Today, I will be grateful for scriptural reassurance of God’s love. I will remember that even in dark times, His promises are sure. We can rely on His promise to remember His covenants and to help us overcome the challenges we face.