Lesson 18: God Himself Shall Redeem His People
Purpose: To help class members appreciate the importance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and stay true to their testimonies of the Atonement.
The scriptures give us a detailed account of a holy man sent by God to preach repentance to a branch of the House of Israel – people who knew what God expected of them but who had perverted the teachings given to them, and who had been brought into bondage in part because of their unrighteousness. The people rejected the call to repentance, and hated the teacher to the point where he was arrested, bound, and brought before a council of religious priests and a political ruler. There he was cross-examined by priests who attempted to use the scriptures against him, to catch him in an act of blasphemy so that he could be condemned to death – but the people, who claimed a belief in the law of Moses, could not recognize the Messiah that the law of Moses was meant to teach them to recognize. The holy man’s message having been delivered and his work completed, he was condemned. The political leader judging him was tempted to release him, knowing of his innocence, but urged on by the religious council, he delivered the prisoner to die by an exceptionally cruel and painful method of execution.
Whose story is this? Who else does this description fit? (Both Abinadi and Jesus Christ.)
Do you know what the scriptures mean when they refer to something as a “type” or a “shadow”? (A person, event, or other tangible thing – i.e., not simply a spoken prophecy or metaphor or other intangible – that represents some aspect of the Savior, intended to focus the minds of the people on some way by which they would recognize the Savior when he came. Just as a shadow cast by the sun is recognizable in its outlines but is only suggestive of the thing shadowed – that is, not all details are revealed but the object is still clearly identifiable – the types that foreshadow the mission of Jesus Christ are recognizable in broad outline even when the details are not made clear.)
Abinadi’s arrest, trial, and execution make him a well developed foreshadowing of the same events in the life of Jesus Christ. Noah and his priests did not recognize that at the time, even though while giving his message Abinadi reminded them that the teachings and practices of the law of Moses were a type of the coming Christ and warned them that how they treated Abinadi would be a type and a shadow “of those things which are to come,” including their own deaths – their corruption put them beyond the power of recognizing anything that subtle.
If people do not recognize something as a type or shadow when it is given to them – as the people of Noah did not – what value is there in the Lord’s use of types of shadows? (When the events foreshadowed actually occurred, people might recognize them and thereby recognize the Savior; or looking back, as we do, we recognize them as prophecies of the Savior and learn by them.)
Abinadi’s arrest, trial, and death foreshadowed the Savior’s, and his message delivered to Noah’s court speaks explicitly about the life and mission of the Savior who would come about 150 years in the future. Those prophecies, and their fulfillment, will be the focus of our discussion this afternoon.
Scripture Discussion and Application
1. Abinadi calls Noah and his priests to repentance, exhorts them to keep the commandments, and teaches of the Atonement.
2. Abinadi quotes Isaiah, testifies of the Atonement, and exhorts Noah’s priests to teach the people that redemption comes through Christ.
3. Abinadi seals his testimony of the Savior with his life.
Mosiah 11 spoke of Abinadi’s first mission among the people in the land of Nephi-Lehi. We spoke last week of Zeniff, the leader of the band of Nephites who had settled in that land because of their “overzealousness” to possess the land that had been the first home of the Nephites in the New World. This group of Nephites was then under bondage to the Lamanites, and they were soon to be under spiritual bondage as well. Zeniff was followed as king by his son Noah, who was successful in driving the Lamanites back and winning a measure of independence for his people. Rather than recognizing this success as a gift from God, though, Noah and his armies were, the scripture says, “lifted up in the pride of their hearts.” They began to enjoy the act of shedding blood, and the feelings of power that it gave them, and in other ways abandoned many of the teachings of the gospel. Noah even went so far as to dismiss the priests who had been set apart by Zeniff, and replaced them with his own who, apparently, supported him in his wickedness rather than calling them to repentance.
It was under these conditions that Abinadi first began to preach repentance to the people of King Noah. Abinadi was a man of that society – a subject of King Noah, not someone sent from outside. Yet he had not succumbed to the wickedness around him. His preaching was unsuccessful – the people’s hearts were hardened, Noah sent to have him arrested, but Abinadi eludes arrest and goes into hiding for two years.
Mosiah 11:29, 12:1
29 Now the eyes of the people were blinded; therefore they hardened their hearts against the words of Abinadi, and they sought from that time forward to take him. And king Noah hardened his heart against the word of the Lord, and he did not repent of his evil doings.
1 And it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them, saying: Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying – Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations.
The message carried by Abinadi has changed since his first mission: Originally, he called the people to repentance. This time, he tells them that it is too late for repentance, and that the Lord is about to punish them for their wickedness.
Do you note anything odd about the manner in which Abinadi begins his second mission? (He makes a point of coming among them in disguise so that he won’t be recognized, and then immediately announces himself as Abinadi.) How might that be explained?
After continuing his preaching at length – all of it prophesying condemnation and destruction – Abinadi is arrested and thrown into prison for three days, while Noah and his priests decide what to do. Then Abinadi is brought before them, and they begin to exercise the plot they have laid to trap Abinadi into doing or saying something that will justify their plan to put him to death.
19 And they began to question him, that they might cross him, that thereby they might have wherewith to accuse him; but he answered them boldly, and withstood all their questions, yea, to their astonishment; for he did withstand them in all their questions, and did confound them in all their words.
What does this tactic remind you of? (The Jews in Palestine would do the same thing to Jesus: asking him what the greatest point of the law was, whether it was lawful to pay taxes, what was lawful Sabbath activity, etc., in an effort to catch him teaching something against the law of Moses.)
In what ways does this kind of thing go on among us today?
The book of Mosiah doesn’t tell us in great detail all the ways in which the priests of Noah attempted to trap Abinadi, but we do read of one specific question in Mosiah 12:20-24. A priest quotes from a prophecy of Isaiah and asks Abinadi what it means. Do you think the priest really cares about Abinadi’s interpretation of that passage?
No, and Abinadi recognizes that as well as we do. Rather than answer the question directly, Abinadi asks a few questions of his own … and lays a trap of his own as well, and the priests walk right into it.
31 And it shall come to pass that ye shall be smitten for your iniquities, for ye have said that ye teach the law of Moses. And what know ye concerning the law of Moses? Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye?
32 And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses.
Abinadi then declares they do not know the law of Moses. He recites the Ten Commandments to them, asking them if they have taught these laws to the people. His question angers the priests and they attempt to lay hands on him, but Abinadi stands bathed in light, telling them that they will not have the power to seize him until he has delivered the message the Lord has sent him to teach.
28 And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.
Abinadi teaches them that the law of Moses was “a law of performances and of ordinances,” a way to have a stubborn people learn to obey the Lord by giving them a strict list of rules by which they were to live. But the Jews at Jerusalem, and the priests of King Noah, had both missed an essential element of the law of Moses, Abinadi tells them.
32 And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.
33 For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began – have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?
34 Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
35 Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?
Abinadi speaks as though the priests of Noah should already know all of these things, and recognize that the coming of the Messiah was foreshadowed by the law of Moses. He reminds them that all of the prophets have foretold the coming of that Messiah, and his mission, and as evidence of this claim Abinadi quotes a long passage from Isaiah; after he quotes the full passage, he then offers commentary on it, to be certain the priests do understand what will happen during the mortal life of the Messiah.
Because we live after the mortal life of the Savior and have the New Testament record, it is probably easier for us to understand Isaiah’s prophecies than it would have been for the priests of Noah. In fact, this may be one of the easiest passages of Isaiah for us to understand, if we read it with our knowledge of the Savior’s ministry.
1 Yea, even doth not Isaiah say: Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
Isaiah knows that he is just one of the prophets who have testified of the Messiah, and asks “Who hath believed our report?” in a general way. I wish we could hear the tone of voice that Abinadi used when he recited that line – could he have been challenging the priests to ask whether they believed the reports of the prophets?
“And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” is a metaphor. When a warrior engaged in battle, the first thing he did was throw off his cloak – reveal his arm – so that there would be no encumbrance to his sword and his defense. Isaiah uses this image here to suggest that the Savior is the defender of his people, and that the deeds that would be performed by the Messiah would demonstrate his power as he defended his people.
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.
Isaiah begins at the beginning in his description of the Messiah’s life. Those of us who have already planted our tomatoes should easily understand what he means here by “a tender plant” – What do you do when you care about a tender plant? What do we know about the Savior’s childhood that suggests that God the Father gave the same careful attention to His Son?
This tender plant is growing in dry ground – how does that apply to the Savior’s life? What kind of people, spiritually speaking, was he “planted” among?
Sometimes we tend to read that when the Savior had “no comeliness” and “no beauty” that the scripture is saying that he was unattractive or ugly. Is it necessary to go that far? Why might the prophet want people to know that the Savior would appear as an ordinary man, without attention-getting beauty or extraordinary attractiveness?
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah is speaking in the past tense, although the events are still in his future. Those events are in our past, though. Looking back, what can you say about the fulfilment of this prophecy?
4 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
The Savior’s mission is easily recognized in the first lines. Who did – or does – esteem him as smitten of God (which, according to one of my commentaries, is the word used 60 times in Leviticus to refer to those cursed by God with leprosy)?
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
This verse, along with the last, speaks most clearly about the Atonement of the Savior. We recognize a description of the physical suffering that Christ went through for our sake – he was wounded for our transgressions. His stripes are the marks of the lash with which he was beaten – how do those stripes, along with his other wounds, heal us?
Reinforcing the teaching that we are all in need of Christ’s Atonement, and that he suffered for us all, we read verse 6:
6 All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth.
To check the fulfilment of this prophecy, let’s read from Matthew 27:11-14, about Jesus’s being brought before Pilate:
11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.
12 And when he was accused of the chief priests an elders, he answered nothing.
13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.
And back to Mosiah 14:8-9, we read the prophesied death of the Messiah following his mock trial:
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no evil, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
In what way was Christ associated both with the wicked and with the rich at the time of his death?
Verses 10-12 tells us that the Atonement worked out by Jesus would be the will of God the Father, who would be satisfied by the atoning sacrifice making it possible for the sins of the world to be washed away:
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
See, Isaiah isn’t always so hard to understand, is he?
But he was hard enough for the priests of Noah to understand that Abinadi went verse by verse, as we have done, and explained to the priests in terms they could not misunderstand that the Messiah would come in mortality, live as a man, work miracles, including his crowning miracle, atoning for the sins of the world. Abinadi testified that Isaiah’s prophecy was true, and told the priests what would become of those who did not accept the Atonement.
1 And now, it came to pass that after Abinadi had spoken these words he stretched forth his hand and said: The time shall come when all shall see the salvation of the Lord; when every nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall see eye to eye and shall confess before God that his judgments are just.
2 And then shall the wicked be cast out, and they shall have cause to howl, and weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth; and this because they would not hearken unto the voice of the Lord; therefore the Lord redeemeth them not.
Let’s also read Mosiah 16:6-9 – Note that Abinadi’s testimony of the Messiah is so firm that he speaks as if Jesus had already accomplished his work, speaking in the past tense of events that were still in the future:
6 And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption.
7 And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.
8 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.
9 He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.
And he concludes his rebuke of the priests, who had claimed to teach the law of Moses, with these words:
14 Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come –
15 Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.
And with that Amen, Abinadi concluded the message he had been sent to deliver. He now became subject to the power of Noah’s men, who seized him and burned him alive. Abinadi continued to bear testimony even as he was brought to that painful death, warning the people that they would suffer the fate that God had declared for those who would kill his prophets.
20 And now, when abinadi had said these words, he fell, having suffered death by fire; yea, having been put to death because he would not deny the commandments of God, having sealed the truth of his words by his death.
Abinadi was faithful to the commission he had received from God to carry a testimony of the Christ and his Atonement to people who badly needed it, regardless of their rejection of it. Abinadi’s testimony was effective in one case, however; one of Noah’s priests, Alma, was converted by his preaching, and fled from Noah’s court, and of course we’ll be discussing the mission of Alma in the weeks to come.
We have a commission to bear the same message borne by Abinadi – and thankfully, it is highly unlikely that any of us will suffer martyrdom for bearing it. [Testimony]