Updated: Aug 4, 2020
The big thing that struck me this week as I studied Alma 23-29 is the security that comes in knowing that the Lord is guiding us and He's omniscient.
When Ammon suggested to Anti-Nephi-Lehi that they flee from the Lamanites who were intent on killing them, and go to Zarahemla, the king said, "the Nephites will destroy us, because of the many murders and sins we have committed against them." It occurred to me that this wasn't empty supposition. He had opened a correspondence with the Nephites (Alma 23:18; 24:8-9) and while it was friendly on his side, it sounds like maybe it wasn't on the side of the Nephites. It seems like they used that opportunity to remind the Anti-Nephi-Lehites of their "many sins and murders." And it left the king with a distinct impression that, rather than welcome his people as refugees, the Nephites would take the opportunity to punish them by death.
Was his concern realistic? Well, fourteen years earlier, when the sons of Mosiah had been heading out on their mission to the Lamanites, their brethren had "laughed [them] to scorn."
Mockingly, they'd asked, "Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning?" Then they'd offered an alternative: "Let us take up arms against them, that we destroy them and their iniquity out of the land, lest they overrun us and destroy us" (Alma 26: 24-25).
It's no wonder that the king wasn't willing to flee to the Nephites unless that direction came from the Lord.
And yet, when the Lord said to go, the Anti-Nephi-Lehites went. And what's more, the Nephites agreed, not only to give them safe space in the land, but also to protect them from the Lamanite hordes that seemed intent on their destruction.
This is more stunning than a casual reading would make clear. Imagine if a bunch of Muslim terrorists (not moderates, but the people who'd actually committed multiple murders) repented, converted to Christianity and were being slaughtered now by other Muslims. Imagine that they wouldn't defend themselves and came, en masse, to the Americas for refuge. How likely would Canada or the US be to consent to such an arrangement? In the first place, there would be a clamor about allowing thousands and thousands of "former" terrorists into our land. How could anyone be sure they weren't involved in a plot or something? At the very least, we could expect them to increase our social problems and crime? Secondly, there would be a clamor against providing such protection and making a number of citizens move their homes for the sake of a people who weren't willing to defend themselves. And thirdly, what politician would want to put their own nation in especial jeopardy from its enemies as accepting these people would do? These people would be turned away.
Yet the Nephites, who 14 years earlier had been ready to take up arms and destroy the Lamanites, were now willing to give them a land and protection.
What changed in the meantime?
Well, first of all, King Mosiah had put an end to the monarchy in favour of a system of judges, with Alma the Younger as chief judge.
Five years later, there had been a civil war.
Four years after that, the Nephite believers were so lifted up in pride and wickedness that they were leading the unbelievers into iniquity. Alma gave up the judgement seat and devoted himself to the ministry.
That would have been within a year or two of that time that the Anti-Nephi-Lehites buried their weapons of war and faced death rather than take up arms against their enemies. We know that because the Lamanites that didn't repent then went and destroyed the city of Ammonihah in the 11th year of the Reign of Judges. Meanwhile, Alma continued to minister, coaxing the Nephites into a state of sufficient humility and faith that they were able to rejoice over the conversion of a people they'd been ready to kill. And to welcome them into the Nephite lands.
For me, this communicates a powerful message that the Lord knows what's coming and He leads us in ways we can't understand at the moment, raising us up ahead of time so we can be prepared to meet the needs of others at the very moment when their need is urgent. It also means that I don't need to worry about my unforeseen needs, because He forsees them. And if I follow His direction to me, I will find that He has raised up help for me in the very moment when I need it.
What does it mean to you? Have you seen evidence of His hand, guiding behind the scenes in your life too?