The Stake Presidency has asked us this week to study Elder Holland’s talk from October 2014 conference, Are We Not All Beggars?
Elder Holland opens with:
“In what would be the most startling moment of His early ministry, Jesus stood up in His home synagogue in Nazareth and read these words prophesied by Isaiah and recorded in the Gospel of Luke…”
And then he quotes from Luke 4, to which I would like for us to go ahead and look at some verses following that as well. Let’s look at Luke 4, verses 18-21.
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
This is serious stuff! It’s huge, really. Why is this a big deal?
Let’s talk about the Dead Sea Scrolls for a minute, specifically the 11QMelchizedek scroll. This is fascinating to me for several reasons. We had originally been assigned a different talk to study this week, and I had worked to prepare this lesson before the topic was changed just last week. I wondered how to prepare a whole new lesson, but had just studied this very text for another project, so had some things I could share today.
11QMelchizedek (11Q13) is one of hundreds of scrolls found in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea in the 1950’s. This particular scroll was found by Bedouin in 1956 about two miles north of Khirbet Qumran in cave 11, along with 30 other scrolls (including the Leviticus and the Temple Scroll(1).
Please CLICK HERE to see the pictures of the fragments, as well as to zoom in on them for a closer look.
The 11Q13 text is a thematic pesher, or a Rabbinic midrash addressing several thematically related texts and interpreting them with reflection. In this case, 11Q13 reflects on Leviticus 25 about the Year of Jubilee, and interprets it considering Deuteronomy 15:2 and Isaiah 61:1-2.
If you CLICK HERE, you can see the remaining text we are able to read (in English) (2).
11QM13 begins with Leviticus 25:9-13 as the text, with direct reference to Deuteronomy 15:2. This describes the sabbatical year as being a time for the remission of debts, such as in the Leviticus 25 description of the Year of Jubilee. The phrasing is echoed, possibly deliberately on the part of the composer of the oracle, in Isaiah 61:1” (Brooke, p. 83). Then, this is interpreted through and applied to Isaiah 61:1-3, as a description of the ultimate jubilee as linked to “the end of the tenth jubilee period and initiated on the Day of Atonement”, which is the same connection made in the LXX (Septuagint) by counting each cycle as 49 years (Leviticus 25:8-11) to get to 490 years in ten cycles – which is the same as Daniel’s “seventy weeks” (70×7=490) (Daniel 9:24) (also see footnote in Brooke, p. 83).
This is actually the same text we find Jesus reading (Isaiah 61:1-3) in the synagogue at Nazareth. Brooke points out that the Luke 4 account of this story is actually a “conflation of Isaiah 61:1a, b, d, 58:6d, [and] 61:2a. The presence of this conflated text is one of the keys to appreciating how Luke may have intended an allusion to the jubilee material of Leviticus 25, even including its association with Deuteronomy 15:2” (p. 84). The periodization of history in all three texts (1 Enoch 10, 11Q13, and Luke) is similar and for understanding the genealogy of Luke these Jewish parallels disclose that Luke’s Jesus can be understood to belong at the end of the tenth jubilee period from Enoch.”
The significance of the 11Q13 text lies in the midrash itself. It points out the Torah’s emphasis on the Year of Jubilee, and emphasizes the releasing of debts. It is eschatological in nature, possibly, as it speaks of the full cycle of the years of Jubilee by pointing to the completion of the ninth Jubliee, in the first week of the tenth Jubilee, on the Day of Atonement, atonement will be made for “all the sons of light and the men of the lot of Melchizedek”.
The phrasing of the year of Jubilee appears significant. The phrase [בשנת היובל [הזואת (In [this] year of jubilee) in verse 2 is quoted from Lev 25:13: “In this year of jubilee (בשנת היובל הזואת) you shall return, every one of you, to your property.” It is also a year of approval, or grace, or favor (לשנת הרצון) as part of it being the tenth Jubilee. Fitzmyer (1967), wrote:
“In the course of the midrashic development the year of jubilee mentioned first in line 2 becomes “the last jubilee” (line 7), or “the tenth jubilee” (line 7, at the end). In other words, it seems to refer to the end of the 490 years, or “the seventy weeks of years” of Daniel 9:24-27. It is called the year of “release” (šmth) proclaimed for the Lord (lines 3-4) and of “liberation” (drr), such as was announced to the captives of Isaiah 61:1.”
Part of the drr, or liberation, includes the day of judgment, during which it appears that – either Melchizedek himself, or one with the priesthood after the pattern of Melchizedek, depending on your interpretation – that one with the Melchizedek priesthood will be “given a special role in the execution of divine judgment which is related a jubilee year” (Fitzmyer 1969, p. 29). This makes sense with the verse 13 description of the role as being that of carrying out the judgment decreed by God (ומלכי צ̇דק יקום נקם משפטי א[ל וביום ההואה). This idea seems confirmed by what appears to be a direct quote from Isaiah 52:7 in verses 15-16:
This… is the day (of peace which) he said (… through Isaiah) the prophet, who said: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, the messenger of good who announces salvation, saying to Zion: your God reins.”
Thus, “… in 11QMelchizedek the events of the tenth jubilee are explained through the atonement jubilee text of Leviticus 25:9-13 juxtaposed with allusions to Isaiah 61:1-3, the very text which Jesus claims is fulfilled as he speaks in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:18-21)” (Brooke, p. 131). It is altogether fitting that Yeshua, the Redeemer, would be so familiar with this midrash, and choose it for teaching when called upon at the synagogue in Nazareth. When He announces himself to be fulfilling the prophecy, He is also confirming the timing of it as described in the jubilee years. When Yeshua sits down and says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” He is not only announcing Himself as Messiah, but also declaring the Jubilee: that the time of Redemption has arrived. This sets the tone for the entirety of His ministry, in which people are set free from that which keeps them in bondage: sickness, debts, and even death, culminating in the work of the atonement itself, even remission from both sin and mortality.
Elder Holland said in this talk:
“Thus the Savior made the first public announcement of His messianic ministry. But this verse also made clear that on the way to His ultimate atoning sacrifice and Resurrection, Jesus’s first and foremost messianic duty would be to bless the poor, including the poor in spirit.”
“Down through history, poverty has been one of humankind’s greatest and most widespread challenges. Its obvious toll is usually physical, but the spiritual and emotional damage it can bring may be even more debilitating. In any case, the great Redeemer has issued no more persistent call than for us to join Him in lifting this burden from the people. As Jehovah, He said He would judge the house of Israel harshly because “the spoil of the [needy] is in your houses.”
Elder Holland goes on to quote D&C 38:35, pointing out that we are actually commanded to make sure the people around us do not suffer:
“35 And they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer;”
Elder Holland tells us a story from the life of Mother Theresa:
“A journalist once questioned Mother Teresa of Calcutta about her hopeless task of rescuing the destitute in that city. He said that, statistically speaking, she was accomplishing absolutely nothing. This remarkable little woman shot back that her work was about love, not statistics. Notwithstanding the staggering number beyond her reach, she said she could keep the commandment to love God and her neighbor by serving those within her reach with whatever resources she had. “What we do is nothing but a drop in the ocean,” she would say on another occasion. “But if we didn’t do it, the ocean would be one drop less [than it is].”
Elder Holland says that, “In addition to taking merciful action in their behalf, we should also pray for those in need.” He tells the story of the Zoramites (see Alma 32:22-3), who get kicked out of synagogue for being too shabby and a mess. Their question to Alma is about how to worship, when they cannot go to synagogue. Alma tells them to grow their faith, line upon line, and that this is worship. It brings us back to our Sunday School lesson from last week, when we looked at D&C 93 (see verses 11-20). The Savior grew “from grace to grace” until receiving the fullness. Their question was about where to worship, but their answer was how to worship and what they worship.
Going on to verse 36, we know that “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” This is His work and glory (Moses 1:39): the process of bringing his children through the process of gaining intelligence until they reach a fullness. This is how we worship: by glorifying Him by working at making that progress as we work out our salvation as made possible by the atonement.
Part of our progress in receiving that fullness, in becoming like our Father, is providing opportunities for others to make the same progress. But that means inviting them, testifying to them, and not judging them for where they are in their progress thus far – anymore than we want to be judged in this very moment for our progress so far. It means we must stop finding reasons not to give to others. Elder Holland reminds us that: “King Benjamin says we obtain a remission of our sins by pleading to God, who compassionately responds, but we retain a remission of our sins by compassionately responding to the poor who plead to us” (see Mosiah 4:11-12, 20, 26). Part of our process, the very evidence that we are becoming like our Father, and that we are being transformed, is that we will do as He has done for us, as He would do if He were here, as He has commanded us to do for others. We must care for them as we are able.
Amulek says, “After [you] have [prayed], if [you] turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if [you] have [it], to those who stand in need—I say unto you, … your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and [you] are as hypocrites who do deny the faith” (see Alma 34:28).
In part, we do this through observing the Law of the Fast. Elder Holland said:
“I bear witness of the miracles, both spiritual and temporal, that come to those who live the law of the fast. I bear witness of the miracles that have come to me. Truly, as Isaiah recorded, I have cried out in the fast more than once, and truly God has responded, “Here I am.” Cherish that sacred privilege at least monthly, and be as generous as circumstances permit in your fast offering and other humanitarian, educational, and missionary contributions.”
Elder Holland closes with a reference to D&C 56:18-19. He says, “In an 1831 revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said the poor would one day see the kingdom of God coming to deliver them “in power and great glory.” This is the same root meaning as the 11Q13 text, promising a Year of Jubilee, promising redemption and relief for all who suffer. “May we help fulfill that prophecy by coming in the power and glory of our membership in the true Church of Jesus Christ to do what we can to deliver any we can from the poverty that holds them captive and destroys so many of their dreams, I pray in the merciful name of Jesus Christ, amen”
1. Note that due to the small distance of this cave from the Qumran community site, some theorists believe the items in the cave may have been hidden away by those escaping Jerusalem, rather than actual texts used by those at Qumran.
2. The complete Dead Sea scrolls in English by Géza Vermès (1997).
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