2019 Study Summary 7: “Ye Must Be Born Again”
The Land of Israel:
There are many people who mistakenly think of Israel as a flat, dry and dangerous land. In contrast to popular opinion, Israel is mountainous, the rainfall equals that of London (average of 26-inches per year), and peaceful feelings envelope visitors the moment they arrive!
Abundant Rainfall – “40-Days and 40-Nights!:”
Water has always been a concern because most of the 26-inches of rainfall occurs within the months of December, January and February. If it doesn’t rain then, Israel is in risk of a drought. Water has been a metaphor of life throughout the scriptures and “Living Waters” is one of the many names used for the Savior, the giver of life.
Protecting Water Sources:
“Although the country is described as ‘a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths springing forth in valleys and hills’ (Deuteronomy 8:7) there is no evidence that in ancient times there were more than the hundreds of small springs and the few significant water sources which now exist. The ancient Israelites were careful in their use of rain, which was often stored in cisterns . . . In order to protect the topsoil from erosion, they built contoured stone terraces, some of which may still be seen today.
Emptying Water Containers at Death:
“When a person dies, the body is covered with a sheet and a lighted candle placed at the head. There is an ancient custom to cover all the mirrors in the house and to pour out any water that was in containers or vessels at the time of death . . .
Washing with Living Water Before and After Every Prayer:
“It is a particularly important religious duty to wash the hands before eating bread and this washing must be performed by pouring water over the hands . . . the benediction “on the washing of hands” (netilat yadayim) is recited.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
Latter-day Saints Bless Israel with Water Resources:
Many resources have come from Latter-day Saints who have taught the Israelis about water conservation and distribution. Two of them include the late Joel Fletcher from Southern Utah, the developer of Doppler Radar, and John Hanks of Utah State University in Logan, Utah. On his last visit, Brother Hanks told me, “I’m not teaching them anymore; they’re teaching me!” Israel’s water conservation and distribution system has become a model to many of the world’s under-developed communities. “In order to solve the water problem in this arid country, a national water system was devised, by which water is drawn from the northern portion of the Jordan River via pipelines all the way down to the Negev. This main pipe also links all the local and regional water works. Israel has also developed very efficient irrigation systems which increase the agricultural output.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
Biblical accounts of finding and using water to bless the population include the prophet Elisha blessing a brackish spring at Jericho. It is still running pure water to this day. Also, David brought life back to Jerusalem by using a water tunnel from the Gihon Spring. (2 Kings 20:20)
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Note, the connection of light with water (both are names of the Lord). “In the days of the Temple, each day during the last six hol ha-mo’ed days of the festival (though not on the Sabbath), the priests used to fill a golden flagon with water drawn from the beautiful spring of Siloam in the valley to the south of the Temple Mount, and carry it up the hill for a ceremony at the altar. This ceremony was called Simhat Bet ha-Sho’evah (the joy of the water drawing). King Alexander Yannai, who also acted as High Priest, once chose to ignore the traditional way of conducting this ceremonial. The vast throng of worshipers immediately reacted by pelting him with thousands of etrogim (citrus fruits).” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
Meaningful Words for Spirit and Body:
Another powerful metaphor in the scriptures is the word “ruah.” In Hebrew, the word ruah means “wind, breath and spirit.” “Ruah Elohim” is the spirit or breath of God. “Flesh is the term used in the Bible to distinguish mortal man from God. The Hebrew word for flesh, basar, is contrasted with the Divine Spirit, ru’ah, with which man is temporarily endowed. Thus: “My spirit shall not abide in man forever, for that he is also flesh; therefore shall his days be a hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3). The Talmud and Midrash refer to man as basar va-dam (“flesh and blood”) to indicate his mortality as against the eternity of God.
Multiple Use of Words Give More Meaning:
Ezekiel spoke of breath and of wind bringing life into a dead skeleton. As the sticks (ETZ-emot) of the body are clothed again with flesh and come alive, so shall the stick (ETZ) of Judah, the dead skeleton of a once true and living religion, come together with the stick of Joseph. This embodies the true religion and with the “breath” of the Lord, his spirit – a resurrection – a new life begins again. That new life will include a new sanctuary of the Lord.
Resurrection of Mankind – Resurrection of God’s True Religion:
Since the Hebrew meaning for “bones” and “sticks” is the same, when they came together it was a “skeleton” until God “breathed” spirit into them and the came alive again. The skeleton (sticks) of the once true religion is the Bible (Old Testament). Could the Book of Mormon represent the flesh and the spirit? As the skeleton was brought together with the flesh and the spirit, the old, dead religion was resurrected! When we are resurrected, we will be able to return to God, never to die again. As the true religion was resurrected by God through Joseph Smith, it will never die again. It is the New and Everlasting Covenant.
“Samaritans (are) a small religious sect residing in Israel whose members consider themselves to be direct descendants of the Israelite tribes. According to Samaritan history, they broke away from the Israelites in the 11th century B.C.E., refusing to accept a change in the location of the religious capital. To this day the Samaritans maintain that Mount Gerizim near Shechem (Nablus, in northern Israel) is the place chosen by God as the center of Israelite worship and not Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. They have therefore continued to live around Shechem and to make pilgrimages to Mount Gerizim. “The Samaritan population has remained small due to persecutions and plagues throughout the centuries . . . under the protection of the Israel government, their population has grown to about 500 persons.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
Living Water Makes Us Good:
The ethnic character of people did not alter the Lord’s mission. He came to provide living water for all. In a later lesson, we’ll discover that we are the ones that label a Samaritan as “good.” Neither the Gospel writers nor the Savior referred to a “Good Samaritan.” In the account of the woman at the well, it becomes evident that all people can be “born again,” or in other words, become good, receive new life–His life.