Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Destruction of Sennacherib

October 24, 2007, Observation:

I am constantly amazed at the power and ability to paint vivid pictures in the mind and heart possessed by the 26 small letters that comprise the English alphabet.  It truly is a miracle!  Listening to books is almost as good as reading them, but not quite.  I like to read at my own speed and think and ponder as images are created in my mind.

Words have the power to fill us with love, inspiration, great knowledge, despair, hate, and a host of other emotions.  I was shopping at Costco the other day with Jo Anne -- a new Costco which they say is the biggest in the world -- what a joy -- for Jo Anne!  She was not just aimlessly wandering through the aisles but was attacking each aisle in a very businesslike manner.  I finally asked, "Jo Anne, do you know what you're looking for?"  She gave me a withering look while responding, "No, but when I see it I will know it!"  Her response was like a dagger in my heart and I tried to steer her to the free food samples which would hopefully help get me through this ordeal.

I have a few phrases I share with Jo Anne that can bring her from a state of peace and joy to one of anxiety and frustration -- like, "The game is going into overtime!"  Or, "Just a minute, the 13th inning will be over anytime now!"

Over the years I have read many great books that have influenced my life, but the Scriptures have had the most profound influence of all.  I love the King James Edition of the Bible.  I know that new scholarship has given us probably more accurate translations, but somehow they don't have the same impact on my heart or spirit.  Former generations read the Bible, loved it, and were profoundly influenced by the eternal truths contained therein.  Great painters, sculptors, and poets, spent their entire lives creating magnificent works that always grew out of, and were inspired by canonized scripture.  This certainly is not the norm in today's artistic community by and large. 

The one example, out of thousands that could be shared regarding former day artists whose work was inspired by scripture, is a poem written by Lord Byron, the celebrated English poet. You will look long and hard to find somebody today inspired and desiring to write a magnificent poem about the Lord delivering Jerusalem and King Hezekiah from the Assyrian army under the leadership of Sennacherib, (2 Chronicles 32) as did Lord Byron in 1815.  I am sure Lord Byron was inspired by King Hezekiah's words to his people as the Assyrian army was poised on the outskirts of Jerusalem to destroy it. 

"Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah."  [2 Chronicles 32: 7-8]

And then as they trusted in Jehovah and not the arm of flesh, Lord Byron would have read the following:   "And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. " [2 Chronicles 32:21]

As you read this classic Lord Byron poem entitled "The Destruction of Sennacherib," if you will read it out loud I believe you will be able to hear galloping hooves, the wailing wind, and visualize in your mind what only the Lord God Jehovah could do to the mighty Assyrian army.

The destruction of Sennacherib by Lord Byron-1815
"The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
when the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
that host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
And there lay the steed with his nostrils all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride:
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!"

Yes, the Lord will fight our battles for us if we will have complete trust in Him and not in the arm of flesh!  The scriptural recount in 2 Chronicles certainly inspired and impacted Lord Byron. I discovered the Scriptures as a young missionary over 40 years ago now, and although I am no scholar of ancient scripture, I have read them constantly and consistently through the years.  The words of prophets feed my soul and bring the spirit of the Lord into my heart like nothing else can, it seems.  As I approach "The Final Exam" I seem to have an increased desire to search the Scriptures and to share them with others, especially by family members, knowing how important these eternal truths and words have been in my own life.

A little over a year ago in speaking at eight-year-old Tanner Stratford's baptism (one of my grandsons) I quoted him 2 Nephi 31:20 and challenged him to memorize it.  Every time I see him -- maybe that's why he is avoiding me -- I have him quote it to me.  He says "Grandpa, wherefore ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore it ye shall press forward feasting upon the word of Christ and endure to the end, behold thus saith the Father, ye shall have eternal life!"  At Rosa's CafĂ© and Tortilla Factory the other day, Tanner was chocking down a chicken enchilada and did not deem it a dignified setting for a scripture so I began quoting it to him -- incorrectly.  He couldn't let me get away with it and set me straight as he struggled to handle the enchilada, a mouthful of refried beans and 2 Nephi 31:20.  Tanner doesn't know it yet but he will never memorize, perhaps in his lifetime, more important words than those written by Nephi so many years ago.  I know I haven't!  Yes, 26 letters are truly magical, and more than that, when they become scripture -- the word of the Lord through his prophets. 


Sunday, October 14, 2007


October 14, 2007 Observation:

The status of my health is as follows: An old farmer wanted to sell one of his horses so he ran an ad in the local newspaper which in part said, "The horse doesn't look so good."  A few days after the ad appeared a man drove out to his farm to examine the horse.  The horse was just gorgeous and the price was more than right so he bought it thinking he had really put one over on the old farmer.  Two days later he was back at the farm with his recent purchase.  He said to the farmer, "Why didn't you tell me the horse was blind?"  The farmer smiled weakly as he responded, "I said he didn't look so good!"

Well, I'm afraid I am like that old horse -- I don't look so good.  However, I can see well enough to not be considered blind for which I am grateful.  With very powerful reading glasses, sitting as close as I can to my computer monitor, and using large fonts, I am able to read and write.  By the way, if you write to me please use a 12 point or higher font or I can't read it. 

Everything is so relative in life.  When I was first injured I thought things couldn't get much worse than being paralyzed and on life support; I didn't even think about what a blessing it was to have almost perfect vision, as well as hearing.  Now, I don't think about being paralyzed, but have spent some time considering what a priceless gift sight is.  Having essentially lost the ability to see out of my right eye and now having impaired vision in my left eye I actually went through a couple of days coming close to asking the question, "Why me Lord?"  Thankfully I never got that low and instead, miraculously, began to feel grateful for what vision I still have.

My situation reminds me of the story of a great salesman, who after a serious car accident was left a paraplegic.  His friends hesitated to visit him because they just could not imagine what he would be like now.  Previously he had been so dynamic, enthusiastic, and happy that they just drug their feet all the way to his door not knowing what to expect.  He opened the door and as he greeted them they instantly could see that except for not being able to walk, he was the same wonderful person he had been before.  He said, "Before my injury I could do a thousand things.  Now I can only do 500; however, I am not eating out my heart because of the 500 things I can't do, but am grateful for the 500 I can do." 

Believe me, I will take whatever ability I have to see, and rejoice in it.  I have a much greater empathy for those who are blind than I ever had before.  With my "long distance" glasses I can watch TV pretty well, enjoy going outside, but can't see well enough to read the street signs.  Actually, it has been a blessing to not be able to see really well as Jo Anne drives me about.  I have lost the sense of impending doom that accompanied me on most of our journeys on the streets and freeways of Southern California, and I suppose will only realize how dangerous things have really been when it is too late to do anything about it.

Not having been able to read or write has caused me to do more pondering and reflecting than usual.  For some reason, almost every evening or morning while I am in bed and not asleep, one scripture from the Gospel of John that has been set to music seems to constantly be playing in my mind.  One of the things I miss most about my current situation is my inability to sing.  I sang in a chorus at BYU, in the mission field, directed a seminary choir in Ogden, Utah, as well as serving as a ward choir director for a short period of time.  For some reason every choir I conducted or sang in, we always learned and performed the following: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  [John 14:27]  

Those of you who have been privileged to sing this number, or have heard the Tabernacle choir sing it, are undoubtedly having the beautiful melody and harmony resonate through your mind and heart at this moment.  I can never just recite these words but almost involuntarily sing them in my mind.  And so, for some months, without consciously striving to do so these words and melody have almost constantly been in my mind in the late evening and early morning hours.  I am kind of dense but I began to think the Lord was addressing the fact that my heart was somewhat "troubled and afraid," regarding the possibility of impending blindness.  I believe that is undoubtedly part of it -- my heart was "troubled and afraid" -- sure evidence of a lack of faith in Christ and the power of the atonement.  However, that was just part of the message the Lord wanted me to get as I began to analyze and ponder the words of the Savior recorded by John.

The verse begins "Peace I leave with you..." Yes, Christ was the Prince of Peace, and was not the great warrior the Jews expected to come to free them from the yoke of Roman bondage.  He left the world in peace in the sense that no armed conflict erupted or was inspired by him during his ministry.  That was important, but then he goes to the heart of the matter -- something I needed to understand.  "... my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you..." Now he talks about another kind of peace -- my peace!  And he doesn't just leave it with us; he gives it to us.  The gift of his peace enables us to never let our hearts be troubled or afraid.  If we seek him and trust in his goodness he will give us his peace -- not as the world giveth.  His peace is spiritual in nature and hard to describe to one who has never felt it.  Paul said it passes all human understanding -- and it does, but it is real.  The peace the world has to offer comes from important institutions of men such as stable government, law and order, and in the minds of some, institutions like the United Nations.  Unfortunately, the world's peace seems to have to be enforced by weapons of destruction -- quite an ironic paradox.

In retrospect I have needed this message from John 14:27 badly at this time in my life.  Trouble and fear have thankfully been replaced by the peace that only the Savior can bring into one's heart.  The Savior's gift of peace is priceless!