Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who am I?

In a previous post, I pointed out a specific phrase in 2 Samuel 3 that is echoed many times throughout the scriptures. It is a phrase so blatantly arrogant it almost makes me shudder whenever I read it. The first one is spoken by Cain in Moses 5:16 "Who is the Lord, that I should know him?" This is not a reverent searching. This is in-your-face rebellion. I read it as though it were someone shouting "Just who do you think you are..." It happens again in the Old Testament, when King Nebuchadnezzar asks Shadrach and friends "Who is that God that shall deliver you?" It's like he's taunting, perhaps jabbing a finger to the chest, jeering, "I'd like to see him get you out of THIS mess!"

It happens in the Book of Mormon, too. King Noah boasts "Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him? And Who is the Lord, to bring such affliction upon my people?" In other words, Who is Abinadi to judge us? And what can God do about it? Yikes! There's one more in Alma chapter 9. The people of Ammonihah say, "Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man among this people...?" Clearly they think they deserve something bigger and better than the words of prophet. And they resent God for thinking that was good enough.

Well, just as everything in the gospel has its opposite (think 2 Nephi 2:11), this week I discovered the opposite to this "Who is God?" attitude that appears over and over again in the most prideful people in all of scripture.

In 2 Samuel chapter 7, David has just been anointed King of all Israel. And when all the hoopla is over, David offers a prayer of Thanksgiving. In verse 18 it says he sat before the Lord, saying "Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?" In other words, Who am I, and who is my family, to deserve being brought here by thee? He acknowledges his insignificance in the sight of God, and his astonishment at how well God knows his heart. Then in verse 22 he says, "Thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee." He so beautifully states his smallness -- even as a king -- in relation to God. This is genuine humility. Not self-effacing, just in awe of Someone Greater.

Joseph Smith, in his own history, gives us another poignant example: "Who am I that I can withstand God? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it."

I found another example in Exodus, chapter 3. Moses, in response to his call from within the burning bush, asks the Lord: "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" The book of Numbers extolls this attitude: "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." Such reverence: Moses toward God, humbled by this monumental task. In contrast, hear Pharaoh's response in Exodus 5: "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice...?" There's that arrogance again. And he digs himself in deeper: "I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go." Moses, on the other hand, knew the Lord very well. Talked with him face-to-face. It seems that those who know God best are in the greatest awe.

I can honestly feel a shift in the spirit as we move away from those prideful and arrogant questions to the loving, searching, adoring questions. Who am I...? It's fascinating to me how honest humility overcomes the pride of the most powerful people with the spirit of the Almighty God.


Lisa said...

Gosh, Charrette, I really love this. I'm glad I came here. Hope you don't mind. Since this blog isn't private I assume it's okay.

I've really enjoyed reading through some of these posts. So uplifting. I love this comparison of "Who is God?" vs. "Who am I?" I love it.

Cari said...

I read this one a few days ago and couldn't comment...baby in arms.

Insightful post, como siempre.