Context and General Information
- Nephi continues to share his prophecy of Christ:
- Christ, the God of the children of Abraham, would yield himself into the hands of wicked men.
- Christ would be lifted up, crucified, and buried in a sepulcher.
- Three days of darkness would be given as a sign of Christ’s death to those who lived on the “isle of the sea.”
- At one point, the Lord would visit all of the house of Israel. The righteous would be visited with his voice – giving them joy and salvation. The wicked would be visited by thunder, lightning, tempers, and other natural disasters.
- All these things would happen, and the people on the isles of the sea would exclaim: The God of nature suffers.
The God of Nature Suffers
I don’t know why, I just find that phrase: the God of nature suffers so profound. Let’s just investigate what is being taught in these scriptures.
First of all, we read:
“And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.” – 1 Nephi 19:10
It is interesting – what Nephi is teaching here. He teaches about the Savior, and not only from his own experience. He quotes other prophets – Zenos, Neum, and Zenock. These prophets are unfamiliar to me, and it is assumed that they were prophets whose records were included in the Brass Plates. I find this completely plausible as we know that there are many holy records that were not included in the King James Version of the Bible.
In any case, Zenos, Neum, and Zenock teach about the Savior. They teach about the bitter irony of His death.
Nephi begins this verse by saying, “And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him,…” This is interesting if we think about one of the most important holidays to the Jews at the time: The Passover and the Day of Atonement.
The Passover celebrated the God that saved the house of Israel and liberated them from Egyptian bondage. Not only that, but the Passover was symbolic of a larger liberation – because of the Messiah, we would be liberated from the bondage of sin. The Lamb of God’s blood would be spilled and sacrificed, so that the destroying angel would pass over anyone who covenanted with Him.
The Jews knew this. They celebrated it. And yet, they slaughtered the very Lamb of God.
Now, Nephi includes a prophecy from Zenos: three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel. This most likely stands out to Nephi because he and his people are in this category. They have been scattered away from Jerusalem. They will not be living where the Savior will come. There wasn’t technology to keep everyone updated on what was happening in other parts of the world.
So, how would they know when the Savior came to earth or died?
Nephi quotes Zenos:
“For thus spake the prophet: The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.
12 And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim: The God of nature suffers.” – 1 Nephi 19:11-12
The people in other parts of the world knew that the Savior had been killed because the earth was bearing testimony of it. It is for this reason that they proclaimed: The God of Nature Suffers.
I like nature. And I suppose that is why I find this statement so profound.
The God of all of this – the birds, the flowers, the trees, and us – suffered.
It makes me so sad to think of what the Savior went through. Yet, I am also filled with gratitude and hope. I know that His suffering doesn’t have to be in vain – if we will repent! I know that the Savior truly is the God of nature. He created this earth. He has blessed us with it. I also know that as we get out in nature, we will experience more of Him in our lives. We will feel closer to Him and to His love.
As we experience more of the Savior and His love, then we will also be more eager and willing to participate in the Atonement that He offers us. And then, we can be satisfied that though the God of Nature suffered, it was not done in vain.