On this reading of 1 Nephi 1, I was struck by how Lehi responds to the prophetic vision that he receives regarding the destruction of Jerusalem. Lehi is told that Jerusalem “should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.”
Thus, it is striking that Lehi responds by praising God and declaring “Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!” Indeed, Lehi’s
“soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him.”
Lehi’s reaction contrasts sharply with the reaction of Nephi several chapters later after he has received a similar vision. Nephi was “grieved . . . because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men.” His sorrow was so complete that he “was overcome because of my afflictions,” and considered that his “afflictions were great above all.” (1 Nephi 15)
If I were to receive a harrowing message regarding the destruction of the city where I lived, I think that my reaction would be more similar to Nephi. I would sorrow greatly for the potential death of those around me. So what is it in the message the caused Lehi to rejoice?
I believe the phrase “thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish” offers the key. Lehi saw that many would be destroyed, but he also understood that ultimately those who come unto God will not perish. Lehi at this point seems to have had an eternal perspective that even his righteous son lacked. He understood that suffering and adversity was but for a moment, but that ultimately all who came unto God would be accepted into his grace.
In Sunday School, we last week finished reading the Book of Revelation. John the revelator saw incredible destruction, and also saw the persecution of his fellow Christians. Yet, because he also saw the triumphant second coming of the savior, he was able to rejoice and declare “[e]ven so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). Lehi’s vision similarly gave him sufficient perspective to understand that despite the trials that would come his way, God’s plan was just and merciful.
I believe we can learn a lot from how Lehi responds to the vision of destruction. It is acceptable to sorrow when bad things happen as Nephi did. But we can also realize, as Lehi did, that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).