I recently watched a few different renditions of Moses’ life and his leading of Israel out of Egypt. As I watched these and then read the accompanying scriptural references, I was particularly touched by the idea of prayer. These people had been in captivity for 430 years (Exodus 12:41), praying for their freedom from bondage. They had been told that they were God’s chosen people, that God had promised blessings to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. I was struck by sadness as I thought of these people, most of whom were born and died in slavery, who faithfully prayed for their God to hear their prayers and remember His promises to them.
After their deliverance during one of the many lessons Moses taught them, the children of Israel are given a small yet powerful scriptural truth. Deuteronomy 4:29 reads, “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” God is promising that if they ask for God’s help, He will comfort them. Finding Him doesn’t always mean finding freedom or respite. Finding Him can mean so much more.
Let’s now look at King Limhi’s people in the Book of Mormon. They were descendants of King Noah and, per the prophecies of Abinadi, had been brought into bondage by the Lamanites. It is recorded that they were “smitten” and “driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies” (Mosiah 21:13). These people were suffering, and they petitioned the Lord their God for help. Let’s look at what happened next:
14 And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.
15 And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage.
God did not deliver them at this point, but He made their burdens easier to bear. Later, Ammon, on assignment from King Mosiah, found the people and helped to deliver them. But that deliverance took time, as did the situation with the Israelites in Egypt.
God often has designs that we, as members of the human race on this side of the veil, cannot see. We are asked to toil, to struggle, to suffer, for what seems like no reason at all. But look at the blessings that God provides once these people are humbled and seek Him out. First, He provides comfort, then He strengthens them in their adversity, and then He delivers them.
Let’s look back to the Israelites for confirmation of this idea.
Exodus 1: 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
Exodus 4: 31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.
Exodus 3: 7 And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
The pattern holds up – comfort, strength, and freedom.
As we look at the hymn “Lord, We Come Before Thee Now” in this context, the prayer that this hymn is emerges as a plea for this pattern. The words “in thine own appointed way” are easily overlooked but exceptionally important. In our trials, in our moments of struggle and captivity, whether from circumstance or from sin, when we seek the Lord asking for His help, we need to recognize that it will come, but in His way and in His time. What was the benefit of having the people of Limhi suffer? They needed to be humbled and to rely on God (Mosiah 21:14). Why did God let the Israelites struggle for so long? He was building up a strong, righteous army (Joshua 1:2). Why does God allow us to struggle in our lives? He is preparing us for something great! Preparation isn’t easy, it isn’t fun, and it certainly isn’t comfortable, but this preparation needs to happen for God to make of us what we need to be.
The lyrics of the hymn illustrate beautifully that if we will “come before [Him]“ and “seek [Him]“ with the intent to stay in His presence, we will have “joy and peace,” “comfort,” “love”, “heal the sick; the captive free.” What wondrous blessings! And what comfort we can take, knowing that, though we may struggle, we are not the first of God’s people to struggle, and based on their histories, we can expect to receive comfort, strength, and freedom from our adversities if we call on Him and come before Him.