Merits of Saints
January 30, 2021
I remember the head rabbi at the rabbinic school where I studied in Israel many years ago saying that the reason certain persons have power with God so that he answers their requests is that they have “merit” (Hebrew zehut) with God. It acts like a bank account in which the more “merit” you have, the more you can draw on it. That seemed to resemble God’s blessing of Israel’s ancestor Jacob: “Thy name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men and hast prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). It also reflects the Brother of Jared role when he interceded with the Lord on behalf of his family and friends until they had inherited a Promised Land (Ether 1:34–43).
The question is, how did the Brother of Jared become “a man highly favored of the Lord” (Ether 1:23) so that the Lord answered his every request? How did Jacob become “a prince” who had power with God so that he became ancestor of God’s people Israel? What was the “merit” these men had with God so that God fulfilled their righteous desires? Perhaps we should look at the savior role of Christ himself for an answer: “There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8); “Redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah, for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law” (2 Nephi 2:6–7).
Thus being “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), “he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). And lastly, from Isaiah: “He bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Some features the above scriptures have in common is that the person who has power with God to obtain blessings on behalf of others possesses qualities such as “merits” (zehut) and “grace” or “favor” (hesed) precisely because he is willing to pay a price while fulfilling the savior role of a “prince,” one who “makes intercession” with God on their behalf.