Come to Zion with Songs and Everlasting Joy

Isaiah 35, Additional Insights

This chapter is an anthem of Zion. It opens and closes with references to joy and singing. What is happening here is transformation, change, conversion all over, everywhere.

Questions for next study:

  • Where is the Lord in these verses? (Everywhere)
  • What are the action items for me to take as a result of what I am reading here?

All suffering ceases when the Lord comes again. But Isaiah doesn’t paint in blanket statements, he goes into details: First we start with the desert and the symbolism that is found in the desert blossoming as a rose. I’m from the desert, and there is one time of the year that the desert blossoms, and it varies from year to year directly proportionally to the amount of Spring-time rains. If it rains a lot, there are an abundance of flowers of all varieties and colors. If it rains less, then the desert is reserved.

When Isaiah says that the desert shall blossom as a rose, there is the symbolism of Living Waters coming into a desert place and the results are blossoms as roses. Isaiah goes further to say that they shall blossom abundantly! So abundantly that glory of Lebanon, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon are less than the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God.

Verses 3 and 4 are calls to action. This is our part to play: to strengthen the weak and feeble, to open our mouths and remind the fearful of the power and strength of our God, which is real.

Then, in the remainder of the chapter are the detailed promises of the end of suffering, the results of the power of God. These statements are multi-layered. The eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. In hearing and understanding the preaching of the Word, these things are spiritually fulfilled long before their literal fulfillment will be realized.

What is surprising about these prophecies of Isaiah is that these things will literally be fulfilled as well as spiritually, or figuratively.

In verse 7 we read of a highway, the way of Holiness it will be called, that will bring people to Zion. The scriptural footnotes equate this highway as similar to the parting of Red Sea when Moses lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Returning to this “highway” or “way of Holiness,” as much as this may yet be a reference to a literal prophecy (see the footnotes on verse 8a), the spiritual symbolism of “a way” that “the unclean shall not pass over” seems just as important. It is a way so perfect that even “fools, shall not err there in” and the guarantee of safety so that no lion or beast can be found there to destroy is assured.

These final verses literally describe my feelings about discipleship in the Church of Christ. For me as an individual, in some ways, this has already been fulfilled. For many who have not yet found the way, they are still searching for truth. It is my job to help others find it.

A Sure Foundation

Helaman 5:12, see also Isaiah 28:14–17

You must shore up your foundations. You must shore up your spiritual foundations and your temporal foundations.

If or When

It is important for me to realize that the word that is used in Helaman is not “if”. It’s not if the devil will send forth his mighty winds and hail and storms, it is a matter of “when”. He will send forth his mighty strong winds. This hail is so damaging that it will cause you to question everything that you believe if you are not fastened to Christ. No, it is so powerful, these winds and storms that if you are not riveted to Christ, you will change what you believe based on your experiences in the storm. It will change you, cause you to believe lies and falsehoods, things that are not true, as being the only “logical” explanation for our sufferings.

The Day of the Lord’s Vengence

Isaiah 34

Chapter 34 is a warning, a fair warning of the destruction that will come of the wicked at the time of the Second Coming of the Lord. If this world was created to furnish the interests of man, then the Second Coming makes no sense. There is no context for it. However, if this world, its inhabitants, and its whole creation serves some greater purpose, then therein is the explanation for why a Second Coming is needed and necessary.

As I am reading these verses, this is the very thought that comes to my mind: Brent, you are part of something much bigger, much grander, and of eternal (or vastly long term significance).

Look Upon Zion, the City of Our Solemnities

Isaiah 33

Again continuing with prophecies of forthcoming events, Isaiah starts this chapter playing around with the theme of spoils. He first speaks of those who dedicate themselves to the spoiling of others, and decrees that such will become their end: spoiled and dealt with treacherously.

But then Isaiah talks about the Lord’s spoils in verse 4. When the Lord finally reveals himself at the end of time, it shall be equated to the gathering of a caterpillar, or running to and fro of a swarm of locusts. What a surprise to all the world this will be, and more especially to those who did not anticipate anything of the sort.

Reading on, some of these verses have me contemplating the vastness and grandeur of our God, the immensity of the space that surrounds us. The literal depth and separation of our little planet from all the known universe, and yet the immediate and real connection of our spirits to God.

Verse 15 is then key in answering the question: Who shall walk righteously and with confidence before God? Isaiah (as well as Nibley) points to man’s business practices:

  • He that walketh righteously,
  • and speaketh uprightly;
  • he that despiseth the gain of oppressions,
  • that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes,
  • that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood,
  • and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;

Verse 17 states that “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty.” This is reminiscent of similar hopes expressed by the prophet Mormon:

…pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love… that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is…. that we may be purified even as he is pure.

Moroni 7:48

The final verses of this chapter give me pause for contemplation on the state of Zion, the result of a people that dwell in the knowledge and eventually, the literal presence of the Lord. Things are so different there:

  • there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams;
  • For the Lord is our judge, (judicial branch)
  • the Lord is our lawgiver, (legislative branch)
  • the Lord is our king; (executive branch)
  • he will save us. (religious branch)
  • the prey of a great spoil divided;
  • the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick:
  • the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.

The Work of Righteousness Shall Be Peace

Isaiah 32

There is much to make note of in this chapter. This is another chapter of prophecy looking forward to the time preceding and at the Second Coming of our Lord.

Christ is declared here as a King that shall reign in righteousness, with others serving around him as princes. This is a preview of the government of Christ. Christ is then describe as a man who provides:

  • a hiding place from the wind
  • a covert from the tempest
  • rivers of water in dry places
  • the shadow of a great rock in a weary land

A few verses of business counsel are then provided with the purpose of distinguishing between righteous and wicked practices. Miserly and vile persons are identified and separate from the liberal and generous. These words are not unlike the warning voice of modern prophets.

Noteworthy is that the vile is no longer regarded as being liberal, and churl (miser) is no longer being reputed as bountiful or generous.

Verse 8 then states the true intent of a liberal heart: “But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.”

I am thinking of a very specific project right now to bless the life of a family, that would take my financial position to bless the lives of another family, where they would not be able to do so themselves.

There are several verses here that address the daughters of Israel being at ease. These spaces that create a sense of false confidence, they all eventually become the dwelling places for animals: a desolate space.

This state of desolation will then continue “until the spirit be poured upon us from on high.” (vs. 15) Then Isaiah offers these clarifying statements of fact in verse 17:

  • The work of righteousness shall be peace
  • the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever.

These are direct quotes from Isaiah. I cannot find in my own words a simpler, more clear way of stating this. Peace is the work of righteousness. This is an excellent indicator as the effectiveness of our efforts in any labor I am pursuing. If the net result is peace, then this is righteousness. If those who interact with me and my efforts feel quietness and assurance, then have my righteous efforts been effective.

The following verse is therefore a promise: “And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;” (Vs. 18) These promised fruits are indicators of our alignment to God. It is not a statement of entitlement, rather a measure of our own efforts to be in harmony with God.

The Sword, Not of a Mighty Man… Not of a Mean Man

Isaiah 31

This chapter feels almost like a reprise or summary of the previous chapter in more succinct terms.

Verse 8 talks about the sword destroying the Assyrian, but Isaiah points out that it is not a mighty sword or a mean sword, but that it is nonetheless a sword that they will be fleeing from.

Isaiah is also getting more detailed here in referencing both Zion and Jerusalem as separate places.

If I am 100% honest with myself. The reason why Rachel and I and our family is here in Marshall is because this is where the Lord wanted us for this season. We are here because we trusted in the Lord, more than in the arm of flesh. We are not as the people described by Isaiah who put confidence in the powers of nations, we have put our confidence in the Lord.

(BT- Just as the garden requires time in preparation of the land before the seeds can be planted, so media production requires the preparation of a space for before projects can be worked on. Distribution requires the preparation of a space. )

What’s more, in the Lord we have a protection against the forces of this world. He is described as a lion against a multitude of shepherds. This lion will not be afraid, nor abased, but will fight for Zion. The Lord will also be as bird protecting the chicks of its nest. (See verses 4 & 5)

I thought I was done with this chapter, but as I am searching for a phrase that sums up the essence of these verses, and as the Spirit of the Lord is stronger with me this morning, reminding me of the reality of the true way things are. There is yet more for me to to make note of. Zion and Jerusalem are made mention of.

  • so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. (vs. 4)
  • so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; (vs. 5)
  • his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem. (vs. 9)

The Lord will fight for his people, not in the ways of the world, but after the manner of His Spirit will he fight. (See verse 8)

Blessed Are All They That Wait For Him

Isaiah 30

In verse 1, there are two woes pronounced upon the rebellious children, and thus by extension, two lines of instruction of how we ought to be:

  • We should seek council from the Lord.
  • We should seek for a covering of protection from the Holy Spirit.

“Their strength is to sit still”

In the subsequent verses, Isaiah talks about the rebellious’ tendency to flee to Egypt (the bigger national power) for protection or advantage. Isaiah is quick to point out that Egypt would not regard them with any favor because the children of Israel would be of no profit to them. There is no temporal advantage to help them. Isaiah’s council is simple, yet profound: be still.

The theme of “waiting” or patience is then repeated multiple times throughout the chapter.

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.

Verse 15 (emphasis added)

By the same principle that the Lord asks his people to be patient, by this same principle does the Lord himself “wait”.

And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.

Verse 18 (emphasis added)

On a new day of study, parts of verse 18 have resonated deeply with me again. The Lord is a God of Judgment. Blessed are they that wait for him. The Spirit of the Lord speaks so strongly to me on this point.

The chapter heading speaks of the Lord returning in a day of apostasy. I pray that another 100 years or more, another season may pass before his coming, but now is a time of increasing apostasy, therefore it could happen sooner than I am ready to admit. Preparation, irregardless of what happens, will always be the answer.

As I come to the end of the chapter, which I have struggled to find meaning in, it seems to talk about the results of an apostate people being destroyed by the word of the Lord. It is interesting to me how the Lord doesn’t change between merciful and gracious being on the one hand and a vengeful God of judgment on the other. He is one and of the same. The same Word that gives life to one can cause another to burn.

I Will Proceed to Do A Marvelous Work

Isaiah 29

On my first day of study of this chapter, which coincidentally is in the same week that we are reading about some of the actual events prophesied from Church history, I sent the following notes to Rachel, who was having some particularly difficult exchanges on social media:

So I’m reading in Isaiah this morning, chapter 29, where it says therefore behold I will proceed to do a marvelous work among those people even a marvelous work in a Wonder.
It goes on to say how the wisdom of their wise men shall perish in the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
And then two versus later it says surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay.
So I read this and I think of all the commotion in the world right now, like always, and feel the same as I always do that even though man has his agenda, God is the one who’s actually accomplishing his work unbeknownst to man.

This is such an important chapter. Not only for the teachings that are found in this chapter, but for the hope that is given despite the awful, cunning plots of man. The poor, the seekers of truth, shall arrive at the end with the advantage. And even they who did error in spirit and they that murmured shall come to understanding. It will ALL work out in the end.

This chapter reminds me that I am part of a group of people who fear God. I am not on the right or the left. I am not seeking for wealth or the riches of this world. God, in His abundance, has provided for a better way.

And what is that better way? It is alluded to throughout this chapter. That better way is in the coming forward (the uncovering and publication) of the Book of Mormon. A voice from the dust. A sealed book that cannot be read. A marvelous work and a wonder.

Re-reading this chapter again on an early Sunday morning, the first thing that impresses me is that the Book of Momron (a voice out of the dust, see Moroni 10:27) is given to redeem Ariel (Jerusalem). We are not there yet, are we?

Isaiah understood the importance and significance of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. If he does not clearly articulate it as such, he is pointing to it nonetheless as the tool of Israel’s redemption. It is the key by which the poor will be brought back to Christ, and the meek are to increase in their joy. (See verse 19)

There are few places in the scriptures where I can point to a prophecy and then link it to a precise historical event. This chapter contains one such instance in verses 11 and 12.

Here is the historical account of Martin Harris taking writings from the “sealed book” to Charles Anton in New York: Joseph Smith History 1:63-65

Re-reading this chapter just one more time before moving one reinforces in my mind the absolute importance of the Book of Mormon in the Lord’s work of the Last Days. This is the key that the Jewish nation needs, and beyond them, to all the scattered house of Israel. The Book of Mormon is the means by which the promises made by the Savior in his Sermon on the Mount are to be fulfilled. This is how the poor and the meek shall inherit the earth and every good thing, and be prepared to meet the Lord at his coming. This chapter is such a strong testimony or witness for the Book of Mormon, God’s special tool prepared to bring us back to Christ, to all who will receive it.

Line Upon Line, Line Upon Line

Isaiah 28

This chapter details well why those who are Ephraim should avoid strong drinks. Given long before the word of wisdom, Isaiah taught that destruction was to come upon the drunkards of Ephraim.

As I conclude my study this morning, I pray that I may be able to find the personal application of such verses, and not attribute these teaching to another.

My initial response to these verses was quite literal, and more of a check-list, dismissive consideration only. But I’ve returned to this again this morning trying to assess personally if I do not fall into the category of being among the “drunkards in Ephraim”.

Isaiah paints a picture of two crowns: One is a crown of pride placed on the head of those who are over beautiful, fruitful valleys, who prematurely consume their fruit even before the main growing season has happened; the other is a crown of glory which is representative of the Savior, given to his people as something of beauty, judgment, and strength.

This very last point has an additional note: the Savior shall be given “and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.” (vs. 6) Those are the words of Isaiah. What is the gate?

For me, the battle at the gate is on the home front.

Verses 7 and 8 are perhaps the strongest pronouncement against the vice of “strong drink” in all of holy writ. Isaiah is justified in observing its devastating effects. He calls out prophets and priests alike that are overcome with strong drink. He points out that they are lacking in vision and removed from judgment because of it.

Isaiah also illustrates here how the Lord teaches. Understanding the Lord’s pattern of instruction is so important: “precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little;”

This is why routine church meetings and conferences, daily study sessions, and constant care must be given to obtaining the word of God. No one goes from a little knowledge to all in a day. It is impossible. Just as a seed doesn’t produce fruit in a day. It is impossible.

Isaiah’s wording is so fascinating to me. Sometimes he explains things in negative statements. Sometimes he articulates principles, commandments, and admonitions with layered meaning. For example, in verse 16 and 17, there is a testimony of Christ. No where does Isaiah say “Christ is the sure foundation.” No, in fact, his statements are dressed in context.

Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

Verse 16

There is a constant theme throughout this chapter of an overwhelming scourge or consummation. So even here in this testimony of Christ, Isaiah is connecting the two. The context give the testimony richer meaning. If we believe in Christ, one of the blessings for our faith is that we will not make haste. What does that mean? Is it not in reference to the decreed consummation. Our faith in Christ will keep us from being taken by surprise. We will be prepared. From Isaiah’s perspective, food storage,72 hour kits, and emergency preparedness are a direct expression of our faith in Christ.

The wicked will attempt to protect themselves from this “overflowing scourge” (vs. 15) by creating a refuge (a shelter or place of protection) of lies. Isaiah warns that even those who think to outsmart the Lord against the foretold destruction will also be taken by flood and hailstorms. (vs. 17)

Verse 22 is where Isaiah states again plainly (this isn’t the first time that we have heard this theme) that there will be “a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.”

This chapter ends with strong parallels between gardening and how the Lord deals with his children of the House of Israel. It has always seemed strange to me how the Lord focused his covenants on one people. But now as I am considerin g it, learning that a garden must be tended and cultivated to produce desirable fruit, it makes a lot of sense. The gardener must pick a spot of ground to cultivate. He does not cultivate the whole yard.

Gathered One by One

Isaiah 27

I am here at the start of a daily study, halfway through the book of Isaiah, and it occurs to me that I may be missing a key element of Isaiah’s testimony: the Lord Jesus Christ. On days when I struggle to extract meaning out of my scripture study, I have had these default questions as a resource in my study tool belt: “How does this passage of scripture help me draw closer to Jesus Christ?” or “What do these verses teach me about the mission of Jesus Christ?” Up until this point in Isaiah, I have not found myself lacking in my studies, but this morning and I am wondering if I’m missing the primary purpose of Isaiah’s testimony.

This particular chapter is fairly explicit in stating what the Lord will and will not do. Even still, I was actively looking for Christ in these verses.

The Lord has a sword that he uses to punish leviathan (a serpent). The Lord’s sword which he uses to punish the dragon is described as sore, great, and strong! The footnotes and context alone suggests that this is the devil.

The next several verses talk of a vineyard, the Lord’s watchful care over it, and an invitation to those that have assumed wrongfully that Christ is a vengeful Being. This invitation is a reprise from the verses in the last chapter that declared that the Lord was able to keep us in perfect peace.

Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.

Verse 5

What is most compelling about this is the surety of the promise of peace. “Perfect peace” and “he shall make peace with me”.

The remainder of this chapter talks of the falling out of favor of the children of Israel, but then how they shall also be gathered individually, one by one, back into the Lord’s covenant. This reminds me of a dear friend who was brought into the gospel near the end of his mortal life. He was of Jewish descent, a member of the house of Israel. One by one, the Lord gathers his children.