Ye Are My Witnesses

Isaiah 43

This chapters starts with a statement of ownership. Israel belongs to the Lord. The Being that is both responsible for their creation and the details of that creation, He it is who also has concerned Himself with Israel’s redemption. (I am thinking of my own family formed under covenant with Him and my wife.) Is my attitude of responsibility the same as His? What is my level of commitment to those things which I have helped to create?

Again, Isaiah is returning to this theme that is continual among his writings: that besides God, there is no other God. No idols, no false gods, nothing in this world is in comparison to the Creator of all of it. So to illustrate to the people of his day, and maybe as much to our day of “political equality” for all, we find phrases like: I will give Egypt a ransom for you. Ethiopia and Seba are what I am willing to pay for you. The greatest nations of the earth are nothing in comparison to you, my tiny flock of witnesses, because you believe.

Those of us that believe, we are the chosen servants of the Lord to bear witness of Him. (See verse 10) There is no other god. There is none who can deliver me out of His hand. (See verse 13) This reminds me of my move to Marshall. Almost as it were, God was picking us up with his own hands and carrying us safely to another place, I just had to not violate the protective covenants that had brought me thus far! I remember thinking that about the Sabbath day. What a protection that has been for me. Keep the Sabbath day holy, and you will always be protected, strengthened, and empowered to do good. Why? Because God is behind it all! He’s the funding source. He’s got your back when you follow Him, because He is really there. (See verse 11)

The Lord clearly states that with Israel He is doing something new. It is uncharted territory. So though we know that we are following God into something new, something different, something not known of this world, Israel does grow weary of their constant dependence upon God. (see verse 22) The Lord ends this chapter by pointing out how we have made him to serve with our sins. There is a bit of irony in this observation because it is He that has blotted out our transgression, and declared that he will not remember our sins. Then a commandment, “put me in remembrance.” (vs. 26)

This commandment seems to me both logical and easy to observe.

He Shall Bring Forth Judgment

Isaiah 42

The first four verses of this chapter, while illustrating the gentle and caring nature of the Christ, also sets for the scope of a significant future event: the gentiles will be brought to judgment. (I don’t feel that this is a condemnation of the gentiles or a reference to a future judgments against them as a people.)

Verse 4 talks about the Savior having set judgment in the earth, and the isles waiting for his law. This is what causes me to think that when these verses talk about the gentiles being brought to judgment, what is meant here is that those most removed from God (those not of the house of Israel), are brought to understand the true principles on which they should judge for success in their own lives. Everyone shall be brought to understand how to make good judgments.

I appreciate the grandeur of scope that Isaiah paints in reminding me of the nature of God in verse 5. This is followed by what is primarily a reference to Christ. However, a small part of me feels that this is also a reference to those that are covenanted to serve Christ as we engage in his work. Whether it is Christ or his servants the effects are the same, because it is Christ that does the real heavy lifting regardless.

Verses 10 – 12 talk of the various location and ways in which the people will praise the Lord through songs of praise.

Verses 13-15 illustrate the power of God unto destruction. It is an aspect of his character that I don’t easily associate with a God who is also kind and merciful. Verse 14 gives a sense of his timeline. Just as gardens need peaceful conditions in order to thrive, so has the Lord provided a quiet dwelling space for his “garden”. But seasons end. Destruction is a part of the clean-up process to be able to start over, to start anew.

“Cry as a travailing woman”, “destroy and devour at once.” These are the way that God describes his acts of destruction. “I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.” These are destructive forces. Yet even the fact that God can state exactly what he intends to accomplish in his destruction suggests that this is both controlled and calculated. This is not a God, who in a fit of anger, goes on an uncontrollable rage of destruction that knows no bounds or end. Within the mortal scope of things, it very well could be all-consuming and beyond our bounds of comprehension, but not to God. In a sense, it is simply a matter of scope.

This chapter ends with a discussion of the deaf and blind in spiritual matters. I feel that I am there, perhaps being a little too deaf or blind to the words shared in this last General Conference.

One more day of reading this chapter from top to bottom. Thoughts that impress me again, how gentle is the Lord that he won’t even harm a bruised reed, or the weakest of the weak things of this world. Yet at the same time there are verse in here that talk of sudden destruction, destroying and devouring at once.

This is about the covenant to gather Israel. The Lord would gather his people. He really wants this for his children. He would purge them, cleanse them, compel them to consider his ways, but they remain in blindness, remain deaf. It is a hard thing to fulfill this covenant.

Fear Not

Isaiah 41

This chapter starts with a pickup where the last chapter ended, but having read verse 1 multiple times now, the thought is the same: gardens need time to grow. When the Lord is telling the islands to keep their silence, He’s giving His child the space to grow: “Let them renew their strength.” Give them space to grow in the Gospel light!

Verse 2 talks of a “righteous man from the east” receiving authority over nations. I feel this is a reference to Christ. The subsequent 3 verses are direct reference to this as well.

Verses 6 and 7 talk of neighbors helping and encouraging one another. But on deeper consideration, those that are encouraging each other in these verses are building idols with their own hands.

As I go deeper into this chapter, there is this profound sense of friendship, comradery, and interest from the Lord in those that embark in his service. He is talking to his servant, Israel, the direct offspring of the Lord’s friend, Abraham.

The strongest feelings I have as I review these verses again is the sense that opposition is so minor, so insignificant compared to the strength that the Lord offers. Repeatedly, the Lord tells his servant: fear not.

They That Wait Upon The Lord

Isaiah 40

This chapter starts off with a declaration of comfort towards Jerusalem, whom the Lord says has already suffered double for her sins. This is not a sermon of fire and brimstone. Rather, this is a testimony of the peaceable things of the Kingdom of God.

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

This chapter is where we find the first reference to the phrase: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness” which is first attributed to John the Baptist. But here it is given in connection with events that pertain to the Second Coming of Christ.

Back at the beginning of the chapter, I’m asking myself who are the pronouns directed towards. Is this Isaiah speaking of what he has heard from the mouth of God? Is he speaking in Messianic terms, that is, is this what Christ has heard from the mouth of His Father? Someone is receiving a mandate from God to speak comfort to His people. Then its not Isaiah or Christ saying this is what God has said, or this is what “my” God has said, but the possessive pronoun used here is this is what “your God” has said.

So you who are of the house of Israel, your God has a message for you: Be comforted, and know that you are forgiven. Now prepare the way of the Lord.

All Flesh Is Grass

The passing of humanity, its temporary state, is emphasized here. The Lord compares it to the grass of the field, and the good works of humanity as a flower that soon fades away. Isaiah emphasizes this point for three verses and then states: “but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”

The works of humanity are temporary, the word of God is eternal. Such a more profound investment of time is made when we labor for our God, and the forward motion of His work! For what man, at any point in all of history, has outlived his days? The answer: none.

Behold Your God!

What do I feel? What do I realize when I read verses 9 -11? Verse 9 is a rallying cry to not hide the testimony of the Lord that is within me. Both Zion and Jerusalem are encouraged to lift their voices, be not afraid, and say “Behold your God!”

Verse 10 talks of how the Lord will come to establish his works at the end of times. What is that work? It is the same as is presently underway, only more so. Family history work, the work of knitting hearts together through temple covenants. The work of conversion to the Lord.

Verse 11 reminds me of how attentive the Lord is with his followers. Descriptions like feeding his flocks, gathering his lambs, carrying them in his bosom (or close to his heart), gently leading those that are with young; these paint a picture of a God who is gentle, loving, and kind.

This is the God that Israel is being brought to consider, a God who despite having a strong and mighty arm with power over all nations, who tenderly and mercifully is attentive to our needs. This is what you do with power, when you have it.

With Whom Took He Counsel?

Verses 12-25 offer a humbling set of questions and perspectives that illustrate in unquestionable terms the greatness of our God. As I read these questions, I’m asking myself: how could man even begin to comprehend such questions?

  • Who has measure the waters of the earth in his hands?
  • Who has measured the heavens with a ruler?
  • Who understands (comprehends) the dust of the earth and can assign it any form of measurement?
  • Who had weighed the mountains and hills with a scale?

In Isaiah’s day, no one would have even fathomed such a scale or scope of measurements. In our day, we accomplish such tasks only with tools of observation, but not with precise measurement.

But Isaiah doesn’t stop there. He continues with questions of the grand scope of God:

  • Who directs the Spirit of the Lord?
  • Who is a counselor, or director to the Spirit of the Lord?
  • Who does the Lord take counsel with?
  • Who teaches the Lord?
  • Who taught Him the path of judgment or knowledge?
  • Who showed Him the way of understanding?

We simply do not have answers to these questions. But to assume that they came from anyone within the known mortal realm is inconceivable.

But Isaiah doesn’t stop here. Now he shifts gears to a comparison perspective. To the Lord:

  • The nations of the earth are as a drop in a bucket.
  • The nations of the earth are counted as small dust on a scale.
  • The isles are as a “very little thing”.
  • Lebanon (and its cedar trees) are not worth burning.
  • The animals (beasts) there off are not enough for a burnt offering.
  • All nations before God are as nothing.
  • These nations are counted as less than nothing!
  • Vanity…

And yet, Isaiah doesn’t stop there. Understand oh man, that your idols whether of molten rock or wood not easily rotted, are nothing in comparison. Isaiah’s final set of comparisons equate men with grasshoppers, princes as nothing, judges of the earth as vanity. And all this that we may consider the grandeur of that Being in who we ought to place our strength

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Verse 31

That He Might Know All that Was in His Heart

Isaiah 39

In my initial reading of this chapter, assuming that I am reading correctly, there are four things that strike me as curious and odd about this passage:

  1. My understanding is that Hezekiah is a righteous king. If being righteous, why did he share with his Babylonian visitors a display of all his wealth? (The action seems neither righteous nor wise.)
  2. Isaiah subsequently prophesies that all these treasures of Judah will be taken by the Babylonians and that his posterity will be made servants in Babylon. (That’s kind of alarming!)
  3. Hezekiah’s response is that the word of the Lord is good.
  4. Finally, Hezekiah concludes that in his days there will be peace and truth.

How does Hezekiah justify his own actions here ? What good does he see in the word of Isaiah that foretell the captivity of his family and the loss of the treasures of his kingdom?

There is an almost verbatim account of chapter 39 found in 2 Kings 20, and one additional verse of insight in 2 Chronicles 32:31.

Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to atry him, that he might know all that was in his heart.

2 Chronicles 32:31

In my opening prayer to my morning study this morning, I was brought to consider a profound connecting point that is not expressed in these verses. Isaiah, the prophet who testified of Jesus Christ and His gospel, might have very meaningfully chose to highlight Hezekiah’s actions in this particular account because of how well it personified Christ’s Gospel:

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:31-33

Perhaps what we have here is evidence of a king who has not placed his heart upon his riches, though “God had given him substance very much.” (2 Chronicles 32:29) So when Isaiah prophesies the removal of all his possessions by the Babylonians in the future, this is not of concern to Hezekiah because his heart was not upon his riches.

I still have questions at the end of this study that are unresolved, but I’m choosing to move on presently.

The Living, the Living, He Shall Praise Thee

Isaiah 38

The start of this chapter, Hezekiah is sick unto death. Isaiah comes to tell him as much and to advise him to set his house in order. Hezekiah’s response a prayer upon his bed. He rolls over the wall and weeps bitterly and asks the Lord to consider the goodness and uprightness of his works. This is not a selfish petition for the extension of his life, but rather, this is a plea to do more good.

(Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, where others cannot.)

The petition merited a response from the Lord, again, via the prophet Isaiah. That response extended to Hezekiah 15 more years of life.

Then there is recorded a couple of other tidbits, which in my reading seem out of order. The biggest of the sections is the penned response of Hezekiah to the Lord’s blessing him with an elongated life. I don’t quite understand it all, but the feeling is that of the temple. I recognize the Spirit associated with this passage and it reminds me of the temple. I cannot point to anything else in the passage though as to why it feels like the temple.

(To gain further insight into this chapter, I first had to ask for it in prayer.)

There is one more point that I feel to emphasis from this declaration of Hezekiah’s. In verse 18, Hezekiah observes that “the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee.” Of a truth, no one has ever praised God as a dead corpse. All that is taken to the next world, all that is known in the next life, very little of it spills back over into this world. Our scriptures are not full of accounts from the next world, only the experiences of this lifetime. So in Hezekiah’s rejoicing, this observation is profound:

The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.

vs. 19

The passage also addresses our responsibility to the rising generation.This echos the sentiment that I was already familiar with from Psalms:

We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

Psalm 78:4

What Confidence Is This Wherein Thou Trustest?

Isaiah 36 & 37

Compared to the previous sections, these next two chapters are more of a historical read about Hezekiah, king of Judah, against the Assyrian empire.

The premise upon which the representative from the King of Assyria came up to Judah was two fold:

  1. Assyria was mightier than Egypt now. Judah could not flee to Egypt for strength.
  2. Every other nation that had trusted in their false gods had fallen to Assyria.

Both assumptions ignored the reality that the God of Israel was neither Egypt nor the false gods of other nations, but the only true and living God (let’s not take that title for granted). That reality in contrast with the thoughts and feelings of a world that is centered on power, influence, and gain, reminds the righteous that they can trust the counsels of the Lord and that the Lord will preserve the land for the righteous’ sake.

Hezekiah’s counsel to his men was to hold their peace in the face of opposition, which they did. They gave no response to the opposition. (See vs. 21-22)

I am reminded as I review this that that my individual course and counsel from the Lord is such as will place me in a position to act for the blessing and benefit of those around me. The Lord is trying to facilitate my ability to be more righteous.

In Hezekiah’s response to the Assyrians, there are a couple of things that I find noteworthy. Everyone in the Judaeo leadership took the threat of Assyria seriously, humbling themselves before the Lord in sackcloth. Hezekiah then instructs the same men who received the message from the Rabshakeh (the messenger of the Assyrian king) to go to Isaiah the prophet for further instruction.

Isaiah tells them that Rabshakeh will return to his own land without incident, which Rabshakeh does upon receiving word of conflict with another adversary. But in the midst of it all, they cannot leave Judah alone without sending a menacing letter.

To this letter, Hezekiah turns to the temple in solemn prayer. This prayer of Hezekiah’s is recorded in chapter 37:14-20. It is detailed and specific. He starts out first by addressing the Lord God and acknowledges His supreme autonomy over all His works.

O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.

vs. 16

Then, Hezekiah articulates the grave threat posed by Assyria. It is not many words, but it is enough to spell his concerns and to submit a specific request for protection.

Isaiah later responds directly to Hezekiah’s prayer from the temple. In all accounts, the Lord is telling them that He will fight their battles. That Isaiah then responds in such quick manner to Hezekiah’s petition is nothing sort of evidence of the Lord’s detailed awareness.

The Zeal of the Lord of Hosts Shall Do This

In Isaiah’s response there is perspective and promise, in addition to a prophecy beyond the immediate circumstances. The perspective is an understanding of where Assyria stands in the eyes of the Lord.

Isaiah is speaking directly to the king of Assyria as if he (Isaiah) were God with statements like “But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.” This issue is directly between God and Assyria. It’s not between Judah and Assyria. Judah gets in the way though, because they are the one nation that worships the true and living God. Assyria cannot do as it pleases with Judah, unlike all the other nations.

To bolster Hezekiah’s confidence, Isaiah also provides him with a sign of harvest:

Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.

vs. 30

But Isaiah goes even further to talk about a remnant of Judah being preserved. Surely, the family of Lehi is in a part a fulfillment of this prophecy. He says that “the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.”

This is the Lord’s work. This whole of creation is carved and shaped to accommodate those that will follow Him and do His will.

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).