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.

Perfect Peace

Isaiah 26, See also Luke 1:46-55

Verses 1-4

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength:

Verses 3 & 4

These verses feel very similar to the ones found over in Proverbs 3:5-6, but the key of strength, and the promise of perfect peace, is awesome in these verses. It’s such a clear explanation of how to obtain peace: let your mind stay on Christ, because you trust him. Don’t loose your focus, always trust the Lord, and He will be your strength forever. This promise is real!

But as I re-read this on a second morning, there is more. It almost seems to be an exercise or a training of the mind to become centered on Christ. “Perfect peace” belongs to him or her who will train their mind to look to Christ in all things. “Perfect peace” belongs to those who learn to trust Him.

The following verse is an injunction to always trust the Lord, because His strength is everlasting!

I am moving on for today, but there is something very personal about the life path that I have chosen, that I find validated in the words of Isaiah here. (vs. 5 – 11) These words actually serve as a reminder.

There is an important parallel between the words of Isaiah here and Mary’s words recorded to Elizabeth, her cousin. It is the role reversal between the rich and the poor, and how it is the Lord who is able to take from the rich and raise up the poor. Mary is amazed at how someone such as herself in her very low station in life, could be exalted to such a place of preeminence, as had never been known before in the history of the world, by the hand of God.

I am sitting here contemplating these verse in both Isaiah and Luke, and sitting with the fact that God exalts the poor, and scatters the proud in the imaginations of their hearts. Part of me wonders if I wasn’t among the proud being scattered, for I have been a very prideful man over the course of my years.

I do feel like I was taken from Utah, and from a vibrant community of honest and good filmmakers and faithful members because of my pride. I was too blinded to see those in my midst doing great work. But alas, I was also guided to leave. I was proud and so sure of myself, without observing the decay in my children, those little plants sprouting up all around me.

These verses are so pivotal in understanding how God works with his children. The proud, He can do nothing with them. The poor that will acknowledge and follow God, these are his tools.

There is more in this chapter, which culminates in a witness of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. I appreciate the acknowledgement found in verses 12 – 15 that though the people of faith have been subjected to other lords, in the end only the Lord their God will they praise and make mention of. (No one will be extolling the virtues of their land lords.)

Finally, verses 16-18 demonstrates that Isaiah understands well the pattern of discipleship, and relates it to the process of childbirth. What is more compelling to me is that this is again a proof that the Lord is able to do his own work: though we labor and strive to become more as He would have us to be, we look for the deliverance promised us and it are insignificant, and even just not there. Nothing seems to have changed. Yet in our obedience, the Lord is able to do His work, he brings forth his own fruit in due time.

It will be the Lord that destroys the wicked. It will be the Lord who preserves the righteous. Our own efforts, though absolutely required, will appear to have no effect upon the other party.

Lo, This is Our God… and He Will Save Us

Isaiah 25

This week I have had the opportunity to contrast the rich of this world verse the poor (in spirit) who wait upon God. What is this salvation that God only can offer? What is this feast of fat things that only God can provide?

This chapter makes discipleship personal. Phrases like:

  • “Oh Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name;” (vs. 1)
  • “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”(vs. 9)

In verse 4, I read that God has “been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress…” Then a footnote takes me to Doctrine and Covenants 56:18–19. There are promises extended to the poor that I myself feel that I have realized. I am a poor man, by choice. And yet as more time passes, I am realizing the fatness that I enjoy, and how it is that the Lord has lead me out of one land unto another, and from that land to the one where I now live. My position and station here is one of comfort, even in my humble circumstances. The fatness of the earth is mine. These verses put into words the reality of my life experience.

I read in verses 6 through 8, and I think first that this prophecy is already being fulfilled in abundance. A feast of fat things on the mountain, this thing happens all the time: whether in the temples of God, or messages delivered from General Conference, or a multitude of other church gatherings that are presided over by our inspired leaders.

The destruction or removal of a veil or covering that covered all the nations of the earth, that comes from the mountain too. Do not the words of the prophets and apostles uncover the dark snares of the adversary for those who will hear?

Though the victory over death is still pending in many instances, and for most, is still a matter of faith to believe that it has already begun, yet is it still true. Even this thing of which so much of our world’s resources are calculated to avoid for as long as possible, even death is overcome through Christ.

In these same verses we read of the Lord taking away “the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” What is this great facade that covers us all? Is it not the belief that this life only is the end of man. So much is spent in the preservation of the mortal body, for it is believed that this and this alone is the end of man. Yet, in the increase of knowledge that causes us to ascend above the temporal, a separation of the mortal body in anticipation of a resurrected, glorified body seems to be a necessary and welcomed transition. Where does death hold any power in the face of such knowledge?

He Will Swallow Up Death in Victory

It’s noteworthy here to reference the Spanish translation on this phrase, which is notably simplier, “Destruirá a la muerte para siempre,” or literally translated “He will destroy death forever.” And who in any other world belief system, anywhere, has laid claim to anything beyond the mortal realm? Christ abolishes death. This reality is sitting squarely, heavily upon me this morning.

And In This Mountain…

One more reading this morning through this chapter has me reflecting upon the temple and the experiences that I have already had there in. The Institute manual that references this chapter point to these same verses as more of Second Coming/millennial experience, but then I see even greater purpose in the temples as a means of pointing us to and preparing us for that eventual day and reality. If we want to experience what it will be like during the Millennium, we may find it in the temples of God.

The Land Shall Be Utterly Emptied

Isaiah 24

This chapter starts with the sober prophecy that “the Lord maketh the earth empty.” This desolation is documented in the subsequent verses and is noted as being all inclusive. In verse 4, the word “languish” is used to document the state of the world and the haughty people who inhabit it. Languish is defined as the loss or lack of vitality; growing weak or feeble.

Verse 5 is a hinge-point in understanding the cause of the destruction that has come upon the earth. Three indictments are listed:

  • They have transgressed the laws.
  • They have changed the ordinance.
  • They have broken the everlasting covenant.

A quote attributed to Wilford Woodruff sums up my feelings about this chapter, speaking of the Second Coming of Christ:

These, I think, are not his exact words, but they convey the spirit of his reported reply: ‘I would live as if it were to be tomorrow—but I am still planting cherry trees!’”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, Chapter 24

I Travail Not, Nor Bring Forth Children

Isaiah 23

Here is another chapter steep in historical context, a prophecy against Tyre. Tyre is a port city and strategically placed along key trade routes connecting Egypt and all the Mediterranean to the lands of Assyria, Babylon, and also Jerusalem.

The concluding verses are curious. Though Tyre is referred to as a harlot in these verses, yet will her goods and labors be brought to a holy end in the work of the Lord. This leads me to consider parallels in our days, such as developments in technologies, air travel, and many other industries. The work of the Lord could not have gone forward, as it has towards a global conclusion, without the rise in industrialization as we have it today.

Second morning of reading this chapter, and it makes much more sense. It has been revealed to me. Tyre is to be destroyed because is a symbolic harlot. The accusations brought against her have to do with failure to attend to the real duties of life.

Be thou ashamed, O Zidon… I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins.

Verse 4

The purposes of family life are pointed to here as chief purpose of our existence, a thing which the lands of Zidon and Tyre did not accommodate well.

The description of Tyre and Zidon as a harlot is a compelling one. The gratification of the senses will soon be past, with no posterity, no legitimate offspring, no family bonds to sustain in old age. As the harlot grows older with less appealing prospects, she will have to sing songs to remind others of her existence.

At the very end of the chapter, again, it talks of the merchandise and hire of Tyre being made into holiness before the Lord. The last sentence is key:

it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.

Verse 18

This work of the Lord isn’t about filling up the coffers of the king. Rather for those that dwell before the Lord, it will be sufficient to eat and clothing to wear.

As a Nail in a Sure Place

Isaiah 22, Additional Insights

“Thine slain men are not slain with the sword…” What does it mean to have a host of people living dead lives? Not that I would cast a sweeping judgment across the bulk of humanity, but the question begs consideration. What does come of a nation that has utterly discounted their purpose for existence.

This chapter appears to be directed back at Jerusalem. Where most of the other “burden” prophecies were aimed at the other nations of the day that surround Jerusalem, Isaiah is now address his own people again.

The end of this chapter contains a Messianic prophecy, though there was a literal fulfillment in his words as well. Priesthood keys are referenced here. Christ is the possessor of those keys and that right that comes with those keys.

Studying a bit more the prophesy at the end of this chapter about the Savior (see verses 20-25), there is reference to his crucifixion. The effects of the Savior’s action, or his being placed in this position of authority is significant. “They shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue…” (The Spanish translation replaces “offsping” and “issue” with “descendents” and “posterity” respectively.)

This reminds me of Mosiah 15, where Abinadi is explaining to those wicked priests how Christ’s sufferings extends to him the power to be father to those who believe on his name.

Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed.

Mosiah 15:10

This is an interesting connection, mostly because Abinadi was referencing Isaiah to begin with. Then here I am reading Isaiah and being brought to consider the words of Abinadi.

Watchman, What of the Night?

Isaiah 20, 21

Prophets are what make this thing real. It is what connects humanity to the heavens.

It should be noted the that nakedness (see vs 2) spoken of in Isaiah 20 is generally assumed to be a debasing of garments, not utter nakedness.

In chapter 21, the destruction of so many countries and civilizations goes to demonstrate the futile efforts of nation kingdoms to acquire and preserve wealth and power. The purposes of life are much to the contrary. Should our time be spent in mundane pursuits?

As I sit with these chapters for one more day, I am asking myself: Why does the Lord care about this? Why did he employ his prophets in these prophecies of theses places that were to be destroyed. What am I to learn from this?

Perhaps one of the lessons that I take away from these otherwise abstract chapters in Isaiah is that God is God of the whole earth and all people who live upon it. This extends to those cultures and peoples who have been built up with no acknowledgement or references to the Divine and to those that are completely devoid of the truth. By extension, a prophet is not a prophet only to the believers, but to all people everywhere.

Blessed Be Egypt My People

Isaiah 19, Additional Contexts

As I revisit this chapter for a second morning, the first thought that impresses me is this final thought of the chapter: Israel is not alone in the Lord’s eyes.

Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

Vs. 25

The Lord refers to Egypt as his people and Assyria as the work of his hands. This work is much bigger than just one person or one group of “chosen people”.

The first part of this chapter details the fall of Egypt, it is not unlike the descriptions of other great states that have come to ruin. Egypt though has a different ending than Babylon. The second half of this chapter chronicles the blessings extended to Egypt, including the establishment of a temple in their midst.

An Ensign on the Mountains

Isaiah 18

This chapter deals with the gathering of a nation “scattered and peeled” throughout all the earth. The description of Israel includes “a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down.” Isaiah uses almost the same wording at the beginning and the end of the chapter to describe Israel. He doesn’t use names to identify them, rather he uses these descriptive phrases.

As I reflect upon this, we are talking of a people who are not organized as a people at all among the nations of the earth. This is except within the Church, whose purpose includes the gathering of “scattered and peeled” Israel.

In the middle of the chapter, there is a simple call to the inhabitants of the world, dwellers on earth: see the ensign, hear the trumpet. Is it not important to know that God is already on the move in this gathering process? I appreciate how this invitation is not exclusive to Israel, but is extended to all the world.

This is an invitation to consider the timing of the Lord.

Shall a Man Look to His Maker

Isaiah 17

This chapter is an indictment against Israel. But it also is a warning against anyone that would oppress Israel. Hands off says the Lord! Israel is not to be punished to the benefit of other nations.

These garden analogies are very poignant in my situation. I understand both the analogy and the real to life application of this. First the imagery of a few just fruits hanging on the boughs of the tree that are beyond reach. That’s the first image. The second, after the Lord declares that they had forgotten Him, paints a more dismal picture. This one I am familiar with both in a practical and symbolic level.

Seeds are planted. Plants grow and are cultivated after our own manner. The end result however is a ruinous heap of nothing salvageable. Oh what a waste of time and energy! Why would one want to attempt to grow after such failed efforts? What guarantee of something better is there?

Back to verses 6 to 8: Isaiah speaks of the “gleaning grapes” that are left behind, and how “at that day shall a man look to his Maker”. This is desirable fruit, whatever the cost (the bereavement for the seemingly scare output), will be such as to properly acknowledge the Father for who He is. This precious fruit will not look to the creations of his own hands as proof of God’s goodness. He will not take confidence in the substance of his own prosperity. It was Job that taught us, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” This is what true worship looks like.

Be not at ease in Israel.

There is a footnote from the words of Job that I have just referenced: The full verse reads as such:

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.

He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him.

Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears.

Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.

Job 13:15-18

What is revealed here to me is the volition of Job, the manner in which Job was an agent unto himself to act. This is the fruit that God desires of his children to become.