Thursday, March 5, 2009

Isaiah 65 & 66

The Rebellious

Isaiah 65 discusses two types of people - those who rebel against God and those who listen to Him. This chapter also describes what will happen to the rebellious and the faithful. The faithful will inherit the earth and all the blessings that comes with it.

Isaiah 65:2 describes in which way the rebellious are not faithful. It says that they walk in a way that is not good and they walk after their own thoughts. In other words, the rebellious do not seek nor follow the will of the Lord. They have their own agenda.

Isaiah 65:3-4 suggests that the rebellious worship idols (sacrifice in gardens and burn incense on alters). They also seek after spirits of the dead (remain among graves). Idol worship is not a thing of the past. Many people sin in idolatry today. Just because we don't pray to statues doesn't mean we are not idolaters. Today, many suffer idolatry in the form of worshipping the self-image. I've referred many times before to a fascinating and scathing talk given by Spencer W. Kimball. That talk was relevant when he delivered it and it remains relevant today. Read Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, Jun 1976, 3.

The rebellious are not necessarily people who are not members of the LDS church. Isaiah 65:11 suggests that those who forget the Lord's holy mountain, which is the temple, are also numbered among the rebellious. In the temple we make covenants with the Lord. The faithful are those who make and keep covenants with the Lord.

In Isaiah 65:13-14 we learn the faithful will eat, drink, rejoice and "shall sing for joy of heart."

New Heavens and Earth

Isaiah 65:17 reads, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind."

The Tenth Article of Faith teaches us that we believe "the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." Just as the earth was baptized at the flood and was "renewed" so too it will be baptized by fire and be renewed. Many of the references of a new earth are found in Isaiah (see Topical Guide: Earth, Renewal of and Isaiah 66:22-23).

The Faithful

As I hinted at above, the rebellious will not be a part of the new earth. The faithful who have made and kept covenants with the Lord will receive this new earth. Isaiah 65:20 teaches us (as the Vulcan cliché goes) that everyone will live long and prosper. Babies and children will live a full and long life. Women and men will live a full life and we'll live as long as trees (perhaps as long as sequoias).

The faithful will labor and build homes and grow gardens and enjoy the fruits of their labors without having to worry about enemies destroying them (Isaiah 65:23).

The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord and even the animals will not injure one another (Isaiah 65:25).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Isaiah 63 & 64

The Winepress

Isaiah 63:2-3 describe how the Savior treaded the winepress alone. This seems to have several meanings. The obvious meaning is that the Savior suffered in Gethsemane alone. He bled from every pore (D&C 19:18). He did the work that no one else could do.

The other meaning seems to encapsulate the entire mission of the Savior. When he comes to Earth again, his robes will be red that he comes back in his wrath to carry out vengeance on the wicked. This is what Isaiah 63:2-3 seems to be referring to as well.

Many other scriptures reference the Savior treading the winepress alone, thus staining his garments red.

D&C 76:107
Revelation 14:15-20
Revelation 19:15

D&C 88:106
D&C 133:46-53
Genesis 49:11-12


Neal A. Maxwell talks a lot about Jesus treading the winepress alone.

Yet in His later description of His agonies, Jesus does not speak of those things. Instead, after the Atonement, there is no mention about His being spat upon, struck, or proffered vinegar and gall. Instead, Christ confides in us His chief anxiety, namely, that He “would that [He] might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (D&C 19:18)—especially desiring not to get partway through the Atonement and then pull back. Mercifully for all of us, He “finished [His] preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:19). Jesus partook of history’s bitterest cup without becoming bitter! Significantly, when He comes again in majesty and power, He will cite His aloneness, saying, “I have trodden the wine-press alone” (D&C 133:50).

When Jesus comes in overwhelming majesty and power, in at least one of His appearances He will come in red attire, reminding us that He shed His blood to atone for our sins (see D&C 133:48; Isa. 63:1). His voice will be heard to declare, again, how alone He once was: “I have trodden the wine-press alone … and none were with me” (D&C 133:50). (Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, Apr 1997, 7)

Another fundamental scripture describes Jesus’ having trodden the winepress of the “fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God” (D&C 88:106; see also D&C 76:107; D&C 133:50). Others can and should encourage, commend, pray, and comfort, but the lifting and carrying of our individual crosses remains ours to do. Given the “fierceness” Christ endured for us, we cannot expect a discipleship of unruffled easiness. As we seek forgiveness, for example, repentance can be a rough-hewn regimen to bear. By the way, let us not, as some do, mistake the chips we have placed on our own shoulders for crosses!

Moreover, Jesus not only took upon Him our sins to atone for them, but also our sicknesses and aching griefs (see Alma 7:11–12; Matt. 8:17). Hence, He knows personally all that we pass through and how to extend His perfect mercy—as well as how to succor us. His agony was all the more astonishing in that He trod “the wine-press alone” (D&C 133:50). (Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Plow in Hope’,” Ensign, May 2001, 59)

At that Second Coming, Jesus will not mention His having endured the crown of thorns, the awful scourging, the crucifixion, the vinegar and gall. He will, however, cite His awful aloneness: “And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, … and none were with me” (D&C 133:50; see also Isa. 63:3). (Neal A. Maxwell, “Testifying of the Great and Glorious Atonement,” Ensign, Oct 2001, 10)

Furthermore, even after treading the winepress alone (see D&C 76:107), which ended in His stunning, personal triumph and in the greatest victory ever—majestic Jesus meekly declared, “Glory be to the Father”! (D&C 19:19.) This should not surprise us. In the premortal world, Jesus meekly volunteered to be our Savior, saying, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2.) Jesus was true to His word. (Neal A. Maxwell, “Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,” Ensign, May 1989, 62)

Praying for the Second Coming

Isaiah 64:1 says, "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that would wouldest come down." The days preceding the Second Coming of Christ will become so wicked and despairing that people will pray for the return of the Savoir. He will be the only one who can right all the wrongs we have done.

For further reading, read Dallin H. Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign, May 2004, 7.

Eye Hath Not Seen …

Isaiah 64:4 says, "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the hear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him."

A few other scriptures have similar phrasing.

1 Corinthians 2:9
D&C 133:45
3 Nephi 17:16

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Next Project

I have two more posts before I am done with Isaiah. I know this has not been the most comprehensive study of Isaiah. The fact that I will have read Isaiah and tried to understand some of it is a major accomplishment in and of itself.

Obviously, I've been slacking quite a bit with my studies of Isaiah. I should have been done months ago. But I am determined to finish this before I move on. It took me about 10 years to finish my commentary on the Book of Mormon, so me taking so long to finish Isaiah really isn't a suprise for me.

My next little scripture study project will be the New Testament. One of the last classes I took at BYU was Religion 211 and I absolutly loved it. I still have the notes from the class. I plan on using a lot of those to study the NT. I also want to read Jesus the Christ while studying the Gospels. The last time I read Jesus the Christ was in my 2nd area on my mission in October 1995 (that took quite a while to finish too). Hopefully I will be much more diligent with my NT studies than I have been with Isaiah.

Isaiah 61 & 62

The Savior and Saviors of Men

Isaiah 61:1-2 states the mission of Jesus Christ. He is "to preach good tidings unto the meek," to "bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." He is also to "proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn."

I like Ludlow's chart that shows what our Lord did to fulfill his mission and what we can do to help fulfill that same mission (see page 504).

Bind up the brokenhearted

Christ's atonement allows God's eternal family to live together again.

We can teach the plan of salvation to our friends and families.

Proclaim liberty to the captives

Christ preached the Gospel on Earth and in the spirit world.

We can be missionaries by example and by preaching.

Open the prison

Christ opened the gates to the celestial kingdom. Whereas the way to return to our Father in Heaven was shut before Christ, we now are not forced to be held captive to sin.

We can do missionary work on both sides of the veil (inside and outside the temple).

Comfort the mourners

Christ's teachings and mission bring peace to those who now mourn.

We can comfort those who suffer and are oppressed.

As we proclaim the Gospel and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, we become the saviors of men. Isaiah 61:3 uses another description of those who help fulfill the Saviors mission. They are "trees of righteousness." Ludlow's reference translates it as "terebinths of victory" while the NIV says "oaks of righteousness." Oaks are strong and hearty trees and are not easily brought down. So too, the testimony of those who help fulfill the Savior's mission are strong and immovable.

The rest of Isaiah 61 discusses the redemption of Israel. Ludlow nicely summarizes: "In sharp contrast to the shame, destruction, and desolation promised in his earlier writings (see Isaiah 1), Isaiah now prophesies prosperity - the people multiply (v. 3), cities are rebuilt (v. 4), and the land is replenished (v. 5). While others till the land and provide society's physical sustenance (v. 5), the member of the covenant Israel will officiate in the Lord's priesthood and temple service (v. 6). Isaiah contrast the wealth, reputation, joy, justice, and family security that God's chosen people will eventually enjoy with their earlier depraved condition" (506).

Isaiah 62 continues much the same way. There are a few things I wish to note about this chapter.

New Name

As Ludlow pointed out, Isaiah 61 and 62 have many references to the temple. Isaiah 62:2 says, "thou shalt be called by a new name."

Delightful and Union

Ludlow also pointed out that when Joseph Smith translated parts of the Bible, he translated Hephzi-bah and Beulah as delightful and union respectively. The footnotes in the KJV translates them as "my desire is in her" and "married wife."

Receive For What You Labor

I found Isaiah 62:8-9 very interesting in light of our current government's stance on taxes. Today, there are many who believe there is a massive redistribution of wealth about to take place via taxes. Verse 8 and 9 discuss the justice of receiving the reward for the labor. "The sons of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for the which thou hast laboured: But they that have gathered it shall eat it."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Isaiah 59 & 60

Sins and Iniquities and Transgressions

I am listening to Avraham Gildeadi tonight while reading Isaiah. He mentioned that there is a difference between sin and iniquity. Sin is when we do something wrong - when we transgress God's law. We are responsible for our own sins. Iniquity, on the other hand is the effects of sin on later generations. (see Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deut. 5:9;). Both sin and iniquity can be overcome, but iniquity is much more difficult to overcome than sin. We are forgiven our sins when we are justified. We then overcome iniquity by becoming sanctified.

Regarding transgressions, Ludlow states, “A transgression was when a person unknowingly broke a law; a sin was willful disobedience” (494).

Although the people may be praying and worshipping God, he will not hear their prayers because of their sins and iniquities. We read in Isaiah 59:3-4 that the peoples' hands, fingers, lips and tongue are all unclean. No one calls for truth or justice and they all are hypocrites.

Chaos

The works of the people described in Isaiah 59:5-8 are a perfect description of our society today.

"their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.

"Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths."

That last line really stands out when I read it - "wasting and destruction are in their paths." It seems that every day or week, news lines are announcing another scandal or murder or huge corruption charges. Week after week these scandals and corruptions leave a vast trail of waste and destruction and there is no time to clean up before the next one hits.

We Know Our Sins

Isaiah 59:9-15 describes a sad scene of sorrow and admittance of guilt. Verses 9 to 11 remind me of closing days of the Nephite nation. In Mormon 2:3, Mormon records, “But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.”

Ultimately our transgressions and sins will testify against us and “we know them.”

Our Redeemer

Isaiah 59:16-21 refers to Jesus Christ. He will be our intercessor (Isaiah 59:16). He will bring salvation to those who repent (Isaiah 59:20). He will deliver justice to both good and evil according to their deeds (Isaiah 59:18).

New and Old Jerusalem

Isaiah 60 describes the New and Old Jerusalem in the Last Days.

Many people and Gentiles will come to Zion (verse 3, 8-9, 14).

The city gates will constantly be open as Zion will have no fear of attack (verse 11). All her enemies will be smitten (verse 12).

The city will be very rich (verse 17).

There will be no violence in her (verse 18).

The Lord himself will dwell in the midst of the city and He will be a light unto all her inhabitants (verse 19-20).

The people of the city will be righteous (verse 21).

The people will live and prosper for many generations (verse 22).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Isaiah 58

The Fast

Isaiah 58 teaches us the true purpose of fasting.

Isaiah 58:6-7 reads, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

Is it no to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"

"To loose the bands of wickedness" means that we can fast for strength to overcome our own or to help others overcome bad habits or sins that afflict our lives.

"To undo the heavy burdens" - heavy burdens can represent sins or even physical ailments that afflict our lives.

"To let the oppressed go free" - obviously we do not let our criminals go free on the day of fasting, but in Isaiah's day, "all debts, slaves, and indentured servants were freed" (Ludlow 483). In our day, we can forgive others' trespasses against us. We can endeavor to heal broken relationships that may be oppressing others and ourselves.

"break every yoke" - seems to summarize the true meaning of the fast. We are to seek freedom from sin and to grant freedom where we can.

"deal thy bread to the hungry … cover him” - as we fast today, we save the money we would have used to feed our family and we take that money and give it to the Bishop who uses it to aid the needy within our ward and stake.

"hide not thyself from thine own flesh" - fasting should include giving ourselves to our family. It is a time to be with family and to strengthen or repair familial relationships.

Isaiah 58:13 has a few more reasons for the fast. "… not doing thine own ways, nor finding thing own pleasure, not speaking thine own words." This means we are to do the Lord's will on the day of the fast. We should dedicate our life, that day, to seeking and doing the Lord's will instead of our own. This will help our more fully dedicate our whole life to the will of the Lord.

The blessings of obeying the true fast are outlined in Isaiah 58:8-14.

If we truly obey the fast, the Lord will guide us continually and we shall never thirst. He will make our bones fat and we will be called "the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the paths to dwell in."

Additional Reading
L. Tom Perry, “The Law of the Fast,” Ensign, May 1986, 31
Howard W. Hunter, “Fast Day,” Ensign, Nov 1985, 72
Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Law of the Fast,” Ensign, May 2001, 73
Marion G. Romney, “The Blessings of the Fast,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 2

Friday, January 16, 2009

Isaiah 56 & 57

There are three spiritual topics discussed in Isaiah 56: keeping the Sabbath, the Temple and prayer. In opposition to these three pillars stand the sacraments of Satan which are discussed in Isaiah 57: immorality, idol worship and abortion.

The Sabbath

The scriptures are replete with commandments from the Lord regarding Sabbath observance. The Bible Dictionary for Sabbath does an excellent job summarizing the history and reasons for the Sabbath. In part of the explanation in the Bible Dictionary, it says that observance of the Sabbath is "an eternal principal."

We have been taught time and time again by the ancient and modern-day prophets that the Sabbath is for resting and spiritual nourishment. On the Sabbath, we are to refrain from work and recreation and to devote ourselves to worship and spiritual edification.

Isaiah 56:1, 4, 6 reference the Lord's commandment to all people to keep the Sabbath pure.

The Temple

Isaiah 56:5 promises those who keep the commandments a blessing that is "better than sons and daughters" and a blessing of "an everlasting name." This verse has reference to the temple. Ludlow discusses how "a place and a name" can be interpreted to mean a "hand and a name." (473) This takes on significant meaning for Latter-day Saints who are fully endowed in the temple.

The D&C furthers instructs us on the meaning of a "new name." Read D&C 130:11.

Prayer

The temple is not only a place to receive instruction from the Lord, but it is also a place to pray. The temple is really a "house of prayer" as described in Isaiah 56:7.

No Peace for the Wicked

Isaiah 57 describes the abject wickedness committed by Israelites in Isaiah's days as well as the moral decay that we see in our world today.

Everywhere we look, we are bombarded by images and words depicting immorality. The idol worship in Isaiah's day was tied to their agriculture. They believed that by acting out immoral deeds, their crops would be successful.

Their idol worship even included sacrificing infants to the god Molech (see footnote a in Isaiah 57:9). This type of idolatry is very similar to our own society's practice of abortion. The most common reason women have abortions today is because the child inconveniences the parents' lifestyle and ability to provide for themselves. Rather than sacrificing their lifestyles or money, they sacrifice their children to continue their worship of false gods.

The last three verses of Isaiah 57 warns those who fail to keep the commandments and submit themselves to idolatry.

"Peace, peace to him that is far off and to him that is near, said the Lord; and I will heal him.

"But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

"There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."