Saturday, December 29, 2007

Isaiah 15-17


"Moab was the eldest son of Lot's older daughter (see Genesis 19:37)" (OT Student Manual p. 155)

Although the Moabites and Israelites were cousins, they lived in continual strife. Chapters 15 and 16 entail the "burden" or pronouncement from Isaiah for Moab. Moab spiritually represents the wicked world. Although rich and powerful and prominent, none of these "sister nations" to Israel will prevail against Israel. Ludlow states, "Moab can be viewed as representing the enemies of God, with her destruction typifying the consequences coming upon those who oppose Israel at Christ's second coming" (191).

The following map, from the OT Student Manual, will help in placing the names of various cities and places referred to in these chapters.

Description of Destruction

The destruction of Moab was both real and typifies what will happen in the Last Days. Understanding the description of the destruction will help us recognize what will happen to those enemy nations in the Last Days.

In the Night

Isaiah states that "in the night" Ar and Kir are "laid to waste" (Isaiah 15:1). Many battles and wars were begun while the attacked were sleeping. The beginning of the destruction is both "sudden and unexpected" (Ludlow 192).

High Places, Baldness and Sackcloth

The false gods the Moabites worshipped could not protect them from the destruction of the Lord. They went to their temples or high places, not to worship, but to mourn.

Moab's "pride and prominence" (OT Student Manual p. 156) would be replaced with baldness and "every beard cut" (Isaiah 15:2). Baldness represented shame and reproach. In essence, the pride of Moab would be torn down and Moab would be brought to the dust.

Their rich clothing would also be replaced with sackcloth.

Heifer of Three Years Old

Various commentators (Keil and Delizsch noted in the OT Student Manual; Rashi and Drauss noted in Ludlow) say that a heifer of three years old represents youth and vibrancy and health and beauty. Ludlow surmises that this means Moab would be destroyed "at its most prosperous period" (194).

Drought, Plundering, Mourning, Slaughter

Isaiah 15:6-9 warn of other destructions that will befall Moab. Waters would be desolate. The hay would be withered and the grass would fail to grow and nothing will be green.

All that they will have laid up in storage will be carried away by invading forces.

The people will cry and howl and the waters of their rivers will be full of blood of those who have been slaughtered.

Counsel or Appeal?

Isaiah 16 contains either counsel or an appeal. What the footnotes state in the KJV LDS Bible and what Ludlow states seem to conflict.

The Passage

Isaiah 16:3-6 states, "Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.

"Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.
"And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.

"We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so."

The Footnotes

The 3a footnote says, "HEB Give counsel. This begins Moab's appeal to Judah (v. 3-5)." Footnote 6a further states, "Beginning of Judah's reply, declining Moab's appeal."

The 5b footnote implies the ruler spoken of in verse 5 is Jesus Christ.

Ludlow's Commentary

Ludlow thinks that Isaiah is giving an "unusual command" to Judah. He suggests that Isaiah is counseling Judah to protect Moab. He continues, "This relationship strongly contrasts their earlier attitude; the two often fought and rarely protected each other" (195).

Ludlow continues with his interpretation, "The Davidic ruler of verse 5, protector of Moab, can also be interpreted as a messianic figure. Before Christ returns at his second coming and fulfills such a role (see Luke 1:32:33), there will be another "king of the Jews" who will be just and righteous and who might provide aid to the descendants of Moab. (Compare Isaiah 11:1-5)"

"The last verses of Isaiah 16 abandon the promise of aid from Israel and return to a straightforward description of the catastrophe and physical desolation to come upon Moab" (195). He then continues his commentary for Isaiah 16:6-13.


To summarize, the LDS Bible footnote authors believe that Moab appealed to Judah for protection, invoking the mercy of the throne of Christ. On the other hand, Ludlow believes that Isaiah counseled Judah to protect Moab. His reference to another king of the Jews has been stated before. The two views, to me, seem to conflict.

For what it's worth, the OT Student Manual completely avoids any commentary or instruction regarding Isaiah 16:3-5. Also, for more information about the authorship of the footnotes as well as other scriptural helps, read Bruce T. Harper, “The Church Publishes a New Triple Combination,” Ensign, Oct 1981, 9.

Destruction Assured in Three Years

Isaiah continues with his description of the destruction of Moab. He finishes Isaiah 16 by stating that this is what the Lord has spoken concerning Moab and that within three years, this destruction would be complete.

It seems as though this prophecy had been given previously. If so, then Isaiah would be establishing the words and testimony of another prophet (see 2 Cor. 13:1).


Isaiah continues to deliver "burdens" to the surrounding nations. The next warning is directed at Syria. Isaiah 17 is another chiasmus. This one is divided into five parts (see Ludlow 198-202).

Syria Will be Emptied (v. 1-3)

Similar to the warning to Babylon, Damascus, which is the capital of Syria, will no longer be a city. It will be left in ruins as the people flee the city.

Israel Will Dwindle (v. 4-6)

The next part warns of the diminishing of Israel or Jacob. Jacob becomes thin as a harvest takes place. Only a little fruit remains on the branches. Ludlow mentions that this warning is similar to the one given to Syria, thus verses 1-3 parallel verses 4-6.

The People Will Eventually Turn to God (v. 7-8)

Isaiah 17:7-8 gives us all a glimmer of hope in a troubled world. "At that day" (meaning in the Last Days) "shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel"

"And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images."

One day, mankind will turn away from idol worship and will turn to worship the true and living God. The culture of materialism and sexual sin will eventually end and will be replaced with a culture of worshiping the true and living God.

Note that when Isaiah uses the word "groves" he means Asherah poles which are "idols, images, or symbols of the pagan fertility goddess, Asherah" (Ludlow 200). For more information, read the Bible Dictionary entry for "grove."

Harvests Will Cease (v. 9-11)

Isaiah further reiterates the desolation that will come upon the people who have "not been mindful of the rock of [their] strength" (Isaiah 17:10).

Ludlow explains that the planting of pleasant plants is a part of pagan worship. Despite their best efforts to plant the best plants and their best care, none of these plants will produce a harvest because the people have "forgotten the God of [their] salvation" who is the true author of all harvests.

Those Who Threaten the Lord's Children Will Suddenly Be Destroyed (v. 12-14)

Syria and any other nation that fights Israel will "chased as the chaff" (Isaiah 17:13) or driven away. This is the Lords ultimate promise of protection to his children.

"Fear not to do good"

As I've been reading these chapters concerning the "burdens" of the various nations surrounding Israel, I get this sense that Israel and the children of God in these latter days were and are seemingly engulfed by the wicked nations of the world. It seems to me as though God was telling them and telling us today that things will get rough and difficult; nevertheless, if we strive to purify ourselves and repent of our sins, He will ultimately deliver us.

I also get this sense and feeling that everything will be fine. I need not worry about the grand events and that all I really need to concern myself with is my own salvation and that of my family. God has a plan and His plan will prevail.

I am reminded of a scripture found in D&C 6:33-34 which says, "Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye do good ye shall also reap good for your reward.

"Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Isaiah 13 & 14


Chapter 13 describes both the literal and spiritual fall of Babylon. As is the usual modus operandi with Isaiah, he uses dualism to prophesy of events. In this case, Babylon is a real nation that is wicked and is utterly destroyed. Spiritually speaking, Babylon represents the world and its desires. In the Last Days, the wicked will be completely destroyed as was Babylon the nation.

A Banner, an Ensign

In Isaiah 13:2-5, the God issues a call to His people to gather to fight Babylon. The "sanctified ones" gather and their gathering is like a "noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together." And then the bombastic statement: "the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of battle."

In a spiritual sense, we must do our part to heed the call to the great rally. We can begin by conquering the enemy within or the natural man. In the October 2000 General Conference, James E. Faust said the following, " President Joseph F. Smith taught us: “Our first enemy we will find within ourselves. It is a good thing to overcome that enemy first and bring ourselves into subjection to the will of the Father, and into strict obedience to the principles of life and salvation which he has given to the world for the salvation of men.” In simple terms, this means that we need to strengthen the good within us and to overcome the temptations of Satan. The direction finder is sure. Alma tells us, “Whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.” (James E. Faust, “The Enemy Within,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 44–46)

As we overcome Satan's fiery darts (see Eph 6:16; 1 Ne. 15:24; D&C 3:8; 27:17) we will lead a life of righteousness by example and we will have "confidence" (D&C 121:45) and can fight the adversary and his devious teachings.

The Destruction of Babylon

The fall of Babylon (physically and spiritually) will be so complete, that it will never be rebuilt or inhabited (Isaiah 13:19-20). So many inhabitants (and spiritually wicked people) will be destroyed that man will be rarer than gold. Those that are left will be the foundation for a new millennial reign (Isaiah 13:12).

Babylon's King

Again, Isaiah uses dualism to describe the downfall of Babylon's king who is synonymous to Satan - both would fall and eventually be forgotten.

Lucifer was a "son of the morning" and probably held a high rank in the counsels of heaven. But he rebelled against God and sought to take God's power to himself. "I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north." The CES Institute manual notes that Bible commentators Keil and Delitzsch translated the word "congregation" as "assembly of gods."

Satan was cast to earth where he continued to wage war on the children of men. Eventually he will be thrust to Hell "to the sides of the pit" and all will look on him and wonder "is this the man that made the earth to treble, that did shake kingdoms?" (Isaiah 14:16). Kings will have memorials and tombs and will be resurrected, but Satan will have no memorial and no body. He will be cast in to outer darkness forever and will lose all power (D&C 133:73).

Friday, December 21, 2007

Isaiah 11 & 12

The Rod, Stem of Jesse, the Branch and the Roots

What are we to make of this verse?

"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (Isaiah 11:1).

Ludlow thinks that verse 1 is an example of "synonymous parallelism" meaning the same concept is said twice but with different language. Essentially he thinks the Rod = the Branch and the stem = his roots. Following this line of reasoning, verse one is referring to one person - the Rod or the Branch. He summarizes what he thinks by stating, "the servant of Isaiah 11:1 appears to describe the great Jewish leader of the last days who will be called David. He will be an instrument (in somewhat the same manner as was Cyrus anciently - see Isaiah 44:28) used by the Lord to fulfill his divine plan of events before the Millennium" (169).

From D&C 113 we learn that the stem is Jesus Christ. We also learn that the Rod "is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power."

LDS commentators George Reynolds and Janne Sjodahl state that the Rod of the stem of Jesse is the Messiah or Jesus Christ (Commentary on the Book of Mormon vol. 1 ch. 21).

Another commentator suggested that this Rod is Joseph Smith (Isaiah Plain and Simple: the Message of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, by Hoyt W. Brewster. See chapter 11).

Yet another commentator has nicely summed up what various sources believe with regards to this passage. He says, "A partial explanation of this enigmatic prophecy is provided by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 113 where he declares himself to be the "Stem of Jesse." (D&C 113:1-2, Note that "Stem" is capitalized in the Doctrine and Covenants but not in Isaiah. See Romans 15:12) Like the trunk (stem) of a great tree, Jehovah is the life-source of Israel with its many branches. A "rod" (shoot) will grow out of the "Stem," meaning a man will come forth from Christ. This "rod" is "a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim." That is, this "servant" will have a dual lineage, being a descendant of both Judah and Joseph. Most commentators assume that Isaiah is employing synonymous parallelism (Synonymous parallelism occurs when the same thought is restated or amplified in the second clause or sentence. For example see Isaiah 1:10; 9:6; Psalm 24:1) in this passage and equate the "rod" with the "Branch." If the two clauses are wholly synonymous, then both "stem" and "roots" represent Christ, whereas the "rod" and the "Branch" represent his unidentified servant. If, however, Isaiah does not intend synonymous parallelism (as he sometimes does not), then at least three individuals are symbolized in verse one: the "rod," the "Stem of Jesse," and the "Branch." A fourth individual is described in verse 10 as "the root of Jesse." The Lord explained that this "root of Jesse" will be a "descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days." Like the "rod," he, too, will descend from both Judah and Joseph.

"The actual identities of the "rod," the "Branch," and the "root of Jesse" in Isaiah are conjectural. Some believe that both "rod" and "Branch" symbolize the second David. Others believe that the "rod" is David, and the "Branch" another latter-day figure.

"Regardless, the "root of Jesse" is almost surely the Prophet Joseph Smith. He holds the keys of this kingdom in both time and eternity and is the president of the last and greatest of all dispensations, the dispensation of the fulness of times. (See D&C 27:12-13; 90:1-3; 112:30-32; 128:18-21) He is the living ensign to which the present generation must gather. We cannot, in reality, come to Christ if we do not accept his servant, Joseph Smith.

"The Lord's works are first spiritual and then temporal, or physical. (See D&C 29:31-32) All of the spiritual keys, powers, doctrines, and ordinances revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith must be honored and implemented before Zion, the second ensign, can be literally established in fullness and glory. (See D&C 64:41-43; 105:3-5) That day is not far off (Witness of Jesus Christ: The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Old Testament, Richard D. Draper. See ch. 14 "The Two Davids").

So any hope I had of finding a definitive answer on who the rod and branch is or are, is lost in a sea of opinions. It could be Christ or Joseph Smith or a powerful Jewish leader named David.

Characteristics (of the great leader or of the Lord)

Whoever this rod or branch is, he will have many great characteristics. The spirit of the Lord will be upon him. He will have the spirit of wisdom and insight; counsel and valor; devotion and reverence for the Lord. He will have a keen sense for the truth. He will not judge with his eyes or pass judgment with what he hears. He will judge the poor with equity and give justice to the lowly of the land. He will "smite the earth with the rod of his mouth." I find this phrase interesting. Christ uses this same phrase in D&C 19:15 when he commands us to repent.

Regardless of who the rod or branch is, all these characteristics apply to Christ as well. And if they apply to Christ, then we must apply them to ourselves since we must strive to be like Him.

The Millennium

In Isaiah 11:6-9 we read how peace will reign on the earth. Even the animals will not kill or injure one another.

While leading Zion's Camp, Joseph Smith taught the men a valuable lesson. "While making their camp at the close of the day after crossing the Embarras River in Indiana, the brethren discovered three prairie rattlesnakes, which they were about to kill. The prophet called to them saying, "Let them alone—don't hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the suckling child can play with the serpent in safety" (Church History and Modern Revelation, vol. 3. Joseph Fielding Smith. See Lesson 88 "Zion's Camp").

The Root of Jesse

"And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." (Isaiah 11:10).

In verse 10 we have more tree terms applied to a man. D&C 113:5-6 states that this root is a "descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days."

There seems to be greater clarity from scholars who tend to think the root of Jesse is Joseph Smith. He indeed possesses the keys to the kingdom and is an ensign to all the earth in these latter days.

The Gathering of Israel

President Hinckley said the following in 1989, "Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and a handful of their associates hiked from their campground a little to the south of us, on past the ground where we are, and up the hill to the north of us. They climbed a dome-shaped peak, President Young having difficulty because of his recent illness.

"When the Brethren stood on the summit, they looked over this valley to the south of them. It was largely barren, except for the willows and rushes that grew along the streams that carried water from the mountains to the lake. There was no building of any kind, but Brigham Young had said the previous Saturday, “This is the place.”

"The summit where they stood was named Ensign Peak out of reference to these great prophetic words of Isaiah: “And he [speaking of God] will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly.” (Isa. 5:26.)

“And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isa. 11:12.)

There is some evidence to indicate that Wilford Woodruff took from his pocket a bandanna handkerchief and waved it as an ensign or a standard to the nations, that from this place should go the word of the Lord, and to this place should come the people of the earth. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “An Ensign to the Nations,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 51)

The 10th Article of Faith states, "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes."

Isaiah further teaches that "there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt" (Isaiah 11:16).

The restoration of the 10 tribes will truly be miraculous. Isaiah compares it to when "Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left" (Exodus 14:29).

D&C 133:22-27 says "And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found.

"He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land;

"And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.

"And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh.

"And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.

"And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep."

See also D&C 110:11.

Spiritual Growth

Ludlow compares the psalm in Isaiah 12 with one's spiritual growth.

In Isaiah 12:1-2 the individual gains his own testimony of the atonement when he is forgiven his sins.

The next progression is when the individual wishes to share with other the joy of salvation (baptism … Isaiah 12:3).

Next, the individual exhorts others to "declare his doings among the people" (Isaiah 12:4).

Finally his testimony is manifested when he sings and testifies the truth of the gospel (Isaiah 12:5).

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Isaiah 9 & 10

A Great Light

Isaiah 9:2 describes the contrast between the people walking in darkness and the light that is shined on them. Ludlow suggests that there are three possible interpretations for this verse.

The first one is that the darkness represents Assyria and the light represents "the king who protects his people from Assyria" (153). Since Hezekiah is the victorious king who later defeats the Assyrians, he is the "light."

The second interpretation is that the darkness represents Israel's wickedness and the light is her recognition of those sins and her attempt to change. Both Isaiah and Hezekiah helped reform the Israelites after their captivity.

The third is the most common Christian interpretation. The darkness represents "a period of wickedness and apostasy" and the light of Christ dispels the darkness. Matthew 4:12-16 explicitly refers to Christ as the light.

Isaiah 9:3-5 seems to fit with each of the above interpretations. Viewed through the lens of each interpretation, we can see how Israel defeats Assyria; how Israel overcomes her wickedness; and how Christ defeats sin and death.

"For unto us a child is born"

I really love the words in Isaiah 9:6-7. Every time I read this passage, I think of Handel's Messiah. One of the most ingrained memories I have as a young man is that of going to The Messiah at Christmas time with my mom. She is the one who first told me how Handel locked himself in a room writing this masterpiece. When it was finished he exclaimed, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself." A simple search of the Internet will register a handful of versions of this story, but none seem to have a source. The common element is that Handel feverishly wrote The Messiah in 24 days and when he finished the Hallelujah chorus, he was in tears and uttered those words ( Whether the story be true or not, the feelings and awe that this work inspires in me shakes me to the core and brings me to tears.

Four Warnings to Israel

Isaiah gives four major warnings to the northern kingdom of Israel. With each warning he tells them, "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." In other words, depending on how the people react, His hand may be outstretched to mercifully help if they repent or it is held out to smite them down in their wickedness.


In Isaiah 9:10, the people say that even if they are destroyed by the Lord, they will take the fallen bricks and build an even better city. In this their pride is manifest.

Evil Leaders

Since the people did not turn to the Lord, nor sought him, He will take away their leaders. Perhaps the leaders tried to warn the people and the people did not heed them, therefore the Lord took their leaders away. Or perhaps the leaders did not properly lead the people and therefore the Lord took them away.


Isaiah 9:18-21 we read how selfish the people are. "No man shall spare his brother." Everyone is so selfish that no one will help his brother in need.


The needy and poor and the widows and fatherless do not receive any justice. The people will not succor those in need. Therefore the Lord will not succor His people in the day of their need. "Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain" (Isaiah 10:4).

Assyria: A Tool in the Lord's Hands

We learn from Isaiah that Assyria was a tool in the Lord's hand. But instead of heeding the Lord, Assyria seeks to not only take what the Lord has allowed, but to take more. "It is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few" (Isaiah 10:7). For this pride the Lord will "punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks" (Isaiah 10:12).

The Lord rhetorically asks, "shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith?" (Isaiah 10:15). We can all be tools in the Lord's hands. But we must never boast of our own accord. In all we do, we must recognize the Lord's hand. I am reminded of something I learned in my humanities class at BYU. JS Bach often signed his compositions with SDG. SDG is Soli Deo Gloria which is Latin meaning "for the Glory of God." I think that if more of us held the perspective that our lives should bring glory to God, then our actions would be more in tune with His will and will would truly be instruments in the Lord's hands.

As Ludlow points out, Assyria was eventually annihilated by the Babylonians and Persians beginning with the sack of Nineveh in 612 BC.

The Hope of the Remnant

Despite the Assyria conquest, Israel will return. The Lord gives the people hope by telling them that a remnant will return. This remnant will not only return to their lands, but they will return to the Lord.

The Lord also promises that the Assyrian army will come close to Jerusalem, but will not conquer her (Isaiah 10:28-32). The Lord will cut down the Assyrians before they can invade. This passage also foretells of the time before the 2nd Coming of the Lord (see Zechariah 14:2; Revelation 11:1-13; and JST Matthew 24).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Isaiah 7 & 8

Isaiah's Warning to Judah

The Lord commanded Isaiah to warn Judah not to form a political alliance with Assyria. To briefly provide a background, the superpower of that day was Assyria. Assyria was on the move and was going to invade Israel and Jerusalem. Israel (Ephraim) saw the imminent invasion and formed an alliance with Syria. This alliance also wanted Judah to join them, but Judah refused. Therefore the Syro-Israeli alliance was going to force Judah into the alliance by attacking her. Hoping to repel this attack, Judah intended to form an alliance with Assyria whereby Assyria would protect Judah from the Syro-Israeli alliance. Isaiah and his son were sent to the king of Judah to warn him against forming an alliance with Assyria and instead to put faith in the Lord.

Isaiah tells Ahaz to "fear not, neither be fainthearted" (Isaiah 7:4). Syria and Israel will not attack Judah. Instead, they will be scattered and broken. But Ahaz lacks faith. Isaiah further warns him, "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established" (Isaiah 7:9). I like the translation Ludlow uses; "If you do no stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all" (140).

In order to prove the legitimacy of Isaiah's words, the Lord tells the king through Isaiah to ask for a sign. But Ahaz refuses. It almost seems that he is like an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. He trusts more in establishing an alliance with Assyria to protect Judah than in having faith in the Lord. Either is trust in the arm of flesh or his complete lack of faith in the Lord causes him to not even want to see a sign. But the Lord insists he sees the sign.

The Immanuel Prophecy

We have been taught my modern revelation that the Immanuel referred to in this prophecy is Jesus Christ. But given that this prophecy to Ahaz was delivered centuries before Christ, this prophecy may also have referred more directly to a boy who lived in during this era. As with many prophecies from Isaiah, there are multiple levels and meanings.

Ludlow offers three theories in his book. The one I tend to agree with is multi-level meaning prophecy. He describes the three levels:

1. As mentioned earlier, Ahaz and the people of Judah needed to develop faith in the Lord to deliver them from the confederacy of Rezin and Pekah. A son was to be born and named Immanuel as a sign of the Lord's power of deliverance in the subsequent withdrawal and humiliation of the threatening alliance.

2. To the people at the time of the birth of Christ, it was a sign to know that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was to come. Therefore, Isaiah was promised that God himself should "come down from heaven among the children of men and dwell in a tabernacle of clay" (Mosiah 3:5) to free them from the threat of sin and spiritual bondage. (This level of fulfillment is the one usually stressed by General Authorities of this dispensation as they quote and apply the Immanuel prophecy.) (See Matt. 1:21-23.)

3. Isaiah's prophecy is a call to faith in the last days. The birth of Christ strengthens our faith that in the end of the world, against all odds, the Lord "shall bring again Zion." (See Isa. 52:9-10; D&C 84:99.) The memorial of Immanuel's birth is a sign of God's help in such extremity and is intended to build our faith today that indeed "God is with us."
Isaiah's Warning Reiterated

Judah received confirmation of Isaiah's legitimacy as a prophet when his second son began to speak. He warned the people by writing on a large parchment that the attack of the Assyrians on Israel to the north was approaching. He embodied this warning in his son's name which meant "to speed to the spoil, he hasteneth the prey" (see footnote Isaiah 8:1d). He further stated that before the boy would be able to speak, all the spoils of Israel and Syria would be carried away by Assyria. The people observed closely and received a confirmation that Isaiah was a prophet of God.

Next he warns them that as they have rejected the "waters of Shiloah," which meant they rejected the Lord, then they would be flooded by the waters of the river or "the king of Assyria" (Isaiah 8:7).

He also warns them again of forming an alliance with Assyria (Isaiah 8:9). He also warns those who would fight Judah. In Isaiah 8:10, he tells them that for all their planning, it will be for naught, "for God is with us."

The Lord commands Isaiah to not follow the way of the people. Rather, he needed seek the will of the Lord. Those who listen to Isaiah and the Lord will find a sanctuary or a protection in the Lord. Those who do not heed the Lord's counsel will stumble, then fall and then be broken and then snared by the devil and finally taken to hell (Isaiah 8:15). This verse reminds me of 2 Nephi 26:22 where we learn that the devil would lead us by the neck with a flaxen cord until he binds us with strong cords forever.

Isaiah conclude by testifying of himself and his sons as signs from God (Isaiah 8:18). Then he teaches them to not seek after mediums and "wizards that peep." Rather, they should go directly to the source for revelation. One of the great lessons from the Restoration is that each of us can go directly to the source. We do not have to seek "wizards that peep" to tell us God's will concerning us. Each of us can pray and receive personal revelation and testimony from above.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Isaiah 6

Isaiah's Calling

In this short chapter, Isaiah is called by the Lord.

Isaiah sees the Lord sitting on his throne. Next he sees seraphs and realizes he is indeed in the presence of the Lord. He recognizes his unworthiness, but one of the seraphs takes a hot coal and places it on Isaiah's lips. Isaiah's iniquities and sins are forgiven and purged.

The Oven Analogy

While I was reading about the part of the coal purging Isaiah's sin, I thought of something that happened recently in our home. While cooking Thanksgiving dinner, my wife noticed that the juice from the stuffing was spilling over and burning on the burners and making the oven smoke. By the time the dinner was all cooked, she had decided it was time to clean the oven. She read the cleaning instructions and then followed the process. First we had to scrape all the excess off and do what we could to clean the oven. Even after all that scrubbing, the oven still wasn't not spotless. The next step involved the automated process whereby the oven cleans itself. The oven locks itself and then the burners burn at an intense heat. The burn cycle takes four hours and burns everything leftover in the oven. When we awoke the next day, we opened the oven and it looked brand new.

I don't know if this is a good analogy or not, but to me it's applicable. We must do our part to repent of our sins, but we will never really be cleansed until the Lord does His part. We did the best we could to prepare the oven to be cleansed, but it would never be clean until it went through that burn cycle.

Hear, but not Understand

Ludlow has a lot to say on this subject in his book. One of the things he points out is the Book of Mormon clarification. Isaiah 6:9 says, "And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not." 2 Nephi 16 makes it clearer by adding a key word - "they". In 2 Nephi 16 it reads, "Hear ye indeed, but they understood not; and see ye indeed, but they perceived not." The Book of Mormon makes it clearer … we now know that the Lord did not want the people to misunderstand, rather he teaches us that when Isaiah would preach to them, they would not understand because they chose not to listen.

We gain further insight into passage by reading the cross references to Isaiah 6:9, namely Matthew 13:14-15 and Acts 28:26-27. In these passages, we learn the reason why the Lord taught in parables and why the Lord commanded Isaiah to teach the way he taught. They taught in this manner so that those who were ready to hear the word, heard what they were supposed to hear while those who were not ready either misunderstood or never completely understood and thus avoided condemnation (Ludlow 133).

While Jesus taught in parables, Isaiah taught in symbolism, poetry and complex terminology. As Ludlow states, "instead of speaking at a simple level and letting his listeners build upon that foundation, Isaiah spoke at a high intellectual and spiritual level, thus challenging or even forcing his listener to attain that level before they could begin to understand his word. Isaiah was not only difficult, he was deliberately difficult. We must study his words, wrestle with them, and ponder them at great length before his powerful, sublime teachings begin to emerge and inspire us" (135).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Isaiah 5

The Parable of the Vineyard


The Parable of the Vineyard is the first of three sections in Isaiah 5. The parable is found in verses 1-7.

Ludlow writes in his book that he along with “many scholars” (p. 115) (although he doesn’t cite any other scholar) believed that Isaiah delivered this parable to the people gathered in Jerusalem for the yearly Feast of the Tabernacles (see “Feasts” in the Bible Dictionary for more information). Ludlow states that during Isaiah’s time, the Feast of the Tabernacles had been corrupted. The Day of Atonement was observed a few days before the Feast of the Tabernacle, during which they should be fasting and praying. After observing the Day of Atonement, the people participated in “excessive revelry and merrymaking” and this “distracted them from the fasting and rededication rites they had performed” during the Day of Atonement (p. 116).
To bring this back to modern-day application, today many of our holy days (holidays) are drowned out by the materialism of our society. Instead of thinking on why we give gifts on Christmas day, we think more about what we want to receive as gifts. In this scenario, Isaiah apparently delivers his parable to the people.


Isaiah uses a pattern in this parable and other parts of this chapter.

He begins by identifying (I) and defining the people to which the message will apply.

Secondly, he describes (D) the Lord’s work or power or judgment upon the previously defined people.

Lastly, he contrasts (C) “the initial expectation of the Lord or the people” with what actually occurs. The initial expectation and reality are usually opposite of each other.

What I have done in my scriptures is color-code each part of the pattern. Pink is the identifying pieces of the pattern; orange is the description; and green is the contrast.

The Parable

The parable has four parts with each part containing the pattern. The first part sets the stage for the lesson that Isaiah is about to give to his audience. He tells them that he has a friend who planted a choice vineyard. But instead of yielding delicious grapes, it produced wild grapes.

The second part switches to first person, indicating that Isaiah is speaking on the Lord’s behalf. He seeks the audience’s advice and asks “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?”

In the third part, the Lord tells them what he will do to the vineyard. He will knock down the hedge and leave the vineyard unkempt and he will also take the rain away from it.

I particularly like what Ludlow had to say about this part, “His process of abandoning the vineyard exemplifies the judgments of God, who usually does not destroy or severely punish a wicked person; God simply leaves him alone to face the challenges of life and buffetings of Satan without the protection of the Spirit” (p. 114).

The last part of the parable contains the surprise. Up until now, the audience may have been enjoying that parable and were enthralled with the story of this friend who planted the finest vineyard in the finest ground, yet still yielded sour grapes. Perhaps they gave Isaiah some advice to pass along to his friend because they had a similar experience. But now Isaiah reveals the true purpose of the parable. The story of his friend is about them! The vineyard is the house of Israel “and the men of Judah his pleasant plant” (Isaiah 5:7). If they audience is quick on the uptake, they will realize where they stand with the Lord.

Have you ever had a child who doesn’t want to eat his peas or doesn’t want to take a bath? Simply telling him to eat his peas or telling her to take a bath won’t fix the problem. Sometimes we have to take a backdoor approach. Telling them a story of a girl who refused to take a bath might help. The girl’s parents were so tired of fighting with the girl, they decided to let her win … she would never have to take a bath again. But soon the dirt in her hair and arms were so thick that one day at dinner, her dad planted radish seeds in her hair! In a few weeks they were able to pluck the radishes from her head! The girl was so mortified, that she decided she wanted to take a bath. By telling this story and other similar stories, we hope to grab our children’s attention and teach them a lesson. Isaiah used a similar method by telling the people this parable of the vineyard.

The Woes

There are six woes pronounced by Isaiah to Israel. I’ve tried to glean what I can and apply it to our day.

The first one deals with landowners buying up the poorer farmers land until all the wealthy landowners are joined house to house and field to field that there be no poor between them. The poor are thus forced to move to the cities or live on the land as indentured servants (Ludlow 117).

In our day, greed is common. People try to keep up with their neighbors. Families buy big homes and then fill it with things they do not need. Sometimes their greed pushes them to purchase beyond their means. Greed is a sin.

The second woe is to those who are continually drunk. In our day, we may think that this scripture might not apply to us; that we might use it against those who drink. But we can still apply it to ourselves. The drunkard is simply an addict. Do we not all have to be careful of addictions? The prophet has warned repeatedly against the vice of pornography. He has also warned that we should get our houses in order. Are we addicted to spending money? As King Benjamin instructed the Nephites, “there are divers ways and means” of committing sin and establishing addictions.

The third woe warns against those who would hasten the Lord’s work (Isaiah 5:19). To me this sounds like a lack of patience. Sometimes we want to see the signs so that we may know if it is true. But we would be wise not to tempt the Lord for a sign as Jacob and Sherem taught us in the Book of Mormon (see Jacob 7).

The fourth woe is for those who call evil good and good evil. In our world today, there are many who call evil good and good evil. Just off the top of my head, I can list a handful of examples: prayer in school or public settings is shunned; alternate lifestyles are promoted while wholesome marriages are derided; politicians are praised for their ability to lie. The reason good is called evil and evil is called good is because standards have been assailed. And when standards are torn down, there are no principals and nothing is labeled either good or evil. As the cliché goes, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.

The fifth woe is to those who think they are wise and prudent in their own eyes. Those who are wise in their own eyes are proud. They would remove the speck of dust in your eye while there is a 2x4 in their own eye! These will not listen to counsel, especially the Lord’s counsel. They are not “easy to be entreated” (Alma 7:23).

The last woe cautions those who “justify the wicked for reward” (Isaiah 5:23). I think this refers to bribery. Instead of meting our justice, they let the guilty go free for money. In the preceding years before the coming of the Lord to the Nephites, many judges were corrupted and let the guilty go free because of their money. There is no doubt that this wicked practice thrives today in our legal system.

Promises of Redemption

Despite all their sins and iniquities and the consequences that follow, the Lord will still redeem his people. “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his had is stretched out still” (Isaiah 5:25). I’m sure that the act of the Lord’s hand being stretched out has double meaning. It is stretched out with a sword of vengeance to deliver the consequence of sin and when the people repent and humble themselves, the hand is open and ready to give aid and comfort (see Ludlow 121).

The Lord promises Israel that He will “lift up an ensign to the nations from far” (Isaiah 5:26). In the latter days, we have been taught that the ensign is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, when Brigham Young and the saints entered Utah, a few of the leaders stood on a summit that overlooked the valley. They named it Ensign Peak out of reference to this verse (see Gordon B. Hinckley, “An Ensign to the Nations,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 51)

Other general authorities have compared the descriptions given by Isaiah to the modern day missionary work. The apostles and other general authorities are constantly traveling abroad and preaching. They seem to never rest. Modern day transportation must have been tough for Isaiah to describe, but he did the best he could; perhaps calling our trains, jets, cars and other forms of rapid transportation “whirlwind” and “flint” and as the roar of the lions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Isaiah 3 & 4


In the first 8 verses of Isaiah 3, the Lord warns Judah and Jerusalem of famines. He warns that unless they repent, they will suffer physical famine … the “whole stay of bread and the whole stay of water.”

The Lord also warns against a famine of leadership. Their “mighty men” and soldiers and judges and prophets and the “prudent” and “ancient” will be taken from them. None will be left but children to rule over them. Ludlow states in his book that this “likely refers to people with childish understanding who will unsuccessfully face the challenge of bringing order to anarchy.”

Indeed the lack of leadership is so deep that a brother will ask his eldest brother to lead him. Seeing that the eldest at least has “clothing” the brother begs his older brother to take him in. But the eldest refuses because he lacks the support or stay of food and water. Isaiah paints a ominous picture for the people.

Judah’s Sins

The reason Judah was destroyed was because of his sins. One of Judah’s most vile sins was that she “declared their sin as Sodom” and they did not even try to hide it. They were proud of their sins.

Another sin that Judah commits is the abuse of the poor and weak by the rich and powerful (Ludlow 107). In Isaiah 3:15 says, “ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor.” In other words, the people lacked charity. They were ever concerned about themselves and continually forgot the poor and weak in spirit.

Daughters of Zion

Next, Isaiah catalogs the excessive vanity of the daughters of Zion. These women who take pleasure in immodesty will be cursed. Instead of a sweet smell, they will stink. Instead beautiful hair, they will become bald. Instead of fine clothing, they will wear sack cloth.

Another plight the daughters of Zion will face will be the lack of men. “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man (Isaiah 4:1). I like how Ludlow describes this verse, “In their humiliated state, the women have abandoned coquettish, alluring tactics for a direct, pragmatic approach befitting their desperate situation (109).

Ludlow also includes this quote from Wilford Woodruff:

I had been reading the revelations . . . [when] a strange stupor came over me
and I recognized that I was in the Tabernacle at Ogden. I arose to speak and
said . . . I will answer you right here what is coming to pass shortly. . . . I
then looked in all directions . . . and I found the same mourning in every place
throughout the Land. It seemed as though I was above the earth, looking down to
it as I passed along on my way east and I saw the roads full of people
principally women with just what they could carry in bundles on their backs . .
. It was remarkable to me that there were so few men among them. . . . Wherever
I went I saw . . . scenes of horror and desolation rapine and death . . . death
and destruction everywhere. I cannot paint in words the horror that seemed to
encompass me around. It was beyond description or thought of man to conceive. I
supposed that this was the End but I was here given to understand, that the same
horrors were being enacted all over the country. . . . Then a voice said "Now
shall come to pass that which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet "That seven women
shall take hold of one man saying &C." (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, June
15, 1878, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, Salt Lake City.)

Promise of a Better Day

Isaiah also foretells of brighter days. After the darkness and famines comes the promised hope. “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel” (Isaiah 4:2).

Smoke by Day, Fire by Night

I know this might be taking the counsel “apply the scriptures” a bit far, but I find it interesting. In the MTC, many pointed out that the Provo temple seemed to looklike a “cloud of smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night.”

This phrase, if I remember correctly, reminds us what the Lord did for the Israelites when he led them out of Egypt. He led by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. The cloud and the fire symbolize protection and guidance.

It is not a far stretch to apply this imagery and symbolism to the Provo or any other temple.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Isaiah 2

Temples and Zion

Growing up in the Church, the phrase "mountain of the Lord" has always been synonymous with temple. In fact, the first image I have in my mind when I think of that phrase is that of the Salt Lake City Temple.

I believe that the Saints who built the temple in Utah literally fulfilled the prophecy regarding the "mountain of the Lord's house" being established in the top of the mountains.

Many nations already are flowing unto the temple. Indeed many may say today, "let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths." The verse continues, "for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).

Before President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, he said this, "As I contemplate this marvelous structure, adjacent to the temple, there comes to mind the great prophetic utterance of Isaiah:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. …

“O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isa. 2:2–3, 5).

I believe that prophecy applies to the historic and wonderful Salt Lake Temple. But I believe also that it is related to this magnificent hall. For it is from this pulpit that the law of God shall go forth, together with the word and testimony of the Lord." (Gordon B. Hinckley, “This Great Millennial Year,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 67–71).

Modern Idolaters to be Humbled

Isaiah next describes the endless treasures we possess and our worship of them.

Indeed, our nation as well as many nations of the world have vast amounts of treasures … gold, silver, homes, cars, boats, planes, electronics and the list goes on and on. Some are obsessed with taking care of their things and they do not focus on serving others - they forget the fatherless and widows. When our possessions own us, then we are worshipping idols.

In his timeless article, Spencer W. Kimball said this to the Saints, "The Lord has blessed us as a people with a prosperity unequaled in times past. The resources that have been placed in our power are good, and necessary to our work here on the earth. But I am afraid that many of us have been surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth and have begun to worship them as false gods, and they have power over us. Do we have more of these good things than our faith can stand? Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, stocks, bonds, investment portfolios, property, credit cards, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout, it is hoped, a long and happy life. Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God—to further the missionary effort and the genealogical and temple work; to raise our children up as fruitful servants unto the Lord; to bless others in every way, that they may also be fruitful. Instead, we expend these blessings on our own desires, and as Moroni said, “Ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not.” (Morm. 8:39.)" (Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, Jun 1976, 3)

As my dad and I were discussing the other day, we really do not own anything. We are born into this world with nothing and we leave this world with no possessions. The only thing we take with us are the memories and experiences and knowledge we have gained in this life - those things that moths and rust cannot corrupt (see Matt. 6:19-20, 3 Ne. 13:19-20; 27:32)

If we are not careful and do no repent of our sin of idolatry, then we will be among those the Lord will humble. "For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon everyone that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low" (Isaiah 2:12).

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Isaiah 1


This outline is from Ludlow's book.

A. Introductory discourse (vs. 2-20)
1. The Lord's accusation (2-6)
a. The Lord speaks—Israel has rebelled (2)
b. Animals know their master's crib (food supply) (3)
c. Sinful people! (4)
d. People stricken—every head and heart sick (5)
e. Open sores everywhere are not cared for (6)
2. Immediate judgments (7-15)
f. Strangers consume the land (labor of hands yields nothing) (7)
g. Zion is desolate after the harvest (8)
h. People are like Sodom and Gomorrah (blatant wickedness) (9)
i. Hear the word of the Lord (10)

Pivot point: For what purpose are your sacrifices?
Obedience is better than sacrifice! (See 1 Sam. 15:22.) (11)

i'. Who asked you to come to the Lord? (Haven't you heard?) (12)
h'. The Lord rejects sabbaths, religious assemblies (hiding wickedness) (13)
g'. No more harvest feasts accepted by the Lord (14)
f'. Sinful hands raised in prayer bring no results (15)
3. Promise of pardon (16-20)
e'. People wash themselves clean (16)
d'. Noble learning (head) and justice (heart)—oppression ended (17)
c'. Promise of forgiveness to people (18)
b'. If people follow God, they will eat food of the earth (19)
a'. Rebellious Israel will be devoured—the Lord has spoken (20)

B. Pronouncement upon Israel (21-31)
1. Apostasy (21-24)
u. Jerusalem and wickedness together (21)
v. Watered wine (22)
w. Greed for wealth (23)
x. The Lord will send vengeance on his enemies (24)
2. Restoration (25-27)
y. Wickedness will be purged out (25)

Pivot point: The LORD will restore proper leaders
God will restore to righteousness! (See Jer. 33:7-9.)

z. Jerusalem will be the faithful city again (26)
y'. Repentant ones will be redeemed (27)
3. Judgment (28-31)
x'. The Lord will destroy sinners (28)
w'. Coveting for property (29)
v'. Gardens without water (30)
u'. Selfish ones and their wealth burn together (31)

The Great Arraignment

Ludlow calls the first chapter in Isaiah the "Great Arraignment." (71) The arraignment is divided into four parts.

Accusation: where the Lord describes the charges against Israel. In Isaiah 1:2-6, the Lord describes the ills (sins) of the people.

Immediate judgments: because the people have disobeyed, the Lord will visit them with immediate consequences (Isaiah 1:7-15)

Promise of pardon: conditions of repentance and blessings wherein the basic gospel principles are established (Isaiah 1:16-20)

Final sentencing: those who repent are redeemed and those who do not repent are destroyed (Isaiah 1:21-31)

Desolate Country

As I read Isaiah 1 for the first time, one of the most striking verses was verse 7. "Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers." I know this verse warned the Israelites in Isaiah's time and this prophesy was fulfilled when the Assyrians and Babylonians invaded their nation, but I can't help but think this verse might not also apply to us today.

Just today (November 6, 2007), I read an article by Pat Buchanan who cited many shocking facts about our nation's economic state. In 2001, the euro was worth $.83. Today it is worth $1.45. The British pound is over $2 and the Canadian dollar is worth more than the U.S. dollar for the first time in 50 years.

Then he said, "The dollar is plunging because America has been living beyond her means, borrowing $2 billion a day from foreign nations to maintain her standard of living and to sustain the American Imperium." (Opinion by Pat Buchanan November 3, 2007

I can't help but think that "strangers [are devouring our] country in [our] presence."


One of the accusations the Lord lays on the people is their lack of sincerity. In Isaiah 1:11-15, the Lord tells His people that He is tired of their lack of sincerity. He doesn't want "vain oblations" (Isaiah 1:13) and He is "weary" bearing all the peoples' sacrifices and burnt offerings and assemblies because the people have lost their sincerity.

Perhaps more applicable to us today is Isaiah 1:15 where the Lord says, "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear." Other scriptures have taught us the importance of sincerity in prayer and how the Lord will not listen to insincere prayer.

Alma quoted a prophet by the name of Zenos regarding sincere prayer. "And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity" (Alma 33:11). A search of the scriptures on sincere prayer teaches us that if we do not pray with sincerity, the Lord will no hear our prayers (see Matt. 6:6-15; 3 Nephi 13:5-15; Matt. 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47; Alma 38:13; 3 Nephi 19:24; Moroni 7:48)

Prayer is only a part of our worship. If we are not sincere in all aspects of our worship, then our worship is in vain. We must be sincere in our temple worship and when we partake of the sacrament. We must be sincere when we serve others.

As I read these verses, I could see and feel the Lord's frustration. He doesn't only want us to be baptized and pray and partake of the sacrament for the sake of doing those things … what he really wants is a "broken heart and contrite spirit" … he wants us live the gospel and mean it. We cannot give lip service; we must mean it and live it. We must be sincere.

Repentance and Baptism

A person who has open sores or wounds would not leave them to rot and become infected (see Isaiah 1:6). Rather, we would clean the sore and wounds and anoint them with ointment. So should it be with our sins. We need to wash them from us and allow Christ to heal them. As we repent, we will "cease to do evil" and "learn to do well" (Isaiah 1:15-16).

The remedy to a sick head (Isaiah 1:5) is to learn to do well (Isaiah 1:17). The remedy to a faint heart (Isaiah 1:5) is to seek judgment or justice (or to devote our hearts to justice). We are to serve and help the fatherless and the widow.

One of the greatest scriptures in all books is Isaiah 1:18. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: thought your sins be as scarlet, theyshall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." No other doctrine should be as soothing as that of repentance. We have all sinned and need the Physician. We can always repent no matter the sin.
Failure to repent and turn to the Lord will bring grave consequences. The Lord will purge his people like dross from silver (Isaiah 1:25). The choice is ours. Will we repent or will we suffer the consequences?

Those who do not repent will suffer "destruction" and will be "consumed" and will "burn" and nothing will quench the fire (see Isaiah 1:28-31).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

About This Blog

I have just finished reading the Book of Mormon and writing commentary on it. One of the many things I learned from the Book of Mormon when I read it this time was the need to study Isaiah.

In past readings of the Book of Mormon, I would often skip over or skim the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi, Mosiah and 3 Nephi. But this time through, I decided that I would try to at least read through these chapters and understand them. With a lot of help from other Book of Mormon commentators, I was able to learn a few things from the Isaiah chapters.

When I got to 3 Nephi and the Savior's minsitry among the Nephites, one verse seemed to echo over and over again in my mind. The Savior said, "And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah." (3 Nephi 23:1)

The general impression I got while reading Isaiah in the Book of Mormon was that he was writing to us in the Last Days ... the days before the Lord would come again. His teachings are not irrelavant today. In fact, they are more relevant with each passing day as the world grows more wicked and ripe for destruction.

And so I felt that once I finished reading the Book of Mormon this time through, I would begin my studies of Isaiah. I do not think I have Isaiah's writings "at my fingertips" and so I have a desire and a need to study Isaiah.

Just as I needed help understanding the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon, I will seek the help of a teacher at BYU to guide me through Isaiah. In 1980-81, Victor Ludlow was able to devote all his time to studying the writings of Isaiah. From that period came the book Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, Poet. This book, along with other resources found on the Internet, will aid me in my study of Isaiah.

So what will I be writing about on this blog? I plan to capture notes of interests, my personal thoughts about the writings of Isaiah and how I can apply (liken) them in my life (see 1 Nephi 19:23).

Feel free to leave comments about what you've learned from Isaiah.