Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Isaiah 29

"Low out of the dust"

Isaiah 29:4 says, "And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and they speech shall whisper out of the dust."

There seem to be two meanings from this verse. First, Jerusalem was humbled to the dust and scattered. In this humiliated condition, she wrote to the world the consequences of sin. She warned those of future generations of the fate of those who embrace wickedness.

The second meaning is more literal. Records of the fallen people are buried in the earth and are then published to the world as a warning. The Book of Mormon is believed to be one of these records. Other records (from the Ten Tribes of Israel) are to come forth as prophesied in 2 Nephi 29:13.

Dreams of Eating

I've always found this description of the wicked very interesting. They are and will be obsessed and bent on the destruction of Israel and the Lord's people, but they will not succeed. The Lord will make it appear to them that they will conquer over Israel, but in reality, they will not. It will be as a man who is hungry and who is dreaming. He dreams of food and in his dream, he eats and is filled, until he awakes. Then his discovers it was all a dream and the satisfaction that was his is gone.

So great will be their hatred that they will be drunk and stagger like an inebriated man.

The Sealed Book

Simply put, Isaiah 29:11 is a reference to Martin Harris delivering the text of the Book of Mormon to Charles Anthon (see LeGrand Richards, “Value of the Holy Scriptures,” Ensign, May 1976, 82).

Isaiah 29:12 is a reference to Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon (see Mark E. Petersen, Conference Report, October 1970, pp. 138-142).

Removed Hearts

One of the first sentences that began the Restoration was "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof" (JS-History 1:19).

Isaiah 29:13 says, "this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear (regard or reverence) toward me is taught by the precept of men."

What does this all mean? Simply stated, it means apostasy; both generally and individually. People have become fundamentally separated from our Heavenly Father. We preach and teach and teach and preach, but do nothing. We do not acknowledge the power and authority of God. We do not strive to become true disciples of Christ. We may learn and teach all the correct doctrines, but if we do not act the part of a disciple of Christ, then our hearts are far from God.

Neal A. Maxwell once taught, "Of necessity, of course, we are to teach and learn the doctrines. We would be spiritually stranded without them and, likewise, without the saving and exalting gospel ordinances, because “in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh” (D&C 84:20–21).

"So it is that discipleship requires all of us to translate doctrines, covenants, ordinances, and teachings into improved personal behavior. Otherwise we may be doctrinally rich but end up developmentally poor" (Neal A. Maxwell, “Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, June 1996, 12).

The only way we can truly become disciples of Christ is to have our will swallowed by the will of the Son.

Neal A. Maxwell continues in another address, "I am going to preach a hard doctrine to you now. The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. It is a hard doctrine, but it is true. The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him. And that hard doctrine lies at the center of discipleship. There is a part of us that is ultimately sovereign, the mind and heart, where we really do decide which way to go and what to do. And when we submit to His will, then we’ve really given Him the one final thing He asks of us. And the other things are not very, very important. It is the only possession we have that we can give, and there is no lessening of our agency as a result. Instead, what we see is a flowering of our talents and more and more surges of joy. Submission to Him is the only form of submission that is completely safe.

"This ought to be more obvious to us than it is sometimes, brothers and sisters, because developmentally, as well as doctrinally, all the other commandments hang, as Jesus said, on the two great interactive commandments:

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

“This is the first and great commandment.

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37–40). (Neal A. Maxwell, “Insights from My Life,” Ensign, Aug 2000, 7)

The key to his teaching in the above quote is where he says, "There is a part of us that is ultimately sovereign, the mind and heart, where we really do decide which way to go and what to do." Now getting back to what the Savior said to young Joseph Smith, "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Is that not what the Savior really wants … our hearts; our wills? Is that not at the root at what He was trying to restore to the earth?

Every day, we should be praying and asking our Father, "what doest thou want me to do today? What is Thy will for me?" If we can truly, sincerely seek and follow God's will every day (and not hide counsel we receive from God … see Isaiah 29:15), then we will obey the first and great commandment.

PS: Also read my commentary in the Book of Mormon about this chapter. See 2 Nephi 26 and 2 Nephi 27

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