Monday, March 17, 2008

Isaiah 30 & 31

Trust in God

Through various events, Judah found herself in a precarious situation. Assyrian dominance was waning, Egypt and Babylon were gaining power and a few independent nations joined a coalition to rebel against the Assyrians. Judah joined this coalition as well as entered into a treaty with Egypt in which Egypt would defend Judah against any Assyrian attack.

Isaiah strongly condemned these actions taken by Judah. He knew that Judah had more confidence in men than in God and this was a sin.

I am reminded of Nephi when he said in his psalm, "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm." (2 Nephi 4:34)

Yet another passage reminds us to "trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5)

The first verse of Isaiah 30 pronounces a wo on Judah. "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me."

How do we put our trust in the Lord? Isaiah teaches us how. We must listen to the prophets and become more steadfast.

Listen to the Prophets

We can trust in the Lord by listening and obeying His prophets. The people in Isaiah's time did not want to listen to the prophets.

In Isaiah 30:9-10, Isaiah is commanded to write, "this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:

"Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophet, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits."

If we sit in General Conference and enjoy the talks, but then fail to act on the feelings and promptings we had while listening to the prophets, are we not essentially saying "see not, prophesy not?" I can almost see the people of that day put their hands over their ears and yell over the prophets' voice so as not to hear them. They are like the diver of a car who after having been pulled over for a traffic violation pleads with the officer that he did not know the laws. Ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law.

Returning, Rest, Quietness, Confidence

Once in a while, I find a passage of scriptures that moves me and spiritually touches me deeply; so deep that I cannot fully explain it. Isaiah 30:15 is one of those passages.

"For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."

If ever my generation needed a succinct, specific message delivered explicitly to us, it would be Isaiah 30:15. We are a generation constantly on the move. We multi-task, we drug our bodies to work harder, stay up longer, sleep less, party more, we are up-to-date on the news, jam our schedules full of activities and in general are always busy doing something. We can't sit still. And if we do sit still, we engage our attention with video games or TV.

In all this busyness, we forget to take time to meditate, pray, ponder and commune with God.

We must return to God (and if we've never turned to Him before, then simply turn to Him). We must repent of and forsake our sins.

We must rest physically, mentally and spiritually. Spiritual rest is found in communion with God on our knees or in deep meditation.

We must turn the mp3 player and radio and TV and computer off. We must quiet our lives so as to let the Holy Spirit enter it and teach us the Lord's ways.

We must "let virtue garnish [our] thoughts unceasingly; then shall [our] confidence wax strong in the presence of God." (D&C 121:45)

By returning to God, resting, quieting our lives and increasing our confidence in God, we become more firm and steadfast and still. This is what my generation needs.

The Bread of Adversity and Water of Affliction

Indeed our trust in the Lord will be tested many times in our lives. Alma the Elder and his followers we sorely tested when the Lamanites and wicked priests of King Noah deceived and captured them and later enslaved them.

Alma and these people escaped the grasp of the wicked King Noah and had begun to prosper. They returned to God, repented and put their trust in Him. But their trials were not over.

"Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.

"Nevertheless - whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people." (Mosiah 23:21-22)

They found themselves in such a difficult position that no one but God could deliver them. The Lord truly gave them the bread of adversity and the water of affliction (Isaiah 30:20). The Lord saw the need to make these people stronger in faith. He tested them to see if they would trust in him. They accepted the bread and water and their souls were greatly strengthened and blessed.

There are countless stories in the scriptures of people accepting the bread of adversity and the water of affliction. Do we likewise accept this sacrament in order to be sanctified?

We would do well to remember, as trials come our way, that Christ did not shrink from the ultimate bitter cup. If we are to be like Him, then we must not shrink before the bread and water offered to us as we take upon ourselves the name of Christ.

The Lord Binds and Heals

Ultimately, the Lord will deliver us from bread of adversity and water of affliction. He will bind our breaches and heal our wounds. (Isaiah 30:26)

This reminds me of another moving passage found in Isaiah. Isaiah 53:5 reads, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peaces was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Those last words of that verse really sink deep in my soul: and with his stripes we are healed. Christ partook of the bitter cup and thus knows all the trials, adversities and difficulties we face in this life. Therefore, he knows how to heal us physically, emotionally and spiritually.