Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Isaiah 34 & 35

The Signs of the Times

There really isn't much to say about what Isaiah prophesies regarding the times before the Second Coming. Many other scriptures give similar prophesies. It really is amazing to read all these passages and ponder upon them.

Isaiah 34:4
"And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree."

D&C 45:39-43
"And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.

"And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath.

"And they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke.

"And before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven.

"And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place."

Revelation 6:12-17
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree asteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

"And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

"And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

"And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

"For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"

3 Nephi 26:1-5
"And now it came to pass that when Jesus had told these things he expounded them unto the multitude; and he did expound all things unto them, both great and small.

"And he saith: These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations.

"And he did expound all things, even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory—yea, even all things which should come upon the face of the earth, even until the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the earth should be wrapt together as a scroll, and the heavens and the earth should pass away;

"And even unto the great and last day, when all people, and all kindreds, and all nations and tongues shall stand before God, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

"If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation; being on a parallel, the one on the one hand and the other on the other hand, according to the mercy, and the justice, and the holiness which is in Christ, who was before the world began."

D&C 88:84-98
"Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come;

"That their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come. Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation.

"Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes.

"For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that alleth from off a fig-tree.

"And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.

"For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.

"And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.

"And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.

"And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

"And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.

"And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood—she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea—behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it.

"And there shall be silence in heaven for the space of half an hour; and immediately after shall the curtain of heaven be unfolded, as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up, and the face of the Lord shall be unveiled;

"And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him.

"And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—

"They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God."

Desert Blossoming as a Rose

Ludlow offers some insight into this chapter.

With regard to Isaiah 35:1-4, he says, "The source of the people's weaknesses or fears is also unnamed, though it could result form the horror of their life in the desert. Desert life for the Hebrew usually symbolizes one of two conditions: either a place of refuge and asylum, or a place into which one is forced as a trial and tribulation. In either case, the desert is where God segregates and tests his people. (See Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, p. 115)"

Christ was also "tested" in the wilderness or desert. After he was tested, he formally began his ministry. It too blossomed like a rose.

Isaiah 35:3-4 is another one of those little gems. "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.

"Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you."

Did not Christ fulfill these words? He strengthened the weak hands and feeble knees. He brought comfort to those who sought it. He came and saved us all.

We too, as we follow Christ, can strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees as we serve our fellow men.

In the October 1992 Priesthood session of General Conference, President Hinckley said, "Be strong, my brethren, in the quality of mercy. It is easy to be a bully in one’s home, in one’s business, in one’s speech and acts. This sick world so cries out for kindness and love and mercy. These virtues become an expression of strength rather than weakness on the part of any holder of the priesthood of God. Be strong with that strength of which Isaiah speaks when he said, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees." (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Building Your Tabernacle,” Ensign, Nov 1992, 50)

As we build up Zion, the desert will blossom like a rose. The knowledge of the Lord will grace His people and He will administer to them. The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the lame will walk. Just as He administered to the people in the ancient world and in the new world, He will administer to those who will live on the earth at His coming.

Highway to Holiness

How will one arrive at Zion? Isaiah 35:8 says, "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein."

Of this passage, David O McKay said, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bears testimony to the world that this will of God has been made manifest in this dispensation, that the principles of the gospel, the principles of life, have been revealed. They are in harmony with the principles that Christ taught in the meridian of time. It is impossible to give here all the principles that constitute that will, but they are so simple that, as the scriptures say, "the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein" (David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1966, pp.136-138)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Isaiah 32 & 33

Righteous Leadership

The time will come when the Savior will rule and reign on the earth. As a result, the people of the earth will find a refuge from lies, false understandings and all the deceptions of the devil. The Savior will be a "hiding place from the wind" and a "cover from the tempest" and water in a dry place and a shadow from elements (Isaiah 32:2).

As a result, the people of the earth will see and hear and understand things as they really are. Fools will be seen as fools, knaves as knaves, nobles as nobles and honorables as honorables (see Isaiah 32:3-8). To clarify, Satan has so thickly deceived us that in many cases our society praises liars and hypocrites while we shun and scorn good people. We call good evil and evil good (2 Nephi 15:20). But when the Lord comes again, all the shrouds of deceit will fall and we all will see people and ideas as they really are.

When Christ reigns, He will govern the earth by the power of the Priesthood. John Taylor once taught, " I shall … briefly answer that [the priesthood] is the government of God, whether on the earth or in the heavens, for it is by that power, agency, or principle that all things are [upheld and] governed on the earth and in the heavens, and [it is] by that power that all things are upheld and sustained. It governs all things—it directs all things—it sustains all things—and has to do with all things that God and truth are associated with.

“It is the power of God delegated to intelligences in the heavens and to men on the earth. … When we arrive in the celestial kingdom of God, we shall find the most perfect order and harmony existing, because there is the perfect pattern, the most perfect order of government carried out, and when or wherever those principles have been developed in the earth, in proportion as they have spread and been acted upon, just in that proportion have they produced blessings and salvation to the human family; and when the government of God shall be more extensively adopted, and when Jesus’ prayer, that He taught His disciples is answered, and God’s kingdom comes on the earth, and His will is done here as in heaven, then, and not till then, will universal love, peace, harmony, and union prevail.” (“On Priesthood,” Improvement Era, June 1935, 372.)

Righteousness is Peace

Isaiah 32:17 is another one of those gem verses. "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever."

What is the "work of righteousness?" To me this means becoming a true disciple of Christ. It is not an easy work. But if strive to follow the Savior's teachings of denying ourselves (Luke 9:23) then we are on the path of discipleship.

Neal A. Maxwell wrote, "What is it that we are to deny ourselves? The ascendancy of any appetites or actions which produce not only the seven deadly sins but all the others. Happily, self-denial, when we practice it, brings great relief. It represents emancipation from all the “morning after” feelings, whether caused by adultery or gluttony. Being concerned with tomorrow, true disciples are very careful about today! Self denial also includes not letting our hearts become too set on any trivial or worldly thing. Then we can learn the great lessons about the relationship of righteousness to the powers and the joys of heaven.

"The fundamental fact is that if we do not deny ourselves, we are diverted. Even if not wholly consumed with the things of the world, we are still diverted sufficiently to make serious discipleship impossible. As a consequence, all the gifts and talents God has given us are not put meekly on the altar to serve others and to please God. Instead, we withhold to please ourselves. Diversion, therefore, is not necessarily gross transgression, but it is a genuine deprivation, especially if we consider what we might have become and what more we might have done to bless and to help others.

"Ironically, the natural man, who is so very selfish in so many ordinary ways, is strangely unselfish in that he reaches for too few of the things that bring real joy. He settles for a mess of pottage instead of eternal joy.

"By denying the desires of the natural man to the degree that they exist in each of us, we avoid this diversion, making it easier for us to take up the cross of discipleship. Of course, when it occurs in our lives, emancipation from various forms of bondage brings no celebrating parades, nor does it make the evening news. But it is big news because we “come off conqueror” (D&C 10:5).

"So it is that discipleship, far from being ascetic, is to choose joy over pleasure. It is to opt for the things of eternity over the trendy and appealing things of the moment. Eventually, we become readied for the final moment of consecration, when, gladly and completely, we let our wills be swallowed up in the will of the Father. Jesus did this in Gethsemane, where he said, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). What was God’s will? That Jesus complete the Atonement. Even so, Jesus prayed, “Take away this cup from me” (Mark 14:36); and still later he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Yet Jesus yielded. (Neal A. Maxwell, “Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, Jun 1996, 12)

I believe that in denying ourselves and truly seeking the will of God, we then are able to "work righteousness" and in turn we find peace, quietness and assurance for ever.

Fear of the Lord

Isaiah 33:6 says, "And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure."

Ludlow cross references four scriptures to this verse. Each note the association of wisdom and fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 1:7 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

Proverbs 3:7 - "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil."

Job 28:28 - "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."

Psalms 111:10 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments."

Marion G. Romney gave a good explanation of the word "fear" in this context.

He said, "Now, I have done a little homework on the meaning of the word fear as here used. And I assure you that the Psalmist did not intend it to mean dread, fright, terror, or dismay. What he did intend to express by whatever word he actually used was “profound reverence.” Webster uses this phrase, “profound reverence,” as one of the definitions of fear. A more meaningful version of the Psalmist’s statement would be, “Profound reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

"Let us consider now for a moment the significance of profound reverence. One definition of profound is “arising from the depth of one’s nature.” Reverence is the soul of true religion. Its seedbed is sincerity. Its quality is determined by the esteem in which one holds the object of his reverence. And this esteem is evidenced by his behavior toward that which he reverences. When one reverences God, the profoundly reverent person has a worshipful adoration coupled with a respectful behavior toward him and all that pertains to him. One who has a profound reverence for the Lord loves him, trusts in him, prays to him, relies upon him, and is inspired by him. Inspiration from the Lord has always been, and now is, available to all mankind who have a profound reverence for him. (Marion G. Romney, “Converting Knowledge into Wisdom,” Ensign, Jul 1983, 2)

Eternal Life

Isaiah teaches what we must do to inherit eternal life or "everlasting burnings" (Isaiah 33:14, see also Joseph Smith Jr., “The King Follett Sermon,” Ensign, Apr 1971, 13–14)

We must walk righteously, speak uprightly, despise the gain of oppressions, shake our hands (fingers) at bribes and corruption, stop our hearing of violence and close our eyes to all evil.

If we do these things, we "shall dwell on high" with our Lord.