Thursday, August 28, 2008

Isaiah 50

Ludlow states that Isaiah 50 is divided into three parts: “verses 1-3, a call to Israel to return to the Lord and make him their strength; verses 4-9, the third servant song; and verses 10-11, an injunction to all people to follow the servant, including a message of encouragement to the faithful and of warning to the unfaithful.” (419)

A Call to Israel (v 1-3)

Like all of us, Israel has gone astray and has not followed the Lord. When we sin, we distance ourselves from the Holy Ghost and we begin to feel isolated and abandoned. Israel pleads to the Lord and says that the Lord has divorced her.

The Lord replies that he has not divorced her nor has He sold them like children into slavery. He tells them why they feel abandoned, “Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.” (Isaiah 50:1) The Lord will always “be there” for us. We are the ones to blame for feeling like the Lord has left us … we leave the Lord, not the other way around.

The Lord reminds them that his hand is always there. “Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem?” (Isaiah 50:2) He also reminds them that he has power to dry up the seas and cloud the skies as well as power to redeem his people.

The Servant Song (v 4-9)

Follow the Prophet

The reason Israel fell away from the Lord was because she failed to heed the prophets. Failure to listen to the prophets has resulted in sin and other transgressions which lead to unhappiness in this life and a damned life in the eternities.

The Servant Song in Isaiah 50:4-9 goes into some detail about the life of a prophet. The same things that describe the life of a prophet also describe the life of the Savior. The prophet is to “speak a word in season to him that is weary” (Isaiah 50:4). I don’t think the weary in this verse is referring to those who lack physical strength. Rather I think it refers to those who are spiritually weary … those who need spiritual strengthening. Verse 4 also mentions that a prophet awakes every morning to hear what the Lord would have him speak to the people.

Both Jesus Christ and the prophets are humble and willing to listen and heed the will of God. Isaiah 50:5 says the “Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious neither turned away back.” This verse reminds me of Nephi. In 1 Nephi 3:6, before that well-known verse 7, Lehi tells his son Nephi that he is favored of the Lord because he has not murmured. Unlike Laman and Lemuel, Nephi never turned his back on the Lord verbally or otherwise. And because he was humble and willing to listen, he was a great prophet.

Isaiah 50:6 refers to the persecution that Jesus Christ and the prophets experienced. They were smitten and abused. They did not shirk in the face of persecution. In fact, they turned the other cheek (Matthew 5:39).

Despite all the persecution heaped on them, the Lord God will uphold his servants. He will not abandon them. All the persecutors will “wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.” (Isaiah 50:9) Whether in this life of the next, those that persecute the prophets will have to pay.

I’ve not read the entire book, but as I kid I would peruse a book entitled “The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith” by N.B. Lundwall published by Bookcraft in Salt Lake City in 1952. Here is one of the more interesting passages from that book:

“James Head, of McComb, was also one of the murderers at the Carthage Jail; he was heard by Captain Lawn and others to boast of it afterwards, and Captain Lawn drew a pistol and chased him, but he ran away. He was always gloomy and troubled from the time he helped murder the Smiths, and frequently declared that he saw the two martyrs always before him! He had no peace.

“A colonel of the Missouri mob, who helped to drive, plunder and murder the Mormons, died in the hospital at Sacramento, 1849. Beckwith had the care of him; he was eaten with worms – a large black-headed kind of maggot – which passed through him by myriads, seemingly a half pint at a time! Before he died these maggots were crawling out of his mouth and nose! He literally rotted alive! Even the flesh on his legs burst open and fell from the bones! They gathered up the rotten mass in a blanket and buried him, without waiting a coffin!”

The story goes on to tell of another member of the mob who killed Joseph and Hyrum who died in the same hospital. He too was infested with maggots. He died when the maggots ate through his jugular vein and he bled to death. These two men stank so badly, they had to keep them in a separate room by themselves (Lundwall, 335).

An Injunction to All People (v 10-11)

I’ve made comments on these two verses in the 2 Nephi 7 counterpart (see my Book of Mormon post on 2 Nephi 7). Note: There is a small difference in the Isaiah version which I have noted below with italics and other indicators. Here is what I said:

I really like the last two verse of this chapter. Verse 10 and 11 say, "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God

"Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks [which] that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow."

Verse 10 seems to refer to trusting in the Lord. The Lord asks us to believe in him, to trust in him and to take those steps in the darkness.

But there are some of us who cannot accept this and think that we must have some light so that we see where we are going. And so we try to light our own fire and our own fire is small and cannot show us the complete path. If we decide to tread the path on our own with our own fire, then the Lord warns us that we will suffer.

And so the point of verses 10-11 is that we must trust in the Lord to show us the way if we are to avoid spiritual injury.

Overall, Isaiah 50 is about obeying the prophets. If we give diligent heed to the living oracles, we will be safe. We will have nothing to fear for the Lord will be on our side.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Isaiah 49

As I stated earlier, Isaiah 49 is a continuation of Isaiah 48. But because of the great amount of content, I have split the two chapters into two sections.

In Isaiah 48, covenant was made. In Isaiah 49, the covenant is broken and now a court is convened to hear the two sides. Isaiah 49 will contain four steps of this court hearing: the summons, the plaintiff’s charge, the defendants plea and the judge’s indictment.

The Summons (v 1-6)

The Servant Song

Ludlow points out that these “six verses comprise on of the four recognized ‘servant songs’ of Isaiah (along with 42:1-4; 50:5-9 and 52:13-53:12)”

This servant has the following attributes:

1. He is “called from the womb” foreordained (v 1)
2. He is “in the shadow of his [the Lord] hand” (v 2)
3. He is like a “polished shaft” (v 2)
4. He seemingly labors in vain (v 4)
5. He is involved in the gathering of Israel (v 5-6)

Ludlow lists several people who fit this description. Israel, Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith all fit these descriptions in one way or another. He also cites Ephraim, who is a recipient of Jacob’s birthright, as another possible person who fits the description.

The Plaintiff’s Charge (v 7-13)

In the charge, the Lord reminds Israel that he has “fulfilled his obligations” in that he will gather her from all parts of the earth.

Isaiah 49:9 refers to the liberation of the people from darkness and a life of sin. This seems to refer to our day when we have the fullness of the restoration of the Gospel. This could also allude to the liberation of those who sat in the prison world before Christ organized the preaching of the gospel to those souls (see D&C 138).

Isaiah 49:12 refers to the gathering of Israel from all quarters of the earth. Ludlow points out that some Bible scholars believe that the land of Sinim may be China. Others believe it may be a place in Egypt.

The Defendant’s Plea (v 14, 21, 24)

Israel responds to the Lord’s charge. In Isaiah 49:14 she claims the Lord has forsaken and forgotten her.

In Isaiah 49:21 she claims she is left childless, alone without friends and held captive.

And in Isaiah 49:24 she “fears she has been robbed of her heritage” (Ludlow 412).

The Judge’s Indictment (v 15-20, 22-23, 25-26)

The Lord Will Not Forget

In verse 14, Israel has lost faith in the Lord’s capacity to deliver her. But the Lord cannot forget his chosen people. A woman may (although unlikely) forget her baby and focus on her pregnancy, the Lord will never forget his chosen people.

A mark of the laborer is his hands. He will have worn and bruised hands if he has labored hard. The Lord’s work also can be seen by looking at his hands. He says to Israel and to us, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).

When I read those words, I almost instantly think of that wonderful, soul-penetrating hymn “Reverently and Meekly Now” (Hymn #185)

Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee. . . .

Oh, remember what was done
That the sinner might be won.
On the cross of Calvary
I have suffered death for thee.

Nursing Fathers and Mothers

Israel complains to the Lord that her numbers are too few. The Lord assures her that she will have plenty of help. “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and they daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.

“And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens they nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isaiah 49:22-23)

Anyone who has read or is familiar with the history of the nation of Israel will know that this scripture has been fulfilled. Wikipedia does a good job summarizing the history of Israel as a nation (see

I am not going to copy it in full here, but Ludlow does an amazing job summarizing the prophecies pertaining to the return of Judah that have either been partially or fully fulfilled.

Included in this list are:
1. Elijah the Prophet to return to the earth
2. Descendants of Judah to gather
3. Gold and silver from the nations to revive the land
4. The land of Jerusalem to be made productive
5. The descendants of Judah to be attacked and delivered
6. Jerusalem will come under the control of Israel
7. The Jewish people will begin to believe in Jesus Christ

He also lists many prophesies about the Jews that have not been fulfilled.
1. A new temple will be built in Jerusalem
2. A leader named David … will lead Israel
3. The nations … will gather … and Judah will be smitten
4. Two prophets are to be raised up to the Jewish nation
5. The Savior to appear to the descendants of Judah
6. The Messiah to lead Israel to victory and rule as King of Kings
7. Two great world capitals are to be established, Zion and Jerusalem

Ludlow notes scriptures and other references for each point, along with some brief information regarding the point. These lists can be found in the book on pages 415-416).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaiah 48

Ludlow lumps Isaiah 48 and 49 together. They should go hand in hand, but because of the volume of content, I will split them into two entries.

Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

Ludlow makes a few notes about these two chapters in the Book of Mormon. He says, "chapters 48 and 49 are the first Isaianic chapters to be quoted in their entirety in the Book of Mormon. (1 Nephi 20-21.) Also, approximately one-third of the Isaianic verses in the Book of Mormon containing major changes are located in these two chapters." He goes on to explain that some of these changes found in the Book of Mormon help clarify passages that have confused scholars in the past. (399)

Covenant Form

Isaiah 48 is in covenant form. Ludlow explains that there are six parts to a treaty between a king and his vassal or in this instance, a covenant between the Lord and his people.

The six parts are 1) Preamble, 2) Historical prologue, 3) Stipulations, 4) Witnesses, 5) Curses and blessings and 6) Perpetuation of the contract.

Isaiah 48 has all these elements, although they slightly different order (400).

Preamble (v 1-2)

The preamble is an introduction to the people.

"or out of the waters of baptism"

The 1 Nephi 20:1 rendition of Isaiah 48:1 adds the phrase "or out of the waters of baptism." This phrase did not originally appear in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. It first showed up in the 1840 edition. Ludlow cites Daniel H. Ludlow to explain this.

The term "or out of the waters of baptism" did not appear in the first edition of the Book of Mormon. It first appeared in the edition of 1840 on page 53, and the sentence in which it appeared was punctuated as follows: "Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, (or out of the waters of baptism,) who swear by the name of the Lord," etc. It is not absolutely clear who was responsible for the insertion of this phrase, although the title pages of this edition indicates that it was the "Third Edition, Carefully Revised by the Translator" and was published in Nauvoo, Illinois.

In the "Committee Copy" of the Book of Mormon that was used by Elder James E. Talmage and his committee in making changes for the 1920 edition, the words "or out of the waters of baptism" were not printed in the text although they had been inserted in red ink in parentheses. However, the parentheses were crossed out by red pencil. These words are printed in the current edition of the Book of Mormon without parentheses. (A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, 120).

When Isaiah speaks to Israel, he may be addressing three different groups of people.

Blood Israel - those who are literal descendants of Jacob or Israel.

Covenant Israel - those who accept God and the covenants of Israel.

The people who live in the land of Israel - those inhabitants of the land that was granted to the tribes of Israel.

Historical Prologue (v 3-8)

In this section, "Isaiah reviews Israel's covenant relationship with the Lord." (403)

The Lord's Foreknowledge

The reason the Lord "declared the former things from the beginning" was so that Israel had no doubt it came from the Lord and would not be able to say that their dumb idols were responsible for the events.

Regarding the foresight and foreknowledge of the Lord, I have found it interesting how even today the Lord gives ample warning to his people. I remember in October 1998 sitting in a chapel in Provo listening to President Hinckley warn all of us priesthood holders to get our houses in order (Gordon B. Hinckley, “To the Boys and to the Men,” Ensign, Nov 1998, 51). He made it clear he was not prophesying that there would be a famine, but he made it clear that he was giving counsel.

To fully understand the context of this talk, you need to understand that 1998 was a great year. The economy was virtually booming. The Internet as we generally know it had been around for a few years and businesses were jumping on board with on-line models and such. It is not a far stretch of the imagination to think that some scoffed at the idea of a prophet counseling to reduce debt and cut back.

Yet just a few years later, the .com bust occurred and scores of on-line companies went out of business. Then September 11, 2001 happened and the world has never been the same. I remember filling my car up at the Chevron across from the football stadium for $.99 a gallon in 1998. Today, the gas prices are $3.50 a gallon and were up to $4.00 a gallon earlier this year. The dollar has hit historical lows against the euro. There were stories of food shortages around the world earlier this year too. Wheat and rice were very expensive and still are. The housing bubble has finally "popped" and there has been a lot of uneasiness in the economy since October 1998.

But looking back to President Hinckley's talk, it is amazing to see the wisdom in his counsel. No doubt he was inspired by the Lord.

Stipulations of the Covenant (v 8-13)

In this next section, the Lord "explains that his efforts are in fulfillment of the covenants made with Israel. He promises that in spite of Israel's rebellions, he will not completely destroy her; still, he will not let her disregard her covenant without punishment." (404)

"but not as silver"

The phrase "but not as silver" found in Isaiah 48:10 is not found in 1 Nephi 20:10. Ludlow states that this phrase has confused scholars for many years. But as the Book of Mormon version stands, the verse is crystal clear in its meaning.

The Right Hand

In Isaiah 48:13, the Lord's "right hand hath spanned the heavens." Ludlow commentates that favoring the right hand is not an invention of man, but it comes from the Lord and is a symbol of righteousness. (405)

I found one Ensign article that discusses using the right hand when making covenants, especially with regard to taking the sacrament.

“I Have a Question,” Ensign, Mar 1983, 67–69

Perpetuation of the Covenant (v 13-15)

In Isaiah 48:13-15, Ludlow identifies the person referred to here as Jesus Christ or Cyrus. Whether Christ or Cyrus, this person will "foretell the future, fulfill the Lord's word, wield power over Babylon, and ultimately succeed in his foreordained mission." (405)

Witnesses of the Covenant (v 16)

It appears in Isaiah 48:16 that the Lord himself and Isaiah are witnesses to this covenant.

Blessings and Curses (v 17-22)

The blessings or curses for obeying or disregarding the covenant are: peace as a river and righteousness as the waves of the sea or tumult and wickedness (Isaiah 48:18), seed as the sand and not being cut off from the Lord or no posterity and living in apostasy (Isaiah 48:19).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Isaiah 46 & 47

These two chapters discuss the uselessness of idols. Compared to Jehovah, these idols are literally nothing. Whereas Jehovah created everything and has all power and uses that power to bless the lives of the children of Israel. The idols cannot help the children of men.

Dumb Idols

The two idols Isaiah targets are Bel and Nebo. Bel is also known as Marduk.

Ludlow explains the reason why these idols were loaded onto carts and moved by beasts to a different location. "Ancient man believed that each god had a certain territory in which he was to be worshipped. (Though a god could be worshipped anywhere, it was most effective to worship him in his own land.) If a person moved to another location, he would then worship and give honor to the god of that particular land. Ancient man also believed that the lives of the gods were reflected in their own lives. For example, if the people of one city were defeated by the people of another city, they believed it to be because there had been a war in heaven in which the god of the victorious nation defeated their god." (391)

Isaiah ridicules the idols and mocks how they must be transported by beasts. "They are a burden to the weary beast. They stoop, they bow down together, they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity." (Isaiah 46:1-2)

Furthermore, these idols cannot answer prayers. In Isaiah 46:7 he says, "one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble."

The Living God

In contrast, the Living God is unique. He can see from the beginning to the end and he has his own will … he can act. Isaiah 46:10 says, "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are no yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."

The Living God can also save his people. Isaiah 46:13 says, "I bring my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory."

Babylon's Sins

In Isaiah 47, Isaiah describes why Babylon fell and will fall again in the latter-days.

Isaiah 47:10 sums up nicely Babylon's greatest weakness. "For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me."

Babylon saw no need and felt she had no obligation to anyone. She was an agent unto herself … free to do as she pleased. She attained her own wisdom and knowledge and thought she was powerful. She did not acknowledge the true and Living God. She did not understand her position in the world … she trusted in the arm of flesh rather than in the arm of God.

How often do we thank the Lord for his help in our lives? Do we recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives or do we think we are solely responsible for all our successes?

We are commanded and counseled to gain as much education as possible, but we must also always recognize the hand of the Lord in all our studies and gains and labors.

The Book of Mormon teaches, "O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God" (2 Nephi 9:28-29)