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.