Saturday, January 17, 2009

Isaiah 58

The Fast

Isaiah 58 teaches us the true purpose of fasting.

Isaiah 58:6-7 reads, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

Is it no to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"

"To loose the bands of wickedness" means that we can fast for strength to overcome our own or to help others overcome bad habits or sins that afflict our lives.

"To undo the heavy burdens" - heavy burdens can represent sins or even physical ailments that afflict our lives.

"To let the oppressed go free" - obviously we do not let our criminals go free on the day of fasting, but in Isaiah's day, "all debts, slaves, and indentured servants were freed" (Ludlow 483). In our day, we can forgive others' trespasses against us. We can endeavor to heal broken relationships that may be oppressing others and ourselves.

"break every yoke" - seems to summarize the true meaning of the fast. We are to seek freedom from sin and to grant freedom where we can.

"deal thy bread to the hungry … cover him” - as we fast today, we save the money we would have used to feed our family and we take that money and give it to the Bishop who uses it to aid the needy within our ward and stake.

"hide not thyself from thine own flesh" - fasting should include giving ourselves to our family. It is a time to be with family and to strengthen or repair familial relationships.

Isaiah 58:13 has a few more reasons for the fast. "… not doing thine own ways, nor finding thing own pleasure, not speaking thine own words." This means we are to do the Lord's will on the day of the fast. We should dedicate our life, that day, to seeking and doing the Lord's will instead of our own. This will help our more fully dedicate our whole life to the will of the Lord.

The blessings of obeying the true fast are outlined in Isaiah 58:8-14.

If we truly obey the fast, the Lord will guide us continually and we shall never thirst. He will make our bones fat and we will be called "the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the paths to dwell in."

Additional Reading
L. Tom Perry, “The Law of the Fast,” Ensign, May 1986, 31
Howard W. Hunter, “Fast Day,” Ensign, Nov 1985, 72
Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Law of the Fast,” Ensign, May 2001, 73
Marion G. Romney, “The Blessings of the Fast,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 2

Friday, January 16, 2009

Isaiah 56 & 57

There are three spiritual topics discussed in Isaiah 56: keeping the Sabbath, the Temple and prayer. In opposition to these three pillars stand the sacraments of Satan which are discussed in Isaiah 57: immorality, idol worship and abortion.

The Sabbath

The scriptures are replete with commandments from the Lord regarding Sabbath observance. The Bible Dictionary for Sabbath does an excellent job summarizing the history and reasons for the Sabbath. In part of the explanation in the Bible Dictionary, it says that observance of the Sabbath is "an eternal principal."

We have been taught time and time again by the ancient and modern-day prophets that the Sabbath is for resting and spiritual nourishment. On the Sabbath, we are to refrain from work and recreation and to devote ourselves to worship and spiritual edification.

Isaiah 56:1, 4, 6 reference the Lord's commandment to all people to keep the Sabbath pure.

The Temple

Isaiah 56:5 promises those who keep the commandments a blessing that is "better than sons and daughters" and a blessing of "an everlasting name." This verse has reference to the temple. Ludlow discusses how "a place and a name" can be interpreted to mean a "hand and a name." (473) This takes on significant meaning for Latter-day Saints who are fully endowed in the temple.

The D&C furthers instructs us on the meaning of a "new name." Read D&C 130:11.

Prayer

The temple is not only a place to receive instruction from the Lord, but it is also a place to pray. The temple is really a "house of prayer" as described in Isaiah 56:7.

No Peace for the Wicked

Isaiah 57 describes the abject wickedness committed by Israelites in Isaiah's days as well as the moral decay that we see in our world today.

Everywhere we look, we are bombarded by images and words depicting immorality. The idol worship in Isaiah's day was tied to their agriculture. They believed that by acting out immoral deeds, their crops would be successful.

Their idol worship even included sacrificing infants to the god Molech (see footnote a in Isaiah 57:9). This type of idolatry is very similar to our own society's practice of abortion. The most common reason women have abortions today is because the child inconveniences the parents' lifestyle and ability to provide for themselves. Rather than sacrificing their lifestyles or money, they sacrifice their children to continue their worship of false gods.

The last three verses of Isaiah 57 warns those who fail to keep the commandments and submit themselves to idolatry.

"Peace, peace to him that is far off and to him that is near, said the Lord; and I will heal him.

"But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

"There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Isaiah 55

This chapter has many phrases and ideas that are very similar to Jacob's and Nephi's writings in the Book of Mormon.

The Free Gospel Feast

Isaiah admonishes everyone to partake of the Gospel. It is free and costs us no money, yet it satisfies more than any work we can do on the earth.

I love the words, "hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." (Isaiah 55:2). That passage sounds so much like Nephi when he commanded us to, "[feast] upon the word of Christ" (2 Nephi 31:20). There are also other passages in the Book of Mormon that command us to "feast" (see 2 Nephi 9:51, 2 Nephi 32:3, Jacob 2:9 and Alma 32:42).

When we ate our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, I could hardly stand up I was so full of food. Despite feeling so full, I could hardly wait until I was hungry again so I can eat more! How often do we spiritually eat until we are so full? I suppose if we were stuffing ourselves with spiritual ham all the time, the Lord would not have told us so often to "feast" on his words.

Sure Mercies of David

As the footnote indicates for Isaiah 55:3d, the "sure mercies of David" means the resurrection. The footnote references Acts 13:34 which refers to the resurrection. Psalms 89:2-4, 27-29 also refers to Jesus being the "mercy of David" which infers the resurrection as well.

Seek the Lord

Isaiah 55:6 says, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near." I remember my mom pointing out a scripture to me while I was in high school. It was D&C 88:83 which says, "He that seeketh me early shall find me, and shall not be forsaken."

To me, these two passages mean that we should learn the teachings of Christ and we should not put off that task for some other day. They hint at an urgency of repenting and learning the Gospel. As a teenager, I took D&C 88:83 to mean that because I had taken the time to study the scriptures and to "be a good kid" that the Lord would hold a special place in his heart for me. Maybe that was just one teenager's view of feeling like the center of the universe. But today those scriptures mean we should be more diligent in our personal repentance and scripture study and prayer and that we should feel an urgency to "seek the Lord."

Isaiah 55:7 goes along with verse 6 in that we are called to repent.

Boomerang Effect

Isaiah 55:10-11 talks about precipitation from the heavens and how water does not return back up in the form of water, but in the form of fruit and bread. The water helps seeds grow which in turn grows into food for man to eat. So shall the word of the Lord go out of his mouth. It will "not return unto me void" but will come back as sanctified children of God. Alma 41:14 talks about this "boomerang effect" in that the thing you send out will come back. But the form in which it comes back depends on the person who sent it. The Lord, being perfect, sends out his word and in return, he will yield great and good fruit.