Thursday, March 5, 2009

Isaiah 65 & 66

The Rebellious

Isaiah 65 discusses two types of people - those who rebel against God and those who listen to Him. This chapter also describes what will happen to the rebellious and the faithful. The faithful will inherit the earth and all the blessings that comes with it.

Isaiah 65:2 describes in which way the rebellious are not faithful. It says that they walk in a way that is not good and they walk after their own thoughts. In other words, the rebellious do not seek nor follow the will of the Lord. They have their own agenda.

Isaiah 65:3-4 suggests that the rebellious worship idols (sacrifice in gardens and burn incense on alters). They also seek after spirits of the dead (remain among graves). Idol worship is not a thing of the past. Many people sin in idolatry today. Just because we don't pray to statues doesn't mean we are not idolaters. Today, many suffer idolatry in the form of worshipping the self-image. I've referred many times before to a fascinating and scathing talk given by Spencer W. Kimball. That talk was relevant when he delivered it and it remains relevant today. Read Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, Jun 1976, 3.

The rebellious are not necessarily people who are not members of the LDS church. Isaiah 65:11 suggests that those who forget the Lord's holy mountain, which is the temple, are also numbered among the rebellious. In the temple we make covenants with the Lord. The faithful are those who make and keep covenants with the Lord.

In Isaiah 65:13-14 we learn the faithful will eat, drink, rejoice and "shall sing for joy of heart."

New Heavens and Earth

Isaiah 65:17 reads, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind."

The Tenth Article of Faith teaches us that we believe "the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." Just as the earth was baptized at the flood and was "renewed" so too it will be baptized by fire and be renewed. Many of the references of a new earth are found in Isaiah (see Topical Guide: Earth, Renewal of and Isaiah 66:22-23).

The Faithful

As I hinted at above, the rebellious will not be a part of the new earth. The faithful who have made and kept covenants with the Lord will receive this new earth. Isaiah 65:20 teaches us (as the Vulcan cliché goes) that everyone will live long and prosper. Babies and children will live a full and long life. Women and men will live a full life and we'll live as long as trees (perhaps as long as sequoias).

The faithful will labor and build homes and grow gardens and enjoy the fruits of their labors without having to worry about enemies destroying them (Isaiah 65:23).

The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord and even the animals will not injure one another (Isaiah 65:25).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Isaiah 63 & 64

The Winepress

Isaiah 63:2-3 describe how the Savior treaded the winepress alone. This seems to have several meanings. The obvious meaning is that the Savior suffered in Gethsemane alone. He bled from every pore (D&C 19:18). He did the work that no one else could do.

The other meaning seems to encapsulate the entire mission of the Savior. When he comes to Earth again, his robes will be red that he comes back in his wrath to carry out vengeance on the wicked. This is what Isaiah 63:2-3 seems to be referring to as well.

Many other scriptures reference the Savior treading the winepress alone, thus staining his garments red.

D&C 76:107
Revelation 14:15-20
Revelation 19:15

D&C 88:106
D&C 133:46-53
Genesis 49:11-12

Neal A. Maxwell talks a lot about Jesus treading the winepress alone.

Yet in His later description of His agonies, Jesus does not speak of those things. Instead, after the Atonement, there is no mention about His being spat upon, struck, or proffered vinegar and gall. Instead, Christ confides in us His chief anxiety, namely, that He “would that [He] might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (D&C 19:18)—especially desiring not to get partway through the Atonement and then pull back. Mercifully for all of us, He “finished [His] preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:19). Jesus partook of history’s bitterest cup without becoming bitter! Significantly, when He comes again in majesty and power, He will cite His aloneness, saying, “I have trodden the wine-press alone” (D&C 133:50).

When Jesus comes in overwhelming majesty and power, in at least one of His appearances He will come in red attire, reminding us that He shed His blood to atone for our sins (see D&C 133:48; Isa. 63:1). His voice will be heard to declare, again, how alone He once was: “I have trodden the wine-press alone … and none were with me” (D&C 133:50). (Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, Apr 1997, 7)

Another fundamental scripture describes Jesus’ having trodden the winepress of the “fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God” (D&C 88:106; see also D&C 76:107; D&C 133:50). Others can and should encourage, commend, pray, and comfort, but the lifting and carrying of our individual crosses remains ours to do. Given the “fierceness” Christ endured for us, we cannot expect a discipleship of unruffled easiness. As we seek forgiveness, for example, repentance can be a rough-hewn regimen to bear. By the way, let us not, as some do, mistake the chips we have placed on our own shoulders for crosses!

Moreover, Jesus not only took upon Him our sins to atone for them, but also our sicknesses and aching griefs (see Alma 7:11–12; Matt. 8:17). Hence, He knows personally all that we pass through and how to extend His perfect mercy—as well as how to succor us. His agony was all the more astonishing in that He trod “the wine-press alone” (D&C 133:50). (Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Plow in Hope’,” Ensign, May 2001, 59)

At that Second Coming, Jesus will not mention His having endured the crown of thorns, the awful scourging, the crucifixion, the vinegar and gall. He will, however, cite His awful aloneness: “And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, … and none were with me” (D&C 133:50; see also Isa. 63:3). (Neal A. Maxwell, “Testifying of the Great and Glorious Atonement,” Ensign, Oct 2001, 10)

Furthermore, even after treading the winepress alone (see D&C 76:107), which ended in His stunning, personal triumph and in the greatest victory ever—majestic Jesus meekly declared, “Glory be to the Father”! (D&C 19:19.) This should not surprise us. In the premortal world, Jesus meekly volunteered to be our Savior, saying, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2.) Jesus was true to His word. (Neal A. Maxwell, “Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,” Ensign, May 1989, 62)

Praying for the Second Coming

Isaiah 64:1 says, "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that would wouldest come down." The days preceding the Second Coming of Christ will become so wicked and despairing that people will pray for the return of the Savoir. He will be the only one who can right all the wrongs we have done.

For further reading, read Dallin H. Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign, May 2004, 7.

Eye Hath Not Seen …

Isaiah 64:4 says, "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the hear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him."

A few other scriptures have similar phrasing.

1 Corinthians 2:9
D&C 133:45
3 Nephi 17:16