Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #39 "How Beautiful Upon the Mountains"

Isaiah 50-53

These chapters are massive in scope and depth and importance, so I have not designed a specific lesson plan.  First I will just give notes from my sources on these particular scriptures.  Then I will share some lesson ideas for each of the two major points of these chapters, from which you can choose (with the Spirit) how to arrange your lesson.


This chapter is the same as 2 Nephi 7, and Jacob gives wonderful commentary on it in 2 Nephi 9.  It begins with rhetorical questions about who has abandoned who?  It is not the Lord who has left the House of Israel, but the reverse.

vs. 4-9 are a "servant song," and the servant is Jesus Christ (Parry, p. 441).  It's strange to read Jesus Christ saying that "the Lord God" has done all these things for him, but if you look closely at the King James Version, you can see that every time "Lord" comes up in these verses, it is with a capital "L" and lower case "ord."  In the King James Version, Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ, is written as Lord with all four letters capitalized, such as in verse 10.  (See a previous entry for the reason why.)  So we can assume that Jesus Christ is calling his Father, "Lord God," with Lord meaning the sovereign leader.

v. 7  "I set my face like a flint."  Bruce R. McConkie wrote, "The course of his life was toward the cross and he was steadfast and immovable in his determination to follow this very course" (quoted in Parry, p. 441).

v. 8  "Who will contend with me?  Let us stand together."  In ancient civil court, the opponents stood together in front of the judge.  In criminal court, the accuser personally charged the defendant (Parry, p. 445)

v. 10 "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?"  It is a rhetorical question.  The obvious answer to the reader is "no one; it is impossible."  The words "Let him trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon his God" are not found in the Book of Mormon account.

v. 11 Those who "kindle a fire" or "compass themselves about with sparks" are those who are living by their own light, and not by the light of Christ. 


This prophecy is also found in 2 Nephi 8:1-25, and includes the first two verses of Chapter 52.  The meaning is fairly straightforward, so I didn't add any notes here.


This chapter is highly significant.  It has been quoted by Jacob, Abiniadi, Jesus Christ, and Moroni in the Book of Mormon (for examples, see 2 Ne. 8:24-25; Mosiah 12:20-25; 3 Ne. 20:36-37; and Moro. 10:31), and in the D&C (for example, D&C 113: 7-10).  Paul also quoted from it (for example, 2 Cor. 6:17). Victor Ludlow says John the Revelator did as well, but I haven't found it myself (Ludlow, p. 432, 438).

Note that prophetic future tense (also called prophetic perfect tense) is used in this chapter, meaning that the time sequence is all mixed up in the grammar: sometimes the writer is speaking using past tense, sometimes he uses future tense, sometimes he uses present tense.  This is common among prophetic writings.  It shows the great faith and vision of the prophet, and illustrates the fact that the Lord operates outside of time.  All things are present to him, so our literary tools of past, present, and future tense are not relevant, and are therefore interchangeable.

v. 1-3 were quoted by Christ to the Nephites in 3 Ne. 20:36-38.

v. 7 was quoted by Christ to the Nephites in 3 Ne. 20:40.

v. 10 In 3 Ne. 20:35 (Christ's quote of this verse to the Nephites) it says "Father" for both "Lord" and "God," and adds the phrase, "and the Father and I are one."

v. 11-15 were quoted by Christ to the Nephites in 3 Ne. 20:41-45.

v. 13-15 Victor Ludlow thinks this servant is Joseph Smith, rather than Jesus Christ, since's Christ's commentary on the prophecy in 3 Ne. 21:7-11 refers to the restoration and Joseph Smith.  I don't know whether I agree, but it's an interesting thought.


This entire chapter is another "servant song" of Jesus Christ. 

v. 1 The writer is amazed at how few have listened to the prophets testify of Christ!

v. 2 "For he [Jesus Christ] shall grow up before him [Heavenly Father]."

v. 3-6 are all used as lyrics for Handel's Messiah.  (See previous entry.)

v. 4  This prophecy of Christ was quoted by Matthew, one of 14 quotes he included in his gospel to convince the Jews that Jesus Christ was the Jehovah of the Old Testament.  (See Matt. 8:17)

v. 5 "Bruised" can be translated as "crushed."  (See Gen. 3:15 footnote.)

v. 10 "It pleased the Lord" means it was God's will; it was a part of God's plan.

v. 11 "...by his knowledge" means through the knowledge of him (see Hosea 4:1; 6:6)


Certainly, the greatest message of these chapters of Isaiah is the central gospel message, that of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Elder Bruce C. Hafen wrote one of the best short treatises on this topic, which makes it highly personal and applicable to all, and which dispels many misunderstandings about the Atonement.  He writes, "It is unfortunate when we convey incorrect ideas to [those not of our faith]; but it is worse when we, by our limited doctrinal understanding, deny ourselves the reassurance and guidance we may desperately need at pivotal moments in our lives."  This article, called "Beauty for Ashes," and published in the April 1990 Ensign, can be found at this link. 

If you want to focus on the Atonement for those lesson, you could...
  • teach the wonderful concepts contained in Elder Hafen's article. 
  • open or close the lesson with a special musical number, if there is vocal talent in your ward, using any of the beautiful sacrament hymns. 
  • play a recording of the Tabernacle Choir singing a hymn about Christ. 
  • ask 2 or 3 class members, several days ahead of time, if they would be willing to comment on the role of the Atonement in their lives.  (Be very prayerful in your choice of speakers, and be very specific in the time limit you give them.) 
  • choose any of the short stories in the backs of previous editions of the Ensign, such as in the "Latter-day Saint Voices" section, or the "Mormon Journal" section in the older Ensigns, and ask particular class members to share those stories and add their own testimony or comments.


The title of this lesson refers to the work of spreading the gospel:  "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace" (Isa. 52:7). 

Abinidi commented on this scripture, asking who were the children of Christ:  "Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed. And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth! And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet!

"And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!

"And behold, I say unto you, this is not all. For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people; For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished.  (Mosiah 15:13-19)

If you choose to focus on the importance of sharing the gospel of the Atonement with others as the topic of your lesson, you could...
  • open or close the lesson with a musical number such as "O, That I Were an Angel," sung by an individual, or a hymn such as "Go Forth With Faith," sung by the class (particularly if there is a piano in your room and access to hymnbooks). 
  • ask 1 or 2 class members who are converts to share their conversion stories, and 1 or 2 class members who are returned missionaries or exemplary member missionaries to share their missionary stories. 
  • show all or part of the church video "Called to Serve" (21 minutes long).
  • select a segment on a particular country meaningful to you or to your ward members (for example, the country in which a ward member is presently serving a mission) from the church video "An Ensign to the Nations." 


Parry, Parry, and Peterson, Understanding Isaiah.
Victor Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Poet, and Seer.

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