Sunday, October 24, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #40 "Enlarge the Place of Thy Tent"

Isaiah 54-56; 63-65

CHAPTER 54

"Isaiah 54 and 55 are beautiful chapters of encouragement; chapter 54 portrays the glory of Zion in the last days, and chapter 55 extends an invitation to all people to partake of the gospel.  Building upon the prophecy of the Messiah (chapter 53), these two chapters promise special blessings from the Savior's mission...

"[Chapters 54-58 lay] a foundation for the following eight chapters concerning the great blessings of a Zion society, a millenial reign, and a new heaven and new earth in the last days (chapters 59-66)"  (Victore Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer and Poet, p. 458).

This chapter was quoted by Christ to the Nephites (3 Ne. 22).

v. 1 The places and peoples that were previously unfruitful in the gospel will produce a great harvest:  "More are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife." 

v. 2-3 "In the last days, or the time in which we now live, the Lord will bring many people to Zion.  They will be so many that they cannot all fit in one place.  Rather than there being only one land of Zion, she will be established in many stakes" (Parry, et.al, p. 479).  The stakes will spread all over the earth, "on the right hand and on the left," and cities that previously had no Latter-day Saints ("the desolate cities") will now be inhabited with them.

v.4-10 Although the House of Israel suffered a temporary "widowhood," or being abandoned by the Lord because of their sins, the Lord is still her "husband" and will not permanently forsake her.  It is just as with the flood at the time of Noah: the Lord promised he would never drown the earth again, and he did not.  So also he has promised that he will not be angry with the House of Israel forever, and he will not.  His love and "the covenant of his peace" are more solid than the very mountains.

v.11-14  Despite the troubles the people have been through, partly because of their wickedness, the Lord will prepare an astonishingly beautiful city for them, in which their children can be taught of the Lord--"taught by the Lord" and/or "taught about the Lord."  (New Revised Standard Version and New International Version both translate this as "taught by the Lord.")  The result of this teaching is great peace for the children.

v.14-17 Evil people will still conspire, but it will not affect those who are near the Lord, who fall under his protection.  The Lord is in total control.

v. 17  President Ezra Taft Benson carried this verse in his wallet (Ensign, July 1994, p. 32).

CHAPTER 55

According to Victor Ludlow (p. 463), this chapter is in chiastic form.  (For more on chiasm, see Should I Not Spare Ninevah? in a previous entry.)

v. 1-3 Invites all to receive the everlasting gospel.
          v. 4-5 Promises help.
                    v. 6-7 Requests a turning back to the Lord.
                               v. 8 States that God's plans and ways are not
                               man's plans and ways.
                                         v. 9 Testifies that the heavens (spiritual
                                         plans) are above the earth (mortal
                                         designs).
                              v. 9 States again that God's plans and ways are
                              not like man's.
                    v.10-11 Declares that some things have already returned
                    back to God.
          v. 12 Promises that we can be led back to God's presence.
v. 13 Invites us to become God's everlasting sign.

CHAPTER 56

v. 1-2 Blessings to those who are obedient to the Lord.
v. 3-8 This is a beautiful passage about how the Lord desires to gather "the outcasts of Israel".  Those who have previously been excluded from the church, eunuchs (castrated slaves) and strangers (foreigners or Gentiles) (see Deut. 23:1-3) are now welcomed and afforded every privilege, even temple privileges, if they will keep the Sabbath and "take hold" of their covenants. Much more detail is available about keeping the Sabbath in chapter 58.
v. 5-8 "Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people," the Lord says.  Note the many, many references to temples in this passage:  "mine house," "within my walls," "a place (sometimes translated 'hand') and a name better than of sons and daughters," "an everlasting name," "my holy mountain," "my house of prayer," "burnt offerings and sacrifices," and "mine altar."  (If you have access to pictures of temples, or can print them off the Internet (see link later in this entry), each time one of these temple phrases is read in the passage, post a picture of one of our latter-day temples, so that the board will be covered with pictures of 8 or 10 temples as you read this verse.  If you plan to do the "Stakes of Zion ABCs" game, you may want to post the pictures of the temples refered to in the game.)
v. 9-12 "A short rebuke to the wicked of the time" (footnote 9a).

CHAPTER 63

v. 1 A question is asked:  "Who is this that cometh from Edom [symbolic of the wicked nations, according to Harper-Collins Study Bible], with dyed garments from Bozrah [a major city of Edom, also according to Harper-Collins]? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?"  Who is the conquering hero?  Jesus Christ gives the answer:  "I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save."
v. 2 A second question is asked:  "[Why] art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?"  There is something very striking, very unnatural, about his clothing that draws the attention of the questioner.
v. 3-6 Christ answers again: "I have trodden the winepress alone..their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment."  It is the symbol of the great suffering of the Atonement.  Not coincidentally, geth means "garden" and "semane" means "a press for liquids" (Victor Ludlow, p. 514).
v. 4 Throughout the book of Isaiah, alternating prophecies are found regarding Jehovah's anger towards the wicked (which includes all of us at some time or another), and his mercy towards them when they repent.  In this verse, "The phrases 'day of vengeance' and 'year of redemption' show the ratio of the Lord's vegeance and redemption:  he will execute vengeance for only a day, but his redemption lasts for a year.  In other words, his punishments will be temporary, but his blessings permanent" (Victor Ludlow, p. 519).

The rest of the chapter is a prayer of praise for the Lord.  Some beautiful passages lie here.

v. 9 "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried tham all the days of old.
v. 10 The people rebelled, however, and offended the Spirit, so that he had no choice but to be at enmity with them.
v. 11-13 Note the footnotes which greatly clarify who is speaking and about what.  The people remembered the previous great works of the Lord.
v. 14 As a result of their repentance, the Spirit of the Lord brought rest to them (see footnote 14c), just as a cow naturally heads into the furtile lands of the valley (see footnote 14a).
v. 15-19 The people offer a prayer to the Lord to "look down from heaven" upon them.  Even if they were not connected to their great fathers, Abraham and Israel, they know that God is their Father, and he will care for them forever and ask him to help them regain their inheritance from their enemies.  (Note footnote 17a.)

CHAPTER 64

v. 1-4 The prayer continues, glorifying God and his mighty works, which are beyond the understanding of men. 
v. 5-7 The people, admittedly, have sinned and departed from the Lord's ways.
v. 8 But now they acknowledge that they are nothing more than clay in the hands of the potter.  They are willing to let him shape their lives.
v. 9-12 They acknowledge that they have abandoned Zion and the temple, but they hope the Lord will be merciful to them.

CHAPTER 65

Here is the answer to the prayer.
v. 1-5 The Lord has "spread out [his] hands all the day unto a rebellious people."  They continue in their idolatrous ways, and they reject the Lord, saying they are holier than he is.  Sacrificing in groves of trees was an idolatrous practice.  Brick altars were idolatrous altars.  (The Lord instructed his people to sacrifice on altars of unhewn stone (Exo. 34:1-3).  Trying to communicate with ghosts, and eating pork were also against the commandments.
v. 6-10 So the Lord must mete out judgment.  He will not destroy them all.  A few people shall be "inheritors of [his] mountains (temples)."  Places that were previously troubled (Sharon, the valley of Achor) will now be peaceful pastures.
v. 11-12 The Lord again rebukes the wicked, those that forget "my holy mountain," that feed the idols of fortune and fate (see footnotes 11a and 11b).
v.13-15 Blessings will be given to the righteous, while the wicked will suffer.
v. 16 The sealing power will be available (see footnotes 16a and 16b).
v. 17-25 There will be a new heaven and earth, filled with joy.  No infants will live a life of only days, but will completely fill the life of an old man.  Fairness and justice will reign; people will be blessed in proportion to what they have done.  The Lord will answer their prayers before they are even spoken.  There will be no more predators or carnivores on the earth, but all animals shall live in peace with each other.  "There shall not [anything] hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain," suggesting that the entire earth will be as a temple, and all people will dwell in the presence of the Lord.

Here is a chiasm identified in Victor Ludlow's book, p. 528:

v. 8 "Thus saith the Lord...I may not destroy them all" because
some good is still present.
     v. 9-10 Servants and animals dwell in the land.
          v. 11 The wicked warned
               v. 12 War
                    v. 13 The righteous vs. the wicked
                         v. 14 Shouting, crying, howling
                              v. 15 Cursing
                                   v. 16 Former troubles forgotten
                                        v. 17 The Lord will create a  new
                                        heaven and earth
                                   v. 17 Former things not remembered
                              v. 18 Blessing
                         v. 19 Rejoicing, no weeping and wailing
                    v. 20 JST The innocent vs. the sinners
               v. 21 Peace
          v. 22 Chosen ones blessed
     v. 23-25 People and animals at peace on the earth
v. 26 Every being on the earth will do only good, "saith the Lord."

"President Joseph Fielding Smith repeatedly stressed that this chapter of Isaiah does not refer to a celestialized earth.  Instead, the new heavens and earth prophesied by Isaiah will come at the beginning of the Millennium." (Ludlow, p. 529. He gives four references.)

"Verse 20 shows that two characteristics of all people during the Millennium will be a long life and the retention of agency and the capacity to sin."  Most people, in this righteous environment, would choose to come to Christ, but agency still exists.  Sinners (meaning those who sin and do not repent--no one will be perfect yet) living to be 100 years old will be cursed because they will not enjoy the post-earthly period of spirit prison in which to pay for their sins, but will have to suffer for them on the earth before their own resurrections (Ludlow, p. 531).

Isaiah 65 and 66 are in striking contrast to Isaiah 1 and 2, indicating the highly structured form of Isaiah.

Stakes of Zion ABCs
Here is a fun little game to play to emphasize the spread of the Church, and the growth still to come as the gathering of Israel takes place.  I have chosen some countries that were interesting to me, but if you would like to choose others (for example, those in which you have ward members serving missions, or those in which class members have ancestry or special interest), go to cumorah.com, choose "International LDS Database," and then "LDS Country Database."  Click on your country or type it into the "search" bar, and then scroll down through the country's article until you find "Official LDS Statistics."  Or look down below in the first comment where reader CarlH has left a link to the statistics on the Church's website.)


For large classes:  Print up the list of countries, cut them apart, and pass them out among class members.  Have them simply stand up and read them in alphabetical order.


For smaller classes:  Print up the list of countries and keep it to yourself.  Say the letter of the alphabet and have the class members guess which country is on your list.  Toss a small treat to the student who guesses the country.  If no one guesses it within 10 seconds, give the name.  Then have the class members guess how many saints might be in that country.  The class member who guesses the closest gets a small treat.  Tell them the real number, as well as how many congregations, and how many missions and temples are in the country.  Keep the game moving fast.


For competitive classes:  Divide the class into two teams, and play as above, taking turns between the classes, and giving a point to the team who guesses each item correctly.


If you would like to print up photographs of the temples included, you can find them at lds.org.  As you read each country's data, you can have them guess which temple pictured is in that country, if you posted the pictures earlier while reading through Isiaah 56:5-8.  If not, you can post them now as they are mentioned.


A--Albania:  1,730 saints in 10 congregations, 1 mission
B--Botswana:  1,302 saints in 4 congregations
C--Cuba:  50 saints
D--Domican Republic:  98,268 saints in 183 congregations, 3 missions, 1 temple
E--Egypt:  less than 100 saints in 1 branch
F--Fiji:  14,120 saints in 44 congregations, 1 mission, 1 temple
G--Guatemala:  200,537 saints in 428 congregations, 4 missions, 1 temple
H--Hong Kong:  22,939 saints in 42 congregations, 1 mission, 1 temple
I--India:  1,752 saints in 26 congregations, 1 mission
J--Japan:  122,422 saints in 294 congregations, 7 missions, 2 temples
K--Kazakhstan:  125 members in 1 congregation
L--Lebanon:  139 members in 1 congregation
M--Malaysia:  4,626 saints in 19 congregations
N--New Zealand:  96,027 saints in 201 congregations, 2 missions, 1 temple
O--Oman:  no Latter-day Saints
P--Pakistan:  200 saints in 4 congregations
R--Russia:  15,615 saints in 102 congregations, 8 missions
S--South Korea:  80,420 saints in 143 congregations, 4 missions, 1 temple
T--Taiwan:  47,034 saints in 97 congregations, 3 missions, 1 temple
U--Ukraine:  10,394 saints in 49 congregations, 2 missions, 1 temple
V--Vietnam:  100 saints in 2 congregations
W--Western Sahara:  no Latter-day Saints
Y--Yemen:  no Latter-day Saints
Z--Zimbabwe:  16,969 saints in 45 congregations, 1 mission

CONCLUSION

Isaiah 60 offers a glorious call to missionary work, to hasten the coming of the Lord.

"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.  For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.  And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.  (These verses are also found in the Messiah oratorio.)  (Isaiah 60:1-3)

How many of us have seen the Light of Christ manifest in the face of another?  Those who are seeking the truth often recognize a light about the members of the Church, and they are drawn to it.

People of other faiths are also attracted to the light of the temples.  "For years now, they've been flocking to the Freiberg Germany Temple, the LDS Church milestone that 25 years ago became the first Mormon temple operating inside the Iron Curtain. They come to stroll the walkways in solitude or sit on the outside benches to ponder and pray. They gather on the lawns for bridal photos and wedding-party snapshots. They call it 'our temple' — one leader recently boasted that 'Freiberg has become world-famous because of the temple.' Oh, and 'they' are the non-Mormons living in and around Freiberg. And the leader? The current mayor of Freiberg, who joined past and present civic dignitaries and local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a silver-anniversary celebration..."  (Deseret News, Sept. 6, 2010)

"Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.

"Then thou shalt see, and [be radiant], and thine heart shall [reverence the Lord], and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea [great multitudes] shall be converted unto thee, the [wealth] of the Gentiles shall come unto thee...

"And the sons of strangers [converts] shall build up thy walls [the city of Zion, and the temples], and their kings shall minister unto thee...Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought...

"The glory of Lebanon [the most beautiful building materials available] shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box [tree] together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary [the temple], and I will make the place of my feet [the temple] glorious...

"Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the [earth] forever, the branch of my planting, the word of my hands, that I may be glorified."  (Isaiah 60:4-5, 10-13, 21)

End class with a challenge for each class member to focus on what he could do to participate in this joyous expansion of missionary work and temple-building, and to increase the Light of Christ in his own countenance that it may be recognized by those seeking it.

3 comments:

CarlH said...

Nancy,

Very much enjoyed the quote from the Deseret News article on the Freiberg, Germany temple--that was an article I had missed. Your link to the full story is broken, however. For those who might be interested, here is the link:

Non-Mormons call Freiberg Germany temple their own

There is also an official source for county-by-country statistics at the Church's "Newsroom" pages.

Thanks for posting your insights and work on these lessons. I look forward to reading each installment. They've helped my own study and preparations immensely.

Nancy W. Jensen said...

Thanks so much, Carl. I have hopefully fixed that link, using yours.

And thanks for the positive feedback. It keeps me going. I hope I can come up with something useful on Jeremiah next week...

lee woo said...
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