Thursday, October 28, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #41 "I Have Made Thee This Iron Pillar"

Jeremiah 1-2, 15, 20, 36-38


Biblical historian Alex Motyer writes, "In [Jeremiah] we meet a man beset by a sense of inadequacy, holding on with determined fidelity to a God who frequently baffled him, and acting with a courage always at odds with his personal insecurities.  We could well call him the most human of the prophets, the most unlikely prophet, too--and therefore the prophet whose example speaks most movingly to us who are cast in the same mold" (Motyer, p. 121).

The first thing the Lord revealed to Jeremiah was the truth about Jeremiah himself: that he was foreordained, that his nature was divine, that, contrary to his personal belief about himself, he was prepared for his mission in life (1:4-5).  Jeremiah's opinion of himself was vastly inferior to the Lord's opinion of him.  Jeremiah cried, "Ah, Lord God!  I am completely incompetent" (1:6).  And the Lord answered, "What you are or what you can do are irrelevant: all that matters is that you are with me" (1:7-10). Over and over again, Jeremiah obeyed the constant injunction of the Lord to all of us to "fear not," when his natural inclination was terror.  By continually obeying the Lord's frightful commands, Jeremiah learned to live according to the truth about himself as revealed by God, rather than by his own faulty and inferior "self-esteem," thus successfully fulfilling the mighty role God intended for him. 

Each of us who has sought a patriarchal blessing has received a "call" similar to Jeremiah's, always with a revelation from the Lord telling us the truth about ourselves and revealing the mission of our life, often including details about our pre-earth life or foreordination and the divinity of our nature.  If we can start out our adult life, chapter 1, verse 1, with this "call," and if we can trust in the Lord's opinion of us, rather than our own flimsy self-esteem, we can be prepared to meet the overwhelming challenges of our mission admirably, as did Jeremiah.  (If you have class members who need more information about patriarchal blessings, this may be a great place to address the topic.  Here is a link to information about patriarchal blessings on the Church's website.)


Notice how the reading assignment for this lesson jumps drastically through the book in order to give a logical sequence for study?  The book of Jeremiah is confusing.  First off, the dates are all jumbled up.  Jeremiah's address at the temple in chapter 7 can be dated to 608 BC.  Chapter 21 occurs in 589-588 BC.  Chapter 25 fits in 605 BC.  Chapter 32 occurs in 587 BC.  Chapter 31 goes back to the beginning at 608 BC.  "The book is not arranged chronologically, and this sense of an anthology rather than an orderly presentation is enhanced by the varieties of literary genre and the unpredictible way in which they occur"  (Motyer, p. 122).  There are poetical passages, biographical passages, and prose discourses, all jumbled up every which way.  Why?  Motyer writes, "It is not permissible to [explain the apparent disorder] by assuming that ancient editors were less than devoutly serious and seriously competent in what they did.  The books of the prophets as they have come to us give enough evidence of carefully structured composition to make it appropriate to attempt [to make sense also of Jeremiah]" (Motyer, p. 123).

Motyer has taken a great effort to make a basic outline of the book of Jeremiah, "a sort of stepping stone pathway through the book [following] the thread of thought."  Much more detail is available in Motyer's book than I can include here (Motyer, p. 123-125).  And, of course, all the themes intertwine among and around each other, popping up here and there, but this list identifies general themes that follow a logical sequence and order.
  • Prologue: Jeremiah's Call. 1:1-19
  • Israel's Unfaithfulness. 2:1-6:30
  • Misunderstood Privileges. 7:1-13:27
  • Inescapable Judgment. 14:1-20:18
  • The Failure and Triumph of the Covenant. 21:1-24:10
  • Conclusion: The Course and Governing Principle of History (the efficacy of the Lord's word, and the justice of the Lord's judgment). 25:1-38
  • The Word of Consolation.  26:1-44:30
    • 1.Jeremiah Authenticated.  26:1-29:32
    • 2.The Book of Consolation. 30:1-33:26
    • 3.Hope Deferred. 34:1-44:30 
  • Jeremiah: A Prophet to the Nations. 45:1-51:64
  • Postscript. 52:1-34

The Lord promised Jeremiah that he would have great trials, but that he would always prevail.  "I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land...They shall fight against thee: but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee" (1:18-19, and restated in 15:20). 

Jeremiah obeyed all the commands of the Lord, many of them frightful, almost suicidal.  And what was his reward?  "He had to face continuous opposition and insult from the priests, the mob, his townsmen..., the frivolous and cruel, the king, and the army.  After the fall of Jerusalem the Jews who escaped into Egypt took Jeremiah with them as a kind of fetish and at last, according to tradition, stoned him to death."  (Bible Dictionary, p. 711)  He was cast into a dungeon full of muck, so much that he sank into it and nearly died.  The people did not listen to his words, but to those of the false prophets who promised the Lord would save them as the covenant people no matter what they did.  Jeremiah might not be blamed if he had said, "Excuse me?  I'm a little confused here:  I thought the Lord said I would be impervious to danger.  I thought he said I would win, or at the very least, I would be saved."  And in some ways, he did ask questions like that (see 15:18 and 20:7-8).  But each time Jeremiah recognized the fulfillment of the promise:  it was a different kind of deliverance, an eternal deliverance.

In chapter 1, Jeremiah wrote, "Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth.  And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.  See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant" (1:9-10).  The Lord revealed the frightful things that Jeremiah was to prophesy.  (In this reading assignment, 1:11-2:37, and then 15:1-14.)  As might be predicted, the prophecies did not go over well with the wicked people, and Jeremiah was persecuted severely.  Despite a great desire to save himself from the constant assault of the people, he could not stop preaching.  "Then I said, I will not make mention of [the Lord], nor speak any more in his name.  But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing [resisting], and I could not [stop prophesying]" (20:9).

And yet, while complaining of this persecution, he gloried in the revelation, and in the salvation of Jehovah:  "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts" (15:16).  This was literal:  Jeremiah's name means "Jehovah will exalt," (Tefan). 

Jeremiah's lamentations (as in 20:14-18, as well as in the paragraph above) are directly juxtaposed with his prayers or songs of praise (as in 20:11-13).  Everything in the scriptures is there for a reason.  What do we learn from this?  Perhaps we expect a prophet of God to submit willingly all the time, and to never despair, even for a moment.  But maybe it is a greater lesson to observe that, although Jeremiah understandably complained, he always, always carried on!  Never did he give up!  His desire to do the Lord's will repeatedly trumped his wish for physical and social comfort.  Do we have "fire in our bones"?  Where do we find our greater drive?  For ease, or for truth?  For our will, or for God's will?  The answer to this question will determine whether we are also "Jeremiahs": people whom "Jehovah will exalt".

v. 1 Even if the great prophets Moses and Samuel were to petition the Lord in behalf of the present Israelites, the Lord will still destroy them.
v. 2 If they ask Jeremiah where they should go, he can simply reply, "Those destined for disease, go to disease; those destined for war, go to war; those destined for starvation, starve; those destined for captivity, go to captivity."  (They have given up the option of repentance.)
v. 3 The Lord will send four kinds of destroyers to do the job.  The number four refers to the temporal creations of God. 
  • On the fourth day, the creation of the earth was complete, with only man and beasts remaining to fill it. 
  • There are four elements on the earth: earth, air, fire, water. 
  • There are four regions of the earth: north, south, east, west. 
  • There are four seasons on the earth: spring, summer, autumn, winter. 
  • In addition, there are four types of animals on the earth, and this may match the symbolism of the four destroyers here: man (the sword), domesticated animals (the dog?), wild animals (the beasts), and birds (the fowls).  If that is the case, the message here is that the enemies will be of all types, from everywhere, and will do the job completely.  Another idea, from Harper-Collins Study Bible, is that the sword will kill, the dogs will drag away to captivity (NIV translation puts "drag" where the KJV says "tear"), and the birds and animals will devour and destroy from above and beneath.
v. 4 The reason for this fury from God is the evil that was done under Manasseh's rule.
v. 5 When Jerusalem is gone, there won't even be anyone left to care about it or mourn for it.
v.6 "I am weary with repenting" is translated in the NIV as "I am weary of relenting."  The Lord is tired of exercising mercy and forbearance in case the Israelites will repent, when they never do repent.
v. 7 "Winnowing is an agricultural method developed by ancient cultures for separating grain from chaff. It is also used to remove weevils or other pests from stored grain...In its simplest form it involves throwing the mixture into the air so that the wind blows away the lighter chaff, while the heavier grains fall back down for recovery. Techniques included using a winnowing fan (a shaped basket shaken to raise the chaff) or using a tool (a winnowing fork or shovel) on a pile of harvested grain" (Wikipedia entry for "winnowing.")

(This painting of winnowing by fan, by Millet, appears in Wikipedia.)

v.8-9 "The mother of young men" would have the best position in society for a female.  The mother with seven young men would be the greatest of all, since seven symbolizes perfection and completion--when the number seven appears, it just doesn't get any better than that.  She has died prematurely ("given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day").
v. 10 This is a brief complaint by Jeremiah, that although he has done nothing to hurt anyone ("I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury"), everyone despises him.
v. 11 The NIV translation says "The Lord said: Surely I have intervened in your life for good."  Harper-Collins comments, "God assumes responsibility for the contempt and persecution of the prophet, yet intervenes in the prophet's life for good."
v. 12 This persecution strengthens the prophet's character, enabling him to endure the disaster from the north (Harper-Collins).
v. 13-14 The enemies of the Israelites will get all of their treasure, and will carry them into a foreign land.
v. 15-16 Jeremiah begins his supplication to the Lord for mercy, reminding the Lord that he has done His will and suffered for it. 
v. 17 He did not join the merrymakers.  Under the Lord's direction, and with the message of the Lord burning inside him, he stood alone.
v. 18 As far as Jeremiah can see at this point, the Lord is not fulfilling his role in Jeremiah's life as the "fountain of living waters," but as "a deceitful brook" (NIV) or "waters that fail."  Jeremiah feels as one who travels in the wilderness, joyfully sees a creek bed, and then is bitterly disappointed to find it dry (Harper-Collins).  Like many of us in the midst of trial, Jeremiah wonders where the promised peace is.
v. 19 The Lord gently calls upon Jeremiah to repent, and he will be able to once again "stand before" the Lord, like a messenger who stands before the king and awaits the word.  What has Jeremiah done to deserve this rebuke?  In v. 17 he stated that he had never joined the evildoers.  But the sin can be found in v. 18, one that is common to all of us: Jeremiah lost faith and despaired.  It's understandable, but it is still a sin.  If he turns back, and chooses the "precious" word of the Lord, and leaves the "vile" feelings of hopelessness, he will once again be "as my mouth"--the prophet of the Lord.  A prophet cannot function without faith!  Jeremiah is to wait for the Israelites to change and come to him (even if it never happens); he is not to change and become faithless and lack eternal perspective like them.
v. 20-21 The original promise of his prophetic mission is reiterated:  The Lord will make him strong enough to endure, and win the eternal conflict.  Jeremiah will be delivered.


Jeremiah was a contemporary of the prophets Habakuk, Obadiah, Nahum, and Lehi.  Here is a link to a very informative Ensign article, "Jerusalem at the Time of Lehi and Jeremiah", by Keith Meservy (Jan. 1988).


Alex Motyer, The Story of the Old Testament
Elder Jean A. Tefan, "Jeremiah: As Potter's Clay," Ensign, October 2002 for the meaning of the number 4

Note:  NIV stands for New International Version of the Bible
           KJV stands for King James Version of the Bible

Sunday, October 24, 2010

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

Isaiah 54-56; 63-65


"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,, 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).


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
                              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.


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).


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.)


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.


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, 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  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


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.

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 " 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.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #38 "Beside Me There is No Savior"

Isaiah 40-49

(If you have access to a recording of the Messiah, by Handel, play "Comfort Ye" as a prelude to the lesson.  It is about 3 minutes long.  You can buy individual mp3 tracks from the Messiah at Amazon for 99 cents each.  If you want to do the suggested conclusion activity, pass out hymnbooks to class members, or print up copies of the words to verses 3 through 5 of "How Firm a Foundation.")


Several of the beautiful verses from our lesson this week have been put to music.  The first three verses are the first recitative in Handel's Messiah, which we just listened to.  It is followed by another beautiful number written to the words of verses 4 and 5, "The Voice of Him That Crieth in the Wilderness."  Later in the oratorio, verse 11 can be heard, "He Shall Feed His Flock."  The most wonderful way to study this lesson might be to just sit down and listen to the Messiah together, but instead we will study a bit about the composer of this magnificent music of worship, because it is a perfect complement to the lesson topic.


George Frederick Handel was born in Germany in 1685, and was a contemporary of the other great religious composer, Johann Sebastian Bach.  They lived very near each other, but never managed to meet.  Handel was a brilliant composer, but he struggled financially.  He was perhaps too generous with his money, and not quite thrifty enough.  He was a modest man, and did not think himself a great talent.  A friend commented to Handel on how rotten the music was at a concert he had recently heard, not knowing it was Handel's music, and Handel, unoffended, replied, "You are right, sir; it is pretty poor stuff.  I thought so myself when I wrote it" (Kavanaugh, p. 31). 

Handel was not a perfect man, but he was a good man.  He "was reputed to swear in several languages when moved to wrath (usually by singers).  At the same time, he was equally quick to admit his own fault and apologize."  His morals were above reproach.  One friend, Sir John Hawkins wrote that Handel "throughout his life manifested a deep sense of religion.  In conversation he would frequently declare the pleasure he felt in setting the Scriptures to music, and how contemplating the many sublime passages in the Psalms had contributed to his edification" (p. 31-32).

Handel liked to compose music that had a religious text, for performance in secular theaters.  Possibly, being a German Lutheran living in Church of England territory (he spent most of his life in London), he liked the idea of non-denominational musical performances.  He wrote a drama called Esther and another called Israel in Egypt, which were both performed in the theater rather than the cathedral.  This really rubbed a lot of church leaders the wrong way.  The Church of England openly criticized him for this.  Even after the Messiah was well-known, John Newton, the composer of "Amazing Grace," preached every Sunday for over a year against its being performed publicly, rather than solely in church (p. 33).  Had it been performed only in church, however, its influence would not have been as great, as we will soon see.

Handel donated freely to charities, even when he himself was facing financial ruin.  He was a relentless optimist, and a scriptorian.  (Perhaps those two traits often go together.)  He was a bachelor with no family to support, yet he struggled to make enough money to support himself.  At one point in his life, the spring of 1741, at the age of 56, he was "swimming in debt [and] it seemed certain he would land in debtor's prison" (p. 29).

Then two providential things happened concurrently that changed the course of religious music forever, as well as the lives of many individuals throughout the centuries since.  The first thing was that Handel's friend, Charles Jennens, gave him a libretto he had put together. (A libretto is the term for the lyrics of a large musical work.)  It was based on the life of Christ and taken entirely from the Bible.  The second thing was that Handel received a commission from a Dublin charity to compose a work for a benefit performance.  Handel put the two opportunities together and on August 22, 1741, he set to work composing another religious piece that would be performed in a secular venue.  He became so absorbed in the work that he rarely left his room, and never left his house.  "In six days part one was complete.  In nine days more he had finished part two, and in another six, part three.  The orchestration was completed in another two days.  In all, 260 pages of manuscript were filled in the remarkably short time of 24 days."  He borrowed bits of musical themes here and there from works he had written or heard previously, as did most composers in that day, and combined them with new melodies and beautiful instrumentation.  He edited and rearranged a little as years went by, but not to any great degree.  The Messiah we have today is very close to the original 24-day masterpiece.  One biographer, Sir Newman Flower, said, "Considering the immensity of the work, and the short time involved, it will remain, perhaps forever, the greatest feat in the whole history of music composition" (p. 30).

The composing of the Messiah was an intensely spiritual experience for Handel.  At one point while he was working, a servant entering the room to bring food found him with tears streaming down his face.  Handel cried out to him, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself" (p. 27).  He had just finished the piece now known as the "Hallelujah Chorus."  Another friend who stopped to visit found him sobbing with intense emotion.  Later Handel tried to explain himself and said, "Whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it, I know not" (p. 30).

The Messiah premiered on April 13, 1742 in Dublin.  It was a benefit concert, as planned.  The Messiah, which was written to praise the Savior who freed us all from our fallen state, raised that day 400 pounds which freed 142 men from debtor's prison.  Handel conducted over thirty more performances of the Messiah in his life.  Many of these were also benefit concerts, with the money going to the Foundling Hospital, of which Handel was a major contributor.  Because the performances were in theaters for pay, rather than in churches, they could bring in money to relieve suffering.  "One biographer wrote: 'Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan...more than any other single musical production in this or any country.'  Another wrote, 'Perhaps the works of no other composer have so largely contributed to the relief of human suffering'" (p. 31).

"After the first London performance of the Messiah, Lord Kinnoul congratulated Handel on the "excellent entertainment."  Handel replied, 'My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertain them.  I wish to make them better.'"  Handel's Messiah has indeed made people better.  In one writer's opinion, the Messiah "has probably done more to convince thousands of mankind that there is a God about us than all the theological works ever written" (p. 31).

Handel died 18 years after composing the Messiah.  It was a Saturday, April 14, 1759, the day before Easter, coincidentally the time of year that Messiah was performed most in those days.  Handel had conducted his final performance of the work eight days earlier.  His close friend, James Smith, wrote, "He died as he lived--a good Christian, with a true sense of his duty to God and to man, and a perfect charity with all the world."  Over 3,000 people attended the funeral.  A statue was erected in Westminster Abbey where he was buried.  It depicts Handel holding the manuscript of the Messiah, open to part three, "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth."  It was an appropriate tribute to a great man of faith, whose knowledge of his Savior was built through study of scripture, teaching truth to others through the medium of music, and living the gospel through his charitable works.


We all know that we will have trials, and at those times, it may be hard to remember that God is there for us, as Handel and Jennens taught in their Messiah.  Isaiah is a great reservoir of emergency spiritual nourishment.  (Teachers may want to encourage class members to get our their red pencils and underline as you read together, so that their "spiritual food storage" is easy to find later when their spirits are low.  Ask class members to share their favorites from Isaiah, and add your own.  Remember that the Spirit is manifest more when class members share their testimonies, even in one-sentence bits, than when they sit passively and listen to a lecture.  Write the verses on the board as they are shared.  Some ideas follow, to get the ball rolling.)


Isaiah 40:31--"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
How does this principle work?  Does it seem sometimes like trying to obey the commandments and fulfill your church callings and do family night and family prayer and compassionate service and eat right and live within your budget and strengthen your marriage and all that stuff can be pretty draining, pretty stressful?  The key to the principle of the renewal of strength lies in the phrase, "they that wait upon the Lord."  "Waiting upon the Lord" refers to exercising faith and hope in Christ and His guidance and timetable.  When our actions are not just grudgingly obeying commandments, but doing so "in faith," while "waiting upon the Lord," everything shifts.  While despair and discouragement drain energy and cast out the Spirit, hope and faith in Christ build energy and bring the Spirit.  They allow us to "mount up with wings as eagles," and to "run and not be weary."

Here are some ideas for shifting from "stressed-out in the service of the Lord," to "renewing your strength," in other words, changing from a state of anxiety to one of  joy and peace.

1) Stop and pray for help with your feelings.  Thank the Lord for the blessing of being entrusted with the role that is giving you stress (mother, bishop, visiting teacher, compassionate service director, etc.)

2) Look ahead at what needs to be done, pick the most important task (or the one with the most immediate deadline) and focus only on that project for a set amount of time.

3) Think about the people you are doing the work for and how it will bless them, rather than how bad you will look or how anxious you will feel if it isn't completed well and on time.

4) Trust in the Lord, that if the task is truly important, He will help you get it done, and help you do it well.

(Some other beautiful verses to examine, if the class doesn't come up with their own, include: 40:11 [shepherd], 40:29 [power], 41:17 [water], 42:16 [blindfold], 44:3-4 [water], 44:21-22 [Atonement], 46:4 [support through life], 49:15 [loved as a newborn], and 49:16 [Christ's hands].  A note on 49:15-16:  A nursing mother's body will not allow her to forget to feed her baby, no matter how careless she may be--ask any new mother who has left her baby with a sitter for several hours!  She'll be in misery by the time she returns.  Christ's body, also, will remind him, as he repeatedly sees the scars on his hands, that he is our Father, that his role is to nurture us.  It will be impossible for him to forget his children.)


"[George Frederick] Handel refused to be deterred by setbacks, [critics], illnesses, or even severe financial woes.  It is a tribute to the faith and optimism Handel possessed, relying on God as he worked to overcome significant obstacles and to create music that is universally cherished today" (p. 33).  It was undoubtedly his intimate working knowledge of the scriptures that allowed him to persevere and succeed in unfolding God's mission for his life.  It would be well with each of us if we could live and die as Handel did, becoming acquainted with the words of our God, and then using our personal talents, our resources, the guidance of the Spirit, and the opportunities that arise around us, to emulate Christ and bring his gospel of love into the lives of others, particularly those who are not found within the walls of the church-house.

(As a class, sing together Isaiah's words from 41:10, and 43:2 or have a class member who is a vocalist sing them.  These are found in our hymn, "How Firm a Foundation," verses 3-5.  As a postlude, play a recording of "He Shall Feed His Flock.")


Source:  Patrick Kavanaugh, Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers, p. 27-33

For a wonderful fictionalized account of Handel's life and his great work, the Messiah, I strongly recommend the book Hallelujah, by Scott Featherstone.  (Yes, his father's name is Vaughan J.)

Supplement to OT Lesson #37

Isaiah 22; 24-26; 28-30

Note:  The previous blog entry has a complete lesson based entirely on Isaiah 25.  This entry offers additional insights into the other chapters included in the reading assignment.


v.11 refers to the fortifications and preparations for seige made by Hezekiah.  (See a previous entry for more information on this story.)  Although these were entirely effective protection under Hezekiah's righteous rule, if the people do not look unto their Maker, it will not matter how ingenius their fortifications are. 

v.12-13 The Lord called for repentance.  He expected sorrow, weeping, self-abasement in sackcloth and ashes, but instead, the people continued to indulge recklessly in their worldly pursuits, "eating and drinking."  They are unconcerned. (Ludlow, p. 233; Parry, p. 198)

v. 15  Shebna was an actual person, singled out as an example.  He was leader of the king's court, equal to a present-day secretary of state.  (Ludlow, p. 234, Parry, p. 199)

v. 19  This prophecy was fulfilled; Shebna was demoted.  (Isa. 36:3)

v. 20  Eliakim was another real person with a position in the kingdom.  He held the keys to the king's storerooms (v. 22).  His family depended upon his position as their security (v. 24).  He was unsuccessful, however (v. 25).  But his story can also be interpreted as being a type of Christ.  Eliakim means "God shall cause to arise" (see footnote).  He will be priest, king and father (v. 21).  He will hold the keys of the priesthood (v. 22) that will "open, and none shall shut; and...shut, and none shall open."  He will be fastened "as a nail in a sure place" on the cross (v. 23).  As he hung on the cross, so "the glory of his father's house" will hang upon him, and all the children of God, "offspring and issue," will rely upon his merits and position (v. 24).  "In that day" (usually meaning the final days or the end of the world) "the nail that is fastened in the sure place" will be removed, the sorrow and pain that was afflicted upon Christ and those who take up His cross, will be "cut down, and fall; and the burden...shall be cut off" (v. 25).  (Ludlow, p. 235; Parry, p. 199)


v. 1 See D&C 5:19.

v. 2 Twelve groups of people are listed, in six opposing sets, representing all castes and levels of society.  The wrath of the Lord upon the earth will be no respecter of persons.  (Parry, p. 215)

v. 5  Three reasons are given for the devastation:  1) the people have transgressed the laws, 2) changed the ordinance, and 3) broken the everlasting covenant.  This verse was quoted in the introduction to the D&C, D&C 1:15-17.

But, of course, the righteous will be saved:

v.13 They will be few, as the last olives clinging to the tree which must be shaken down, and as the grapes that are left when the harvest is over.


See previous blog entry.


This is a song of praise for the Lord.  The basic theme is:

v. 13-14  Israel admits having previous gods, but now has turned to Jehovah.

v. 15  The promise of the Abrahamic Covenant is being fulfilled; the Lord "hast increased the nation."

v. 19 The dead will be resurrected.


This chapter is replete with interesting imagery about the ways of wickedness, alternating with imagery about Christ and what he offers to those who would accept it.

v. 1-4 Woes to the wicked church members ("drunkards of Ephraim")

v. 5-6 Praise for the Lord who, in the last days, will be glorious and helpful to the righteous.

v. 7-8 Description of the disgusting condition of the wicked

v. 9-13 The Lord reveals his word to those who are spiritually mature ("weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts") or, an alternative interpretation, using the footnotes, he reveals his word to those who have been taught from infancy.  Either way, revelation will be received bit by bit over time.  It is a process.  Those who really desire it must hang on patiently, and learn as they go.  Those who are not willing to do so, will "fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken."

v.14-15  Sinners foolishly make covenants with "death and hell," thinking that, just because they desire it, or just because Satan lies to them about it, or because it is fashionable, they can change the consequences of their actions and avoid punishment and devastation.

v.16-17  The Lord will lay out a sure foundation, however: one that will not fail, one that will function as promised.  This would undoubtedly be the Savior and his Atonement.  (Jacob 4:16-17; Helaman 5:12)

v. 18-20  A return to the previous concept, that false covenants will not stand, no matter how much the people believe in them.  They will be "trodden down" by an "overflowing scourge."  It will be so severe, that it will be troubling just to hear about ("a vexation only to understand the report"), let alone to be involved in it.  Agreements with evil are like beds that are "shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it" and like a blanket "narrower than that he can wrap himself in it."  They will never be successful solutions, comforts, or resting places like the "sure foundation."

v. 21-22  The Lord will do "his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act."  He has determined a trial ("consumption") for everyone "upon the whole earth."  He has a plan that man cannot comprehend, in which to best aid each of these foolish children. 

v. 23  Listen!  This is important!  ("Give ye ear, and hear my voice.")

v. 24-29 And here is the important thing:  The Lord personalizes trying circumstances to exactly match the need of each wandering individual.  God tailors the chastisement to the person, to best prepare him to repent and receive the gospel seed.  He does exactly the right amount of chastening--never too much, never not enough.  "Fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument."  Fitches are little black poppyseeds and would be crushed if threshed.  "Neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin."  If it was, the delicate cumin would be destroyed.  Instead, "the fitches are beaten out [by hand] with a staff, and the cummin with a rod."  Corn (or wheat), however, must be threshed, or there will be no harvest.  "Bread corn is bruised." "When it is necessary to separate the sinful parts of our nature from the divine, he will shake us, but with as little severity as possible to achieve the desired outcome" (Mark Edmond, p. 200).  This shows that the Lord is "wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."


This is a prophecy of the Book of Mormon, "the marvelous work and a wonder."

v. 1-2 "Ariel" refers to Jerusalem.  (Parry, p. 261)

v. 11 was quoted by Moroni to Joseph Smith in September of 1823.  (Ensign, Aug. 1990, p. 13-16)

v. 11-12 Much more detail on these verses is given in the Book of Mormon version, 2 Nephi 27:6-24.

v.15-17 Those who have been calling good evil and evil good, who have expected positive consequences from wicked works, who have denied the existence of their Creator, are going to see an upset. Things they have turned "upside-down" will shift:  Lebanon, known for its mighty forests, will become a farmer's field.  The fruitful field, in turn, will become a forest.

v.18-24 The chapter closes with a beautiful long about the latter days.  The meek and poor in spirit who come unto Christ (see the Beatitudes in 3 Nephi 12:3-10) will have increased "joy in the Lord."  All of the evil will be overturned and overruled.  Those who have followed Christ ("the house of Jacob") will neither be laid low ("ashamed") nor given cause to fear ("face now wax pale").  When they see Christ this time, they will "sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and [respect and reverence] the God of Israel."  Those that "erred in spirit shall come to understanding," and even those that "murmured" (think: Laman and Lemuel) shall learn the gospel!!!


This chapter continues the theme:  men are grossly wicked, yet the Lord remains ever attendant to bring them back to the truth.

v. 1-11  The people are terriby wicked, and the sources they seek for strength are not the Lord.

v. 12-14 Trusting in sinful ways is extremely dangerous and will always fail.  For a while, it seems fine, like a "high wall" as that around Jerusalem, or as a retaining wall or a dam.  But always, there will come a "breach" which will "swell out" gradually, and then "breaking cometh suddenly at an instant."  Imagine a city wall collapsing and allowing the enemy soldiers to pour into the city, or a dam breaking and flooding over homes and farmlands.  Destruction will always follow wickedness, eventually.  (Parry, p. 279)

v. 15-17 True strength, which is always offered to Israel, is "in returning and quietness and in confidence."  Returning can also be translated as repenting.  (New International Version; Parry, p. 280). But Israel refuses the sure way, the easy way, the way of faith in the Lord, and instead "flees upon horses," but is always overtaken.

v. 18-20  But God is amazingly patient and ever loving!  He will "wait, that he may be gracious unto you...that he may have mercy upon you."  He will give "the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction," but note that bread and water are sustenance, nourishment!  They are "teachers" and eventually the children of Israel shall see them as such.

v. 21-24  Finally the House of Israel will notice the "word behind [them], saying, This is the way, walk ye in it!"  They will be in tune with the Holy Ghost, and follow its promptings!  (Parry, p. 282)  They will throw out their idols, and they will realize how truly abominable and disgusting their past behaviors were, the vilest of garbage to be thrown away ("a menstruous cloth").  The Lord will then bless them, "give rain to their seed" and "bread of the increase of the earth," replacing the bread of adversity and the water of affliction.

v.25-33 "Upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill" (in other words, in the multitudes of temples around the world) there will be "rivers and streams of waters," the living water of Jesus Christ, flowing abundantly.  This will happen in the day when the wicked are overthrown ("the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall").  We often repeat the prophecy that the sun and moon will be darkened, but seldom this one: that after the slaughter, the light of the moon and the sun will increase exponentially!  In fact, to the degree of a holy perfection:  "sevenfold, as the light of seven days."  The wicked will be violently destroyed, but the righteous, those who "come into the mountain of the Lord" (the templegoers), will be gloriously blessed.



Victor Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet
Parry, Parry and Peterson, Understanding Isaiah
Mark Edmond, "Images of Mercy in the Writings of Isaiah," Covenants, Hymns and Prophecies of the Old Testament