Tuesday, October 26, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 41 - I Have Made Thee this Day an Iron Pillar - Jeremiah

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 41 - I Have Made Thee this Day an Iron Pillar
Jeremiah 1-2; 15; 20; 26; 36-38

Jeremiah wrote two books, this and Lamentations (which contains his lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem). The book of Jeremiah contains both events in his life regarding Jerusalem, as well as his prophecies. He began his calling in the days of King Josiah, who was considered a righteous king. Jeremiah was probably a key counselor for Josiah. Josiah reigned for over 30 years (640-609 BC), during which he refurbished the temple, observed the Passover, and destroyed idolatry out of the land (much of which was implemented by his own grandfather, Manasseh). Josiah was killed in battle when he went out against the Egyptian army that was going north to fight against the Babylonians.

Sadly, Josiah’s four sons were not as righteous as he was. In a short time, Josiah was succeeded by Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah (Jehoiakim’s son), and finally Zedekiah. Jehoahaz was king for three months, then deposed by the Egyptian king Necho as he returned from Babylon and carried off into Egypt. Necho placed Jehoiakim on the throne, and Jerusalem was their tributary. Jehoiakim reigned for 11 years and died. His son, Jeconiah replaced him, but only reigned for three months. The Babylonians’ first siege of Jerusalem led to his being deposed, carried off to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar replaced Jeconiah with Zedekiah, his uncle. Zedekiah was 21 years old when he began his reign as a tributary nation under Babylon. Though Jeremiah began as his counselor, Zedekiah and the elders/leaders of the city-state chose a life of wickedness and rejected Jeremiah and the other prophets.

It is in this timeframe that we find Lehi and other prophets crying repentance to the Jews in Jerusalem. However, as we find, the Jews stoned many of the prophets (1 Nephi 1), and rejected their words. Jeremiah is no different, as he suffered many sore trials under the evil of the sons of Josiah.

Called before you were born
Jeremiah 1

Early in his service during the reign of Josiah, we find that God called Jeremiah as a prophet. This specific calling of a prophet often involved a theophany: a vision of God on his throne or at the altar (c.f.; Gen 28:10-22, Isaiah 6:1-6). In Jeremiah’s case, he comes to understand that he was called even before he was in his mother’s womb. This fits in nicely with Isaiah’s vision of the premortal divine council, where he received his call to the work, or that of the Savior in the premortal existence (Abraham 3:22-28). Given that God tells Jeremiah that he was ordained before this life strongly suggests that Jeremiah existed before this life. It makes no sense to presume God ordained someone or something that doesn’t yet exist, which would be the case if there were no premortal existence. But Jeremiah clearly existed before, and as with many of the other ancient prophets, was called to his calling, not only in mortality, but in his premortal state.

“6 Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
7 But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.
9 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.
10 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.”

Here we see a common event with many prophets. They feel incapable of fulfilling such a major task (Moses 6:26-33, Exodus 4:10), and the Lord insists that he will fill their mouths with his words. Isaiah’s mouth was touched with a not coal from the altar before God’s throne and his speech was cleansed, preparing him to preach to the people, much like Jeremiah’s mouth is touched and filled with God’s words.

Jeremiah’s struggles

While Josiah closely followed the counsels of the prophet, Jeremiah was rejected by his successors. Even after being humbled and carried off by Egyptian and Babylonian kings, the people of Jerusalem and their leaders were eager to defy God. They were convinced that they were living as was expected, and did not want to hear the harbinger’s warning voice.

Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks by the temple’s chief governor, Pashur (ch 20). The prophet was unjustly accused, arrested and thrown into prison. As if that wasn’t enough, he was then tossed into the dungeon, which stank and was filled with vermin and plague. Zedekiah eventually delivered him from the dungeon, but put him back into the prison (Jer 37-38).

The Sins of Jerusalem
Jeremiah 2

We learn that the major sins of the people included: 1) “they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? “ (vs 5), 2) “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit” (vs 11).

The Lord places it on two key issues: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (vs 13).

The people had rejected the living waters, and sought to create their own water supply in his stead. But if they had looked they would have realized that their efforts were not delivering them from either the Egyptians or the Babylonians. Only God was able to do that. But in vanity, their pride caused them to rise above God and his prophets.

Evil of the Elders
1 Nephi

We find that the people rejected Lehi, who also received his call as a prophet in the time of Jeremiah (1 Nephi 1). They sought to kill him, forcing him to flee with his family. In returning to obtain the plates of brass, Nephi explains the ways of the people in Jerusalem. Laban, a powerful member of the ruling caste, who controlled a key set of scripture for the Jews, showed just how wicked the people had become.

When Lehi’s sons attempted to first talk with Laban, and then later offer him a bribe, the man sent his soldiers to slay them, hoping to obtain their riches for themselves (1 Nephi 3-4). That Nephi, disguised as Laban, causes no alarm to the servant Zoram, when told to carry the precious plates out in the middle of the night to the brothers, suggests that such was a common event. Laban was involved in midnight dealings with the other princes of Jerusalem, enriching himself while the enemy encircled them. Isaiah warned about such government leaders when he proclaimed they sought to steal all the land, while ransacking the poor (Isa 5:8; 3:15). We see such occurring in Jeremiah’s day, as he is tossed without cause into prison/dungeon, and caused to suffer.

Importance of Living Prophets in regards to Scripture
Jeremiah 8:8; 36

Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch’s document bulla (the clay impression of the seal) with his finger print.

Some Christians are inerrantists. They claim that the Bible as we now have it is perfect and without any errors. However, Jeremiah showed that corruption in the scriptures were occurring even in his day.

“8 How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain” (Jer 8:8).

If the pen of the scribes, those royal and temple writers and copiers of scripture, is in vain, then just how accurate was their writings? How had they changed the writings of Moses or Isaiah? Today, many Bible scholars show that there were several versions of the books of Moses floating around, some combined in the time of Jeremiah to bring forth a mixture of writings that are occasionally complementary and often contradictory. In Josiah’s reign, the book of Deuteronomy was found in the temple, which many scholars believe was enhanced and rewritten by the temple scribes to include many of their current practices. The Deuteronomists were guilty of changing the First Temple’s rites. Originally they included a tree of life, angels, Messiah and other important symbols and teachings. These were replaced with a greater focus on the law of Moses, as found in Deuteronomy.

In an article on the inerrant view of the Bible, Barry Bickmore quoted Justin Martyr, an early Christian defender, who noted that the writings of Jeremiah had even been changed!

What we find from Jeremiah’s account is that the scriptures were not important to the kings or people of his day. Jeremiah received revelation which God commanded him to write down and read to the king. Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, took down the revelation. When it was read before King Jehoiakim, he picked it up with his knife and tossed it in the flames. God’s response was to have Jeremiah write it again, with many more teachings and warnings (Jer 36).

The scriptures are important to us. They are foundational documents. But they are of limited use if we reject the living prophets. They are even more limited if we change them, destroy them from our lives, or pick and choose which scriptures will be of value to us. We may be able to burn the parchment, but we are still responsible for the words that come from the prophet’s mouth.


Jehoahaz: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jehoahaz_of_Judah

Zedekiah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zedekiah

Margaret Barker, “The Great Angel” (on the Deuteronomist Reforms - Google book review): http://tinyurl.com/2uel24s

Kevin Christensen, “The Deuteronomist De-Christianizing of the Old Testament” http://www.scribd.com/doc/8677782/The-Deuteronomist-DeChristianizing-of-the-Old-Testament-Kevin-Christensen

Kevin Christensen, “Temple Traditions after the Deuteronomist Reform”: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/papers/?paperID=6&chapterID=51

Barry Bickmore, “Does the Bible Claim to be Inerrant?” http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/Inerrant.pdf

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 40 - Enlarge the Place of thy Tent Isaiah 54-56; 63-65

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 40 - Enlarge the Place of thy Tent
Isaiah 54-56; 63-65

Sing O Barren!

Isaiah 54

1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.

Isaiah foresaw the day when Israel will be restored. For centuries it was old, haggish, barren, childless, banished. But the time would come when she would be more plentiful than other nations that have seemed to prosper. In its restoration, Israel would come forth as a young, beautiful and fertile bride, bringing forth a host of healthy children.

For some LDS this verse has another connotation. We believe in eternal marriage and family, and for those righteous women who do not have the chance to marry or have children in this life, they will receive the full desires of their hearts in the next life. As many of them in this life grow old and barren, they too will be restored to their youthful graces and able to bring forth children and creations under God’s guiding and restorative hand.

Restoration is a key theme in these chapters of Isaiah. In the last days, both physical and spiritual Israel shall be restored. We see a partial fulfillment of physical Israel’s restoration in the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. We will see the remainder of physical Israel return as well:

“26 And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
27 And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.
28 Their enemies shall become a prey unto them,
29 And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.
30 And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.
31 And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.
32 And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim.
33 And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy.
34 Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows.
35 And they also of the tribe of Judah, after their pain, shall be sanctified in holiness before the Lord, to dwell in his presence day and night, forever and ever.” (D&C 133)

The Lost Tribes of Israel will return from their hiding place in the north countries and take their rightful place in spiritual and physical Israel. Whether that hiding place is a literal and specific location, or whether they are scattered among several nations awaiting to be gathered, we do not know. They are, after all, Lost to us.

The children of Ephraim, which includes the majority of Latter-day Saints, who through baptism have been adopted into the spiritual and physical tribe of Ephraim (son of Joseph), will be prepared to receive the tribes and give them an inheritance among them. Judah will have to suffer the pain of Armageddon and being rescued by Jesus Christ, before they will recognize the wounds in his hands and realize that they did crucify their Messiah.

Enlarge the Place of thy Tent
Isaiah 54

“2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;
3 For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.”

For an ancient tribal society, the description is full of symbolism. Many Israelites dwelt in tents, especially as they watched over their flocks. Israel was a people who specialized in raising sheep and goats, and had been for centuries. Desert life required that the tent was taken up each time a new pasture was sought, and then camp set up again. In good times, a family could obtain larger tents to dwell within. These required longer cords or ropes to tie them down. The stakes used would have to be stronger, and embedded deeper. During difficult weather, such as sand storms with high winds, the strength of the tent, cords and stakes could mean the difference between life and death.

Today, the Church calls the center gathering place Zion, and the major supporting congregations are called stakes (similar to an archdiocese). As the Church grows and expands, it builds new stakes that are firmly tied to the central tent or place, Stakes are formed throughout the world, tapped into Gentile soil in many places. Through the stakes of Zion, Zion herself can influence the world for good. It becomes a refuge from the sand storms of life, allowing people a lifeline or cord to the tent of salvation.
“11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
12 And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
14 In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.
15 Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.”

The description of the stones being laid symbolizes the stones laid out on the high priest’s breast plate: the Urim and Thummim. Zion shall be a place of revelation and power from God. The entire place will be a Urim and Thummim! Children will not only be taught by their parents, but the Lord will teach them through the Spirit of God. Zion will be a place of peace and order. While the world is filled with terror and oppression, Zion’s children will dwell without fear. God will defend Zion from its enemies, and it will be the only safe place in the last days:

“7 And the glory of the Lord shall be there (in Zion), and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.
68 And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
69 And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.
70 And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.
71 And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy.” (D&C 45)

So will be the power of Zion, once it is fully established. However, to have a true Zion requires more than just hanging a sign in front saying “Welcome to Zion.” It requires a people who are peacemakers and pure in heart. It requires a people who have fully repented of all sins, become united in righteous purposes, been filled with the love of Christ, and work diligently to build and establish Zion.

As Isaiah and Joseph Smith foresaw the great city of God in the last days, we know it will be brought to pass. The question is whether we will be among those who are readily building it or not.

Seek Ye The Lord While He May Be Found
Isaiah 55

Continuing on the concept of Zion being established as the Lord’s city among the wicked of the world, Isaiah emphasizes the concept of Zion as a gathering place for all those who are true believers.

“3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
5 Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.
6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

As D&C 45 mentions, those among the wicked who repent will flee to Zion for safety. Here Isaiah confirms that concept, telling us that we must seek the Lord while he is near. Where shall he be found? Spiritually we find him on our knees in humble prayer. Physically, we flee the world to him by residing in Zion and her stakes. It is in these places where God resides. Why? Because in God’s holy city, today or anciently, one finds the temple of God. The temple is the house of God, God’s literal home on earth, where the penitent may enter into His presence and find him. And increasingly, we are being blessed with more and more temples centered in the stakes of Zion.

My Thoughts are not Your Thoughts
Isaiah 55

“8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

We cannot fathom God’s thoughts. The philosopher Socrates wisely taught, “I know nothing.” He knew more than most people in his day, but compared to all the facts and truths in the universe, it was less than a drop in an ocean of truths. God knows all the truths and how they relate to one another. There are only two ways we can find God’s truths: scientific experimentation and revelation. The first is limited by our technological capability. We have yet to develop technologies to land on Mars, much less take a man to another solar system or galaxy. The latter is also limited, but not by technology. Instead, it is limited by our own limitations, closely held beliefs, prejudices, and our love for sin. Joseph Smith discovered that we learn “line upon line, precept upon precept” and not everything all at once. For most of us, one of Jack Nicholson’s characters was correct in stating, “you can’t handle the truth.” At least, we cannot handle all of the truth at once.

To receive revelation requires us to keep an open mind to all possibilities. God chose a young Joseph Smith to restore the Church, because the adults of his day already had closed their minds to such possibilities as seeing God face to face. Whether the issue is evolution, homosexuality, or whether Adam had a navel or not, we must be patient until God reveals his full will and mind on the issue, and then be open enough to accept the teaching. It may be that evolution may turn out right, partially right or absolutely wrong. But it is possible that creationism is also wrong. Until God fully reveals his mind, we must patiently keep an open mind to all possibilities.

Thankfully we are given prophets to guide us. Even as with us, they receive revelation “line upon line” meaning they also do not have all the answers. However, they have the foundational principles, doctrines and priesthood authority to counsel and guide us. They will not lead us astray from the truth so far that we cannot be exalted. There is safety in the councils of the Church. The cautious and prayerful deliberations between wise, talented, and righteous men of God may sometimes seem slow, but it ensures the Church does not make changes solely on politically correct reasons. The process of revelation requires more than just asking God, as Oliver Cowdery found out in his attempt to translate the gold plates (D&C 8-9). Joseph Smith had no concerns over refining or correcting previous revelations, as he received greater truths and insights through the process of continuing revelation.

Through it all, we need to remember that only God knows and understands all things. We should strive to defer to his will, rather than politicize and emotionally demand what we personally feel is right on any particular subject.

An Everlasting Name
Isaiah 56

Isaiah explains that God’s plan of mercy extends to all people in the last days. Even eunuchs, those who were castrated and placed in service in powerful men’s homes and armies would,

“3 Neither let the son of the stranger (Gentile), that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
4 For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.”

What is better than sons and daughters to a eunuch? A royal destiny, which would include sons and daughters! As explained in previous lessons, secret names were special names of power, rarely shared with anyone else, for then the receiver of the name would share in the full power of the secret name. What is the Everlasting Name? It is the name of the Messiah, YHWH or Jehovah, which was the sacred name Jews would not pronounce, but would replace with other terms, such as Adonai (Lord). Even eunuchs and Gentiles would be able to take upon themselves the name of God and receive of his personal power and divinity. Christians take upon themselves the name of Christ, and in doing so receive a place in God’s house.

The everlasting name “shall not be cut off” suggests that though a eunuch may have been castrated, losing his mortal ability to have children or become a member of the royal household, in God’s kingdom he would never be castrated or cut off from his divine position.

The True Law of the Fast
Isaiah 58

While not a part of the lesson (when has this stopped me before?), I wanted to discuss this section briefly.

“1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
3 ¶ Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
11 And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”

Clearly there seemed to be a major disconnect between the fasting the Israelites were doing, and what God expected of them. The first verses mention that they focused on the ordinances and delighted in approaching God, yet were condemned! Why? Because all their works were done on the outside, but on the inside they rang hollow. Not eating for a day is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not the most important part of the Fast. And even today, many of the LDS do not recognize that. We fuss over ourselves or kids fudging a little on not eating during the ~24 hours of no food and drink, yet then scrimp on taking care of the poor and needy.

In our homes and church meetings we focus on learning the commandments, but in our business dealings with others, we don’t take a second thought on if we are not only dealing honestly, but mercifully, as well. We gloat over those we feel justly deserved their demise and struggles, and show no compassion or mercy. In the past several years as I’ve traveled and seen various wards of the Church, I’ve been highly impressed with the kindness of some, but horrified by the actions of other wards. I saw an entire cub scout pack shun a little boy with disabilities, because the adults did not want to deal with his problems. I’ve seen a woman sitting by the bed of her comatose husband, while the bishop and ward members never even bothered to make a phone call. Sadly, both of these instances occurred in Utah, where we would hope the members would be focused on becoming Saints, not only in word, but in deed.

Isaiah focused much on the problem of mankind seeking their own, getting gain, and trampling upon the poor and widows. Instead, the prophet begins his prophesies by focusing on this very theme:

“17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow....
23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.” (Isa 1)

We live in a day when government officials and the wealthy enrich themselves, while the poor are losing their homes and retirement hopes. Government bails out big banks and corporations, and then receives kick backs, bribes, re-election funds, and trips to ritzy locations around the world. Wealthy Americans (and compared to most of the world, most are wealthy) often forget the poor around them and in other countries, feeling they are at fault for poor choices that led them to poverty. In many cases that may be true, but it does not give us an exemption to serve the poor, fatherless, and widows.

Day of Vengeance
Isaiah 63

“1 Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
2 Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?
3 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
4 For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.”

Bozrah is the ancient capital of Edom, in modern day southern Jordan. According to tradition, Bozrah was Esau’s main city he built after he departed from Canaan. Bozrah means “sheep fold.” The word Edom, another name for Esau, means “red.” Since Esau was known as the foil of Jacob/Israel and humbled the patriarch as he returned to Canaan, we will see that Israel again will be humbled at the coming at the great day of the Lord, the Second Coming. Who is this that is coming? Even God, who is mighty to save. Yet, the world needs purging, and so part of the saving required means a destruction of the wicked. All will have a chance to repent, but those who fight against Zion will be destroyed by God.

Since Christ suffered and carried the burden of our sins alone, he will judge the world. He is the only one able to judge the entire earth, as he is the one who has paid for all sins, if people will but believe and repent. For those who continue sinning and having murderous hearts, he will destroy them from off the face of the earth.

Praying for Deliverance
Isaiah 64-65


“1 Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,
2 As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!” (Isa 64)

Isaiah, representing Israel, prays for the Second Coming. The belief that the Messiah would come down and save the people from their oppressors becomes a key focus for the Jews during the Diaspora, after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, and as a prayer by Jews, Christians and others today as we look forward to deliverance from the evil in the world. Such a coming of the Messiah would require vast changes to remove sin, such as melt the mountains, rip holes in the skies, and cause the nations to be so afraid as to stop fighting each other. As with the Creation, the Flood, Moses at the Red Sea, and other moments where God’s power brings order out of chaos, we see that destruction always precedes the new creation. God must destroy the chaos and evil to bring order, peace, safety and joy. In the Creation, God had to subdue the darkness and waters to create light and land, and God saw that it was good. Egyptian died so that the Lord could create a holy people. And the wicked will be destroyed off the earth in the last day, even as in the days of Noah’s flood, so that God can create Paradise. Isaiah notes,

“10 Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste.” (Isa 64)

The once holy cities and temple of God, fallen into apostasy, were made desolate. But from the ashes God would build a new Zion, a new Jerusalem, and temples that would fill the earth.

“17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
18 But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
20 There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.
22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.
24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.” (Isa 65)

Once God has destroyed the wicked, the world will be ready to be transformed into the Garden of Eden. From the destruction, God will create a new cosmos and earth. Jerusalem and Zion will be built again as places of joy. There will no longer be sin, death or sickness, for Christ’s atonement and resurrection will have destroyed them. People will find new physical and spiritual life in Jesus. No longer will animals have the survival instinct, but will be renewed so that lions will be vegetarians, and mankind will be at absolute peace with one another.

Now is the time for each of us to prepare ourselves for that day of destruction and creation. Only the righteous can dwell in God’s city, as the wicked would seek to corrupt it. With the Restoration of the Gospel occurring in these last days, we are now in the process of preparing all things for the Second Coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ in glory and power. The city of Zion must be established once again as a place of refuge for the righteous, until Christ comes and destroys his enemies. In the meantime, we must be in the world, but not of the world. We must be the ensign or banner that waves before man, so that they know where to flee to when they have tired of the wickedness and are ready to be a people of peace and good. We must learn the correct fast, which means we seek out and rescue the poor, the widow and the fatherless. And today, we live in a time when many children do not have a father in the home. They need rescuing.

Isaiah’s main messages of the Messiah’s two comings, one as a humble and suffering servant, the other as the God of vengeance, are important for us to remember. Equally important is God’s expectations for us. Sacrifices and fasts are useless, if they do not permeate our skin and enter deep into our hearts to humble us and change us into true saints. Isaiah’s message is very important for us, as we live in the last days, and his warnings of destruction and final salvation through the Messiah are key to our eternal salvation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine lesson #39 - How Beautiful upon the Mountains - Isaiah 50-53

OT Gospel Doctrine lesson #39 - How Beautiful upon the Mountains
Isaiah 50-53

I Clothe the Heavens with Blackness
Isaiah 50

The Lord explains to Israel why they have been cast aside, carried off into exile. God has divorced their mother because of her infidelity. She has slept with Baal and other idols, and the children have called upon the idols as their father, rather than their true Eternal Father. Jehovah has cast them off, but is willing and able to restore them when they are ready to change from their evil ways.

2 Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.

When God came to Israel, no one was at the door to greet him. When he called out, all had left their true home, and entered into the temples of the idols. They left God, thinking there was greater power with the idols, who allowed them to live sinful lives as long as they worshiped at their altars. Yet it is God who has the power to redeem and deliver Israel. When God rebukes, or rather removes his holy protection, the waters dry up and all things die from famine and drought. They have left his protection, and in depending upon idols to protect themselves have brought destruction upon themselves. Yet, even in being destroyed, they do not return to God to be delivered.
3 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.

Here we see Isaiah using poetic imagery to show just how dreadful things will be for apostate Israel. Sackcloth was literally mourning clothing that was made from the poorest of materials, often from goat’s hair. The heavens clothed in blackness suggests that things are so bad that even the heavens are in mourning because of the death of Israel. This ties into literal prophesy for the last days, when we are told the stars will not give their light, the sun will be turned black and the moon turned blood red (Rev 6:12, Isa 13:10, Jere 4:28). Even like the destructions in the last days, Israel’s apostasy and destruction shocks the heavens and earth, the angels weep, and only hope in future deliverance and redemption can bring them back from despair.

11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

The heavens have been darkened and the wicked seek to lighten the way with sparks. Matthew Henry noted:

“Sinners are warned not to trust in themselves. Their own merit and sufficiency are light and heat to them. Creature-comforts are as sparks, short-lived, and soon gone; yet the children of this world, while they last, seek to warm themselves by them, and walk with pride and pleasure in the light of them. Those that make the world their comfort, and their own righteousness their confidence, will certainly meet with bitterness in the end. A godly man's way may be dark, but his end shall be peace and everlasting light. A wicked man's way may be pleasant, but his end and abode for ever will be utter darkness.”

We walk in much darkness in this life. Yet only those who truly trust in God will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He becomes their light. The sparks or tiny lights of the sinner may convince them they are seeing clearly, but they are unable to truly see what is ahead of them: destruction and sorrow.

Look Unto Abraham your Father

Isaiah 51

1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.
2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.
3 For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

God calls upon Israel to look to where they truly come from and where they currently are. The rock is their heritage of prophets and patriarchs. They are now standing in a pit, which they dug themselves with shovels of sin. The more they worship idols and sin, the deeper their pit becomes. Yet they can still be reached.

They are called upon to look to their father Abraham. Abraham was called alone. In a previous lesson on Abraham we noted how Jehovah was given Israel as his assigned kingdom by Elohim. Rather than seek out a people that were already well established in the land, Jehovah selected one man to build a new nation from scratch, built upon faith in the Lord God. Abraham was Jehovah’s friends, as we discussed in the last lesson. God is calling upon all of Israel to be his friend, and to receive all the blessings of being Jehovah’s offspring.

And while Israel is now scattered to the nations, the Lord foresaw the reestablishment of Zion and its abandoned treasures. The wilderness would bloom as a rose, and be as holy and peaceful as the Garden of Eden. Here is the secret to establishing a Zion and a Zion people: they must look to Abraham’s example, and follow it.

4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
5 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.

Isaiah makes it clear that God shall bring forth a new law. This is not the Mosaic law, which already came from God, but a new law that will establish Zion as God’s chosen place, giving the righteous a place of rest and light. This law was brought forth by Christ during his mortal ministry. He came to fulfill the law of Moses, replacing it with the higher law. No more would animals be sacrificed, as the Messiah would be the final sacrifice. It is He who has the power to redeem and deliver.

Christ’s judgment is based upon both justice and mercy. For those who trust upon him, his mercy is sufficient to save them from hell fire. And to the extent that a person seeks after Christ’s redemption is the level that his mercy fully extends in saving the person. So mercy has Christ reaching out to all and giving them as much salvation as he can give them . Justice comes in that we only receive the level of salvation and deliverance that we want. This comes from our actions, words, thoughts, and desires. If we only desire the minimal salvation, we will live our lives barely giving Christ any thought and will not think often on our sins or repenting of them. If we have great desires to follow Christ, he will redeem us to a higher glory of salvation, according to the true desires of our hearts.

Trust in God the Creator
Isaiah 51

9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?
10 Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?
11 Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
12 I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;
13 And forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?
14 The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail.
15 But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is his name.
16 And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.

God uses patterns in Creation and Destruction. In creating the world, the tradition is that Jehovah had to subdue the sea serpent/dragon Rahab. In another passage, Isaiah foresees Jehovah defeating its twin Leviathan in the last days (Isa 27:1, see also Rev 12). God must destroy, or at least subdue Chaos in creating Order and Righteousness. The chaos of the oceans with its sea serpent had to be subdued in order to form land and life. In casting Lucifer out of the Garden with a curse, and in binding him for the thousand year Millennium, we see that Jehovah defeats the Dragon/Sea Serpent twice. This is necessary to accomplish his plans. The Sea Serpent is Chaos, trying to destroy all things for eternity. God destroys in order to reform things into a higher order.

Reminiscent of the Creation is the Exodus, where God created a new covenant people by destroying Egypt. Egypt with its many gods and idols represented chaos and the serpent (see Ezekiel 32:2). Slavery also represents chaos, and these had to be destroyed to create a new order of things: Israel. God brought the ransomed Israel across the chaos of the Red Sea to safety, while destroying their Egyptian serpent. Then, Israel was given the law of Moses as a new order in which to live and serve God in his order.

Every time God creates, he is creating or planting a heaven, laying the foundation of an earth or a great work, and creating a Zion people. Creation means bringing order out of chaos. When God gives commandments, they are a protection. He is creating order, which can guide and protect the people from chaos and harm. Yet, when they abandon the laws of God, chaos floods in destroying society and the benefits of the order and protection given it.

18 There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up.
19 These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee?

Jerusalem is called to awake from its chaotic sleep and realize just what troubles they are really in. When society stops following the basic principles and doctrines God has established for an orderly society, it corrodes. There is no one who can truly lead them, for how does one rule over chaos? All that is left them is desolation, destruction, famine and death by sword.

Yet in the final verses, God states that the day will come when he will remove the cup of affliction from Jerusalem and give it to those who afflict Israel. Why? Because through great trial Israel will repent and seek the Lord’s way once again, while others will ripen in iniquity, choosing chaos over the freedom God offers in his order.

Put on Thy Strength, O Zion!
Isaiah 52

1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
3 For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.

This chapter continues the concepts of the previous chapter’s ending verses. The time will come when God will call upon Zion and Jerusalem, the two holy cities, to lift themselves from the dirty ground, shake the dust off themselves, and glory in God’s splendor. No longer will they be bound down in sin and chaos, but be redeemed and restored to their former glory.

We begin to see physical Israel gather together in Jerusalem in our day. The nation of Israel stands once again, though its existence remains fragile because of its enemies that surround it. In these last days, Spiritual Israel also has been restored, with the stakes of Zion being established through out the world. These too remain in a fragile existence, as they are beholden to kings and rulers to allow the small congregations of Saints to gather and worship. Yet as they seek to serve God, he will strengthen their little footholds on the earth, making them greater than their numbers.

6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.

God’s name is a secret name. Anciently, one received power by knowing the secret name of the other individual. For this purpose, Jacob sought to know the secret name of the Lord, but instead was given a new name of power of his own (Genesis 32:24-32). In the last days when God shares his name with mankind, they shall receive his power and glory in their lives. When God tells them “it is I” he is giving one form of his name to them, “I AM” or Yahweh/Jehovah. In these last days, Christians take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, Anointed Messiah. In this day, God seeks to reveal himself again to mankind.

How Beautiful Upon the Mountains
Isaiah 52-53

The Suffering Servant

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Abinadi gives a powerful sermon to his wicked captors regarding Isaiah’s 52:7-10.

20 And it came to pass that one of them (the wicked priests) said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:
21 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;
22 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion;
23 Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem;
24 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God?
25 And now Abinadi said unto them: Are you priests, and pretend to teach this people, and to understand the spirit of prophesying, and yet desire to know of me what these things mean?
26 I say unto you, wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord! For if ye understand these things ye have not taught them; therefore, ye have perverted the ways of the Lord.
27 Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people? (Mosiah 12)

Today many do not understand the scriptures, because they have not pondered and prayed over them. They have not lived righteously in order for God to reveal the meanings to them in plainness. The wicked priests told Abinadi they taught the people the Law of Moses, yet Abinadi recited the Ten Commandments and showed them that they did not keep the key points of the Law of Moses. He explained that the Law of Moses pointed to Christ, and that he would redeem all mankind as the final sacrifice. Mosiah paints a marvelous picture of the “suffering servant” being fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

33 For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?
34 Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
35 Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted? (Mosiah 13)

Abinadi prepares us by sharing the testimony of Moses, even as a second witness to Abinadi. The suffering servant Christ has another witness that Abinadi employed:

1 Yea, even doth not Isaiah say: Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all .
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth. (Mosiah 14, see also Isaiah 53).

We see a prophesy of the future Messiah, not coming in glory and power to rescue the covenant people from their physical oppressors, but from themselves. In his mortal state, he will suffer physically, being despised, rejected, and afflicted. Yet, many people are despised in mortality, and are even tortured and crucified. This Suffering Servant would do great things for the oppressed. He would save them from themselves. He would bear our griefs, seem cursed and afflicted of God, wounded for our sins, and beaten so we could be healed from our sins. Christ becomes not only the sacrificial lamb on the altar, but also the scape goat. Anciently, the high priest laid his hands upon the goats head and transferred all the sins of the people upon it, before leading it out into the desolate wilderness. Christ took upon himself our sins beginning in Gethsemane, when his pores dripped blood. Gethsemane and death upon the cross were his wilderness, where he proclaimed in his loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Psalms 22:1)

11 He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

The righteous Suffering Servant suffers no more. His sacrifice allows him to divide the riches of eternity with those who stand strong in the faith of Jesus Christ. He bore the sins of all those who would repent, even saving the most wicked from eternal hell fire and damnation if they will but call upon God in Jesus’ name. The Messiah’s work, testified by Abinadi, Moses and Isaiah shows us that he is the primary focus when Abinadi proclaims:

18 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;
19 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.
20 But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead. (Mosiah 15)


Matthew Henry’s Commentary: http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=23&c=50

Order out of Chaos: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/07/gospel-scholarship-order-out-of-chaos.html

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Gospel Doctrine OT lesson 38 - Beside me there is no other Savior - Isaiah 40-49

Gospel Doctrine OT lesson 38 - Beside me there is no other Savior
Isaiah 40-49

When it comes to history, the Book of Isaiah is broken into three parts: chapters 1-39 deal with the pre-exile period of Israel and Judah, chapters 40-56 focus on the exile of Judah and Israel, and the final chapters look at the post-exile period of Judah and Israel. Since only Judah has returned from exile, we can see in these sections a dual fulfillment - once with Judah returning from exile (twice - 500 years before Christ, and in the 20th century), and in the return of the Lost Tribes of Israel in these last days. There is also a spiritual component to this, as well. When any person has rebelled against God, they go into spiritual exile and remain there until they are fully repentant and ready to embrace God again.

In this lesson, we’ll discuss Israel’s period in exile and the hope and promise of a return.

Voice in the Wilderness
Isaiah 40

“1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

The people have been justly punished for their apostasy. Now in exile, the Lord seeks to give them hope of a better day. Comfort yourselves during your trials and tribulations in knowing that God will end the struggles, the penitent will be forgiven, and God will reward the humble with a great reward.

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness” is most recognized by Christians as being John the Baptist, preparing the way of Christ’s first coming in the flesh. But it is also reminiscent of Isaiah and other prophets who cried repentance to the people. It is just as important to cry repentance to an evil generation, or to call upon an exiled people to prepare themselves to return to the promised land of their fathers. In these last days, Joseph Smith and modern prophets become the voice in the wilderness, calling upon people to repent, to come unto Zion and her stakes and stand in holy places, and to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ.

“8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
10 Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

All things end, except for the things of God. Even the warm summer months that bring the fruits of the harvest will wain in the winter months ahead, when all sleep their quiet sleep of death. But Zion and Jerusalem are the cities and dwelling places of God’s true people. For an exiled people, the thought of returning to the promised land is a good tiding. Israel is commanded to “get thee up into the high mountain” where the righteous worshiped, offered sacrifice on holy altars to Jehovah, and were called his people. The people of Judah are to prepare their cities as holy places that can behold God. While God has prepared mountain tops, gardens, and temples as holy places where heaven meets earth, and where God and man commune; the vision is to make all of the promised land a place where one can know God.

We can see in this not only the return of Judah in Ezra and Nehemiah’s day, but the return of all the tribes of Israel, and the spiritual gathering of Israel in the last days. While the Jews await the construction of the temple in Jerusalem, LDS temples now number 134 in operation and soon will be numbering 150 temples with those under construction. Temples dot the lands, allowing righteous people to stand on holy ground and commune directly with God in his divine sanctuary. In previous lessons, we’ve discussed holy temples and holy spaces, where mankind could stand in God’s presence and know him. These were special places that greatly impacted the lives and testimonies of Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, and many of the ancient prophets in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, John the Revelator stood in God’s presence and had the cosmos revealed to him. In ancient Christian texts, Paul and others were lifted into the heavens and into God’s presence. In the Book of Mormon, we find Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, the Brother of Jared, and many others standing in God’s presence and being changed by the experience. In the last days, the Father and the Son appeared to a teenager, changing him from country farmer to Prophet of the Restoration.

God calls all of us through his ancient and modern prophets to repent and return to holy places, where he can commune with us, carry us in his bosom and bless us, even amidst a world of turmoil and warfare.

“18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
19 The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
20 He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.
21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
23 That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.”

Anciently the rich made idols and gods of silver and gold. The poor had them whittled out of hard wood. Today, we make idols and gods from precious metals, woods, plastics, and rock stars. We worship the things made by our own hands, or that someone else made and sold to us. We believe our material possessions can save us and bring us true and lasting happiness. But even the best workman cannot prepare a graven image that cannot be moved, damaged, or destroyed. All man made things shall end eventually, including the nations that now seem so very strong and impenetrable can suddenly collapse and replaced as global leader.

But it is God that has been there since before the foundation of the earth. He is the only one with control over all the earth. People are like insects, and their creations are minuscule compared to His ability to create worlds, create life, resurrect and save mankind.

“28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31 But 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.”

Man grows old and grows weary. His ideas often have flaws that are picked apart by others. Our material goods and our wisdom cannot save us from disease, poverty, trials and death. However, God can bless the righteous with miracles in their lives, renewing their strength, allowing them to “mount up with wings as eagles” in strength, power and beauty. They can walk and not faint. While the earthly body eventually gives way, God’s promise is an eternal one. The things of man rust and rot. While we may die, God can raise us again as upon the wings of eagles through resurrection, and we shall never hunger, thirst, nor faint again.

Seed of Abraham my Friend
Isaiah 41

“1 Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment....
4 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he.
5 The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.
6 They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage....
8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”

God foresaw the great gathering in the last days of Israel from the isles of the sea (which for them would include the Americas). It would be a trying time, but each would strengthen one another in their fears, and gather to the feet of the Holy One of Israel.

The 17th century British Presbyterian minister and Bible commentator, Matthew Henry noted:

“Can any heathen god raise up one in righteousness, make what use of him he pleases, and make him victorious over the nations? The Lord did so with Abraham, or rather, he would do so with Cyrus. Sinners encourage one another in the ways of sin; shall not the servants of the living God stir up one another in his service? God's people are the seed of Abraham his friend. This is certainly the highest title ever given to a mortal. It means that Abraham, by Divine grace, was made like to God, and that he was admitted to communion with Him. Happy are the servants of the Lord, whom he has called to be his friends, and to walk with him in faith and holy obedience. Let not such as have thus been favoured yield to fear; for the contest may be sharp, but the victory shall be sure.”

Can our heathen or material gods save us? Henry showed that righteous men of God, such as Abraham and Cyrus (who returned the Jews to Israel), were able to do so. I find it interesting in he notes that “sinners encourage one another in the ways of sin”, as we live in a day where many call “evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20). Should the righteous be too afraid to speak up for righteousness? And should we not encourage one another to stand firm and strong in the things of God?

“Abraham, by Divine grace, was made like to God, and that he was admitted to communion with Him.” Isaiah’s point is that we all need to leave our worlds of exile among the sinful nations and return to God’s holy station, where we can commune with Him, be His friend, and share in his Divine grace being made like unto Christ himself.

“10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

We can hear these great words in the second stanza of the wonderful hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” The hymn teaches us that though great trials attend us, God is there with us. If we stand firm on the foundation, we will be delivered. What is the foundation?

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Christ is the chief part of the foundation, with assistance from living and ancient prophets and apostles. Isaiah would be part of that foundation, whose writings prophesied of Christ, the Restoration, and the return of Israel in the last days during times of great trials and tribulations. God is able to create rivers in the desert, move mountains, plant trees, give manna from heaven and water from rocks. He is able to perform the miracles needed for a believing people. However, the wicked he will destroy, even as he foresaw the destruction to come from the northern countries of Assyria and Babylon.

Sing Unto the Lord a New Song
Isaiah 42

God compares his precious Messiah to the righteous and covenant people of Israel. Both are chosen for a special work, called in righteousness, promised to be held in God’s hand. Both are to “bring judgment unto truth” and be a “light of the Gentiles.” Israel failed their calling and duty to perform as the elect and holy people of God. But the Messiah would come bringing the fullness of the gospel and salvation to both the Jews and Gentiles. He will not only save the living, but provide salvation to the dead (1 Peter 3:18-22, 4:6). The Messiah, Jesus Christ, would be the fulfillment of the promise and covenant of Israel.

Beside Me there is no other Savior
Isaiah 43

Once the Messiah is called, God can tell Israel that they are now saved: “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (Isa 43:1). He has now accepted those who embrace God and take upon themselves His name. LDS believe that Jehovah of the Old Testament was Jesus Christ himself, acting in place of God the Father as King of Israel. He foresaw the coming of the Messiah, because He would be that Messiah. Christians take upon themselves the name of Christ, seeking redemption and salvation through Jesus’ holy name.

As discussed in previous lessons, the ancient Hebrews believed thee was an ancient divine council of God the Father (El Elyon/Elohim), and his divine sons. Each of his top 70 sons was given a kingdom on earth to reign over as King and God of that nation. In Job chapter one, we see sons of Elohim (including the Adversary, Satan) going to Jehovah to challenge him for primacy over Israel. Jehovah won that battle of gods and powerful beings.

Jehovah began his nation by choosing Abraham, who became his friend, his ally, his divine son on the earth. Starting with just one man, Jehovah built up the premier holy nation. Though small compared to Egypt and other nations, it was powerful whenever the people relied on the arm of Jehovah. He was their firm foundation. Only when they turned to other gods, or made idols of gold and silver, did they falter and collapse as a people. No longer holy, they were no longer under Jehovah’s special protection.

Other nations struggled with their divine kings. The divine son, Yam, was dethroned and replaced by Baal among the Canaanites. And in Isaiah’s time, Baal would fall to the destructive forces of Assyria and its gods.

The Lord wanted to assure all of Israel,

“8 Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.
9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.
10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.
12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.
13 Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?”

Jehovah was the first God of Israel, and no upstart was going to replace him. None was formed before him as God of Israel, and none would be after him. The Lord chose his servant, the Messiah, even himself, as God of Israel. He was and is the only Savior of Israel and of the earth. No other god, whether Baal or any idol was ever going to save them, nor replace Jehovah as their God. Jehovah repeats his holy name “I AM” (compare with John 8:58, Exodus 3:14).

During the Jewish exile, it would be God who would bring down the Babylonians. Daniel notes that Nebuchadnezzar went insane for mocking God, and the Babylonians fell to the Persian Empire. It would be Persia’s king Cyrus that would restore the Jews to the holy land. And in the last days, Babylon (or the wicked of the world) will fall again, allowing God to restore his people to Zion and Jerusalem and other holy places.

Graven Images
Isaiah 44-46

God describes how graven images are made. Men design them, work them in the fire, cast them, and create them with their own hands. While the temple in Jerusalem and other temples in the area looked similar, there was a major difference: In Jehovah’s temple was no graven image of himself. Instead, there was the mercy seat sitting between the two cherubim, with no image of God on the throne. He was the invisible God, or rather the God that was not made of gold, silver or wood. He was and is real, and no graven image could approach his glory.

“9 They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.
10 Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
11 Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.”

When God appears to them in glory, they shall see just how worthless their images and gods really are. They will be ashamed of their efforts. Rather than using their hands to worship God and serve others in Christian service, they spent their lives piling up riches and treasures, material gods that cannot save them.

It would not be these idols that would save them, but God through his servants. For the Jews in exile, Isaiah foresaw the prince of Persia, Cyrus, returning them to Jerusalem and commanding them to rebuild the temple. But this could only happen after Israel put away their strange gods, and not before.

“14 Thus saith the Lord, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.
15 Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.
16 They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.
17 But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
18 For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else” (Isa 45).

God will turn the riches of others over to his righteous people. They will not want if they put their trust in Him. God hides himself in the sense that he is the invisible God. He has no idol to represent him. But people who become his friends, even as Abraham, can commune with him, see him, and be with him. He is the Savior, Jesus Christ, and will crown the righteous in Israel with “everlasting salvation.” He is the Great “I AM”.

Babylon the Great is Fallen!
Isaiah 47-48

God has tough words for Babylon and Chaldee. He tells the Chaldeans they will no longer be known as the “lady of kingdoms” as they have prostituted themselves in sin and iniquity. Their hold on Israel is a temporary one, and as Israel grows in faith and righteousness, it shall rise in God’s strength. Meanwhile, the mighty and proud of the world shall collapse into ashes.

Babylon was a mighty nation once, reigning from Mesopotamia and into Egypt. But they collapsed anciently. Today, Babylon is the world of sin that surrounds us with its bare power and force. Many nations have signed their souls over to become part of Babylon and its worship of modern gods of materialism.

The day came when God called Judah out of the lands of their captors and restored them to Jerusalem. A new temple was built, and the people sought no longer after idols nor graven images. Sadly, in Jesus’ day, they will have replaced their worship of Baal with the worship of money and riches. This foreshadows our own day, when people give lip service to the Lord God of Israel, and focus their attentions on getting gain.

“20 Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.
21 And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.
22 There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (Isa 48).

God will lead Jacob through the dangers in the world, until they find themselves in safety in the promised land. But for the wicked, there is no true peace. In sowing sin, they will reap the whirlwind of discontent and terror.

The Messiah’s Calling
Isaiah 49

“1 Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.
2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;
3 And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.
5 And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.
6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.”

Isaiah’s divine calling resembled that of the Messiah. In Isaiah 6, we see him stand before the Divine Council, receiving his calling to restore Israel from God. He symbolizes the Messiah, as the Lord would be called to the position to save them. Yet, with both Isaiah and Jesus, Israel initially rejected them. But the words of Isaiah and the redemption of Christ flow into and among the Gentile nations, bringing salvation to all the earth. While it seems in the short term they have lost the battle for Israel, the war will be won by saving not only many in physical Israel, but all in spiritual Israel. Israel will not be forgotten forever.

“13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.
14 But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

God will gather Israel; both the literal line of Jacob and the spiritual line, will be gathered in the last days.

“22 Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.
23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.”

God the Messiah, even Jesus Christ, is redeemer and savior of the whole world. He will save Israel, and offer salvation to the Gentiles. All who accept of his divine grace shall be saved from physical and spiritual death, and will dwell in peace and joy for eternity.


Matthew Henry bio- wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Henry

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Isa 41: http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=23&c=41

“How Firm a Foundation” sung by Mormon Tabernacle Choir: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUqHXFA2_6w

Divine Council at Joel’s Monastery:

Other links on the Divine Council