Saturday, September 20, 2014

Old Testament Lesson 36: The Glory of Zion Will be a Defense

So who was Isaiah? We have few clues. The bible tells us that he was the prophet during the time of 4 Judean kings - Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. He was a prophet for a span of close to 50 years, maybe more. And there is some suggestion that Hezekiah was his son-in-law and that Hezekiah's son Manasseh (Isaiah's grandson) killed Isaiah by putting him in a hollowed out tree trunk and having him sawn in half (cf Heb 11:37). So much for being able to enjoy your grandkids!

Isaiah's name means "Jehovah is salvation" and it is clear his name, ministry and life were meant to help point to Christ. Now before we start studying Isaiah it might be worth noting that 16 chapters of Isaiah are quoted in the Book of Mormon. For the next 5 lessons we will be studying Isaiah. The Saviour encouraged us to study Isaiah in 3 Nephi 23:1-3 ( I know some of us would prefer he had said the Book of Jarom or Omni) but interestingly although Nephi encourages a study of Isaiah also, he seems to recognize that people not of Isaiah's time and culture would struggle to understand his words. 2 Nephi 25:1-4. According to Nephi what is the key to understanding Isaiah?
The Great Isaiah Scroll of Qumran
Isaiah 1 we are told is a vision Isaiah had concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
What is the state of the people in v.2-4? rebellious, ignorant, sinful, evildoers, corrupted, gone away backward. Dumber than the dumbest animals - ox and ass.
What does that phrase "gone away backward" suggest?

How spiritually sick are the people? v.5-6 the whole head and the whole heart (leaders and the people) and notice what ails them - head is sick (unrighteous) hear is faint (weak and unrighteous), from head to toe it is ridden with wounds bruises and putrefying sores that have not been bound and closed or soothed with ointment. Based on that analogy what are the people sorely lacking? A good doctor? (cf Psalms 147:3). Who could heal them? And yet they hadn't even applied a band-aid yet. Why do people avoid repentance and healing?

What does he tell the people to do that are in this state? v.16-19 Repent, clean up.
v.18 "come now, and let us reason together" When? NOW. Don't delay.

v.29-30 alludes to the shrines set up and built with oak trees in gardens for idol worship
v.30 tow=tinder

Then he moves away from them and starts discussing the last days.
Isaiah 2:2-4 mountain of the Lord house to be established in the tops of the mountains.
It is interesting to note that when the Salt Lake valley was first settled, those that settled there wanted to call the region Deseret. However the US government in granting statehood insisted it be called Utah in common with their practice of naming states after the tribal people common to that area. Little did they realize they were helping fulfil this prophecy in Isaiah. Utah in the Ute language means "the top of the mountains".

Zion and Jerusalem to be the two centres of the Millenium. One the legal and judicial centre (constitutional) and one the spiritual centre (scriptural).
A world of peace and happiness is shown where there is no more war.

Why did Isaiah share this vision of the last days after telling people how sick they were? v.5  has the answer but try comparing to 2 Nephi 12:5 it's an invitation. You are wicked and suffering the calamities of your wickedness but there is a better way and one day it will be better. You can experience this if you walk in his light.

v.6-9 But currently you get your light and replenishment from psychics, eastern philosophies, marrying outside of the temple, your focus is on money, you have more cars and armies than you know what to do with, and you have sports idols, pop idols, movie idols and worship man-made things. Even your poor are proud! You give more credence to your own things than to the things of God. Google and Wikipedia are valued more than scripture. Which did you use more this week? We are far from the simple desire of the Lord's prayer - "give us this day our daily bread!" We chase riches and build armies in our vain efforts to self-preserve and forget the great Deliverer has promised us salvation and preservation if we just trust in Him.

What is the advice given if that is your state or condition in life - Hide! Crawl under a rock and hide! (cf Alma 12:14)

v.10. Why?
v.11-17 Because all the mighty and proud will be brought low. Cedars of Lebanon, Oaks of Bashan, Ships of Tarshish. All trees. Trees represent man. No matter how great you are, how powerful, how good-looking, how rich, He will bring you down!
v.10 and v.19 why will they hide? For fear - they will recognize he is greater than anything they put their trust in. Notice also it will be too bright for them..where do they go to hide? In dark places. Will their idols save them? No! v.20 in fact they are thrown to moles and bats. What do moles and bats have to with this? They also live in darkness and are blind!

And what is the lesson the Lord would have us learn from all of this? v.22  "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils..." We are nothing, we live - carried along by a mere puff of air. Can we save ourselves? NO. Only he who is mighty to save can save mankind, through the great atonement.

Notice that Isaiah 2 has two great heights that can be reached in life - the tops of the mountains where you will find the Lord's house OR the loftiness of man (pride). Which are you closest to scaling?

Isaiah 3 is a continuation of the vision Isaiah had and here he is told in vision that the Lord will take away his support from the people. He will no longer feed them, taking away the wise and replacing them with immature leaders v.1-4

v.16-26 even the women are guilty of pride and being followers of fashion more than faithful followers of their God. They will be shamed and their families torn apart by war.

How great will be the desolation and destruction according to Isaiah 4?   7 women will ask 1 man to give them his name. Don't feed or clothe us just let us belong. (v.1) Only the righteous will be left in Jerusalem and Zion.
v.5-6 Every home (dwelling place), every congregation of his people (assembly) shall be protected by a pillar of fire at night, and by a cloud and smoke during the day. What else will be there - a tabernacle (temple). How is it described? As a shadow from the sun and heat, a cover from rain and storms and a place of refuge. Could we use a place to get away from the storms and the stresses of our life? Could we do with having a place of refuge and protection for us? Go to the temple!

Isaiah 5:1-7 The Lord now compares his people to a vineyard. How did he look after it? Built a fence (protection and defence), gathered out the stones (made life a rich place to grow for us) planted the choicest vine (the best, the chosen people were given for their roots Abr. 3:22-23), built a tower in the midst (a place of gathering and a sign of God's presence in our midst - the temple), made a winepress (gave us challenges to bring the best out of us). What was the result - sour grapes! What was the Lord's reaction - take away the protection and stop looking after it.
v.8-24 a expansion on who these sour grapes are.
wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil:
Spencer W. Kimball
Jesus Christ our Lord is under no obligation to save this world. The people have ignored him, disbelieved him, failed to follow him. They stand at his mercy which will be extended only if they repent. But to what extent have we repented? Another prophet said, "We call evil good, and good evil." Men have rationalized themselves into thinking that they are "not so bad." Are they fully ripe? Has the rot of age and flabbiness set in? Can they change? They see evil in their enemies, but none in themselves. Even in the true Church numerous of its people fail to attend their meetings, to tithe their incomes, to have their regular prayers, to keep all the commandments. We can transform, but will we? It seems that we would rather tax ourselves into slavery than to pay our tithes; rather build protections and walls than drop to our knees with our families in solemn prayers night and morning. (Conference Report, Oct. 1, 1961, p.31)
v.25 his hand is still stretched out against them - there is more destruction to come.
v.26 in the last days an ensign will be lifted and people will gather to it swiftly with the aid of young lions (missionaries).
LeGrand Richards
Since there were no such things as trains and airplanes in that day, Isaiah could hardly have mentioned them by name, but he seems to have described them in unmistakable words. How better could "their horses hoofs be counted like flint, and their wheel like a whirlwind" than in the modern train? How better could "Their like a lion" than in the roar of the airplane? Trains and airplanes do not stop for night. Therefore, was not Isaiah justified in saying "none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken"? With this manner of transportation the Lord can really "hiss unto them from the end of the earth," that "they shall come with speed swiftly." (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 236)
Isaiah 6
Isaiah is called of God but feels unworthy of his call saying he has unclean lips and lives among people with unclean lips. How was Isaiah made worthy? v.6-7 Where did the coal come from? Why was it hot? What does the coal symbolize?

Once cleansed and purified Isaiah answered his call saying, "Here am, I send me" alluding to the Saviour's own mission call in the pre-existence.

Our first study of Isaiah has been a study full of symbols and imagery. But it is clear that the wicked are being called to repentance. The righteous are promised great blessings and all can still be saved through the cleansing power of the great atonement.
As we are cleansed, attend the temple and live the commandments we will find that the Lord's Glory will attend us and will protect us.

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