The Hand of the Lord

In my studies recently I have been acting on an invitation from President Russell M Nelson to the Young Adults of the Church to go through the whole Standard Works and highlight things that Christ has DONE and SAID in those inspired works. This was given as an assignment from a prophet of the Lord. He said:

“I have an invitation for you that will help—it’s an assignment, actually—if you choose to accept it. Commence tonight to consecrate a portion of your time each week to studying everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the Old Testament, for He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Study His laws as recorded in the New Testament, for He is its Christ. Study His doctrine as recorded in the Book of Mormon, for there is no book of scripture in which His mission and His ministry are more clearly revealed. And study His words as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, for He continues to teach His people in this dispensation.”

I am up to about Genesis 44 (not quite as far as I would like to be) but already I have spotted some interesting patterns. As I have read the great accounts of the ancient prophets – Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and others – I have noticed that as these righteous covenant makers stayed true to the gospel they were taught, they were blessed. The impact of these blessings did not always come instantly. Examples were Joseph and being sold by his brothers to Egypt, Abraham and his struggles with family and being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac and also Jacob and his worry about his brother Esau seemingly advancing to exact vengeance.

The opposite is true of those who were not valiant in their testimonies or in their obedience to God’s commandments. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was such an example. He took his family and pitched their tents towards Sodom and Gomorrah despite being warned. As a result they were forced to flee their residence (out of interest, which was now in Sodom itself so they had obviously accepted living within it’s boundaries later on) and lived in misery after losing loved ones.

The lesson? The hand of the Lord is evident in the lives of those who follow the Saviour. Of course, this does not guarantee that life will be perfect. We know the rain will fall on the just and the unjust. But, the Lord will bless those in relation with the obedience they have shown. As I continue with this assignment I know I will see more examples of this. President Nelson continued:

“This may seem like a large assignment, but I encourage you to accept it. If you proceed to learn all you can about Jesus Christ, I promise you that your love for Him, and for God’s laws, will grow beyond what you currently imagine. I promise you also that your ability to turn away from sin will increase. Your desire to keep the commandments will soar. You will find yourself better able to walk away from the entertainment and entanglements of those who mock the followers of Jesus Christ….”

I encourage you to take on this challenge, there will be great blessings from it.

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 19

Verse 2 – “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” This is a nice verse which indicates how many before the coming of Christ will be in spiritual darkness. However, the light will shine on them – all of God’s children will have the light shine on them, it will be down to them whether they accept it or not.

Verse 6 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Couldn’t go through Chapter 19 of 2 Nephi and mention this well-known verse. This is Isaiah’s well-documented prophecy of the coming forth of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. When Isaiah speaks he often does so ‘Messianically’, meaning he is foreshadowing the coming of the Saviour, or signifying events that will come.

Verses 12-13 – “…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts.” The concept of the Lord’s hand not being turned away, but always being outstretched is an interesting one. The general assumption is that this verse is referring to the infinite mercy of the Lord, that He is always there ready to help and support us (and this concept is indeed true). However, I have read a deeper meaning to this elsewhere. John Gee, a Latter-day Saint and professional Egyptologist, explained, “The English sentence is constructed to say that in spite of the punishments afflicted (‘for all this’), the punishments do not satisfy the Lord’s anger (‘his anger is not turned away’).” Gee continued, “In other words, to the contrary (‘but’), the hand of the Lord is still ‘stretched out.’” Gee thus concluded, “So a stretched out hand, by any careful reading of the English, is a hand administering punishment,”3 or, at least, threatening or beginning to do so.” This is certainly a more unsettling aspect of this verse, but also just as true a concept as the previously mentioned one.

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 18

Verse 1 – “Moreover, the word of the Lord said unto me: Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen, concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” Again, this indicates the use of names and their meaning. The name used in this verse means ‘Quickened destruction’ which again links to a lot of the imagery and description in Isaiah’s verses.

Verse 12 – “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.” Again, a verse that slightly confused me initially. However, this verse is basically stating that we need to always trust in God first, that He will support us in all things. The meaning is made clearer when linked with Isaiah 31:1 “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!” The ‘confederacy’ that is mentioned by Isaiah is one that Israel wanted to make with other nations to protect themselves. Here, the Lord is inviting them to trust in Him instead and He will deliver them. For us in our lives, this can be evidenced when we trust in our own abilities or ‘in the arm of the flesh’ before the Lord.

Verse 14 – “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” In the same way those who do not stumble over Christ and His teachings, those who are not offended will be blessed. Links to Luke 7:23 which reads “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

Verse 19-20 – “And when they shall say unto you: Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter—should not a people seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead? To the law and to the testimony; and if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Once again this is another reference to the Israelites needing to rely on the Lord. This chapter seems to have a very consistent theme!

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 17

Verse 3 – “Then said the Lord unto Isaiah: Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou and Shearjashub thy son…” The name ‘Shearjashub’ means “remnant shall return”. This links well with Isaiah’s prophecies with the future of Israel.

Verse 7 – “Thus saith the Lord God: It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.” This highlights the finality of the word of the Lord. We must recognise that if we submit our will to His, He will bless us ultimately with what we need. In Proverbs 21:30 we read There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” When we seek for answers to deep questions we have, we must remember the counsels and guidance of the Lord we have already received. This will help us.

Verse 14-15 – Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign—Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and to choose the good.” This seems appropriate considering the time which I’m posting this. I was intrigued by the phrase here with the butter and honey. How does this relate? The butter and honey refers to the humble circumstances in which the Saviour would be born on the Earth. Because of this humble beginning and His mortal existence, our Lord and Saviour would know how to support us all in our trials and times of difficulty.

Verse 21 – “And it shall come to pass in that day, a man shall nourish a young cow and two sheep;” Once again, this has links with the Assyrian destruction of the land. As a result, there was less providers to sustain and support the land. This can relate to today in numerous ways, as again was the purpose of including these prophecies in the Book of Mormon, to liken the scriptures unto us. A spiritual battle wages around for example and some will fall away. We must try and support and sustain as many around us.

 

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 16

I’m quite enjoying recording the thoughts from my studies – it’s good to go back and review what I had found and try to pick out more insights.

Verse 2 – “Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” This was certainly one which was interesting to think about. I think the purpose of presenting the seraphim indicates the power and glory of God. In Mormon Doctrine, Elder Bruce R McConkie explained Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God, giving continual glory, honor, and adoration to him. … In Hebrew the plural of seraph is seraphim. … The fact that these holy beings were shown to him as having wings was simply to symbolize their ‘power, to move, to act, etc.’ as was the case also in visions others had received.” Describing this from the vision, Isaiah draws a greater line under the omnipotence of His Supreme Creator, one who we can have great faith and trust in.

Verse 5 – “Then said I: Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” Notice the contrast between the great glory of the Lord and the great fear and trembling from Isaiah. We find many other examples of fear and trembling before the Lord in scripture – Lehi, the Brother of Jared and Moses to name a few. It is not surprising – I think if any of us were to experience that then I think we would react the same!

Verse 8 – “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said: Here am I; send me.” As mentioned before, one of the most incredible (and occasionally confusing) attributes of Isaiah’s writing is that often he writes things which refer to multiple events, individuals, time periods and groups. Here, Isaiah is referring to a very personal event where he accepts the call from the Lord to, effectively, be a prophet; to testify to the world of the Saviour and His principles. We see a similar scene take place when the Saviour himself is chosen to be our Redeemer. “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.” (Abraham 3:27) Of course, we all receive moments in our lives when the Lord reaches out to us and calls us to his work. Will we follow the example of the Saviour and Isaiah and accept the call?

Verse 10 – “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes—lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed.” This was always a little confusing for me. From this verse it sounds that the Lord wants Isaiah to share the Gospel to the people to make it so they are more resistant. This will then avoid them understanding and being healed. Obviously more study was needed. I read in the Book of Mormon Institute Student Manual it said “He was advised that his preaching to a wayward people would generally not be received. Their hearts would “fatten” against the truth and their ears would be “heavy”…Isaiah was not commissioned to make the people resistant to the truth; rather, he was advised of the difficulty of the mission.” The Lord was warning that not many would hear. Not many would reflect a change in heart and try to understand as said in Proverbs 2:2 “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;” If we have desire to learn, we can turn our hearts to the Spirit to help us gain that understanding.

Verse 13 – “But yet there shall be a tenth, and they shall return, and shall be eaten, as a teil tree, and as an oak whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves; so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.” This ‘holy seed’ is representative of the House of Israel. The tenth is the remnant cast away and the seed shows a regeneration of new life out of scattered Israel.

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 12

This is an attempt to record the prompts and study that I have made whilst studying the chapters of Isaiah, starting at 2 Nephi 12 onwards. There may well be things I miss or other opinions/suggestions about what is discussed in the chapter and I would love to hear them! I will not provide commentary on every verse as that would take a long time but mainly because I do not yet have comments on every single verse.

2 Nephi 12

Verse 2“And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.” Here is a clear reference to what is referred often to in the scriptures as the House of the Lord, or a Temple. Temples will be established in the last days and, whilst some feel that this verse refers to a specific Temple that has been established, personally I feel it can apply to all temples dedicated to the Lord Himself.

Verse 3 “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” The underlined part, for me, refers to sacred temple covenants made in the House of the Lord. As we take upon ourselves sacred and eternal laws to govern our lives, we become ever closer to how the Lord lives. Whilst we will never achieve that standard in this life, it is important to remember that this life is only a temporary period in our eternal lives.

Verse 4 “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks—nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” When the Saviour returns and there is millennial peace there will be no need for weapons of war. This phrase symbolises that instead of creating tools for battle, there will be tools for other things. What is interesting to me is what those ‘other things’ are. A plowshare and a pruning hook can be seen below:

 

As may have been noticed – these tools are used for planting and farming. Does this mean we will be focused on rearing crops and greenery. Probably not, this may well refer to tending the vineyard of the Lord (see Jacob 5).

Verse 6 Therefore, O Lord, thou hast forsaken thy people, the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and hearken unto soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.” This is the first example I have of many where it is useful to study the 2 Nephi version of Isaiah with the Book of Isaiah. The corresponding verse in Isaiah 2:6 says “Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.” This is a little confusing but a footnote in the Bible version explains this refers to ‘alien beliefs’. In other words, the Israelites had allowed unfamiliar beliefs to enter their traditions and this was having an impact.

Verse 9And the mean man boweth not down, and the great man humbleth himself not, therefore, forgive him not.” This is another example where it is interesting to study the 2 Nephi version of Isaiah with the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah 2:9 reads “And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.” Not only can we see the variation in the text but there are a footnote in the Bible version which explains what the ‘mean man’ is. It means ‘ordinary man’. So, we can read it as saying many ordinary men do not bow down and many great man do not humble themselves either before the Second Coming, thus, they will not be forgiven.

Verse 10 “O ye wicked ones, enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and the glory of his majesty shall smite thee.” This has a strong reminder of the sorrowful state of the unrepentant when they are resurrected before the Lord and are aware of all their transgressions we find described in Alma 12:14 “For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.”

Verse 11-17 And it shall come to pass that the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of Hosts soon cometh upon all nations, yea, upon every one; yea, upon the proud and lofty, and upon every one who is lifted up, and he shall be brought low. Yea, and the day of the Lord shall come upon all the cedars of Lebanon, for they are high and lifted up; and upon all the oaks of Bashan; And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills, and upon all the nations which are lifted up, and upon every people; And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall; And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” This passage describes what will happen to all those ‘proud’ people in the day of the Second Coming. One such metaphor used is the ‘cedars of Lebanon’. These tall trees can reach a height of 40m. Not only this, but their national significance can also link to how a ‘cedar of Lebanon’ or one who is built up like this tree may need to be brought low. The cedar is the national symbol of Lebanon and therefore regarded with high importance.

Verse 20 “In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which he hath made for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;” The significance of this verse shows us that when the Lord returns to the Earth in His glory, all idols of gold and silver will be cast away, worthless before Him. Of course, we are to recognise that these ‘idols’ will not all be little ornate statues we may pray to in violation of the commandments of God. There are many other idols that all of us, even those who have made sacred covenants with the Lord, may put before the Lord. Do we value the pursuit of material items, sporting events or public recognition before the Saviour? How we use our time is a good indicator of this and something which will require all Saints to undertake some serious self-reflection to consider it.

Verse 22 Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?” And finally, just to hammer home the importance of putting the Lord before the arm of the flesh, we are given a timely reminder. Why cling to material or trivial things when the One who gave and continues to give all men breath is beckoning us to come unto Him? When you think about it, it should be a straightforward answer…

Ok – well as this is actually taking a lot more space, pondering and time than expected I will post chapter by chapter!