30 October 2009

"Seek... God," 2 Nephi 18:19-22

2 Nephi 18:19-22

This final grouping of verses from this chapter contains another accusation against Israel for looking for answers elsewhere, rather than from God.

Verse 19 condemns sooth-sayers, fortune tellers, wizards, those that seek to speak with the dead, etc. with this very simple question: "Should not a people seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead? "

There is a footnote on this verse that leads to 1 Samuel 28:8-20, which tells about the fall and demise of Saul, who in failed attempts to communicate with God turned to a woman who practiced sooth-saying, or in other words, wizardry and fortune-telling. The account would almost be humorous, if it wasn't so hopeless and uninspiring.

The woman knew that Saul, who was king, had condemned and sought out to destroy those with familiar spirits and wizards. So Saul ,at this point where his kingdom is on the brink of takeover, under disguise and compelled by fear, comes to this woman to find answers.

Saul sought to talk with Samuel the prophet. In the biblical passages it says that Samuel came unto him. They talk and the brunt of Samuel's message was this: why are you trying to talk to me when God, who's servant I am, has become your enemy? Manifested within Saul is the human tendency to ignore one's own sins while still hoping that one can be found doing good.

Back in 2 Nephi 18, verse 20 reads "To the law and to the testimony." This is the standard of the Lord, and if an individual does not abide by these precepts, then in them there is no light.

There are those who will blaspheme the organization of the Church as one too large and inherently corrupt as a result. And in a world, where darkness and corruption abound, it's not hard to see where these accusation could come from, or upon what grounds such assumptions could be made. But the law and the testimony, which is now found centrally in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leadership, has become a great standard for the world to turn to.

These types take the gospel at a superficial face value, and as such, verse 21 says that they are still hungry and are left to roam aimlessly and curse God because they themselves would not listen to or believe the words of the prophets. Darkness, anguish, and confusion are their companions. They would pretend in their own minds to have answers, but yet are left without explanation to contemplate the chaos.

24 October 2009

"I and the Children", 2 Nephi 18:18

2 Nephi 18:18 reads like this:
Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion.
"Behold," a call for attention to this statement which is one of the few times there is mention of family in the words of Isaiah.

"I and the children," A father to children relationship --the entity of the family. Mother was probably not included in this statement either out of respect (or reverence) for her place in the family, or perhaps, because of social customs that had evolved out of a patriarchal society. Though she is referenced at the beginning of the chapter as a "the prophetess".

"the children whom the Lord hath given me," Psalms 127:3 also reads, " Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. " These verses are a recognition of the truth that our children are not really ours, but are on loan from on our Heavenly Father. This reminder that the begetting of children is a blessing which the Lord extends to us. It is a small part of the creation which the Lord permits us to be a part of.

How profound is parenthood.

"... are for signs and wonders in Israel," These ideas are calculated to be perceived only by those who have eyes to see. At first reading, this would suggests that Isaiah and his children will be the means of some miraculous spectacle. But the full context contained within the verse seems to suggests otherwise. Isn't it obvious that what Isaiah is referring to in this verse is the same idea that in our days has been articulated like this: "The Family is central to the Creator's plan" (see the Family: A Proclamation to the World ).

The end of the verse helps me to understand and come to this conclusion even more. "...from the Lord of Hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion." Mount Zion in my mind becomes a symbolic representation of the temple, or a place were the Spirit of the Lord dwells continually, a holy place where only the pure in heart are to dwell.

The home, the family dwelling space, ought to also be like the temple, therefore Isaiah and his family are become signs for Israel of the type of life that the Lord would have his people to live.
They are become evidence of the true doctrine of Christ to a people that are turned completely backwards as to the true purposes of life. Their wonder is the calculated success of family life that in their times as well as ours was so very hard to achieve.

This deep discovery in a small verse from the Old Testament has had a profoundly enlightening effect upon me over the last several days. I was well acquainted with the doctrine of family life as found in our modern church, but there are very few evidences of this being taught at all in the church of antiquity. If the church is the same as the church in antiquity, why wasn't it taught to the Israelites. The answer is that it was, but they had a hard enough time abiding by the Law of Moses, that the Celestial law of family could hardly be comprehended. But here Isaiah states that he and his family are for a witness to Israel from the God that dwells in Zion of what Israel could have if they would turn to the Lord their God.

The doctrine of the family is eternal. That Isaiah understood this, as one of the great Biblical witnesses for Christ, reinforces even more the significance of family relationships in our Father in Heaven's plan of happiness for his children.

"And He Shall Be for a Sanctuary," 2 Nephi 18:9-17

2 Nephi 18:9-17

We live in difficult times and these verses are a powerful balm for me this day.

In verses 9 and 10, Isaiah sounds a warning against those who think to form alliances with larger powers so that they may be protected, or in the joining of smaller powers so that their combined powers may be a strength against larger threats. Isaiah plainly says that such will not stand nor will they be of effectiveness in coming against the Lord's people: "for God is with us."

Verses 11 - 13
had heretofore alluded me as to the full significance of the passage. However, having first read the translation from Spanish, and having the broader overall picture in mind, these verses are powerful counsel.

Verse 11: Isaiah is commanded not to walk in the ways of the people. With a strong hand, the Lord clearly delivered this counsel to Isaiah.

Verse 12: this is the verse that most baffled me. "Say not, a confederacy... " The Spanish translation uses a word that means "conspiracy" in place of "confederacy". In this light, this is so parallel and indicative of our times, where news is fraught with one conspiracy after another. People will dedicate their lives to the uncovering of other people's wickeness. So many of these reports are calculated to arouse fear in hearts of those that hear their reports. The Lord clearly counsels Isaiah to avoid such controversy and to not be afraid.

Verse 13: The Lord God is he that is worthy of our attention, fear, dread. It is he that ought to occupy our thoughts as we seek to sanctify Him in our own lives. Such regard for the Divine will keep us safe in the presence of God.

Thus in verse 14 there is the promise that the Lord "shall be for a sanctuary" to us. But then comes the irony of it all. For those of the covenant (the house of Jacob) who do not believe, nor wait upon Him for strength, the Savior of the world becomes for them a stumbling block, this great unavoidable obstacle. Try as they may to get around Him, they cannot and their disbelief will be for them a great burden.

Verse 16
is the closing of a book, so to speak. The work for that season had been done. Those that believed were sealed and secured to the promises in which they believed. For now the Lord is about to hide his face for a season from the house of Jacob.

Verse 17 shows still the conviction and testimony that is within Isaiah:
"I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him."

19 October 2009

"The Waters of Shiloah," 2 Nephi 18:1-8

2 Nephi 18:1-8

There is a theme that runs throughout this chapter. It is first stated like this:
Forasmuch as this people refusesth the waters of Shiloah that go softly... behold, the Lord bringeth upon them the waters of the river, strong and many... (vs 6 & 7).
"Shiloah" in this verse is another name for the Messiah, (see JST Genesis 50:24). "The waters of Shiloah that go softly..." This reminds me of other names or titles attributed to the Savior, such as "living water". In John 4:14 from the conversation that the Savior has with the woman at the well, it reads:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
So perhaps in a similar sense, what Isaiah is accusing his people of rejecting is the gentle, peaceable gospel of Christ--these waters that flow softly.

Focusing on the promise extended to those that do drink, or in other words, those that hear the gospel and obey it, the Savior promises "a well of water springing up into everlasting life." This promise is expounded upon in even greater detail in the Doctrine and Covenants where it talks about the righteous exercise of priesthood power. It concludes with these words, "and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever," (D & C 121:46).

Isaiah's people rejected these slow flowing waters of Shiloah, which in reality was a rejection of the Lord thier God. As the chapter continues the Lord counsel with Isaiah, and Isaiah himself explains how one ought to depend upon God for every blessing and not on the devises of men.

The personal application from these first verses is this: How often do I reject, or decline the opportunity to drink the waters of Life? Christ himself gave the test to measure effective "drinking" so to speak. If I am drinking deeply from the waters of Christ's doctrine, then they shall flow within me and out of me as a never-ending spring of pure water (to also bless the lives of others) which is the guide to and the guarantee of eternal life.

07 October 2009

"The Lord [Shall] Shave with a Razor that Is Hired," 2 Nephi 17:17-25

2 Nephi 17:17-25

(Personal note: The Spirit of the Lord facilitates comprehension of Isaiah.)

These verses explain the effects that Ahaz's choices have on the House of Judah. There is a historical reference in 2 Chronicles 28:19-21 which explains why the condemnation of the Lord had come upon Ahaz.

The remainder of the chapter describes the desolate conditions/bondage that result. Their land becomes overgrown with briers and thorns. Verse 20 describes how the Lord will shave with a hired (or borrowed) razor, thus suggesting that the house of David becomes dependent upon other nations for their strength.

Verse 18
leaves me wondering if this is strictly symbolic or strictly literal or both symbolic and literal. The footnotes from Isaiah 7 suggest that this gathering of flies from Egypt and bees from Assyria represents a call to arms. The verse is also cross-referenced with Isaiah 5:26 which talks about the call to Zion by means of an ensign to the nations.

All this, in comparison with the prophecy found earlier in this chapter, seems to be of minor significance. These are the consequences of faithless reasoning. However the prophecy of the Son of Man being born of a virgin mother is a ray of hope. Powerful.

One more review of these verses leads me to reflect upon the events that are attributed to the Lord's doing it. "The Lord shall bring upon thee," "the Lord shall hiss," and "shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired." And hence comes the reminder of the House of Israel's most frequent omission, the failure to remember the Lord their God and His hand in their lives. This final reference from verse 20 shows to what extent they had descended into forgetting the Lord their God. His work would be assisted by hired hands, instead of members of House of Israel.