Old Testament Lesson 40 (Isaiah 54–56; 63-65)
The Bride and Bridegroom
● The Metaphor of Marriage (Isaiah 54).
— Christ considers his relationship with us to be sacred—like a marriage.
— He uses the metaphor of marriage when discussing covenants/blessings.
— Those who seek after other gods are called “unfaithful.”
— Christ is faithful to his promises to us, and he expects us to do the same.
— If we are faithful we become joint-heirs with him of all things.
● The Barren Wife Will Become Fruitful (Isaiah 54:1–3).
— Israel is called a barren wife—unable to produce spiritual offspring (v. 1).
— She will have many children when restored in the latter-days (v. 3).
— The tent of Israel will have to expand to hold all of them (v. 2).
— Enlarge the tent.
— Stretch forth thy curtains.
— Lengthen thy cords.
— Strengthen thy stakes.
● As the “Waters of Noah” (Isaiah 54:4–13).
— In ancient times, the inability to bear children was considered a great curse by women of the Middle East. As a gathered “wife,” Israel will forget the shame or cast-off status of her earlier years and rejoice in her new and prosperous condition.
— Israel’s shame will be forgotten in the glorious future (vv. 4–8). Though the barren or forsaken years seemed long, they were but a small moment compared to the vast eternity ahead.
— This promise is like the “waters of Noah” to the Lord (vv. 9–10).
• The Lord always keeps his covenants.
• He promised Noah never to destroy the world again with water.
• This promise to Israel is just as sure as the one to Noah.
— Israel’s great blessings to come (vv. 11–13).
— The beautiful City of Zion (Revelation 21:19–21).
— George Q. Cannon said: “I cannot lift my hand against this people and be prospered in it, nor can any other man. No man can join with the enemies of this people and hope to succeed; for God will desert him no matter how high his standing may be, and all who follow in his footsteps will find themselves dreadfully deceived.”1
— President George Albert Smith was about to close one of our general conferences, which happened to be at the time of the furor caused by the book No Man Knows My History, one of the scurrilous things published against the Church, and there had been different speakers who had said something about these apostate writings with which the Church was being flooded. Just as President Smith was about to finish, he paused—and it was wholly unrelated to what he had been talking about—and he said: ‘Many have belittled Joseph Smith, but those who have will be forgotten in the remains of mother earth, and the odor of their infamy will ever be with them; but honor, majesty, and fidelity with God exemplified by Joseph Smith and attached to his name shall never die.’”2
— President Harold B. Lee said: “When we see some of our own today doing similar things, some who have been recognized and honored in the past as teachers and leaders who later fall by the wayside, our hearts are made sore and tender. But sometimes we have to say just like the Master said: “The devil must have entered into them. . . . He will take care of our enemies if we continue to keep the commandments. So, you Saints of the Most High God, when these things come, and they will come—this has been prophesied—you just say, “No weapon formed against the work of the Lord will ever prosper, but all glory and majesty of this work that the Lord gave will long be remembered after those who have tried to befoul their names and the name of the Church will be forgotten, and their works will follow after them.”3
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear. Till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”4
INVITATIONS TO RIGHTEOUSNESS
Look to Christ for Eternal Life
● Israel is invited to come unto the Lord and live (Isaiah 55:1–7; 2 Nephi 9:50–51).
— The “price” of eternal life is free-without cost—but not without effort (v. 1).
— Jesus is the “living water”(v. 1; John 4:13–14).
— He is also the “bread of life”(v. 2; John 6:47–51).
— He is also the “David” of this verse (v. 3).
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “If at times we have been requested to seek the help of the Lord in this great struggle which has deluged the world, have we prayed in the true spirit of prayer? What good does it do for us to petition the Lord, if we have no intention of keeping His commandments? Such praying is hollow mockery and an insult before the throne of grace. How dare we presume to expect a favorable answer if such is the case? “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” [Quoted Isa. 55:7.] But is not the Lord always near when we petition Him? Verily no! [D&C 101:7–8.] If we draw near unto Him, He will draw near unto us, and we will not be forsaken; but if we do not draw near to Him, we have no promise that He will answer us in our rebellion.”5
God’s Higher Knowledge and Intelligence
● God’s “thoughts” (intelligence) is higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8–11).
— He does not do things the way we do them.
— He understands things we do not understand.
— President John Taylor said: “We know in part, and see in part, and comprehend in part; [but] many of the things of God are hid from our view. . . . The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God [and] no man in and of himself is competent to unravel the designs and know the purposes of Jehovah. . . . The wisdom and intelligence of God . . . are as far above their wisdom and intelligence as the heavens are above the earth.”6
● The Lord’s word will be fulfilled and Israel will one day prosper (Isaiah 55:12–13).
● Both Israelites and Gentiles will be gathered as the Lord’s people and receive exaltation (Isaiah 56:1–8).
— Jesus quoted the phrase “mine house shall be called an house of prayer” in referring to the temple in Jerusalem (v. 7; Luke 19:46).
Israel’s Apostasy and Evil Practices
● Watchmen in Israel are condemned for their selfishness (Isaiah 56:9–12).
— The beasts devour, the watchmen are blind, the dogs are dumb and greedy, and the shepherds are without understanding.
— In a latter-day context, these figures may point to the Gentiles who reject the gospel when it is presented to them and seek to have others do the same. This passage may also refer to those who have the gospel (watch over the flock) but do not make it available to others.
— “Kimchi observes, ‘The flock is intrusted to the care of these watchmen. The wild beasts come; these dogs bark not; and the wild beasts devour the flock. Thus they do not profit the flock. Yea, they injure it; for the owner trusts in them, that they will watch and be faithful; but they are not. These are the false teachers and careless shepherds.'”7
— These words are an apt description of the Christian world of the last days. Read Nephi’s comments about the Churches of today (2 Nephi 28:3–9) and compare them with Moroni’s comments (Mormon 8:31–33, 37–39).
Christ’s Second Coming
● The great destruction of the enemies of Jerusalem (Isaiah 34:1–10).
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Isaiah has pictured this great day when the Lord shall come with his garments, or apparel, red and glorious, to take vengeance on the ungodly . . . This will be a day of mourning to the wicked, but a day of gladness to all who have kept his commandments. Do not let any one think that this is merely figurative language, it is literal, and as surely as we live that day of wrath will come when the cup of iniquity is full. We have received a great many warnings. The great day of the Millennium will come in; the wicked will be consumed and peace and righteous-ness will dwell upon all the face of the earth for one thousand years.”8
— President John Taylor said: When he comes again he comes to take vengeance on the ungodly and to bring deliverance unto his Saints; [Isaiah 63:4]. It behooves us to be made well aware which class we belong to, that if we are not already among the redeemed we may immediately join that society, that when the Son of God shall come the second time with all the holy angels with him, arrayed in power and great glory to take vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel, or when he shall come in flaming fire, we shall be among that number who shall be ready to meet him with gladness in our hearts and hail him as our great deliverer and friend.”9
— Great physical disturbances will accompany His coming (Isaiah 64:1–3).
— Last warnings before great destructions (D&C 133:37–45).
— Tremendous physical changes @ the 2nd coming (D&C 88:87–91).
— Valleys shall be “exalted” and mountains “made low” (D&C 49:23).
— God’s voice “shall break down the mountains,” so that “the valleys shall not be found” (D&C 133:22).
— Elder Charles W. Penrose said: “He comes! The earth shakes, and the tall mountains tremble; the mighty deep rolls back to the north as in fear, and the rent skies glow like molten brass. He comes! The dead Saints burst forth from their tombs, and ‘those who are alive and remain’ are ‘caught up’ with them to meet him [1 Thessalonians 4:17]. The ungodly rush to hide themselves from his presence, and call upon the quivering rocks to cover them. He comes! with all the hosts of the righteous glorified. The breath of his lips strikes death to the wicked. His glory is a consuming fire. The proud and rebellious are as stubble; they are burned and ‘left neither root nor branch’ [Malachi 4:1]. He sweeps the earth ‘as with the besom of destruction.’ [Isaiah 14:23]. He deluges the earth with the fiery floods of his wrath, and the filthiness and abominations of the world are consumed. Satan and his dark hosts are taken and bound—the prince of power of the air has lost his dominion, for He whose right it is to reign has come, and ‘the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.”10
● The Millennium will last a thousand years, which is what “millennium” means (Isaiah 65:17–25).
— People will have no desire for things to be as they once were (v. 17).
— The old earth “shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (v. 17).
— Everything will be gloriously new (v. 19).
— Sorrow will cease (v. 19).
— Children will not die in infancy (v. 20).
— Homes will be built, trees and gardens planted and enjoyed (v. 21).
— No one will be driven from his lands (v. 22).
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “When the Lord comes to rule on the earth in his own right, and all kingdoms become subject unto him, and the earth is renewed and again receives its paradisiacal glory, death shall be removed as far as it possibly can be removed before the resurrection, and while mortality remains. During the Millennium the earth will be transformed into a “new earth” with a new heaven, as Isaiah has declared. It will no longer be a telestial earth, but will become a terrestrial earth. Infants will not die until they become old and then death shall be the transition to the immortal from the mortal state in the twinkling of an eye. This day is near at hand, “speaking after the manner of the Lord,” and then shall come the time of the entire separation of the wicked from the righteous.”11
● 1 Thessalonians 3:13
— Christ will bring his Saints with him.
— Christ will reign personally & the earth will be renewed (Article of Faith 10).
— All flesh will see His coming simultaneously (D&C 101:23–31).
— Every corruptible thing will be consumed.
— Everything will be new.
— All enmity will cease.
— Every desire will be granted.
— Satan will have no power to tempt us.
— There will be no sorrow.
— There will be no death; every child will live long life.
— “Death” will be an instantaneous change to immortality.
— All things will be revealed.
— The righteous will be taught and prepared for exaltation.
— Righteous members of the Church from the days of Adam to the present will associate with one another and with Christ.
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Great and marvelous though the changes will be incident to life during the millennial era, yet mortality as such will continue. Children will be born, grow up, marry, advance to old age, and pass through the equivalent of death. Crops will be planted, harvested, and eaten; industries will be expanded, cities built, and education fostered; men will continue to care for their own needs, handle their own affairs, and enjoy the full endowment of free agency. Speaking a pure language (Zeph. 3:9), dwelling in peace, living without disease, and progressing as the Holy Spirit will guide, the advancement and perfection of society during the millennium will exceed anything men have supposed or expected.”12
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “While in conversation at Judge Adams’ during the evening, I said, Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand years. They will not probably dwell upon the earth, but will visit it when they please, or when it is necessary to govern it. There will be wicked2 men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who will not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth.” (Dec. 30, 1842).13
1. Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon , 210.
2. In Conference Report, April 1946, 181.
3. Stand Ye in Holy Places , 379.
4. Wentworth Letter, March 1, 1842. In In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 1, 1833-1964, 141.
5. In Conference Report, April 1943, 14.
6. In Journal of Discourses, 1:368.
7. Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible . . . with a Commentary and Critical Notes , 4:212.
8. Church History and Modern Revelation , 1:191–192.
9. In Journal of Discourses, 10:116.
10. “The Second Advent,” Millennial Star, 10 Sept. 1859, 583.
11. Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:232–233.
12. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 496–497.
13. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 268.