Old Testament Lesson 40 (Isaiah 50–57)
September 25–October 1
Zion’s Future Redemption
● Isaiah 50:1 The Metaphor of Divorce
— The Lord points out that he has not “divorced” Israel nor sold her.
— Under Mosaic law, a man who divorced his wife was required to give her a written bill of divorce. She was then free to marry again.
— Under the same laws, a man could sell himself or his children into slavery to satisfy his creditors.
● Isaiah 50:2–6 Typology: Speaking of the future as if it were already past.
— He will come to earth as their Redeemer (vv. 2–3).
— He will give his “back to the smiters” (be scourged) (vv. 4–6; Matt. 27:26).
— He will suffer “shame and spitting” in his face (Matt. 26:67).
● Isaiah 50:7–9 Israel says “the Lord will help me; . . . I shall not be ashamed.” If God is on Israel’s side, “who will contend with me?”
● Isaiah 50:10–11 Men trust in themselves.
— They do not “stay upon” (trust) in God.
— They “walk in the light of [their own] fire, and sparks [they] have kindled.”
● Isaiah 51:1–3 Remembering who you are.
— The “hole . . . whence ye are digged” is Abraham.
— Abraham is the “rock” from whence Israel was hewn.
— Abraham is the “pit” from whence they were digged.
● Isaiah 51:9 Israel’s priesthood power.
— “Rahab” symbolizes harlotry (v. 9).
— “The dragon” symbolizes Satan.
● Isaiah 51:10–11 “A highway in the sea.”
— “Thy land shall be married” (Isaiah 62:4).
— “Like unto Israel (coming) (Isaiah 11:16). . . out of Egypt”.
— A highway through the sea for the 10 Tribes (D&C 133:23–27).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“As the Lord provided a highway through the Red Sea for his people anciently, as they traveled to their promised land, so will he provide a way for them to travel in the latter days.
“Our latter-day revelation, after stating that the great deep shall be driven back into the north countries and that the continents shall become one land, states that “they who are in the north countries,” meaning the Ten tribes, shall return. “And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep” for them. (D&C 133:23–27).
“Would we go too far astray if we were to suggest that the highway is created by the joined landmasses, and that as ancient Israel found a dry path through the Red Sea, so latter-day Israel will find a dry path where the Atlantic Ocean once was? It is at least a thought to ponder, for surely we are expected to seek for interpretations relative to all that has been revealed concerning the Lord and his coming.”
● Isaiah 51:12–16 The Lord will be with Israel’s leaders.
— v. 16 He will put words in their mouths (revelation).
● Isaiah 51:17–23 The “two sons” who fainted.
— They are two special witnesses to the Jews (Revelation 11:1–6).
— They will have much power (D&C 77:15).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“Their ministry will take place after the latter-day temple has been built in Old Jerusalem after some of the Jews who dwell there have been converted, and just before Armageddon and the return of the Lord Jesus. How long will they minister in Jerusalem and in the Holy Land? For three and a half years, the precise time spent by the Lord in his ministry to the ancient Jews. The Jews, as an assembled people, will hear again the testimony of legal administrators bearing record that salvation is in Christ and in his gospel.
“Who will these witnesses be? We do not know, except that they will be followers of Joseph Smith; they will hold the holy Melchizedek priesthood; they will be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is reasonable to suppose, knowing how the Lord has always dealt with his people in all ages, that they will be two members of the council of the Twelve or of the First Presidency of the Church.”
● Isaiah 52:1–2 “Put on thy strength, O Zion.”
— This was quoted 3 times in the Book of Mormon (2 Ne. 8:24–25; 3 Ne.20:36–37; Moroni 10:31).
— 3 Nephi 20:36–40 When the Savior cited passages from Isaiah 52, he omitted verses 4 and 5, perhaps because they were directed specifically to the Israelites of Isaiah’s day and were therefore not pertinent to the Nephites.
● D&C 113:7–8 Joseph Smith answered questions about these verses:
— Beautiful garments = Restored priesthood power in the last days.
— Loosing of the bands from her neck = Removal of God’s curses.
— New revelations are promised.
● Isaiah 52:7–10 “How beautiful upon the mountain.”
— This was quoted 4 times in the Book of Mormon (Mos.15:28–31; 3 Ne.16:10–20; 20:29–35).
— Abinadi explained its meaning to King Noah’s priests (Mosiah 12:20–24).
— vv. 7–8 The bringer of “good tidings” is Christ, the “founder of peace.”
— His missionaries publish peace by spreading his word.
— The “watchmen” are those who preach the gospel.
● Isaiah 52:11–12 Departing Babylon.
— v. 11 “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”
— D&C 133:5 The Lord’s priesthood servants are to flee from Babylon.
— D&C 133:14 Babylon is defined as wickedness—spiritual Babylon.
— D&C 133:15 “Let all things be prepared before you” and “not look back.”
— v. 12 “Ye shall not go out with haste” means to depart from wickedness, but in an orderly manner under the Lord’s direction.
● Isaiah 52:13–15 The Servant.
— Dualism: This “Servant” has two meanings:
— Christ: Only he can “sprinkle many nations” (atone for them).
— 3 Nephi 21:7–10 Joseph Smith: The Savior himself interpreted it to also mean Joseph Smith.
CHRIST’S MISSION AND ATONEMENT
Isaiah’s Witness of Christ
● 1 Nephi 19:23 Isaiah persuades us to believe in Christ.
● 2 Nephi 11:2 Isaiah saw the Lord and knew his mission.
● Mosiah 13:33–35 to 14:1 All the prophets have testified of Christ.
Christ’s Mission and Atonement
● Isaiah 53:1–2 “A Tender Plant.”
— The Savior as a “tender plant” without form and comeliness.
— Jesus was born as a small, helpless infant just as all men are.
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Did not Christ grow up as a tender plant? There was nothing about him to cause people to single him out. In appearance he was like men; and so it is expressed here by the prophet that he had no form or comeliness, that is, he was not so distinctive, so different from others that people would recognize him as the Son of God. He appeared as a mortal man.”
● Isaiah 53:3 “A Man of Sorrows and Acquainted with Grief.”
— His people—the Jews—rejected him as the Messiah (John 1:11).
— Members of his own family rejected him as Messiah (John 7:5).
— People in his hometown sought to kill him (Luke 4:16–30).
— One friend betrayed him; another denied knowing him (Luke 22:48,54–62).
— All the disciples forsook him and fled (Matthew 26:56).
— His enemies demanded his crucifixion (Matthew 27:22–23).
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Was not Christ a man of sorrows? Was he not rejected of men? Was he not acquainted with grief? Did not the people (figuratively) hide their faces from him? Did not the people esteem him not? Surely he knew our griefs and carried our sorrows, but he was thought to be stricken of God and forsaken by him. Did not the people say that? How true all these things are!”
● Isaiah 53:4–7 “Wounded for Our Transgressions.”
— vv. 4–5 He suffered our griefs and sorrows.
— v. 6 He suffered for our iniquities.
— v. 7 He is like a sacrificial lamb. John called him “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29).
— v. 7 He will remain silent before his accusers. He remained silent before Pilate (Matt. 27:12–14).
● Isaiah 53:8–9 Christ’s Death and Burial.
— v. 8 “Grave with the wicked.” He was placed between two thieves (Luke 23:33).
— v. 9 “With the rich in burial.” Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb (Matt. 27:60).
● Isaiah 53:10–11 It “pleased” the Father to “bruise” his Son. Why?
Elder Melvin J. Ballard said: “In that hour I think I can see our dear Father behind the veil looking upon these dying struggles until even he could not endure it any longer; and, like the mother who bids farewell to her dying child, has to be taken out of the room, so as not to look upon the last struggles, so he bowed his head, and hid in some part of his universe, his great heart almost breaking for the love that he had for his Son. Oh, in that moment when he might have saved his Son, I thank him and praise him that he did not fail us, for he had not only the love of his Son in mind, but he also had love for us. I rejoice that he did not interfere, and that his love for us made it possible for him to endure to look upon the sufferings of his Son and give him finally to us, our Savior and our Redeemer. Without him, without his sacrifice, we would have remained, and we would never have come glorified into his presence. And so this is what it cost, in part, for our Father in Heaven to give the gift of his Son unto men.”
— v. 10 Those who Christ redeems become his “seed.”
— v. 11 Christ’s sacrifice “satisfied” justice and “justified many.”
● Isaiah 53:10–11 The Blessings of the Atonement.
— v. 10 Resurrection: “He shall prolong His days.”
— v. 11 Atonement: He shall “justify many” and “bear their iniquities.”
● Isaiah 53:12 Becoming Joint-Heirs with Christ.
— v.12 Jesus will receive “a portion with the great.”
— John 16:15 Jesus inherits all that the Father has to give.
— Romans 8:17 The Great (righteous) will become “joint-heirs” with Christ.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “A joint-heir is one who inherits equally with all other heirs including the Chief Heir who is the Son. Each joint-heir has an equal and an undivided portion of the whole of everything. If one knows all things, so do all others. If one has all power, so do all those who inherit jointly with him. If the universe belongs to one, so it does equally to the total of all upon whom the joint inheritances are bestowed:
Joint-heirs possess all things. (D&C 50:26-28)
They have exaltation. (D&C 76:50-60)
They are made “equal” with their Lord. (D&C 88:107)
They gain all power both in heaven and on earth.
They receive the fullness of the Father.
All knowledge and truth are theirs. (D&C 93:15-30)
They are gods. (D&C 132:20).
The Bride and Bridegroom
● Isaiah 54 The Metaphor of Marriage.
— 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.
● Isaiah 54:1–3 The Barren Wife Will Become Fruitful.
— v. 1 Israel is called a barren wife—unable to produce spiritual offspring.
— v. 3 She will have many children when restored in the latter days.
— v. 2 The tent of Israel will have to expand to hold all of them.
— Enlarge the tent.
— Stretch forth thy curtains.
— Lengthen thy cords.
— Strengthen thy stakes.
● Isaiah 54:4–13 As the “Waters of Noah.”
— 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.
— vv. 4–8 Israel’s shame will be forgotten in the glorious future. Though the barren or forsaken years seemed long, they were but a small moment compared to the vast eternity ahead.
— vv. 9–10 This promise is like the “waters of Noah” to the Lord.
— 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.
— vv. 11–13 Israel’s great blessings to come.
— Revelation 21:19–21 The beautiful City of Zion.
● Isaiah 54:14–17 “No weapon . . . formed against thee shall prosper.”
— D&C 71:9–10 A similar promise was made to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in our own dispensation.
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.”
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.”
THE LAST DAYS AND THE MILLENNIUM
● Wilford Woodruff said concerning the last days and the millennium:
“The whole history of this people has been foretold by the prophet Isaiah, thousands of years ago; and it has been a steady growth from the commencement to the present. And will the Lord stop here? No; whether men believe or not, this Zion so often spoken of in holy writ, has got to arise and put on her beautiful garments; these mountain vales have got to be filled with the Saints of God and temples reared to his holy name, preparatory to the time when “the Gentiles shall come [to] thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” And this time will come when the nations are fully warned by the preaching of the servant of God, and his judgments commence to be poured out upon the world, in fulfilment of the revelations of St. John. Faith then is what the unbelieving world needs to exercise in God and in his revelations to man; but as I have said, whether we do it or not, our unbelief will never turn the hand of God to the right or the left.”
INVITATIONS TO RIGHTEOUSNESS
Look to Christ for Eternal Life
● Isaiah 55:1–7 Israel is invited to come unto the Lord and live.
2 Ne. 9:50–51
— v. 1 The “price” of eternal life is free-without cost—but not without effort.
— v. 1 Jesus is the “living water” (John 4:13–14).
— v. 2 He is also the “bread of life” (John 6:47–51).
— v. 3 He is also the “David” of this verse.
President 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.”
God’s Higher Knowledge and Intelligence
● Isaiah 55:8–11 God’s “thoughts” (intelligence) is higher than ours.
— 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.”
● Isaiah 55:12–13 The Lord’s word will be fulfilled and Israel will one day prosper.
● Isaiah 56:1–8 Both Israelites & Gentiles will be gathered as the Lord’s people and receive exaltation.
— v. 7 Jesus quoted the phrase “mine house shall be called an house of prayer” in referring to the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 19:46).
Israel’s Apostasy and Evil Practices
● Isaiah 56:9–12 Watchmen in Israel are condemned for their selfishness.
— 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.'”
— 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).
● Isaiah 57 “There Is No Peace, Saith My God, to the Wicked.”
— vv. 1–2, 13–21 A promise of peace is given to the righteous, but . . .
— vv. 3–13 The wicked abominations of the heathen are rebuked. Those who desire the Lord’s favor must avoid idolatry and other sins for which ancient Israel was cut off.
1: The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 624–625.
2: The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, 390.
3: Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:23.
4: Doctrines of Salvation, 1:24.
5: Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, 154–155.
6: Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 395.
7: Stand Ye in Holy Places , 379.
8: 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.
9: In Journal of Discourses19:359.
10: In Conference Report, April 1943, 14.
11: In Journal of Discourses, 1:368.
12: Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible . . . with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 4:212.