Old Testament Lesson 39 (Isaiah 50–53)
Zion’s Future Redemption
● The Metaphor of Divorce (Isaiah 50:1)
— 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.
● Typology: Speaking of the future as if it were already past (Isaiah 50:2–6).
— 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).
● 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 50:7–9).
● Men trust in themselves (Isaiah 50:10–11).
— They do not “stay upon” (trust) in God
— They “walk in the light of [their own] fire, and sparks [they] have kindled”
● Remembering who you are (Isaiah 51:1–3).
— 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.
● Israel’s priesthood Power (Isaiah 51:9).
— “Rahab” symbolizes harlotry (v. 9).
— “The dragon” symbolizes Satan.
● “A Highway in the sea” (Isaiah 51:10–11).
— “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.”1
● The Lord will be with Israel’s leaders (Isaiah 51:12–16).
— He will put words in their mouths (revelation) (v. 16).
● The “two sons” who fainted (Isaiah 51:17–23).
— 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.”2
● “Put on thy strength, O Zion” (Isaiah 52:1–2).
— This was quoted 3 times in Book of Mormon (2 Ne. 8:24–25; 3 Ne.20:36–37; Moroni 10:31).
— 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 ( 3 Nephi 20:36–40).
● Joseph Smith answered questions about these verses: (D&C 113:7–8).
— 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.
● “How beautiful upon the mountain” (Isaiah 52:7–10).
— This was quoted 4 times in 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).
— The bringer of “good tidings” is Christ, the “founder of peace” (vv. 7–8).
— His missionaries publish peace by spreading his word.
— The “watchmen” are those who preach the gospel
● Departing Babylon (Isaiah 52:11–12).
— “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (v. 11).
— The Lord’s priesthood servants are to flee from Babylon (D&C 133:5).
— Babylon is defined as wickedness—spiritual Babylon” (D&C 133:14).
— “Let all things be prepared before you” and “not look back” (D&C 133:15).
— “Ye shall not go out with haste” (v. 12) means to depart from wickedness, but in an orderly manner under the Lord’s direction.
● The Servant (Isaiah 52:13–15).
— Dualism: This “Servant” has two meanings:
— Christ: Only he can “sprinkle many nations” (atone for them).
— Joseph Smith: The Savior himself interpreted it to also mean Joseph Smith (3 Nephi 21:7–10).
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).
● “No weapon . . . formed against thee shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:14–17).
— A similar promise was made to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in our own dispensation (D&C 71:9–10).
— 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
CHRIST’S MISSION AND ATONEMENT
Isaiah’s Witness of Christ
● Isaiah persuades us to believe in Christ (1 Nephi 19:23).
● Isaiah saw the Lord and knew his mission (2 Nephi 11:2).
● All the prophets have testified of Christ (Mosiah 13:33–35 to 14:1).
Christ’s Mission and Atonement
● “A Tender Plant” (Isaiah 53:1–2).
— 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.”5
● “A Man of Sorrows and Acquainted with Grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
— 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!”6
● “Wounded for Our Transgressions” (Isaiah 53:4–7).
— He suffered our griefs and sorrows (vv. 4–5).
— He suffered for our iniquities (v. 6).
— He is like a sacrificial lamb (v. 7). John called him “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29).
— He will remain silent before his accusers (v. 7). He remained silent before Pilate (Matt. 27:12–14).
● Christ’s Death and Burial (Isaiah 53:8–9).
— “Grave with the wicked” (v. 8). He was placed between two thieves (Luke 23:33).
— “With the rich in burial” (v. 9). Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb (Matt. 27:60).
● It “pleased” the Father to “bruise” his Son (Isaiah 53:10–11). 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.”7
— Those who Christ redeems become his “seed” (v. 10).
— Christ’s sacrifice “satisfied” justice and “justified many” (v. 11).
● The Blessings of the Atonement (Isaiah 53:10–11).
— Resurrection: “He shall prolong His days” (v. 10).
— Atonement: He shall “justify many” and “bear their iniquities” (v. 11).
● Becoming Joint-Heirs with Christ (Isaiah 53:12).
— Jesus will receive “a portion with the great” (v.12).
— Jesus inherits all that the Father has to give (John 16:15).
— The Great (righteous) will become “joint-heirs” with Christ (Romans 8:17).
— 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).8
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. 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. Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:23.
6. Doctrines of Salvation, 1:24.
7. Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, 154–155.
8. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 395.