Thank you to all who attended and participated in class on Sunday. I hope these notes are helpful as you strive to deepen your gospel learning.
Keys to Understanding Isaiah
Although understanding Isaiah may seem daunting, prophets from the New Testament to the Book of Mormon to the latter day have consistently stressed the importance of diligently studying the words of Isaiah. During His visit to the Americas, the Lord Himself invited all – by way of commandment – to ponder the words of Isaiah:
And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.3 Nephi 23:1
To aid in our study of Isaiah, Elder Bruce R. McConkie offered Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah:
- Gain an Over-All Knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and of God’s Dealings with His Earthly Children.
- Learn the Position and Destiny of the House of Israel in the Lord’s Eternal Scheme of Things.
- Know the Chief Doctrines about Which Isaiah Chose to Write.
- Use the Book of Mormon.
- Use Latter-Day Revelation.
- Learn How the New Testament Interprets Isaiah.
- Study Isaiah in Its Old Testament Context.
- Learn the Manner of Prophesying Used among the Jews in Isaiah’s Day.
- Have the Spirit of Prophecy.
- Devote Yourself to Hard, Conscientious Study.
As you study the words of Isaiah contained in the Book of Mormon, remember that Isaiah often used dual meanings to simultaneously describe events during his day, Christ’s day, and our day. Thus, deepening your understanding of the political, geographical, and historical events during Isaiah’s time will deepen your understanding of Christ’s life and our current state.
The book of Isaiah contains numerous prophecies that seem to have multiple fulfillments. One seems to involve the people of Isaiah’s day or the circumstances of the next generation. Another meaning, often symbolic, seems to refer to events in the meridian of time, when Jerusalem was destroyed and her people scattered after the crucifixion of the Son of God. Still another meaning or fulfillment of the same prophecy seems to relate to the events attending the Second Coming of the Savior. The fact that many of these prophecies can have multiple meanings underscores the importance of our seeking revelation from the Holy Ghost to help us interpret them.President Dallin H. Oaks, Scripture Reading and Revelation, Ensign January 1995
As you ponder the words of Isaiah as quoted in 2 Nephi as well as the Additional Resources at the bottom of this post, remember to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Above all, remember that no study of the scriptures is complete unless it induces a change of heart:
Scriptural understanding and great insight relative to the doctrines of salvation are valuable only insofar as they change and perfect the lives of men, only insofar as they live in the hearts of those who know them.Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah, Ensign October 1973
How have you been changed as a result of your study in Isaiah?
All Things Are Typifying of Christ
Before quoting Isaiah, Nephi reminds us that “all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of [Christ]” (2 Nephi 11:4). Understanding the powerful symbols of Christ found in Isaiah can help us turn our hearts to Him during tribulation.
Isaiah was called during a turbulent time in the history of his home nation of Judah. Two neighboring kingdoms, Israel and Syria, allied together against Judah and threatened to attack. Isaiah was sent Ahaz – Judah’s king – to encourage reliance on the Lord’s strength instead of temporary alliances. Concerned by the apparent strength of Israel and Syria, Ahaz ignored the warnings and formed an alliance with Assyria. Over time, this relationship would prove to be the downfall of much of Judah.
Interestingly, among the signs given to Ahaz is this cherished Messianic prophecy:
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.2 Nephi 17:14
While the importance of this prophecy is apparent to us in the latter days, Ahaz may have been confused to receive this as a sign. However, the Hebrew meaning of Immanuel (God with us) was meant to encourage and comfort the worried king. Of this exchange, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland wrote:
There are plural or parallel elements to this prophecy, as with so much of Isaiah’s writing. The most immediate meaning was probably focused on Isaiah’s wife, a pure and good woman who brought forth a son about this time, the child becoming a type and shadow of the greater, later fulfillment of the prophecy that would be realized in the birth of Jesus Christ.
Here again is a type, a prefiguration of the greater Immanuel, Jesus Christ, the ultimate son of David, the royal King who would be born of a literal virgin. Indeed, his title Immanuel would be carried forward to the latter days, being applied to the Savior.Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant
While Ahaz may have not found comfort in a reminder of the Savior, you can obtain peace by focusing on Him instead of your trials.
How can a knowledge of the Savior bring peace as you face difficulties in daily life?
Wait Upon the Lord
The deliverance Ahaz sought from his earthly enemies was answered by a promise of spiritual deliverance from sin. Likewise, as we seek deliverance from earthly trials, our answers may come in unexpected ways and in the Lord’s time.
And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.2 Nephi 18:17
Deep spiritual strength comes from placing our trust in the Lord. Elder Robert D. Hales said:
As we put our faith and trust in the Lord, we must battle our pain day by day and sometimes hour by hour, even moment by moment; but in the end, we understand that marvelous counsel given to the Prophet Joseph Smith as he struggled with his pain of feeling forgotten and isolated in Liberty Jail:
‘My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
‘And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes’ (D&C 121:7–8).
My dear brothers and sisters, when pain, tests, and trials come in life, draw near to the Savior. ‘Wait upon the Lord, … look for him’ (Isaiah 8:17; 2 Nephi 18:17). ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:31). Healing comes in the Lord’s time and the Lord’s way; be patient.Elder Robert D. Hales, Healing Soul and Body, General Conference October 1998