The Book of Isaiah, chapters 54-56 and 63-65
Gospel Doctrine Class, Sunday School Lesson #40
"Enlarge the Place of Thy Tent" - Isaiah 54:2
Reference: Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, (2001), 183-86
Reference: The Old Testament Made Easier, Part Three, David J. Ridges
The purpose of this lesson is to "strengthen the stakes of Zion and prepare for the Second Coming and the Millennium" (Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual). The Teachers Manual asks: "What can we do to strengthen the stake in which we live?" Some answers include: "[We can] develop personal spiritual strength, influence our families and friends to do the same, serve our member and nonmember neighbors, and accept calls from priesthood leaders to serve in the Church" (Teacher's Manual).
Isaiah 54 – In the last days Israel will become a righteous and successful people
(Compare 3 Nephi 22.) Ancient Israel was not faithful to their God and did not produce righteous children. Here Isaiah uses the metaphor of the barren wife which was considered to be a curse to any married woman of his day.
“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear [righteous children]; …and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child.” Isaiah prophecies, “more are the children of the desolate [perhaps scattered Israel-Ridges, p. 181] than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.” These children of the married wife are the sons and daughters of Christ in the last days who are converts from all parts of the world. Thus, it becomes necessary to “enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy chords, and strengthen thy stakes” (vv. 1-2). To make a tent larger the stakes are pulled up and moved farther from the center pole. “This is what is meant by lengthening the chords and strengthening the stakes” (Student Manual, II, p. 199). President Ezra Taft Benson said:
“The prophets likened latter-day Zion to a great tent encompassing the earth. That tent was supported by cords fastened to stakes. Those stakes, of course, are various geographical organizations spread out over the earth. Presently, Israel is being gathered to the various stakes of Zion” (“Strengthen Thy Stakes,” Ensign, Jan. 1991, 2; quoted from the Teachers Manual).
The latter-day growth of the Church is referred to by Isaiah as the breaking forth “on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited” (v. 3).
The Lord tells latter-day Israel not to be ashamed, as the “shame of thy youth” [her past apostate condition] shall be forgotten—the failures of the past are over and Israel is once again “married” to the Lord “thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth.” Israel was “forsaken” by the Lord for their past apostasies “for a small moment,” but “with great mercies” the Lord will redeem and gather them (vv. 5-7). The Lord’s promise to restore Israel in the last days will be fulfilled the same as his promise to Noah that the “waters of Noah should no more go over the earth.” Though “mountains shall depart” and “hills be removed,” God will never break his promise to restore Israel. Then they will be blessed with material and spiritual blessings: “I will lay thy stones with fair colours and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates and thy gates of carbuncles [gemstones], and all thy borders of pleasant stones” [similar to the Celestial Kingdom, see Revelation 21] (vv. 11-12).
And all the children will be “taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (v. 13) (see also D&C 45:58-59). The people will be righteous and have no oppressors or fear, and their enemies “shall fall for thy sake” (vv. 14-15). “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD” [you will have protection and peace in the Lord at last] (v. 17).
Isaiah 55 – “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found”
Isaiah opens this chapter using the metaphor of “everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters”—Christ the living water.
John 4:13-14 explains this passage as follows: “Jesus answered and said unto her [the woman of Samaria when he asked her for a drink], Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 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.”
Come to the Lord, eat and drink for “no money” as the gifts he gives do not require the exchange of money:—spiritual thirst cannot be satisfied with things bought with money. “Wherefore [why] do ye spend money for that which is not bread”?—The gospel [Christ] is the bread of life. “Let your soul delight itself in fatness"—the richness of the gospel (Ridges, p. 184) (vv. 1-2). Christ’s message is to listen and “come unto me…and I will make an everlasting covenant with you.” The Father has given Christ “for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people” (vv. 3-4). In the last days, Christ will "call a nation" unknown to Israel and nations where the Church is established will send missionaries to gather Israel "because of the LORD thy God and for the Holy One of Israel."
Ridges comments: "In the last days Israel will be gathered, will return to God, and be saved" (p. 184).
The Lord continues to exhort the people to “seek ye the LORD while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near”—do not procrastinate the day of your repentance; “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the LORD, and he [the Lord] will have mercy upon him;…for he will abundantly pardon” (vv. 6-7).
In verses 8 and 9, Isaiah again uses the chiasmus pattern form of repetition. In this instance the middle words are not the same but are related ideas. “For my thoughts (A) are not your thoughts, neither are your ways (B) my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens (C) are higher than the earth (C’), so are my ways (B’) higher than your ways, and my thoughts (A’) than your thoughts.”
Verses 10 and 11 are summarized perfectly in the Student Manual, II, p. 203 as follows:
“As the rain comes down from heaven to help crops grow and provide food for us, so will the words of God feed and prosper our souls if we [listen with] our ears to hear His word. But often we are tempted to forget God and trust in our own wisdom or reject God’s way of doing things because they are not done as we think they should be done.”
Alma 32:28, 41 - 28 "Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me."
41 "But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life."
The Lord sends us out [to earth from premortality] “with joy” and we are “led forth with peace” [back to our Heavenly Father]; and then all God’s creations will “break forth…into singing, and…clap their hands” (Ridges, p. 185). In God's time the earth will be celestialized and there will be no more thorns or briers and the earth “shall be to the LORD for a name"—will increase God’s glory and dominion, (Ridges, p. 185) "for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” [with no end] (vv. 12-14).
"Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this; …that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil” (vv. 1-2).
Verses 3 through 8 refer to “the son of the stranger,” meaning the Gentiles, and also the “eunuch” who is “a class of emasculated men” (Bible Dictionary, p. 667) "that hath joined himself to the LORD" and are not included in full fellowship with the “covenant people” as the “outcasts of Israel”(Student Manual, II, p. 204). Concerning faithful eunuchs, the Lord states: “Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters" ["more honor and glory than they would have had from having sons and daughters on earth" (Ridges, p. 186)]. "I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off”—they too can receive exaltation (v. 5). And the Gentiles “that join themselves to the LORD [make covenants] to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant: (v. 6) Even them will I bring to my holy mountain [the kingdom of God] and make them joyful in my house of prayer…for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people (v. 7)”—celestial exaltation is available for all people if they covenant to keep His commandments. “The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel [scattered Israel] saith, Yet will I gather others [Gentiles] to him [Israel], beside those [Israelites] that are gathered unto him” (Ridges, pp. 184- 186) (vv. 3-8).
Isaiah now prophesies of Gentile “beasts” meaning Gentile armies, who “come to devour” [Israel]. Isaiah sees the “watchmen” meaning leaders who “are blind…and ignorant” of the dangers of wickedness “are all dumb dogs” who “cannot bark” to warn the people of danger ahead, “sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber” [they are asleep on the job]. These leaders “are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain. Come ye, say they [the leaders], I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink ['Let’s party!']; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant." (vv. 8-12). Does this sound familiar? Who is saying this now?
Isaiah 63 –Isaiah prophesies of the Second Coming
“Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel?” (see D&C 133:46-48)
This chapter is divided into four parts: (1) the Second Coming of the Lord in dyed (red) apparel; (2) the destruction of the wicked; (3) the blessings of the righteous and (4) Isaiah’s prayer for redemption of
. (1) The Second Coming - Isaiah begins
with the question: “Who is this that cometh from Israel [the east] with dyed garments…that is glorious in his apparel,
travelling in greatness of his strength?
Then Christ replies, “[It is]
I [the Savior] that speak in righteousness,
mighty to save” [those who repent]
(v. 1). Another question is asked: “Wherefore
art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the
winefat?” (v. 2). Edom
(2) The destruction of the wicked - And the Lord answers: “I have trodden the winepress alone…there was none with me: for I will tread them [the wicked] in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment [with the blood of the wicked]. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart [my responsibility] and the year of my redeemed is come” (vv. 3-4).
Ridges comments: "Another way to look at the phrase 'the day of vengeance is in mine heart,' is to say the law of justice is a vital part of the plan of salvation (see Alma 43:25)" (p. 203).
Now the Lord explains that He alone can accomplish the Atonement (see Matthew 27:46), “therefore mine own arm [power] brought salvation unto me; and my fury [strength] it upheld me." And the Lord vows to “tread down” the wicked at his coming “and I will bring down their strength to the earth” (vv. 5-6).
(3) The blessing of the righteous - In verses 7 to 14, Isaiah reminds the people of "the lovingkindnesses of the LORD…and the great goodness toward the house of
which he [the Lord] has bestowed on
them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his
loving kindnesses. For he said, Surely
they are my people, children that will not lie [with integrity] so he was their Saviour” (vv. 7-8). Again, Isaiah reminds them “in all their
affliction…the angel of his presence saved them [from the Egyptians]; he redeemed them; and he bare them
and carried them all the days of old.”
The Lord sent Moses who parted the waters of the Israel Red
Sea, and the Lord “put his holy Spirit within [them].”
And finally, the Lord led them in the wilderness “that they
should not stumble” [be stopped] (vv.
(But sadly, “they [the children of
rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy,
and he fought against them” [and they
were punished because of their wickedness]) (v. 10). Israel
(4) Isaiah's prayer for the redemption of Israel - Now Isaiah pleads with the Lord: “Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength…and of thy mercies toward me? are they restrained?" (v. 15). Isaiah knows the Lord is the God of Abraham and Jacob but the ancient prophets can’t help them now. And he knows “thou, O LORD art our father, our redeemer, thy name is from everlasting” [from the beginning]. Isaiah asks why the Lord has allowed them to no longer fear him and he begs, “Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.” Isaiah laments, “our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary” [destroyed the temple]. It’s as if the people “were not called by thy name”—meaning it seems as if they were never the covenant people through the promises made to Abraham so many years ago. (vv. 16-19).
Isaiah 64 – Isaiah pleads with the Lord to come and save his people
This short chapter continues Isaiah’s pleading with the Lord to come and save his people who no longer are his righteous children. “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence.” Isaiah knows and has seen in vision all that will happen when the Lord comes in glory for the second time. He will come as a celestial being whose light and heat will cause burnings and fire and “the waters to boil.” “[To] make thy name known to thine adversaries [the wicked] that the nations may tremble at thy presence” (vv. 1-2). Verse four is an often quoted scripture describing the promised blessings that await those who are righteous at the time of the Second Coming. “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him” (v. 4). Verse five was changed in the Joseph Smith translation describing how the Lord helps those who are righteous. “Thou meetest [guides] him that worketh righteousness, and rejoiceth him that remembereth thee in thy ways; in righteousness there is continuance [everlasting life], and such shall be saved” (JST 64:5). Now Isaiah describes the state of his people at the present time. He says they have all sinned and are “as an unclean thing” symbolized as “filthy rags.” “Our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” [from the Lord]. And he laments, “[the Lord] hast hid thy face from us and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities” (vv. 6-7). “
former righteousness has now become evil” (Student Manual, II, p. 208). Israel
Isaiah speaks to the Lord as their father; “we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” And he prays that the Lord will not remember their iniquity forever but will someday see that they are still his people (vv. 8-9). Verses 10 and 11 describe the present condition of the “holy cities” as a wilderness and “
a desolation.” The “holy and beautiful
house [the temple] is burned up with
fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste” (vv. 10-11). Because of all the destruction that has
already come to Jerusalem ,
Isaiah asks: “[will you] refrain
thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace and afflict us very
sore [continue to punish us]?”
(v. 12). He seems to be asking the Lord to have mercy on his people (Ridges, p. 206). Israel
Isaiah 65 – The Lord answers Isaiah’s question in 64:12
Verses 1, 2, 4, and 20 have been changed in the Joseph Smith translation of this chapter. The JST translations will be used for this summary. Now, the Lord gives Isaiah the reasons for his rejection of ancient
. "I am found of them who seek after me. I give unto all them that ask of me. I am
not found of them that sought me not, or that inquireth not after me. I said unto my servant, Behold me, look upon me; I will send you [Isaiah] unto a nation that was not
called by my name, for I have spread out my hands all the day to a people who
walketh not in my ways, and their works are evil and not good, and they walk
after their own thoughts” (JST: 65:1-2). The Lord continues to
enumerate the sins of Israel : “[They
are] a people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face [deliberately disobey]; that sacrificeth
in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick” [they were commanded to use only uncut stones—see Exodus 20:25]. And they go “among the
graves” [to commune with spirits of the
dead], and “eat swine’s flesh” [forbidden
by Mosaic law], and they put “broth of abominable beasts, and pollute their
vessels” (JST 65:4). And because “they walk
after their own thoughts” they say to the Lord: “come not near to me; for I am
holier than thou.” It is written in the
scriptures that for these sins the Lord “will not keep silence, but will
recompense.” And for all their present iniquities and those of their fathers
who have worshiped false idols, the Lord will “measure their former work into
their bosom”—meaning the result of their
sins will be returned to them (vv. 5-7).
But the Lord will not completely destroy all the people. He will preserve “a seed out of Jacob [ Israel ]
and out of Judah [the Jews]…and mine
elect shall inherit it [God’s kingdom],
and mine servants shall dwell there.” And the land will be preserved “for my
people that have sought me” (vv. 8-10). The Lord knows the people have
forgotten “my holy mountain” [the gospel]
and continue to worship false idols. For
these sins, “will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the
slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer…but did evil before mine
eyes” (vv. 11-12). Israel
Now the Lord contrasts the rewards of righteousness with the punishments of sin. The righteous will eat but the wicked will be hungry; the righteous will drink, but the wicked will thirst: the righteous will rejoice, but the wicked will be ashamed; the righteous will “sing for joy of heart” but the wicked will “cry for sorrow of heart” and they will “howl for vexation of spirit.” The names of the wicked will be cursed and the righteous will be called “by another name” [symbolic of celestial glory]. And the righteous who “shall swear by the God of truth” will have their former troubles forgotten “because they are hid from mine eyes,” saith the Lord (vv. 13-16).
Here the Lord speaks of the Millennium. "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth.“ People living then will have no desire for things to be as they once were. The old earth, in fact, "shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (v. 17). Everything will be gloriously new, sorrow will cease (v. 19), children will not die in infancy—everyone will live to be "an hundred years old" (JST 20), homes will be built and fruit trees and gardens planted and enjoyed. No one will drive others from their lands, "they shalt not labour in vain" (vv. 21-23)—as the Saints were driven in the early days of this dispensation (Student Manual. II, p. 209). And the scripture says: “before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD” (vv. 24-25). There will be peace in the Millennium.