The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 50-53
Gospel Doctrine Class, Sunday School Lesson #39
"How Beautiful Upon the Mountains" - Isaiah 52:7
Reference: Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, (2001), 183-86
Book Reference: Old Testament Made Easier, Part Three, David J. Ridges, pp. 171-181
1 Nephi 22:15-17 – Verses left out of The King James Version of the Bible
The Student Manual, II, quotes Monte S. Nyman who suggests that these verses from the Book of Mormon be inserted between the last verse of Isaiah 49 and the first verse of chapter 50 (“Great Are the Words of Isaiah,” p. 191).
“For behold, saith the prophet [Isaiah], the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned [the earth will be cleansed]. For the time soon cometh that the fullness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous. Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fullness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet [Isaiah], they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire."
The purpose of this lesson is to strengthen our testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ (Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), 187–89).
Isaiah 50 – “Who has left whom?” The Lord asks: “Did I leave you, or did you leave me?”
(For comparison, see 2 Nephi, chapter 7.) In chapter 50 as in other chapters, Isaiah speaks of the future as if it has already happened. The first verse contains questions the Lord, through his prophet Isaiah, asks of his people—scattered Israel:
“Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away [where is the proof that I have left you and sent you away]; or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you” [it was lawful to sell himself or his children to satisfy a creditor]? The answer: “Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves and for your transgressions is your mother put away” [you brought it upon yourselves] (v. 1). Speaking as the Messiah, the Lord asks: “Wherefore when I came [in the meridian of time] was there no man? [my people rejected me]; when I called [“Come unto me”] was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver?” We know this is not the case as He states: “behold, at my rebuke [command] I dry up the sea [remember when I parted the Red Sea], I make the rivers a wilderness” [I have the power to dry up the rivers and make the land a wilderness] (v. 2). The Savior also reminds us that he can “clothe the heavens with blackness;”—meaning He has the power to control the elements that he created. And Heavenly Father has given him “the tongue of the learned that I should know how to speak a word [of encouragement]…to him that is weary,” O house of Israel (see 2 Nephi 7:4) (vv. 3-4).
"And the Father “hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back [from completing the Atonement]. I gave my back to the smitters [I was flogged –Matthew 27:26] and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair [of my beard]: I hid not my face from shame and spitting” [Matthew 26: 67] (vv. 5-6).
Note: To pluck out the hairs of the beard is to show utter contempt (Edward J. Young, Book of Isaiah, vol. 3, p. 300) (quoted by Ridges, III, p. 172).
Then the Savior bears his testimony: “For the Lord GOD [the Father] will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint [I am strong], and I know that I shall not be ashamed [I will never fail my Father]. He [the Father] is near that justifieth me” [He approves of everything I do] (vv. 7-8).
The question is asked: “who is among you that feareth the LORD that obeyeth the voice of his servant [who] walketh in darkness, and hath no light?”—no one, the Lord blesses his true followers with light. To all those who walk in the light, “Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God” (v. 10). The last verse of this chapter is full of imagery. Visualize! “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass [surround] yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand: ye shall lie down in sorrow” (v. 11). Those who kindle and walk in the light of their own fire, walk in their own way according to their own will rather than the will and direction of the Lord. When we attempt to create our own light instead of relying on the light of Christ, the judgment will be to “lie down with our sorrow” (OT Student Manual, p. 195.}
In this chapter the Lord speaks to the righteous of Israel—compare 2 Nephi 8. In verses 1 and 2, Isaiah wants us to consider our origins, the heritage we have from Abraham and Sarah, and be able to see the hand of the Lord in our lives (Ridges, III, p. 173).
“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock [from] whence ye are hewn.…Look unto Abraham your father and unto Sarah that bare you [your ancestor] for I called him alone and blessed him and increased him” [see Abraham 2: 9-11]. Through covenant the Lord has made promises to Abraham and his descendants which he assures us will be kept. “For the LORD shall comfort Zion.” He will make the earth like the Garden of Eden; “joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody” (v. 3).
The Lord tells Israel that “a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.” This prophecy means that gospel laws and covenants will be restored in the last days and will bring new scriptures and prophets “to reveal God’s will” in the last days (Student Manual, II, p. 195). We are to have a personal relationship with the Lord which is stressed in verses 4 to 8 using me, my, and mine pronouns: “Hearken unto me, my people, and give ear unto me, O my nation” (v. 4); My righteousness [ability to save] is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people…and on mine arm shall they trust” (v. 5);
"Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished" (v. 6)
Compare Mosiah 16:9 - "He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death."
“The [Lord] is our Creator, our Judge, He is our Savior, and He is our perfect Exemplar” (SM, p. 195). If we trust in Him we shall not fear even though “the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment” (v. 6). And the “reproach of men” and “their revilings” will not make us afraid. “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law” (v. 7); “[My] righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation [throughout eternity]” (v. 8). Now righteous Israel replies, “Awake, awake [help us], put on strength, O arm of the LORD, awake, as in the ancient days”—when you saved our ancestors. The people ask, “Art thou not [He]…that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed [the children of Israel] to pass over?” (vv. 9-10). “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD [we, righteous Israel] shall return and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their [our] head: and they [we] shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (v. 11). And the Lord replies that he is their God who gives them comfort. They need not fear any mortal man who has been their continual oppressor as their end will come and they “shall die” (vv. 12-13). “I am the [same] LORD thy God, that divided the sea, and I have put my words in thy mouth [I have taught you], and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand [I have protected you], and [I] say unto Zion, Thou art my people!” (vv. 15-16).
For many centuries the covenant people of the Lord have “drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury” and this has “wrung them out” [they have paid a hard price] (v. 17). And for many years, Israel has not had anyone “to guide her among all the sons” [of Israel]. Second Nephi 8: 19-20 corrects and clarifies Isaiah 19 and 20 referring to “two who shall be sorry for thee” in the last days. “These two sons [see Revelation 11:3-12] are come unto thee, who shall be sorry for thee—thy desolation and destruction, and the famine and the sword—and by whom shall I comfort thee? Thy sons have fainted [they are on their last legs], save these two; they [thy people] lie at the head of all the streets; as a wild bull in a net [they are caught]; they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God”—God’s punishment because of their sins. But the Lord will plead “the cause of his people…thou shalt no more drink the cup of the Lord’s fury again”—Christ will save the Jews in the last days, (see 2 Nephi 9:1-3) (vv. 19-20). In the end the Lord’s fury will be turned on those who have afflicted the covenant people of the Lord (v. 23).
Compare 3 Nephi 20:30-44. In verse 1 the imagery is of clothing yourself in the gospel. “Awake, awake: put on thy strength, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments [see D&C 113:7-8], O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean” [the wicked]. Remember, in the Millennium the gospel will go forth from Old Jerusalem in the Holy Land and also from Zion, the New Jerusalem on the American continent. “Shake thyself from the dust; arise and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” This is a call for the gathering of the people back to their God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of their wickedness, “my people [have been] taken away for nought”—for pride, worshiping false gods, wickedness (v. 5). But, the Lord sees: “my people shall know my name: they shall know in [the last] day that I am he that doth speak: behold it is I.” And then shall they say, (3 Nephi 20:40): “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings [Christ]; [and the servants of the Lord] that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth” (vv. 6-7). And the “watchmen” who are the prophets and leaders “shall lift up the voice” of song and they will be united “eye to eye.” “Then will the Father gather them together again and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance” (see Nephi 20:33). And the people will “break forth into joy…for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem” (vv. 7-9). And the Lord will show his power to all the nations; “and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Father, and the Father and I are one” (see 3 Nephi 20:35). The righteous who answer the call for the gathering will prepare to depart from among the wicked having become “clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.” They are told not to go “with haste, nor go by flight,” that the Lord will protect them both in front and in back (vv. 11-12). And the Lord reveals that “my servant” who is unnamed (see 3 Nephi 21:10-11) “shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high” (v. 13). When the people see the Savior “many [will be astonished]…his visage was so marred more than any man” (v. 14) "when He suffered for the sins of mankind and was crucified on Calvary. Nails—metal spikes were driven into His hands and feet, and a spear pierced his side to ensure his death” [see John 19:17-18; 32-34] (Student Manual, II, p. 197). “So, shall he [gather, JST] many nations, the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” The Lord’s work in the last days will not be stopped (vv. 14-15).
Isaiah 53 – Isaiah asks: Who hath believed our report? Christ died for our sins!
Compare Mosiah 14 in the Book of Mormon. This is the most moving and inspiring chapter in all of Isaiah. It cannot be summarized. Therefore, I will quote it for the reader mostly as it is written. When one considers that Isaiah saw all this in vision some seven hundred years before it actually happened, it is almost too hard to comprehend. Please refer to the Student Manual, 1 Kings to Malachi, pp. 197-199 for detailed explanations of some of the passages. The first verse indicates that Isaiah has grown weary of the people who don’t listen to the word of the Lord given through the prophets.
“Who hath believed our report and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed” (v. 1)—are you listening? can you see the hand of God in your lives? Now, we learn of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who died for our sins. “For he shall grow up before him [Israel - those who don’t see] as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him (v. 2). He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not (v. 3). Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (v. 4). But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed (v. 5).
All we, like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD [the Father] hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (v. 6). He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (v. 7). He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken (v. 8). And he made his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death [Joseph of Arimathaea gave him his own tomb] because he had done no violence [nothing wrong] neither was any deceit in his mouth (v. 9). Yet it pleased the LORD [the Father] to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou [Christ] shalt make his soul [life] an offering for sin [to fulfill the Father’s plan]; he shall see his seed [the sons and daughters of Christ], he shall prolong his [their] days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand (v. 10). He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied [with Christ’s atoning sacrifice]; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant [Christ] justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities (v. 11).
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great and he shall divide the spoil with the strong [the righteous will become joint-heirs with Christ] because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many and made intercession [with the Father] for the transgressors (v. 12).
Book of Mormon, Mosiah: 5:7-9:
"And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters (v. 7). And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives (v. 8). And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ" (v. 9).