1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
The book of Isaiah contains a tapestry of layers upon layers of symbolism, metaphor, and imagery. Some words to consider in this brief commentary: Nourish, children, rebelled, ox, knoweth, owner, ass, master, Israel, my people. As I have studied the book of Isaiah over the last five years along with commentaries by Gileadi and others, I have found the book of Isaiah to be a rich source of both history and allegory, even a type and a shadow of events that seem to repeat themselves whenever a covenant people comes into existence. As we look back to former days, we may see a pattern of what Isaiah intended for us in the last days to learn about ourselves. Isaiah does not address Egypt or Assyria or Babylon or any heathen nation. His writings are directed squarely at the Lord’s covenant people immediately following his day and upon those of the last days. Could one replace Judah with Ephraim and Jerusalem with Salt Lake City? Is there another candidate for the Lord’s covenant people in the latter days if not Judah?
The Lord nourished His children. Throughout the book of Isaiah, some of the key words, which are meant to be linked are children, mother, woman, etc. In this case, the children of Israel who is the woman. Throughout the Old Testament, upon departing Egypt, the woman repeatedly went whoring after idols. Thus when Jesus said an adulterous generation seeks signs, one interpretation can be referring to the children of the whore represented by Israel. When Israel becomes sanctified, she will become Zion. But until then, she remains unredeemed and condemned before the Lord.
The ox knows its owner and the ass is master’s crib, but Israel does not know. The word know and knowledge are covenant terms. We read in Ether chapter 3 about the brother of Jared having faith no longer, for he KNEW the Lord, nothing doubting. The Lord defined redemption as being brought back into His presence. It happens when He removes the veil and He becomes revealed to His people (the bride). This is why it is impossible to be saved in ignorance. You cannot be saved without knowing who it is that saves you. Ether chapter 3 contains a key of knowledge, or rather, obtaining knowledge. But here Isaiah is speaking to a nation of idolaters. These are His children, His “covenant people.” Yet they do not know Him. The ox is a clean/kosher animal, which could be likened to the Israelites. The ass is an unclean animal and could be likened to all the gentiles (not of the ethnic lineage of Abraham). Both dumb animals KNOW their owners and masters. Yet the Lord’s covenant people do not KNOW Jehovah. They remained in their unredeemed state. They have not considered their relationship with the one true God.
As a side note, there is no graven image that is not a product of one’s hands. Idolatry results from consumer demand. The Hebrew word Abad means both to work and worship. People worship the work of their hands. In this world, there is no economy without an exchange of products resulting from consumer demand. You can buy anything in this world with money. Mammon is the driving force behind the world’s economy. Babylon is the archetype of this system in the book of Isaiah. On the other hand, Zion does not require money. In Zion, all things are given and received freely. The Lord gave to us this earth and all things therein to be used freely and not by extortion or excess. Extortion and excess is exactly how the world operates. They take ownership of the things God has ordained for their use freely and charge a price for them. Excess is the result of one exalting oneself above another or others, thereby creating inequality in a society driven by an economy where money is the medium of exchange. In Zion, there are no rich because there are no poor because there is no money, there being no need for money. In Babylon, however, such behavior is the iniquity of a people. Idols, idolatry and commerce (economy) are all tools of Mammon.
4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
A sinful nation is one which has broken the law. The iniquity with which they are laden is their commerce. They have forsaken the Lord’s way, which is liberty and have made themselves captives by their economy. Pay up or be cast into prison where you cannot pay one farthing. The course of the Lord is one eternal round in which He does not vary to the right or to the left. But Israel has gone backward. They might as well have remained in Egypt as the heathens.
5 ¶ Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
All are stricken from the laymen to the leaders, filled with all manner of sore afflictions, all self inflicted. We find the same scenarios wherever there is a covenant people. We see it in the Book of Mormon during King Noah’s reign.
10 ¶ Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
Jehovah compares the ruling priests to Sodom and the laymen to Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah set the precedent for a condemned people and so Isaiah uses it as an archetype to compare His covenant people to. They were abusers and ripe for destruction. And yet the Lord saved Lot and his family. Whenever the Lord is about to destroy a people, He tends to “gather” those few who have not forsaken Him, even by angels. Angels came to take Lot and his family out, even prodding him to leave before they destroyed the city. Likewise did the Lord bring out Lehi from Jerusalem and his family. Lot’s wife probably could not believe that her beautiful city could be destroyed. She was not attuned to the Spirit and couldn’t feel the warning to flee. Her heart was set upon the world in which she lived. So she turned around and was turned into a pillar of salt, good for nothing but to be trodden underfoot. Laman and Lemuel were the same as Lot’s wife. And so will all be whose hearts are set upon their riches–their idols.
Verse 11 clarifies the hypocrisy of His people. They did not hold sacrosanct their temple or their offerings. They paid lip service only. Their hearts were not at all upon their offerings and were oblivious to or else they ignored what they typified. Their hearts were on their idols back home–their graven images, their adornments, their entertainments, their hobbies, pastimes, etc. So why did they bother to go to the temple? We read the answer in the next verse: To appear before the Lord. Isn’t that what we do when we go to the temple? In the endowment session, the entire ceremony culminates in appearing before the Lord at the veil. But do we bring all our baggage with us (idolatry/hearts and thoughts upon other things of the world)? Or do we go with our hearts intent upon seeing the Lord and nothing else? Are our hearts single to His glory or to our pastimes back home? The ancient Israelites were just like dumb animals that “tread [God’s] courts,” making a mess of things, defiling the temple with their filth and iniquity.
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
The Lord considered their oblations vain; worthless. An oblation is an offering. Righteous prayers are like incense to the Lord, rising sweetly to His throne. But vain repetitions offered in vain (lip service) is like putrid incense rising up to fill Jehova’s presence and is an affront to Him. The new moons and Sabbaths, assemblies–all vain and abominable. They brought their idolatrous hearts and thoughts with them to “worship.” This is why the Lord told Joseph Smith not to join any other church. They all drew near to Him with their lips (lips service) but their hearts were far from Him (being instead on their idols, hobbies, pastimes, sports programs, entertainments, etc).
D&C 59:11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
12 But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith how to worship Him on the Sabbath day. Contrast what He desires of us with why He told Joseph Smith not to join any other church. Does this apply to us today? What are our hearts and thoughts upon when we go to worship each Sabbath? Is the Lord sick and tired of us, too? Maybe some of us? A friend of mine recently quipped, “There are two ways to rebel against society – take a steaming, fetid dump all over what everyone else holds sacrosanct, or alternatively, treat as sacrosanct what everyone else pays lip service to. The first is a time-honored rite of adolescence. The second will get you cast out and possibly killed.” Do we hold sacrosanct what others pay lip service to? Are we right back where Joseph Smith started when he was confused about which church to join? Perhaps it is no wonder that Isaiah is reported to have been sawn in half. He was a “rebel” who treated sacrosanct what the “leaders of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah” paid lip service to (at least according to apocryphal writings)!
Chapter one is quite an indictment of the filthiness of Israel. She is a harlot whoring after her lusts, forsaking her bridegroom, who is quick to forgive and mighty to save. And though, as we read later in the chapter, though her sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. But this applies only to those who turn from their adulterous (idolatrous) ways and whose hearts become single to the Lord alone.
27 Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.
Whenever the bridegroom parts the veil, He reveals Himself to His bride. When the brother of Jared, who was already favored because of his meekness, obedience and diligence in doing whatever the Lord required, when he asked Jesus to show Himself to him, Jesus granted his righteous desire. The bro of Jared’s heart was single. His prayers were sweet incense to the Lord and all his petitions were granted because “this long time have ye cried unto me.”
Ether 3:13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
This is the definition of redemption. It is to part the veil and behold Jesus Christ face to face as a bride beholds her husband. It is to “know” Him. To “know” is to have a covenant relationship, even a marriage covenant. The brother of Jared had faith no longer for he “knew” the Lord, nothing doubting. This is what it means to become a Zion person or a Zion people. A Zion person does not exalt himself above others or pollute himself with vain and foolish imaginations, idolatry, and all kinds of worldliness. The woman “Zion” is “Israel” redeemed. Where Israel is an unredeemed harlot, she becomes a redeemed bride, sanctified and one with Jehovah, her children living in righteousness and equity.
It is not difficult to liken Isaiah’s address to the ancient covenant people with today’s covenant people. The things, which happened then foreshadow and typify what has happened, is happening and will happen to the Lord’s latter-day covenant people. The Book of Mormon was given to us by way of the Gentile (Title Page). It is why Moroni quoted the Lord addressing the latter-day peoples to:
Ether 4:13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.
How much longer will the latter-day covenant people remain unredeemed because of their “unbelief?” Or maybe as Moroni wrote:
Ether 12:34 And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.
35 Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not charity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.
36 And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity.
37 And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.
The talent was taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles when they rejected the mortal Messiah. Is it only a matter of time before it is taken from the Gentiles (times of the Gentiles is fulfilled) and given back to the Jews (remnant of Jacob who will be among the Gentiles as Lions who tread them down and tear to pieces and none can deliver) to carry on the work? Is the Lord delaying His coming? Time will tell.
Fast forwarding to chapter three. The first half of this chapter talks about the condition of the Lord’s covenant people–what the Lord will deprive them of when Assyria comes to sweep them off, or in other words, what will be left, which is little to nothing. Most, if not all men will be wiped out, leaving some children/youth to “rule” whatever is left of the people. So now that we have a good idea of what will befall the “rulers of Sodom” and the “people of Gomorrah” or essentially, all the men who defile the temple with their vain offerings, the Lord tells us what He thinks of the women and what He will cause to happen to them:
16 ¶ Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
21 The rings, and nose jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils.
24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
Here the Lord considers the women “daughters of Zion.” I find this interesting. Zion denotes an elect people. Whereas the men are fully corrupted and fit into a “Sodom and Gomorrah” category, the women are called “Zion.” The main archetypes in the book of Isaiah include “Babylon,” “Assyria,” “Israel,” and “Zion.” So it’s interesting to see the Lord address the Israelite men as “rulers of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah” and the women as “daughters of Zion.” But the women do not escape His judgment.
Isaiah goes to an extreme length to list all the varieties of dress and accessories that the women tend to wear. It isn’t too difficult to see the same with today’s women. I can’t remember if it was a family member or a neighbor that once explained to me why women have to have so many shoes and clothes and stuff. She said that when they’re little girls they dress up all their Barbies. But when they grow up, they become Barbie. Women seem programmed from an early age to “doll up” and accessorize. I’m not sure why. They seem to have to have an outfit for everything and their clothes have to be interchangeable, and match by colors or patterns or whatever.
As for men, we tend to compete to become Alpha males in our various circles and be in charge. Even the Lord’s disciples kept bickering among themselves who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven among them. It’s just a guy thing. We compete. I think that women are the same, but for a different reason. Women seem to tend to size each other up by how many more men they can attract than the next woman. They measure their worth by being able to attract the Alpha males and this can make them insecure and catty. I’m sure not all women are like this just like not all men have to be Alpha males. Obviously, women feel an innate need to feel beautiful and cherished and loved. It’s either that or perhaps women are just as vain as men are.
In any case, whereas the Lord will deliver the men up to be swept off by the sword, the women’s covenant curse will be baldness and rags. The ancient Israelites had no clue they were about to be destroyed and left desolate. If we apply it to today, this could be interpreted to mean a nuclear holocaust or some kind of plague or both is about to befall us. And like the ancient people, a remnant will be left. We in the US are pretty ripe to be swept off. And there are enough passages in D&C that indicate the Lord’s desolating scourge will begin first with the Lord’s house among those who profess to know the Lord’s name, but have not known Him.
D&C 112:24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.
Perhaps in this context, the Lord is referring to “house” as His covenant people (house of Israel) and not necessarily a particular temple or building. And what other candidate is there beside the latter-day saints, being the gentiles by whom the restoration of the fullness of the gospel was made? After all:
Isaiah 2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
As I posed the question at the beginning of this entry, could one replace Judah with Ephraim and Jerusalem with Salt Lake City? Is there another candidate for the Lord’s covenant people in the latter days if not Judah? Who else sang joyfully, “O Babylon, O Babylon, we bid thee farewell. We’re going to the mountains of Ephraim to dwell?”