Sunday, August 30, 2009

2 Nephi 24

Nephi selected some of the writings of Isaiah (in addition to quotations elsewhere) to include in the record that he knew would be for our day. And I have been asking myself why he chose what are basically chapters 2-14 of the Book of Isaiah. There are 66 chapters in Isaiah in the King James Version of the Bible. Why these 12 chapters?

I believe the key is in 2 Nephi 25, where Nephi says that they are hard to understand, but that he included them because, "I know that they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them." (2 Ne. 25:8)

He included these chapters for us. When you put the chapter headings for these 12 chapters together, they create an intersting outline of the things that Nephi thought would be of great worth to us:

Isaiah sees the Latter-day temple, gathering of Israel, and millennial judgment and peace—The proud and wicked shall be brought low at the Second Coming

Judah and Jerusalem shall be punished for their disobedience—The Lord pleads for and judges his people—The daughters of Zion are cursed and tormented for their worldliness

Zion and her daughters shall be redeemed and cleansed in the millennial day

The Lord's vineyard (Israel) shall become desolate and his people shall be scattered—Woes shall come upon them in their apostate and scattered state—The Lord shall lift an ensign and gather Israel

Isaiah sees the Lord—Isaiah's sins are forgiven—He is called to prophesy—He prophesies of the rejection by the Jews of Christ's teachings—A remnant shall return

Ephraim and Syria wage war against Judah—Christ shall be born of a virgin

Christ shall be as a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense—Seek the Lord, not peeping wizards—Turn to the law and to the testimony for guidance

Isaiah speaks Messianically—The people in darkness to see a great Light—Unto us a child is born—He shall be the Prince of Peace and shall reign on David's throne

Destruction of Assyria is a type of destruction of wicked at the Second Coming—Few people shall be left after the Lord comes again—Remnant of Jacob shall return in that day

Stem of Jesse (Christ) shall judge in righteousness—The knowledge of God shall cover the earth in the Millennium—The Lord shall raise an ensign and gather Israel

In the millennial day all men shall praise the Lord—He shall dwell among them

Destruction of Babylon is a type of destruction at Second Coming—It shall be a day of wrath and vengeance—Babylon (the world) shall fall forever

Israel shall be gathered and shall enjoy millennial rest—Lucifer cast out of heaven for rebellion—Israel shall triumph over Babylon (the world)

The millennial day is coming. It will be a great day for those who look for it, and it will be terrible for those who reject the teachings of Christ and war among themselves.

2 Nephi 23

22 . . . I will be merciful unto my people, but the wicked shall perish.

Chapter 23 describes the destruction of Babylon which is a type of the destruction of the world in the last days. Those who put their trust in money, military power, fame, or any other worldly thing will be left desolate in the end, like the ruined city of Babylon. Babylon was one of the great cities of the ancient world and was the seat of power of a great empire. Those proud people called the city Babylon, which meant "gateway of the gods." But by 141 BC, the city was left desolate for centuries to be inhabited by the creatures of the desert. In our lives, if we pursue the things of the world, in the end we will be left desolate like this great city -- empty and hollow.

I'm grateful that God is merciful to His people. I hope for His mercy in my life, especially in the trying days to come.

Friday, August 28, 2009

2 Nephi 22

2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation.
3 Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

A dear friend once said in an address at a stake conference, "You cannot dip water from an empty well." The thirst for truth and meaning and peace in life can only be quenched by the living water offered by the Master.
Sometimes we look for relief in the wrong places. Jeremiah said,

13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
(Jer. 2)

Not only do we walk away from the source of living water, we build our own wells using the feeble knowledge we have. Some people look for peace of mind in pop psychology, new age notions, or some other popular idea. Picture the futility of trying to accumulate life-giving water in a container that leaks out more quickly than we can fill it.
When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, he told her of water that she could drink and she would never thirst again. That probably sounded wonderful to someone who had the daily burden of carrying heavy jars or pots from a community well. When she asked where he would get this living water when he had no way to draw it from the well, he answered

13 . . .Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 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.
(John 4)
Ezekiel described this same thing with the image of lush greenery given life in the desert by "waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over." (Ezekiel 47:5) Those same waters not only sustain life in the desert, they run on and heal the waters of the dead sea. In the same way, the living water that flows from the Savior not only sustains us in a world barren of spirit but it can heal the broken heart and bring the lost soul back to life.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

2 Nephi 21

9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the cearth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

I was walking this afternoon -- I have to take a break most days and just go for a walk. Besides, the air conditioning in the office building is a little too efficient. Looking up at the sky I had that brief sensation that comes from time to time. The clouds were rimmed with silver. A few puddles shimmered in the sun on the pavement. Birds were settled quietly into trees along the edge of the parking lot. There was this moment of stillness and quiet in my mind and heart. I thought about how wonderful it will be for all who are present when Christ returns -- when the every ear hears, every knee bows, and every tongue confesses that He lives. There will be peace and rejoicing. I love these words from Psalms 46:

9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2 Nephi 20

15 Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself as if it were no wood!

This is a good verse to remember when we are tempted to think highly of our abilities and talents. Those abilities come from God. When we accomplish some good thing, we should humbly remember the source. I can picture a tool boasting of its abilities in the absence of the Carpenter. In the hands of the Carpenter, a tool can create, shape, and build. By itself, a tool can do nothing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2 Nephi 19

2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

When the Messiah was born, a great light shown and wise men noted it and came looking for the one who was born to be the King of Kings. When we press through our daily lives and things seem dark and our way difficult, we can look to God for light. John wrote (1 John 1),

4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

I was in a cave in New Mexico once -- an undeveloped cave that is part of the Carlsbad Caverns National Monument. It is called Goat Cave or New Cave. We met a park ranger at the mouth of the cave and descended 90-100 feet down steps carved by guano miners years before. The ranger led us through the cave until we paused in a circular room far back in the cave, away from the opening and any external light. He asked us to sit on the floor and extinguish our lights. He doused his lantern and we plunged into silent blackness. At first I thought I could see shapes until I realized that my mind was just forming shapes from nothing. After a couple of minutes in the dark, the ranger struck a match and lit his lantern. The flare of brilliant white light in the total darkness was welcome but blinding. It was deeply comforting to return from blackness to light.

I sometimes feel that I am in total darkness. I don't know what to do. And then there are those moments of sublime enlightenment when the Holy Spirit whispers peace and my soul fills with clarity and light. How I wish that they would come more often.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

2 Nephi 18

17 And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.

When all lose heart and feel that God has hidden His face from them, I will continue to look for Him. It's tempting to look at the world around us, to see the downward spiral of morals, and to wonder if God has forsaken us. He is there. His arm is not shortened, but it is stretched out still, and if we reach for Him in prayer and in quiet meditation, we will feel Him near us even in this sometimes dark world.

I am optimistic and look with hope to the future. There will be terrible things, but there will also be great things. I am not afraid. Here is the beautiful promise of the LORD to those who faithfully wait for Him (Isaiah 54):

8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.
11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
12 And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
13 And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
14 In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.
15 Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.
17 No aweapon 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.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

2 Nephi 17

9 ... If ye will not believe surely ye shall not be established.

The foundation of all promises from God is belief. Those who cannot believe through faith "shall not be established." And what is it that we should believe? Keys to belief that will build a foundation were given by Jehoshaphat to Judah and Jersusalem.

20 And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.

2 Nephi 16

10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes—lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed.

I notice that we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears, but until we understand with our hearts we cannot be converted and healed. When your heart opens to the love of the Savior and to the eternal truths available through the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is a sweet feeling of healing and peace.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

2 Nephi 15

13 Therefore, my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

Jesus told His disciples,
"If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32)

Truth is knowledge of things as they were, as they are, and as they are to come. When we know the truth about who we are as sons and daughters of God and when we know the truth about Jesus Christ and His love and sacrifice for us, we can be free. Ignorance of spiritual things and eternal truth is captivity. Without knowledge of these things, we are subject to the carnal mind and become the servants of passion rather than the children of a loving God.

2 Nephi 14

2 In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the earth excellent and comely to them that are escaped of Israel.

When Jacob, who was called Israel, blessed his sons, he gave the following blessing to Joseph who saved his family from famine by being obedient to the Lord (Gen. 49):

22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall

In the last days, Israel would be the family of the believers, and those who would inherit the blessing of Joseph, of his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, would be a "multitude of nations" and would bless the earth through their faithfulness. As believers we have the challenge to be fruitful, which we can do if we are close to the well of living waters.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2 Nephi 13

I think I give up on Xanga. It's commercial and I don't want to subject everyone to advertisements. And this blog already exists. So, why not use this?

9 The show of their countenance doth witness against them, and doth declare their sin to be even as Sodom, and they cannot hide it. Wo unto their souls, for they have rewarded evil unto themselves!

Our face and especially our eyes are windows to our souls. I can recall occasions when I served as bishop that I would look into someone's eyes and see through the spirit the trouble in their soul. Our countenance makes apparent our struggle with sin or our joy in righteousness. Some work hard to hide their sins and put on a face for the world when they are secretly dark and their souls are not at rest. In my experience, those troubles are eventually manifest. We can all think of political figures in our day who had a public face of virtue but turned out to have a perverted secret life that ended up coming to the surface and ruining their own life and the lives of their family.

We may be able to hide our secrets for a time from the world and even from our family and friends -- maybe even for years -- but we can never hide from ourselves or from the Lord.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

San Fran

A few shots from our visit to San Francisco with Brad and Shirley.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Visit with Chris and Mandi

Long time, no post. We had a wonderful visit with Chris, Mandi, Peyton, and Gavin. Every visit is too short, but we were grateful for the opportunity to be with them.