Old Testament Lesson 39 -“How Beautiful upon the Mountains”

1. Isaiah speaks of messengers who bring glad tidings.

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains

‘Peace and good tidings; good tidings and peace. These are among the ultimate blessings that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings a troubled world and the troubled people who live in it, solutions to personal struggles and human sinfulness, a source of strength for days of weariness and hours of genuine despair. This entire general conference and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which convenes it declare that it is the Only Begotten Son of God Himself who gives us this help and this hope. Such assurance is as “firm as the mountains around us.” [See “Carry On,” Hymns, no. 255.] (Jeffrey R Holland, General Conference, October 1996)

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2. Isaiah prophesies of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to the smiters

“Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt. The usual instrument was a short whip…with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals…For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. After the scourging; the soldiers often taunted their victim.” (“On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Mar. 1986, vol. 255, no. 11, p. 1457)

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Isaiah 51:6 But my salvation shall be forever

‘It is a glorious truth that the redemption which God shall give his people shall survive the revolutions of kingdoms, and the consummation of all earthly things. It is not improbable that the Saviour had this passage in his eye when he said, ‘heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away’ Matthew 24:35.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Isaiah 52:3 Redeemed without money

‘Israel had sold herself, as a harlot, having prostituted her sacred relationship with her Husband, ‘for nought’; that is she had betrayed her God, searching for the worthless lusts of the flesh and pleasures of worldliness. Nevertheless,  she can be ‘redeemed without money’ through the Atonement of her Saviour, whose loving invitation comes ‘without money and without price’ (2 Nephi 9:50).’ (Andrew C Skinner and D Kelly Ogden, Verse by verse, The Old Testament)

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Isaiah 53:2 He hath no form nor comeliness

‘In appearance he was like men; and so it is expressed here by the prophet that he had no form or comeliness, that is, he was not so distinctive, so different from others that people would recognize him as the son of God. He appeared as a mortal man.’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 23)

Isaiah 53:5 He was wounded for our transgressions

‘We follow Christ because we love Him. When we follow the Redeemer out of love, we are following His own example. Through love the Savior was obedient to the will of the Father under any circumstance. Our Savior was obedient even when it meant great physical and emotional pain, even when it meant being whipped and mocked, even when it meant that His enemies would torture Him while His friends abandoned Him. The atoning sacrifice, which is unique to the mission of the Savior, is the greatest expression of love ever. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5

As Christ followed the Father under any circumstance, we should follow His Son. If we do so, it matters not what kind of persecution, suffering, grief, or “thorn in the flesh”  2 Corinthians 12:7 we face. We are not alone. Christ will assist us. His tender mercies will make us mighty under any circumstance. [See  1 Nephi 1:20] Walter F Gonzalez. General Conference, April 2011)

Isaiah 53:7 He opened not his mouth

‘As far as we know, Herod is…distinguished as the only being who saw Christ face to face and spoke to Him, yet never heard His voice. For penitent sinners, weeping women, prattling children, for the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the rabbis, for the perjured high priest and his obsequious and insolent underling, and for Pilate the pagan, Christ had words-of comfort or instruction, of warning or rebuke, of protest or denunciation-yet for Herod the fox He had but disdainful and kingly silence.’ (James E Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 635-636)

Isaiah 53:10 He shall see his seed

‘The Savior, as a member of the Godhead, knows each of us personally. Isaiah and the prophet Abinadi said that when Christ would “make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed”  (Isa. 53:10 compare  Mosiah 15:10).  Abinadi explains that “his seed” are the righteous, those who follow the prophets (see  Mosiah 15:11) In the garden and on the cross, Jesus saw each of us and not only bore our sins, but also experienced our deepest feelings so that he would know how to comfort and strengthen us.’ (Merrill J Bateman, General Conference, April 1995)

Isaiah 53:10. Did It “Please” Father in Heaven to “Bruise” His Son?

‘Obviously God was not pleased with the way Jesus was treated, but He was pleased with His Son’s “offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10). The Atonement met the strictest demands of God’s innate justice and made forgivenessand mercy possible on certain terms.

Elder Melvin J. Ballard explained why it pleased God not to interfere: “In that hour I think I can see our dear Father behind the veil looking upon these dying struggles until even he could not endure it any longer; and, like the mother who bids farewell to her dying child, has to be taken out of the room, so as not to look upon the last struggles, so he bowed his head, and hid in some part of his universe, his great heart almost breaking for the love that he had for his Son. Oh, in that moment when he might have saved his Son, I thank him and praise him that he did not fail us, for he had not only the love of his Son in mind, but he also had love for us. I rejoice that he did not interfere, and that his love for us made it possible for him to endure to look upon the sufferings of his Son and give him finally to us, our Savior and our Redeemer. Without him, without his sacrifice, we would have remained, and we would never have come glorified into his presence. And so this is what it cost, in part, for our Father in Heaven to give the gift of his Son unto men.” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, pp. 154–55.)’ (Institute Old Testament Manual)

Isaiah 53:12. How Will Jesus Receive a “Portion with the Great” and “Divide the Spoil with the Strong”?

‘As the literal and faithful Son of God, Jesus inherits all that the Father has to give (see John 16:15). If we accept the Atonement of Christ and live worthy lives, we may become “joint-heirs” with Christ (Romans 8:17). Elder McConkie defined the term joint heir as follows:

“A joint-heir is one who inherits equally with all other heirs including the Chief Heir who is the Son. Each joint-heir has an equal and an undivided portion of the whole of everything. If one knows all things, so do all others. If one has all power, so do all those who inherit jointly with him. If the universe belongs to one, so it does equally to the total of all upon whom the joint inheritances are bestowed.

“Joint-heirs are possessors of all things. (D. & C. 50:26–28.) All things are theirs for they have exaltation. (D. & C. 76:50–60.) They are made ‘equal’ with their Lord. (D. & C. 88:107.) They gain all power both in heaven and on earth and receive the fulness of the Father, and all knowledge and truth are theirs. (D. & C. 93:15–30.) They are gods. (D. & C. 132:20.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 395.)’ (Institute Old Testament Manual)

3. Isaiah describes some of our responsibilities.

Isaiah 51:1–3. What Is Meant By the “Hole … Whence Ye Are Digged”?

‘God’s promises to Israel were stated in a direct way in the Abrahamic covenant. Most Latter-day Saints have patriarchal blessings that declare their descent from Abraham through one of the twelve tribes. Abraham, then, is the “rock” from whence Israel was hewn and the “pit” from whence they were digged. Israel, both ancient and modern, is urged to “look unto Abraham [our] father, and unto Sarah” (Isaiah 51:1–2). They are the ones through whom the Saints claim their promised blessings. By means of the covenant established with Abraham and Sarah, “the Lord shall comfort Zion” and make “her desert like the garden of the Lord” (v. 3). This passage is a plain assurance that God will fulfill for Abraham and his descendants all that He has promised in the covenant.’ (Institute Old Testament Manual)

Isaiah 51:12 I am he that comforteth you

‘No, we do not leave this life at our own will for a heavenly respite. God our Eternal Father would not have it so. But He and His Beloved Son can come to us by the power of the Spirit to comfort and sustain, to nurture and to bless.
To you who are divorced, please know that we do not look down upon you as failures because a marriage failed. In many, perhaps in most cases, you were not responsible for that failure. Furthermore, ours is the obligation not to condemn, but to forgive and to forget, to lift and to help. In your hours of desolation turn to the Lord, who said:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28, 30.)
…Now to those of you who have lost a companion in death, our hearts go out to you with love and understanding. As a man once observed, “There exists no cure for a heart wounded with the sword of separation.” (Hitopadesa, Elbert Hubbard’s Scrapbook, New York City: Wm. H. Wise and Co., 1923, p. 21.) With many of you, there is the gnawing pain of bereavement and fear. To you the Lord has said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4.)
We know that for many of you, there are days of loneliness and nights of longing. But there is also that which comes from Him who said, “I, even I, am he that comforteth you.” (Isa. 51:12.)
The Lord is your strength. He is available to you, and, when invited, by His Spirit He will come to you.’ (Gordon B Hinckley, “To Single Adults,” Ensign, June 1989, 74)
Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion
‘ By Zion is meant the church in Gospel times, in the latter day glory, which is called upon to awake out of sleep; and this repeated to show what a deep sleep had fallen on her, the danger she was in through it, and the vehemency of the speaker, or the great concern the Lord had for her; and this is the very state and case of the church of Christ now, and the prophecy respects our times, and what follow. There is a general carnal security, and spiritual drowsiness, which has seized the people of God; a non-exercise of grace among them, at least it is not a lively one; a sluggishness to and in duty; a contentment in the external performance of it; an indifference about the cause of Christ, and power of religion; and an unconcernedness about the truths and ordinances of the Gospel, the discipline of Christ’s house, and the honour of it; which the enemy takes the advantage of, and sows his tares of false doctrine and worship; wherefore it is high time to “awake” out of sleep, and to “put on strength”, or “clothe” (e) with it, and do the Lord’s will, and work and oppose the enemy. Saints are weak in themselves, but they have strength in Christ, and on him should they wait, to him should they look, and on him should they exercise faith for it; they should put on the whole armour of God, clothe themselves with it, resume courage, pluck up a good heart and spirit, and not fear any difficulties, dangers, and enemies.’ (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)
 

Isaiah 52:11–12. Why Does the Lord Counsel That the Departure from Babylon Be Not “with Haste”?

 

‘In language closely parallel to Isaiah’s, the Doctrine and Covenants explains that the Lord’s servants, those who “bear the vessels of the Lord” (D&C 133:5), are to flee from Babylon, which is defined as “wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon” (D&C 133:14). Then follows what is almost a direct quotation of Isaiah 52:12with the additional admonition to “let all things be prepared before you” and to “not look back lest sudden destruction come upon [you]” (D&C 133:15). This addition clarifies Isaiah’s command. He admonished Israel to gather (depart from wickedness) but in an orderly manner under the Lord’s direction. Had the early Saints of this dispensation observed this direction to the letter, their flight to Zion in Missouri and the events that followed might have turned out differently (see D&C 58:5663:24101:67–68, 70, 74). The presiding elders in Missouri issued the following counsel in July of 1833:

“For the disciples to suppose that they can come to this land without ought to eat, or to drink, or to wear, or anything to purchase these necessaries with, is a vain thought. For them to suppose that the Lord will open the windows of heaven, and rain down angel’s food for them by the way, when their whole journey lies through a fertile country, stored with the blessings of life from His own hand for them to subsist upon, is also vain. For them to suppose that their clothes and shoes will not wear out upon the journey, when the whole of it lies through a country where there are thousands of sheep from which wool in abundance can be procured to make them garments, and cattle upon a thousand hills, to afford leather for shoes, is just as vain. …

“… Do not conclude from these remarks, brethren, that we doubt in the least, that the Lord will provide for His Saints in these last days; or think that we would extend our hands to steady the ark; for this is not the case. We know that the Saints have the unchangeable word of God that they shall be provided for; yet we know, if any are imprudent, or lavish, or negligent, or indolent, in taking that proper care, and making that proper use of what the Lord has made them stewards over, they are not counted wise; for a strict account of every one’s stewardship is required, not only in time, but will be in eternity. Neither do we apprehend that we shall be considered putting out our hands to steady the ark of God by giving advice to our brethren upon important points relative to their coming to Zion, when the experience of almost two years’ gathering, has taught us to revere that sacred word from heaven, ‘Let not your flight be in haste, but let all things be prepared before you.’” (History of the Church, 1:382–83.)’ (Institute Old Testament Manual)

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