Friday, May 05, 2006

Isaiah 6 - Dominion

Yesterday when I was riding the bus and opening up my scriptures to reread this week’s Isaiah chapter, I had a thought come to me that I’ve had a few times now. It is basically a feeling that I won’t get much out of the chapter I am studying because the symbols seem too obtuse to understand or I am too distant from Isaiah to apply these words in my life. Yet again, however, I was amazed at how a little quiet reflection turned this handful of verses into something really remarkable.

First, let me start with a little summary of what is happening in this chapter:

Verses 1-4 Isaiah sees the Lord in vision
Verse 5 He laments at his sinful and unworthy state.
Verses 6-7 Isaiah is forgiven (which bolsters his confidence)
Verses 8-10 He voluntarily takes on a ministry as a prophet
Verses 11-12 He feels sorrow for the sins of the world
Verse 13 A hopeful promise from God about Israel’s return to righteousness

Compare this pattern with what we find in the story of Enos:

Enos, aware of his sins, supplicates the Lord
His sins are forgiven (which amazes him)
He immediately shows concern for his brethren
The Lord makes hopeful promises about their return to righteousness
He voluntarily takes on a ministry as a prophet

The congruence is remarkable to me and I feel like there is something to learn from these accounts. So, I hope you will indulge me here, because these two passages remind me of one of the sayings of Jesus that is reported in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. It is not from the standard works but I feel like there is truth to it and it also corresponds to Isaiah’s experience.

Jesus said: He who seeks,
let him not cease seeking until he finds;
and when he finds he will be troubled,
and when he is troubled he will be amazed,
and he will reign over the All.

Here again is the pattern of seeking the Lord, realizing our sin, obtaining forgiveness, and then receiving a dominion. This in turn takes me to a very interesting scripture in D&C 121:45-46

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

Looking at that verse in context, we see that the dominion of the priesthood as described here is not at all like an earthly dominion. This dominion (or I would also say “influence”) is not exercised by force or coercion. It is exercised by love, patience, persuation, etc. I used to think that “without compulsory means” meant that people would follow you without compulsion, but after reading the above citations, I am beginning to think it applies more to the person receiving the dominion. God does not force our callings upon us. He may pull us forcefully back from the brink, but he will never compel us to do good. It comes as invitation and it comes as a result of the purity that is achieved through forgiveness. As we continue to purify ourselves, more responsibility and influence will flow unto us and we will assume it willingly.

One more thing that I wanted to share about what I read: I really loved the symbolism of the coal touching the lips to make Isaiah pure. The coal was brought from the Alter in the Lord’s house. It must therefore be the remnant of a burnt offering. In my mind, the coal then logically represents the grace and the power that were the result of the Lord’s sacrifice for us all. The touching of the coal to the lips represents to me the acute pain that comes through the repentance process, and yet it is momentary and it is cleansing. The hallmark of it is that we will feel confident in the presence of God, just as Enos and Isaiah did.

Reading this chapter has increased my testimony of the scriptures and of the power of God to cleanse us from sin. I feel exceedingly grateful for what I have read this week and what the Lord has given me.

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