Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Isaiah 13 - The Burden of Babylon

The first phrase of this chapter really struck me: “The Burden of Babylon”   As I was reminded in a recent general conference address, Babylon can be thought of as a culture in which we are immersed in these last days.  It is all around us and it is intruding into our places of refuge through various kinds of media.   Satan tries very hard to make this culture look appealing.   It is sold to us in neat packages by beautiful, charming people who look happy and successful.  Their message is that we will be similarly beautiful, happy, and successful if we gratify our self-interest.   Isaiah’s vision is that this culture carries with it a terrible burden.  According to the footnotes, this burden “is a message of doom ‘lifted up’ against a people”. 

To summarize Isaiah, this message of doom to the wicked is as so:

  • The sanctified hosts of Israel will be against them. 
  • They will experience faint-heartedness, sorrow, amazement, and fear.
  • They will suffer destruction, desolation, darkness, and punishment accompanied by scenes of horror and bloodshed. This destruction will come from God and it will be a complete and utter destruction, as when “God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah”.

Satan leaves a lot of fine print out of his advertisements for Babylon!

Based on what I have read so far, I do not believe that the children of Israel were conscious of their decline- hence Isaiah’s very harsh language.  To support this idea, I reference 2 Nephi 1:13 in which a dying Lehi pleads with Laman and Lemuel to “wake up”:

13 O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe. 

Likening the scriptures unto ourselves, I think we need to be extremely careful in evaluating our own lives.  We are warned in the scriptures of the deception of the “very elect”. *   I think it is important that we start with the assumption that we are to some extent deceived by the messages of Babylon.  This will put us in a position of humility that will allow us to approach God and ask him to help us see where we are weak.  When we ask God to show us these weaknesses, he will gladly do so and we will be on the right path.  Jesus highlighted the importance of this introspection when he told the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican:

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

            I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Again, we must be exceedingly careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that we are somehow better than others, or in thinking that it is someone else who needs to repent and not me. 

Lastly, I would like to call attention to some very interesting wording at the start of the chapter.  I’ll quote from 2 Nephi for these verses:

3 I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones, for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness.

4 The noise of the multitude in the mountains like as of a great people, a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together, the Lord of Hosts mustereth the hosts of the battle.

5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, yea, the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.

The footnote on “sanctified ones” in Isaiah says that it is translated from a Hebrew word that is also translated as “Saints”.   If we understand the mountain to be a symbol of a temple, we can understand that the Lord will organize his hosts from the multitude who make and keep sacred covenants.   This would suggest that the “far country” mentioned in verse 5 refers to Zion, the pure in heart who have sanctified themselves through the grace of Christ and obedience to his commandments.  Interestingly, there does not seem to be a distinction between this world or the next when referring to these people.  There is more to say on that topic, but I think I will leave it there as food for thought. 

As I write this, I feel a spirit of peace within me that assures me of the truthfulness of Isaiah’s words.  I believe the day is not far distant when the Lord will come again with his hosts, both in heaven and in the Earth.  I hope we will be prepared and that we will be found among the “multitude in the mountains”. 



* The implication that the elect can be deceived is an interesting topic unto itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I want to just touch upon a reference you made regarding the "very elect." You said, "We are warned in the scriptures of the deception of the “very elect”"

The original quote is, of course, found in Matthew 24. I will use the JS "Translation" for my reference—

"22 For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.

23 Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect's sake..."

(Pearl of Great Price | JS-Matthew 1:22 - 23)

Interestingly, the Savior used the phrase, regarding "the very elect" that "if it were possible", they shall be deceived.

Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus talks about his sheep, and says that they (his sheep) "hear (his) voice" and "follow (him)".

Certainly, if one is deceived, and one turns away from hearing the "savior's voice" ("...whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same..."), or, in other words, one leaves the Church (whether officially, or just in their mind and/or ways, like that temple sealer I mentioned before), and if they do NOT return, they are, by definition NOT (the Savior's) 'sheep'. And, if they are not his sheep, then they are NOT (his) 'elect'.

The prophecy in Matthew 24, of course, means that there will be (likely many) members of the Church who will leave it. They will be deceived. And, those who do not return, show, by their lack of repentance, of "following the voice of the Lord" that they are NOT his sheep, and are not his elect.

Laman and Lemuel did not heed the voice of the prophets in their day (who were, interestingly, their own father, and their brothers, Nephi and Jacob, at least). And they rebelled against them, many times before their father died, and completely afterwards. And their posterity followed them!

So it is today. How many 'cultural Mormons' do we have. Where generation after generation, some (if not all) are baptized into the Church. But there is so much tokenism to please or appease a parent, or a grandparent. I'm not saying they shouldn't be baptized. But, certainly, as John the Baptist pointed out, (one) 'must needs bring forth fruit worthy of repentance.'

It is sad to see so many drift in and out, in and out, just like the tide. And they are "tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine." And why? Because they will not remain on the foundation of "apostles and prophets". They don't truly and ultimately "align themselves" within the edifice of the church, the "house of God". Some even go on missions. I have a neighbor's son who did that. But her family are, much of the time, barely in the Church, if they are at all.

I know, God should judge them. And he will, as he will judge me. Their waywardness in no way excuses my sins.