As I read in Isaiah 9 this week, I was touched by the following passage, which I am quoting from 2 Nephi because there is a significant change in the wording:
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.
3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and increased the joy—they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
This is really an amazing theme to me, and it illustrates to my mind the brilliance of God’s plan for us. The path to travel in this plan is often what would seem be the direction exactly opposite of our self-interest. Who could imagine that a people in their darkest hour and greatest extremity could have joy likened to those who have just received a great bounty? Who would imagine that extreme hardship and difficulty lead to enlightenment? And most of all, who would imagine that a God whom we have offended would remain patient through the millennia, with His “hand, stretched out still?”
I was impressed one day as I was studying this chapter to turn to the last chapters of Luke and read the account of the atonement there. I started with the last supper, and read through to the end when Jesus ascended into heaven. In one part, he is on the road talking with disciples heading to Emmaus. They are sad, for they too, are having difficult comprehending the plan of salvation for them. It isn’t something logical that they can figure out. The Lord rebukes them and begins to recite the prophets who have prophesied of His mission, and of how these things must be. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” He goes on like this for a while and they still don’t know who it is that is talking with them until they invite him in to eat. He sits down with them, blesses the break and breaks it. At that moment their eyes are opened.
As I read that passage, I realized that the disciples must have remembered the last supper just a few days earlier when Christ had originally blessed bread and broke it in front of them. That was a remarkable thought for me, because it makes the symbolism of the sacrament more beautiful. I hope that my eyes will also be opened each week when I have a chance to partake of the broken bread.
So the feeling I am left with at the end of this reading is how exceedingly merciful the Lord is to us. As a people, we have been constantly forgetting him and transgressing his laws for all of history, but though he may punish us and withdraw his protection, he is ever willing to gather us in if we want it.