Friday, February 16, 2007

Isaiah 24: Reformatting the Earth

This chapter of Isaiah starts with a lengthy Chiasmus over-viewing the awful fate of the whole earth, of which everyone is subject regardless of their station in life (v3- “as with the buyer, so with the seller”).     In the day Isaiah describes, the Earth as we know it will be gone, everything consumed and the landscape left empty.   The celebrations and revelry silenced to make way for mourning.

The pinnacle verses of this chiasmus are 5-6:

5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

 6 Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.

The reasons for the curse and destruction are plain:  disobedience and apostasy.   We know that this kind of activity happened during the great apostasy, which is past, but we have yet to see the destruction spoken of here.   There are a few verses that I think support this idea:


7 The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted to sigh.  

 Joseph Smith was the fresh vessel into which the “new  wine” was poured, so I take the new wine to be the gospel, or the saints who have accepted it.  Christ is the vine, his influence is expressed among the children of men through the priesthood.   To say that the vine languishes, is not to say that Christ himself is languishing, but that his servants on the Earth become weak and dispirited.  As a consequence, the merryhearted, or the Saints who understand true happiness, are caused to sigh at what they see.  I wonder if we are not beginning to see that now.


13  When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. 

The destruction of the wicked will leave a few righteous behind in isolated pockets.  This idea is echoed in v. 15 that says people will glorify the Lord from the isles of the sea, which is a metaphor for scattered Israel.

If we assume then, the idea that the destruction is as yet some future time, then we may also wonder about verse 5 and ask ourselves if we are changing the ordinances and breaking the covenants?    What ordinances might we be changing and how?    In our day, the Lord has restored all of the ordinances and covenants given through Abraham in what is termed the New and Everlasting covenant.  (See Gen. 17: 7, 13, 19, D&C 1: 15, 22, Isa. 24: 5)  These ordinances and covenants have been given many times in the past, and each time they fell into obscurity as the church fell into apostasy.   Today we are in the “last dispensation” of the gospel.  These ordinances and covenants will never pass away, but they will be under that same attacks as always.   Those who take them upon themselves must still take care not to alter them or forget them.

Thinking about the “languishing of the vine” leads us to understand the great feelings of sorrow Isaiah expresses in v16-23.   The destruction of the wicked is troubling to him, in part because they were so close to eternal life!   They had the gospel there in front of them and they rejected it.  Perhaps it is in an effort to save some of them that Isaiah uses strong language to describe the scale and magnitude of what will happen in the last days.  Nobody will escape it, especially the lofty and proud. 

The final verse if a very interesting punctuation to this whole gloomy chapter.  It speaks ever so briefly about the reigning of the Lord in Zion.   The glory of it will be so great that the sun and the moon shall be ashamed.   Given the contents of the next chapter, I think chapters 24 & 25 should probably go together in one document.   The nice thing about this verse is that it reminds us of what great things lie before us, which will give us hope through the dark times if we have faith the Lord will come.



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