Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Isaiah 28- Drunkenness

The first line of this chapter is an attention-getter:

            Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim

 Ephraim?  Drunk?  This reminds me of a verse in the next chapter, which I will quote from 2 Nephi 27:4:

 For behold, all ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye shall cry out, and cry; yea, ye shall be drunken but not with wine, ye shall stagger but not with strong drink.

 Who are the drunkards of Ephraim?   They are those that stumble and stagger in the gospel, intoxicated by worldly philosophies.  Interestingly, they are “crowned with pride”.    Once beautiful, they are now a “fading flower”. 

These references to Ephraim apply to both past and present.  Speaking of the present, we have hope that not all of Ephraim will be lost, though many stumble.  The Lord says that there will be a residue (v5), and that instead of a crown of pride, they will wear the Lord as a crown.   The Lord will also be their judgment and the one who fights their battles.   What a contrast from the worldly standards of beauty, justice, and power. 

Isn’t it interesting how this message comes up again and again?  The folly of Israel is their reliance on things of the world!   Consider these verses from 2 Nephi 28, (which chapter happens to be a commentary on Isaiah 29):

20 For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.

 21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

 Verse 20 says that some people will rage against that which is good.  I think this sounds like a fair description of the wicked organizations and philosophies of the world, which more and more are openly warring against principles of good.

Verse 21 sounds like the “drunkards of Ephraim” described above.  These are members of the church who do not rage against that which is good, but instead they are pacified by the devil, led into thinking that everything is OK in Zion.    They count that fact that they are not openly warring against righteous principles as a badge of righteousness for themselves.  They look at the material blessings abundantly given in their lives and assume these are also an evidence of righteousness, thus they wear their pride as a crown.   

Back in Isaiah 28, we learn in verse 7 that even leaders in the church are not exempt from this drunkenness, thus all must be on their guard so they are not lulled away.   So why is it so easy to be lulled away?  Isaiah gives some hints here:

v9 – Correct precepts will be taught by children.  I interpret "children" as referring to new converts and those who are humble.  It is tempting to disdain the words of those who are humble and converted in favor of the flattering words from the learned and articulate,  Those priests who puff themselves up are attractive and easy to listen to.

v10 – Correct precepts have to be learned slowly and deliberately.    It is a common phallacy to think that because the precepts of Christianity are so simple, they can be learned in a short time.    The understanding and adoption of these simple precents takes a lifetime of concentrated effort.   There is a progression to understanding.  Isaiah says "line upon line" and "precept on precept".   Jesus himself "increased in wisdom and in stature" (Luke 2:52).  This slow learning process can become an obstacle to us if we do not expect it and resolve to do what it takes to learn.   In the parable of the tower, Jesus taught that there is a great price to be paid to be a disciple and we must be willing to pay all of it.  (Luke 14:25-33)

v16 – Christ must be the cornerstone of our faith.  It’s easier to have faith in worldy peace and security.  Christ’s peace is different than freedom from hardship.   However, people often hope for and expect to be free from their troubles.  The come to the gospel thinking their troubles will go away and then become disenchanted when they realize life is still a struggle.   What we should be looking for is the peace of mind that comes from hope in Christ.  Then our trials will be bearable.

v21-22 – The Lord’s work appears so strange that we are tempted to mock it.  God's ways are not man's ways.  Here are some examples:  God loves his enemies, He gives important jobs to the underqualified, He prefers private recognition over public praise, and he does not attain excellence through competition.   There are many more, but these examples are enough to make the point.  The world is such a powerful and present influence, that it is difficult to not bias our view of spiritual things according to our worldly frame of reference.  This is perhaps most acute when it comes to accepting and following the Lord's chosen leaders here on the earth.  We read in the scriptures how people hated the prophets and found fault with them, how the prophets themselves were insecure of their own abilities.  Yet, that is easy to forget when our present-day leaders struggle with their own weaknesses.  We want so badly to find leaders with no flaws in them, but none of those exist. 

And so we see a little snapshot of what we are up against.  Isaiah’s message to the saints is very clear:  be careful!  Have some humility and learn patiently from everyone around you.  Trust in Christ and his ways and understand that just because something doesn't make immediate sense to you, it doesn't mean that it is wrong or foolish.  The Lord's works are strange and difficult to comprehend.  Cast off your pride and seek after Him will all of you might. 

Finally, Isaiah warns us that the law of the harvest will eventually be applied to us.  The cummin (weeds) will be separated from the grain, and then the Lord will come in his glory.  Who will abide his coming?




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do not necessarily disagree with you that the "drunkards of Ephraim" are those who are members of the (LDS) Church who are worldly, or who trust in philosophies of the world, or worldly things, more than they do in Christ, his atonement, etc. But, I do not know but that possibly these "drunkards" might also include many who are descendants of Ephraim, but are not in the (LDS) Church also!

Certainly, as I read the Bible and the Book of Mormon, it seems that I read of people, many masses of people (or groups, cultures, of cities and other communities, etc) who probably, like most in the Church (and certainly most of the 'gentiles') do not even consider much, often, or at all, that they are descendants of Israel in general, and, many, likely, of Ephraim in particular.

Power, including the national or international power now and long enjoyed by the United States, and previous to that by the kingdom of Great Britain, and previous to that, at times, by those of France, Spain, and at times, those of Germany, Russia, Italy, even the Netherlands, Sweden, etc of having great power, whether worldwide, or regionally.

I suspect that many of them are or may be descendants of Ephraim, and/or of other of the tribes of Israel.

Of course, much, especially in the Book of Mormon, seems to center on our day. But our "day", of course, appears to cover centuries (if not millennia).

That said, certainly, (LDS) Church members are not excluded, and may be, in fact, the center of attention. But, perhaps it may be those of the United States, or the "whites" of largely European descent (though who knows, how far and wide Ephraim and Israel were scattered)? Supposedly, among the 116 pages of lost manuscript of the Book of Mormon, was the 'fact' that Ishmael, whose sons and daughters Lehi and Sarai's sons and daughters married, was of the tribe of Ephraim. Then, many of our Nephite/Lamanite/ and especially 'Ishmaelite' brethren and sisters may also be of Ephraim, also! (FWIW - For What Its Worth)

All in all, I like and appreciate, though, your insights! Keep it up!