Friday, May 04, 2007

Isaiah 31- Symbols of power

This chapter seems to be a continuation/recap of the message from chapter 30:  Stay away from Egypt!   Isaiah lists some of the main reasons Israel finds Egypt so attractive: horses, lots of chariots and strong Horsemen.   This explanation gives rise to perhaps the most un-poetic and straightforward verse in all of Isaiah:

3 Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit.  When the Lord shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.

I don’t know how to get more clear than the message presented in these first few verses.  The sin of Israel is a reliance on mortals and worldy things for security.    The Lord explains that Israel cannot have security in these things because both the Egyptians (the world) and the people that rely on them (the worldly) will both fall.   And to take the message one step further, the Lord explains that the reliance is really pointless, because what he offers is so much better.  When He defends Israel, he will be like a Lion protecting his prey, a bird protecting its nest (v4).    Anyone who has seen these know that they are fearless and unintimidated.  What a better image than this to contrast with the Egyptians who could not care less about the Israelites, whom they judge to be “unprofitable”.

One day, says Isaiah, everyone is going to cast off the worldy, man-made idols they possess.   So turn to the Lord now!   You’ve really gone astray, but you can still go back, and when you do, your enemies will fear you because your “fire is in Zion”.   

I really like that last phrase from verse 9:  “whose fire is in Zion”.   Fire is a wonderful symbol, evoking imagines of power, passion, spirit, warmth, light, etc.    All of these things and more are found within a person when that person is pure in heart, for Zion is “the pure in heart”  (D&C 91:21).   To me, one of the meanings of being pure is to be completely turned one way or another. When we are fully and unashamedly turned to the Lord and his ways, his fire will be in us, and not only will it be within us, but that light will radiate from us.   This light is what enemies of righteousness truly fear- not weapons or armies. 

The video store is a great place (or awful place, depending on your view) to go and see the icons of power we make for ourselves.      The people on the covers are angry, seductive, and seem to usually carry some sort of weapon.  I think we are attracted to these images because we have this natural desire to radiate an image of power.    Isaiah is saying that it is possible to radiate great power without resorting to the usual worldly methods.   How do we do it?  Replace the furrowed brow with a smile.  Replace the gun with an open hand.  Live a life of virtue and the most mighty power in the universe will radiate through you.   Those who are full of hate will fear you and those with honest hearts who seek God will be drawn to you. 

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