Thursday, April 16, 2009

Isaiah 43: God is a loving parent

The previous chapter ends with a rebuke of Israel.  The Lord explains their tribulations as a result of disobedience.   The Lord sounds pretty angry, but like a true loving parent, though, He doesn’t leave it at that.   For, after the rebuke comes the loving words, the assurance that the child is loved and there is a way through.    In the beginning of this chapter, the Lord indicates a few things that Israel needs to remember:

1.       They are created by the Lord, therefore they are precious!

2.       As in times past (remember Egypt!), the Lord will see them through trouble

3.       All scattered Israel will eventually be gathered

Verse 8 is an interesting phrase:

                8 Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.

This phrase is echoed by the Savior in Matthew 13 when describing the Kingdom of God through the parable of the sower.  At the conclusion of the parable, He says, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”   His disciples then asked him, “Why do you teach in parables?”  They knew the mysteries that Jesus taught to the people, and they probably also observed that some of the hearers didn’t understand what was being said.   Why wouldn’t the Savior just come right out and say what he meant?   The Savior then taught them that there is a spiritual principle at work here:

11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

The doctrines of the kingdom are given in such a way that those who are pure in heart, those who listen for spiritual truth, will understand the doctrines and be greatly edified by the parable.  Those who are worldly-minded will miss the true meaning, and as a result, they will not be able to partake of the Kingdom.   Bruce R. McConkie described it this way:

Our Lord used parables on frequent occasions during his ministry to teach gospel truths. His purpose, however, in telling these short stories was not to present the truths of his gospel in plainness so that all his hearers would understand. Rather it was so to phrase and hide the doctrine involved that only the spiritually literate would understand it, while those whose understandings were darkened would remain in darkness.

Bringing this back to Isaiah, he appears to be referring to those people who have eyes, but are blind, and those that have ears, but are deaf.   This makes sense in conjunction with verse 9, which is a challenge to all gentile nations (worshippers of idols) to bring forth “their witnesses” and prove themselves.  The Lord then declares Himself and states very clearly that besides Him, there is no Savior.    What better way is there to describe those who are spiritually blind, those who seek for salvation in the world and grasp as worldly things that “moth and rust doth corrupt”?

There is one other spiritual warning Isaiah relates in this chapter that I would like to mention:

20 The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

22 But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.

It is ironic, but a sad tendency of human nature, that it is in our extremity that we are brought to remember God.  (Hence the value of opposition)  Yet, when we are together as a people, united in religion and enjoying prosperity, it is in these times of plenty- at the apex of our blessings from heaven- that the spiritual diseases set in and we forget God.  The prophet Alma said, “because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye … [but more] blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.”