Isaiah prophesies that pride, in this chapter symbolized by material vanity, will destroy the covenant people. This prophecy was fulfilled in 587 BC when Babylon conquered Judah and Jerusalem (which is why Nephi’s father, Lehi, told the family they had to leave). It happened again when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, and it will happen again at the battle of Armageddon.
The consequences of Jerusalem (the covenant people) removing themselves from the protection and provision of the Lord (by not being faithful to their covenants).
All things are both temporal and spiritual (D&C 29:31).
The temporal consequences, or the temporal penalty for the people breaking these covenants, are that they will literally suffer and even die because of the lack of food and water. This happened on the first two fulfillments, and will happen again at Armageddon.
But there are also spiritual consequences, or spiritual penalties. We don’t often talk of penalties anymore, and some mistakenly believe penalties have been removed. No penalties have been removed. Penalties are the opposite of blessings, and are still very much a part of the covenant process. Blessings for keeping covenants, and penalties for breaking them.
Think of a young child, to whom you must teach each consequence and point out the penalties for everything they do wrong because they are learning to associate consequences (positive or negative) with choices. As the child grows up and matures, you no longer have to discuss penalties with every choice to be made because the child knows and understands this already. No penalties have been removed; we are just mature believers who already understand what they are and should no longer need reminding.
In this case, both times Jerusalem was destroyed, and again in the future with Armageddon, there will be spiritual penalties in addition to the temporal or physical penalties of not enough food and water. Because the people have left Him, chosen against Him, the Lord will remove His presence (our spiritual nourishment) and the ways He communicates His presence:
- Staff = Prophets
- Bread = Scriptures
- Water = Spirit
To lose the privilege of spiritual bread and water is also to lose the privilege of taking sacrament, which can only happen when denying the prophets or not doing what they say (whether “the prophets” means The Prophet or the priesthood leaders in general).
This is apostasy, whether a personal apostasy or an apostasy as a people.
We see now the Jews, who should be a covenant people, but who have lost access to the ordinances that were first available to them.
“For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem (the covenant people) and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water,” (verse 1).
And then blessings that come through the prophets, scriptures, and Spirit are also removed (because the people have chosen not to receive these blessings):
“the mighty man (strength), and the man of war (protection), the judge (discernment and wisdom), and the prophet (priesthood leadership), and the prudent (prepared-ness and provision), and the ancient (honor and nobility)” (verse 2).
They will be so far removed from the protection of the Lord that there will be no leadership. Because leadership comes through the priesthood organization, and they have lost access to it, there is no one leader. Temporally, they will lose leadership and so not have a military leader or political leader or judges or wise men of any kind to guide them as a people. There will not even be skilled workers, like artists or mechanics or architects, to help them or tell them what to do (verse 3).
They will so far remove themselves from the teachings of the Lord, that instead of great and wise leaders provided from the Lord, He will give them “children… to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them” (verse 4).
There are several interesting things about that verse four.
First, it is very Old Testament-ish (which, of course, Isaiah was), in that it reminds us of King Saul losing his privileges and so David taking over, or the younger (Jacob) receiving the birthright because the older (Esau) gave away his inheritance.
It is also very New Testament, as it reminds us when Paul received the vision to share the gospel with the Gentiles as well as the Jews. This is consistent with the Old Testament writings referring to Gentiles as “children” or “dogs”; this was common, and would be easy for Isaiah’s audience to understand that he was referring to Gentiles. It makes sense even in our day, as we witnessed even the return of Israel as a people and political state in 1948 under the hand of Gentiles (British Mandate).
Spiritually, it reminds us of the analogy of milk versus meat from 1 Corinthians 3:2, which is repeated in D&C 19:22 in an opposite direction kind of way. In the first case, we are reprimanded for not taking spiritual “meat” when we are ready for it, and instead only being lazy to take spiritual “milk” and nothing else. In the latter case, we are reminded that we cannot give spiritual “meat” to those not yet ready for it, and to first nourish them with spiritual “milk”.
As a therapist, it also makes me think of the family dynamics of today. Within the church, we have Elijah’s promise from Malachi 4 that the Lord would turn the hearts of the children to the fathers. That promise is for the covenant people, which means outside the covenant the opposite must be true: the children turning their hearts away from the fathers. Or, as this verse in 2 Nephi says, “babes shall rule over them”. I see all the time these families where the children think they are the boss of their parents! This is a prophesy of these latter-days!
“And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor; the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable” (verse 5).
This loss of respect is happening already in our day! Those who ought to be honored are dismissed, and those who lead us well are ignored, and people oppress each other and fight for power instead of doing what they can to liberate and support each other. Isaiah said it will get so bad that there will not be anyone who wants to even try, and no one will want to run for public office. No one will want to re-gather the people, to heal their culture, or do the work to untangle the mess.
“In that day shall he swear, saying: I will not be a healer, for in my house there is neither bread nor clothing; make me not a ruler of the people” (verse 7).
This is the “ruin” of the covenant people (verse 8). It will cause the downfall!
But it gets worse (verse 9):
“The show of their countenance doth witness against, and doth declare their sin to be even as Sodom, and they cannot hide it”.
Sodom was so evil, such a place of misery, that Heavenly Father had to destroy it because it was not even fair for new spirits to be sent there to be born.
Isaiah is saying our day, the last days, will be that bad and worse. He is saying “they cannot hide it”, and that they “declare their sin”. The people themselves will be proud of their sin, and dress themselves in such a way that you can identify them by looking at them. They will mark their flesh, change their hairstyle, wear certain styles of clothes, and present themselves in such a manner as to identify with this sinful culture instead of identifying with the covenant people.
But the Lord speaks to the few who choose to remain righteous:
“Say unto the righteous that it is well with them; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings” (verse 10).
There are consequences to everything.
Even good consequences for good choices.
This is what I teach the children with whom I work. It’s that simple.
There are consequences to everything: make good choices, and receive positive consequences; make poor choices, and receive negative consequences (Galatians 6:7).
Our consequences are ours for the choosing.
The “fruit” is the evidence and consequences of righteous choices.
Or, the evidence of negative choices:
“Wo unto the wicked, for they shall perish” (verse 11).
All of this causes things to be out of Order (of the priesthood) as what Heavenly Father established for us. Anytime we are out of order, there is drama and chaos and problems because we are removed from his provision and protection.
“And my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them” (verse 12). This verse again talks about kids thinking they are the boss of adults and other parents. Women are given in the context of things being out of Order, and so they are out of Order because it should be the Priesthood presiding in the home. But that means the men need to step up and do some presiding and some providing.
Verse 13 describes the Savior as our advocate with the Father: “The Lord standeth up to plead…” He does plead for us! But He also knows that He will have to enter judgment with us as we agree with Him upon the consequences of our choices.
As much as it is true for each individual, it is also true for nations and governments. He will confront and directly deal with governments and political leaders who exploit and oppress. He will hold individuals and communities and governments responsible for how they cared for the poor and those without access to the priesthood (“widows and orphans”).
Then, classic to Hebrew poetry, Nephi and Isaiah take this tiny reference to women and their relationship with the Lord as a “husband” (see Isaiah 54:5). He is both talking to women directly (women of his day and women of our day) and also using the woman as an analogy as a type for that which is not of Christ. Some of the descriptors included in “not of God” include:
- haughty (verse 16)
- wanton eyes (not “eye single to my glory” as in D&C)
- walking and mincing as they go (murmuring)
- making a tinkling with their feet – these ankle bracelets symbolize our need to just be pretty or special or loved or important – so that we are complaining instead of being grateful and humble
But the Lord says He will take it away. All the superficial things upon which we think our lives depend, He is going to take them away… all those things… and because we love these things more than the Lord, we will grieve and mourn the loss of them, not realizing it is the Lord who did that amazing gift of service and effort and diligence and faithfulness.
He will do it, to strip away our false bravado and arrogance. The “discovery of the secret parts” is a Hebrew idiom that refers to being stripped naked and mocked by captors. There will be not enough food and water, and not enough clothes, and worn out bodies from working and wandering. Many, many people will die. This is the last cleansing of the earth, the effects of the battle that will usher in the Millennium.
We will mourn because of that war (Armageddon), because we are at war (still in the War on Heaven), and we will see them “fall by the sword”. Again, this has both a temporal and spiritual meaning. There will be literal, physical death because of the battle and because of the conditions of the world at that time. But the spiritual death is revealed when we consider that the “sword” is the words of the prophets and scriptures, then to fall by the sword is to reject the words of the prophets and stray from the church.
And we will mourn them, both those who die (physically) and those who die spiritually (leave the church).
“And her gates shall lament and mourn….”
The gates are where the people enter and leave the city (of Holiness!).
Those entering will grieve those who are leaving, and those leaving will grieve the loss of everything.