CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 28.
The previous chapter closes with Ephraim having the restored ordinances for the temple. A temple is no good without ordinances. The temple furnishings are no good without the ordinances. But just because we have the restored ordinances does not give us the right or freedom to be proud and oppressive about it. We are to be humble, knowing it is the Lord’s work that we do (verse 1). We are to serve, leading people to the ordinances by simply loving them as they progress one step at a time just like we do.
Back in the days of Isaiah, the northern ten tribes of Israel were often called “Ephraim”, even if it included more tribes that those that were the son of Joseph. Ephraim was the political ruler of the northern ten tribes, and so when Isaiah calls them out he is talking to all of the northern ten tribes of Israel (as opposed to the southern kingdom of Judah). The northern kingdom was having trouble behaving. They made trade alliances with Tyre and Sidon, and began to accept some of their cultural practices – including drunkenness, sexual sin, pride, and recklessness. They became “slack” in following the commandments of God. The first warning sign of the fall of a great nation is always when they begin to neglect their poor and treat their women badly. The ten tribes were lost in building fancy cities, but forgetting to care for the people and families that make up the city.
Isaiah warns them that the Lord is about to take them down a notch (verse 2). These were chosen people, specifically prepared and chosen to be leaders for the rest of the kingdom. But instead of leading them toward God, they were leading the people away from God. He would not allow it, the kingdom was going to fall and their pride would be trampled by the Assyrians (verse 3). The Assyrians came during harvest time, and so Israel’s crops all were lost and destroyed – the very products upon which their pride had depended (verse 4).
When Assyria came toward Israel, righteous remnants of each of the ten tribes fled south into Judah. Not all of the people, just the small remnant of each tribe who heeded the prophet’s warnings (the entire tribe of Levi fled to Judah, see 2 Chronicles 11:13-14). Isaiah saw this vision of righteous remnants of each tribe, and was glad of this “residue of his people” and their beauty before the Lord (verse 5).
Isaiah said the kingdom of Judah would be blessed for helping these refugees from Israel (verse 6). The Lord would give the leaders good counsel, and the armies strength to fight. The Lord would be with Judah if they would turn to Him, and listen to the prophets, and do what they say.
But they did not (verse 7). The kingdom of Judah was full of people who drank more than Israel ever had, and the Levites that fled south drank even stronger drink than just wine. Instead of being sober and serving the people by testifying of what the Lord had said, the political and spiritual leaders were drunk and saying whatever they wanted. This caused them to “err in vision” and “stumble in judgment” because they were doing it without the Spirit of the Lord, outside of His authority, and without His power.
Instead of the blessings He could have given, the people would only get the nastiness and consequences they had chosen by their sins (verse 8). There was no righteousness to be found, and the people were full of sin and iniquity. They were in no place to be leading the people, and not worthy to receive revelation from the Lord. The Lord could not rely on them to teach the people or to explain scriptures; only those who have matured enough to follow a higher law can do that (verse 9; see also Hebrews 6:1-2). We mature one step at time by practicing what we learn, “precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, there a little” (verse 10). The simple lessons are repeated over and over so that everyone can receive nourishment (“milk”), but only those worthy of the Spirit of the Lord and doing their part to study and practice will receive greater truths (“meat”) hidden in the poetry and repetition of the simple truths.
Isaiah, this great prophet poet who had been given such vision, could not share with the people because the Lord knew they would not listen. He spoke to them, but knew the people would not understand (verse 11). They people cannot understand until they start to obey. Until they begin to practice what they are learning, it will be like jibberish to them and not make any sense. The Lord had already told the people how to escape the burdens and bondage, how not to be conquered by their enemies, but the people would not listen. It sounded oppressive and corrective, even though it was really liberating and refreshing (verse 12). Because the people would not do what is required to be worthy of the Spirit, and would not submit to what the Lord had asked them to do, they would not even recognize the tiny pearls of treasure fed to them one bite at a time – instead choking on it, falling into their own consequences, and choosing destruction instead of freedom (verse 13).
That was the warning Isaiah has for the leaders (verse 14). He goes on to tell them that he knows the leaders have made covenants with Satan. The leaders think they can lie to the people, lead them in evil practices, and that the adversary will get them out of trouble and they will not be destroyed (verse 15). The leaders make alliances with evil groups to gain power, instead of relying on God for their power. These are secret combinations, and God is not pleased (verse 17, see also Ether 8:23-26).
Isaiah tells them that God will not let their conniving plans succeed. He gives them a pearl, a precept, hidden in the message, but not pointing it out or defining it, as he had just warned them would happen:
Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone,
a tried stone,
a precious corner stone,
a sure foundation:
he that believeth shall not make haste (verse 16).
To the people, it sounded like jibberish.
But if they had the Spirit of the Lord, it would make sense to them. Their first clue is “the foundation stone”, which is what Jewish culture for all of time – even Muslim culture, because it goes so far back that all the tribes have the same story – believe about Mount Moriah. This is the mountain upon which rests the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is the “foundation stone”, what they believe is the first part of earth that came out of the waters when God created the world and separated the water and the earth. It was the “foundation” of the earth, literally the first stone to come out of the water. It is this story that sets the pattern for “mountains” always representing temples.
But the point of a temple is the Savior, not just the temple itself. The temple is His house, sacred ground where He can come, the place where His presence is, the celestial turf where Heaven and Earth meet.
He, who created all the Earth, is our foundation.
He, who gives us life and resurrection, is our foundation.
He, who bought our freedom and gives us mercy, is our foundation.
And when we have that, there is no need to be afraid or run away or try to hide from judgment – because the price has been paid, and by this atonement we boldly enter in.
Peter quotes this passage in 1 Peter 2:6, identifying the stone as Christ, as does Paul in Romans 9:33. Even the Savior Himself confirms it (Matthew 21:44-45). The foundation stone upon which we are built, the corner stone which holds us up, the thing that keeps us strong and bears the burden of the weight of all we must endure – it is Him, even Jesus the Christ, our Advocate, our Redeemer, our Savior.
He is the only one, the only way.
Heavenly Father has a plan to let us learn by experience, rescue us (even from ourselves), and bring us back into Order (of the Priesthood), and prepare us to return home with Him again. We progress through this process by making and keeping sacred covenants, through ordinances He has in place to give us authority, power, strength, and endow us with other blessings we need to accomplish this.
No other covenants with any other power will do that for us (verse 18). No secret combinations can accomplish the same thing or give us the same power. Heavenly Father’s power is greater, and He will conquer these small powers harming His children. When he begins to pour out judgment against those secret combinations, it will be so great a destruction that people will not even want to hear the news of it (verse 19). The secret combinations people will not be able to wriggle out of it or find comfort in what the adversary has provided, and the consequences will only bring them misery (verse 20).
Isaiah compares the greatness of this destruction to the time when King David conquered the Philistines at mount Perazim (see 1 Chronicles 14:11), and compares the power to when the sun did not move in the sky until Joshua had conquered the Amorites in Gibeon (see Joshua 10:10-14). The prophet says that the Lord must do these things to accomplish His work, which is to restore His gospel and raise up a righteous people (verse 21). D&C 101:95 adds that to raise up a righteous people, He must teach the people to discern between the righteous and the wicked. This is why in the Latter-days, the difference between righteousness and wickedness is becoming more and more polarized. He is teaching the people to better choose between right and wrong, and to discern who is righteous or not. The more aware we become of what is righteous and what is not, the more complete purging we can do to prepare to live a higher law. It’s about stepping up to a higher standard of living instead of settling for what is not so bad. We have to step up to a higher law if we are to get to the place where the Lord will “pout out His Spirit” upon us (D&C 95:4).
In response to this message, the people mock Isaiah and make fun of them (verse 22). He pleads with them to listen to His message and soften their hearts. He warns them that destruction is already on its way. He urges them to listen and pay attention (verse 23), saying that the Lord is delivering a message specific to their needs right now (verse 24) in the same way as a farmer plants the way each seed needs to grow best (verse 25). God has taught the people how to raise the crops and discern the different needs of the plants (verse 26), and which tools to use with which part of the process and with each plant (verse 27). He knows what to use with His people just like they know how to harvest (verse 28), and this message is the good counsel the Lord has for His people and what will help them most (verse 29).