Isaiah begins with crying out a warning to Jerusalem, knowing that the northern kingdom of Israel is already conquered by Assyria and that the southern kingdom of Judah will soon be conquered. In 2 Nephi, he starts with a somber view of these latter days of the Latter-days: “… in the last days… they will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations…” (verse 1).
But still, the Lord will try to reach them, as even the Earth testifies “with thunder and with earthquake, and with a great noise, and with storm, and with tempest, and with the flame of devouring fire” (verse 2). Those who are not pure before the Lord will be in great distress. Those who settle for a lesser kingdom will be devoured by it.
We know, thanks to Nephi, that Isaiah begins to specifically talk to the Israelites that would end up in America (see 1 Nephi 13:14). He sees a vision of the last days, when people will be looking for nourishment, and not find it. They will dream of eating and drinking, but wake hungry and thirsty (verse 3). This is a fascinating prophesy, especially in light of our society today being over-fed but under-nourished. That’s a temporal application. The spiritual application would be the same: we are overfed (with false “enlightenment”) but under-nourished (with real truth and spiritual development).
Those not doing the work to nourish themselves spiritually will “have closed your eyes” and “rejected the prophets” (verse 5).
So the Lord will try to reach them by bringing “forth unto you the words of a book” (verse 6). But the book can only be delivered and revealed by the Lord. But then, that book (our Scriptures) “shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men” (verse 11).
But in the revealing of the book (The Book of Mormon, specifically), “the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein” (verse 12, see also Ether 5:3-4).
We know this happened!
No one saw the original plates except for Joseph Smith, other than the three witnesses – and they did testify of it, as you can read on the introduction page of “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ”. See the introduction HERE, where the three witnesses testified. The three witnesses were Oliver Cowdery, who was one of Joseph Smith’s scribes; David Whitmer, a friend to both of them during this great work; and Martin Harris, who was one of Joseph’s scribes in the beginning. What they “witnessed” was the angel Moroni, the gold plates, the breastplate used with translation, the sword of Laban, the Urim and aThummim, and the Liahona (D&C 17:1). Joseph Smith was with them when they witnessed these things (History of the Church, 1:54-57). The eight additional witnesses saw the gold plates, but not the angel Moroni or the other artifacts (see preface to the Book of Mormon).
We also know that part of the Book of Mormon is still sealed (Orson Pratt, Journal of the Discourses, 3:347). We have only been given about a third of it, and the remaining two-thirds of the sacred records include a “prophetic history of the world from the beginning to the end” (Skousen, p. 405). We will not receive this portion of the sacred records until we, as a people, have purified ourselves from iniquity and prepared ourselves to receive it (Ether 4:6-7, 2 Nephi 26:7-11). This is why the gold plates (upon which the sacred record was written) were returned to Moroni after Joseph Smith completed his translation of the one-third which we do have.
The prophets say that the other two-thirds will be delivered to the people “upon the housetops” . This is a marvelous description of both modern communication (temporal application) and the millennial sheckinah presence above each covenant home (spiritual application) This means that however the message is delivered to us, we will still require the Holy Spirit to interpret it for us. So like General Conference, that comes to our “housetops” through television, satellite, internet, and cell phone apps, we still depend on personal revelation to understand what the Lord is saying to us in the talks. We do know that this great history of the world will be presented to us one dispensation at a time, each thousand year period taught to us until all of us understand how everything has played out and that all of us have been redeemed (D&C 88:108-110). Every detail of each dispensation will be revealed, including every sin not repented of by each person and so not “blotted out” by the atonement. How grateful on that day we will be for the atonement, and the literal “covering” of our sins so as not to be revealed in that great vision!
I love the story in the next few verses, where it says “Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: “Read this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them… And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed. Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it.” (verses 15-18).
The story of this actually happening is HERE (scroll down to verse 63-65).
So whether we are talking about the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon, or our own Scripture studies everyday, the point is that it is the Lord (by the power of the Spirit) who does teach us (reveal to us) what it means.
Verse 15 of Isaiah refers to secret combinations again, referring to Moses 5:29-31 when such “covenants with death” were first introduced. Secret combinations continue today in modern times by political movements to sway and influence people and gain power over them, multi-national economic organizations designed to control the wealth and power of the people, and tyrants of political, cultural, social, and economic sorts living by violence and oppression for their own selfish gain. We live in a time when people deny God and His creation, and think they can do what they want without suffering any consequences (verse 16).
But the Lord promises that the consequences will catch up with these people, and that they will be served justice if they do not seek mercy through the atonement. He promises that those who are oppressed, at war, and hungry for temporal and spiritual nourishment will receive it (verse 17). He will not forget His people (even conquering their enemies (verse 20)), and He will keep all of His promises (despite those who try to heckle, discredit, and mock his prophets (verse 21)), even restoring the truth so that people can come to Him by making and keeping sacred covenants (verse 18, 22).
Skousen (p. 426) describes the holy people who will make and keep covenants and be blessed by the Lord (verse 19):
The meek of the earth are those who are quietly trying to mind their own business and serve God and their fellow men the best way they can. They try to avoid contention. They have no ambitions to rule nations or conquer other people. Nevertheless, more often than not these are the very people who are most abused and exploited by those who seek treasures of riches and worldly power. However, this scripture verifies that when the Gospel is restored, the meek will be reassured by the modern prophets as well as those in the Book of Mormon. Their joy shall increase, Isaiah says, and Nephi confirms it. This great dispensation of new knowledge and Godly power will refresh their souls, strengthen their reliance on their Savior, and cause them to rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
“For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever;” (verse 23). He is the same God He has always been. He uses prophets as He always has. He loves us as much as He always has, and has the same plan for us He has always had.
But our love for Him must be shown, must be demonstrated in action. We have to walk the talk. Just talking it is not enough: “Forasmuch as this people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me…” (verse 25).
Even when we try to hide our hearts from Him, He knows us. “For shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed of him that famed it, he had no understanding?” (verse 27).
But those who want to understand, will understand. Those who have faith, will receive evidence of what they believe. The impossible will be made possible.
“And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book” (verse 28).
That even counts as me, with cochlear implants, in a literal and temporal way.
But the application is a spiritual one. Those who would not listen before, will hear and know the truth.
“And the meek also shall increase, and their joy shall be in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel…” (verse 30). He is hope, our joy, our fulfillment!
“Therefore, thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale…”
Anytime Abraham is mentioned, it is a renewing of covenants. We are being reminded of the covenants, because ours are an extension of what was promised him. In that way, it is his faithfulness, which binds the promises of the Lord, that has resulted in us being gathered – even when we ourselves did not deserve it. What mercy this is!
Also, this verse reminds me of Isaiah 54:4-14, which has been precious scripture promises for me the last two years. It is the promise that the Lord will compensate for what is sacrificed for (to) Him, and that the Lord will restore me – not just the restoration of the Gospel in this time, but also the restoration of Emily – to what is in Order – to the place (state of Being) that He promised I would inherit. That’s the miracle of the atonement.
“They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine” (verse 35).