CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 32.
The last chapter ends with the people of Judah returning to the Lord and doing what He says, so that they can be delivered and become His people – with Him to fight their battles. When He returns to reign as King, He will reign in righteousness and the government will be led by those with the priesthood (“princes”) (verse 1). These priesthood men will be good leaders that protect the people, provide for the people well, nourish the people, and give them rest from the oppression they have endured (verse 2).
All of us, everyone, even those who now disagree or don’t want to follow Him, will see clearly, understand His teachings, and and acknowledge Him as King and follow the laws of that kingdom (verse 3). Even the prophets will be able to speak more directly and more clearly because everyone will finally be ready to pay attention, to listen, and to learn (verse 4). Wicked people who oppress will no longer be called “liberal”, or will no longer reign by justifying bad behavior (verse 5). Bad will not be called good, and the only “good” will be true charity – the pure love of Christ – that does care and provide for those around us (verse 5).
The prophet Isaiah says that in those days, it will be easy to see the evidence of who people really are (verse 6). Those who gain their riches through wicked means will be revealed. Those who do not use their wealth for good will be found out. Those who use their status to have power over others, oppress, or stir up wickedness will be called out. Everything we do is either building up His kingdom or tearing it down, and this happens by either caring for His people or not.
Isaiah points out specifically the example of unrighteous dominion where victims think they are entering a good agreement, a fair deal, or doing their best at a certain thing – buying a product, working a job, earning money, etc. – while the oppressor is being fraudulent or taking advantage in some way (verse 7). In contrast, those who are truly “liberal” will be truly generous, helping the poor conquer poverty without lying or taking advantage (verse 8). These “wisely generous” (Skousen, p. 450) people will be known for this character trait as they help people become self-reliant and self-sufficient instead of using their wealth and power and status to oppress people further.
In contrast, the people of today and in Isaiah’s day were lazy and “at ease” (verse 9). They were (we are) not working hard to do good for other people or to help those around them. They were (we are) spoiled, focused on themselves, and letting time slip through their fingers. They were (we are) “careless”, letting the second estate melt away without doing any good. This is being a bad steward, and we will be held accountable for it. The consequences are bigger than ourselves, too, as the gathering of the harvest – the literal gathering of souls – depends on us doing our part, putting forth the effort to love and serve those around us (verse 10).
Isaiah is speaking to women here, and I think it is very, very important.
George Albert Smith said (December 1945):
You are…more blessed than any other women in all the world. You were the first women to have the franchise; the first women to have a voice in the work of a church. It was God that gave it to you and it came as a result of revelation to a Prophet of the Lord. Since that time, think what benefits the women of this world have enjoyed. Not only you belonging to the Church have enjoyed the blessing of equality, but when the Prophet Joseph Smith turned the key for the emancipation of womankind, it was turned for all the world, and from generation to generation the number of women who can enjoy the blessings of religious liberty and civil liberty has been increasing…
This was the miracle of this dispensation, that women have been given the liberty – both religious and civil – that the Savior demonstrated when He was here on the Earth.
The purpose of our liberty is so that we may be free to set others free, too.
Joseph F Smith said (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 1998):
It is not for you to be led by the women of the world; it is for you to lead the…women of the world, in everything that is praiseworthy, everything that is God-like, everything that is uplifting and…purifying to the children of men.
So if we are to lead the women of the world, and this is our responsibility and how we are stewards of the liberty we ourselves have been given, then that explains the important of what Isaiah is saying here and what President Kimball said in October 1979 General Conference:
Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the church are seen as distinct and different–in happy ways–from the women of the world.
This is really important stuff.
And the adversary knows, and wants to stop us.
We cannot be “careless” about it, or we will fail in our mission – which means people will not be gathered, and souls will not be saved (verse 10). It is that important, and this is our work. This is our mission as women: to love and care for others and to lead them to righteousness and happiness.
When we do become careless about this mission, we must repent (verse 11). We must wake up, rid ourselves of mindless activities that waste time or are even harmful (to ourselves or others) and refocus social networking to be purposeful (instead of just curiosity and gossip). Our time is to be spent in caring for our families, studying the scriptures, caring for others, writing, and refreshing each other through positive friendships that mutually edify so that we can all grow and progress.
Without this, the women of the world (and their families, even husbands and children) mourn their lack of nourishment, hungry for truth and freedom, waiting for us to do our work to help set them free (verse 12).
We cannot keep our own blessings, even our own provision and protection, if we are not using it as resources by which to bless others – that’s His law (verse 13). If we do not do our work to nourish and lift up those around us, then not only will they suffer but we will lose what we have been given (verse 14). We cannot thrive and flourish and harvest our abundance until we are prepared and obedient to being stewards to what we receive (verse 15).
Only then will His Spirit pour upon us these blessings (covenant), and only then will obtain His righteousness by the power of His atonement (sign) and the evidence of our testimony to and care of His people (token) (verse 15). This is the judgment (mercy/grace given as justice is met by the atonement) of our mortal estate (“wilderness”), that we may be redeemed as righteous people, His holy people, holy and prepared for and a part of celestialness (“the fruitful field”) (verse 16). Then He gives us the greatest blessing (verse 17):
the work of righteousness
shall be peace;
and the effect of righteousness
quietness and assurance forever.
If we are righteous, we will be at peace.
If we are at-one with God, we will be at-one with each other.
This is so especially important for women to remember, because no one can be mean-er than a woman. Our nature is designed to create and nurture and rescue and love by a variety of expressions and through all kinds of diverse ways. But the Light we bring to the world, whether that be some kind of joy or knowledge or skill or expression, that light is so bright and so necessary, that when we turn it off, or let it go, or shut it down, the darkness is very great indeed. There is nothing so cold, so dark, so silent, so alone, as when we as women refuse to shine or shut others out from the light we have to give. This is the law of opposition, that takes our great most sacred potential and turns it into dark, mean, ugliness.
This is never okay, and Isaiah calls us to repent, and to be at-one with ourselves and each other and our God.
As women, we are either creating peace or destroying it.
When we are at-one, there is peace.
And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation,
and in sure dwellings,
and in quiet resting places;
Verse 18 there has both temporal and spiritual applications again.
When we, as women, are at-one and at-peace, those around us have peace.
The home is good and safe, where all receive nourishment and goodness.
The bedroom is a sacred haven from the world, the holy of holies of a temple home.
The family is stable, and solid, and strong, even enough to weather the hard things in life, the normal learning curves, the ups and downs of life and its tragedies (verse 19).
We are the source of nurturing, and peace, and quiet, and rest.
Without us being in that place, no one around us can.
With us being in that place, it invites others to meet us there.
This is a very spiritual task as well, and includes the men – as a whole, we the Church, the “bride”, should be this place for those in the world seeking refuge and rest and peace from the chaos and confusion that happens from being out-of-Order, outside the covenant, away from the provision and protection the Lord brings.
Blessed we are, Isaiah says, for leading the people to nourishment (Christ), peace (living within the bounds the Lord has set), and abundance (power of the priesthood to do these things in ourselves and pass them on to others) (verse 20).