CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 40.
Isaiah has spent a great deal of time teaching the people that the political oppression they are experiencing is a direct result of their bad behavior and poor choices. This is the pattern of bondage. Look back at Isaiah 8:
This is the pattern of how the Lord works, always, through prophets, always.
First, the Lord sends no destruction without first sending a prophet to warn the people.
If the people listen, and repent, then they are saved from destruction.
If they do not, then captivity or bondage must happen in some way, but if they repent, He can lighten their load.
If they do not repent, then they must experience the full burden of their captivity/bondage, but they still have another chance to repent before being utterly destroyed and scattered.
If still they do not repent, then they are destroyed and scattered.
The Lord has made it clear to the people that He is using these political powers to deliver the justice the people have chosen. He wanted to give them mercy instead, but they would not choose Him. They chose the justice. The oppression and political turmoil was their choice.
We must remember this piece when we talk about the Jews not recognizing the Savior as the Messiah. Most of us understand they did not recognize Him because they were looking for a political Messiah instead of a spiritual one. But they were looking for a political Messiah because they were under political oppression. Had they been repentant, and turned toward the Lord, they would not need a political Messiah and so more easily recognized Him as their spiritual leader with whom they already had a relationship.
But they were not prepared, and were lost in their own consequences, and so did not recognize Him.
He was not what they thought they needed.
Because their thoughts were not His thoughts – My ways are not your ways (Isaiah 55:8).
Yet the truth is that spiritual redemption was exactly what they did need, and only that will lead also to their political redemption. He did come to offer them political redemption, but it is a gift they cannot receive until they do the work to receive it.
This is a lesson for all of us.
This is the “comfort” He is offering: spiritual redemption from the many kinds of bondage in which we find ourselves (verse 1). The Lord says (in verse 2):
Speak… to Jerusalem, that… her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
Jerusalem (and her people) will continue to pay penance until it has been paid in full.
They were offered mercy, but chose justice.
Now they must service the full sentence of what justice has to offer (Isaiah 48:10).
But when their penalties are paid, and justice has been served, and the people repent and turn to the Lord, then He is ready to redeem them and restore them.
He will call His people through prophets just as He always has (verse 3). Specifically for when the Savior began His ministry, the prophet was John the Baptist. But there are prophets today, just as there have always been, preparing all the people of the world for the return of the Savior again – this time for His political and literal reign.
In that day, or in our day, the world itself will change back to how it was before the Fall. The land masses will return together again, being at-one geographically instead of different continents. That is the literal change, but there will also be a spiritual change across the globe. The pride of people will be humbled, and political terrors will be brought down, and priestcraft and secret combinations will be stopped, and sacred things hidden until now will be made known (verse 4). All things will be revealed, and everyone will know the Savior has returned (verse 5).
The Lord says that mortality is a quick and “of a season” as grass lasts only for a summer, and “good” is only like a flower that quickly fades away (verse 6). Grass and flowers only grow because the Lord has made them and they have been obedient to their calling; in the same way, we are only alive because we were born to Heavenly Parents and have come for the opportunity to be obedient (verse 7). This truth of who we are and why we are here is more eternal than just a season of mortality itself (grass and flowers) (verse 8).
This is the calling of our mortality: to testify, and without fear, saying to Judah “Behold your God!” (verse 9). Because the Jews rejected the Savior, the gospel was given to the Gentiles; now it will be the Gentiles that testify of and explain the full Gospel to the Jews (“the first shall be last, and the last shall be first”). The Lord will keep the promises He has made, so that in that day – when the Jews accept the full gospel and recognize the Savior as Himself – they will also lift their voices, no longer afraid, and no longer oppressed.
It is after the appearance of the Savior at the end of the battle of Armageddon that the Jews will recognize Him. Following this, the whole world will be able to see Him (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11; D&C 88:104). We will all be taught the entire history of the world, 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 (see Isaiah 29). This is how and why we will agree with the first judgment, determining who can be resurrected during the Millennium (D&C 88:100-101). No one will argue with this judgment, because we will all see everyone’s history together, and all will agree the judgment is good and right and just and as it should be. Each of us will receive the reward we have chosen, and to the same degree, the natural consequences to the choices we have made during our lifetimes – except those who have applied the atonement specifically and thoroughly (verse 10).
Then, during the Millennium, the Savior will rule politically, as the true King of all. No other kingdom will be able to compare (verse 15), and their pride will be as nothing (verse 17). All the resources and creations of any country would not be enough to compare or even to pay tribute (verse 16). No likeness or idol could capture all that God encompasses (verse 18), not even made by the rich out of gold (verse 19) or by the poor made out of wood (verse 20). The people should know better than to try to contain or capture Him, or worship anything other than the actual God who has done these marvelous things for us (verse 21).
His reign will be a righteous and loving one, nourishing us and caring for us and leading us to progress toward all He has to offer us (verse 11). But even this is not just to spoil us, but so that we can fully function well to accomplish all the work that must be completed during that final dispensation. We will be in awe of it, astonished at His power and ability to keep all His promises, even in caring for each of us so well that we can be beyond our best and contribute to this great work (verse 12). This prompts the questions from Isaiah as He ponders how Heavenly Father was so wise and understanding to have planned all this for us (verse 13). We will learn these answers later (D&C 76:94; D&C 88:49, 67; 93:28; 101:32-35; 2 Nephi 9:13), but already we understand His greatness is far beyond our own (as if His perspective looked down on us as tiny grasshoppers (verse 22).
The kingdoms and governments that come and go are only for a moment, and nothing compared to Him (verse 23). None of them will last, like plants without roots that get blown away before they can even produce anything (verse 24). No one and nothing are like Him (verse 25). He is so great and so powerful and so ordered the creation that He knows each of the stars by name (verse 26).
How then, can people think they can hide from God (verse 27)? They cannot sin and get away with it; they cannot make bad choices and there be no consequences. He does govern all things! Remaining at-one with Him and in sync with His plan leaves us at peace, with blessings beyond imagination. Jumping out-of-Order, rebelling against Him, or trying to knock His plan off balance delivers the consequences of having chosen to do so. No one can say they have not been taught these things, because even these very most basic principles are taught to all people – whether through their religion or their natural experiences in life (verse 28). As LDS, we also understand that we were all taught these things premortally as well, and only now must do the work to remember what we have already been taught.
It is possible.
Because of the atonement, we have access to the power that He has.
It’s not just that He has enough power to be God, but also that He has enough power to make us like Him.
It’s a promise (verse 31):
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.
Like all His blessings, there are both temporal and spiritual layers to this promise.
But like all covenants, we must first keep the physical part (Aaronic) to receive the spiritual part (Melchizedek).
We are told in D&C 89 that this promise is connected to submitting to the code of health we have been given, including no coffee, tea, alcohol, drugs, and other addictive substances, as well as eating fruits and vegetables and exercising (exercising being added in For Strength of Youth and General Conference addresses as part of the word of wisdom). Verse 4 specifically warns us that this code of health is to protect us in the very latter-days of the Latter-days, when there will be “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men”. Obeying this code of health will protect us, giving us “health in the navel and marrow in the bones” (verse 19) in a literal and physical way. We know that the spiritual implications are that it is by such obedience that we are spiritually given strength as well, endowed with power to keep our covenants – even to become like Him (Proverbs 3:5-8).