CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 42.
This chapter follows the last chapter, which Isaiah specifically identifies for the Western Hemisphere in the Latter-days, and begins a series of chapters that are pure revelation without historical context or timing of when the revelations were received. He refers four times to his “servant” (verse 1; Isaiah 49:1-6; 50:1-11; 52:13-53:12), and it is Matthew 12:18 that identifies this “servant” as the Savior. It is the Savior who brings forth the judgment for all of us, either by granting mercy because we have accepted His atonement or granting justice because we have refused His atonement (verse 1).
The Savior walked the streets of Palestine quietly and humbly, always telling the people he healed not to let anyone know. Great crowds came, but not because He advertised Himself or asked them to come (verse 2). He did not use His power outside the timing for which it was given, meaning that He did not at that time deliver justice to those who harmed Him – because He understood their judgment day would come (verse 3). He always gave (and does give) as much as people are willing to receive, so that many records we have and truths we know are those handed down even throughout periods of apostasy (verse 4).
He ministered by the same power and authority He used to create the world. The Savior created the world by “the word” (John 1:1-13), which was by the word, or design of Heavenly Father. It was the Savior who did the work, but He was administering the plan of Heavenly Father. This ability to be obedient and righteous like Heavenly Father is what qualified the Savior to be chosen as the Savior premortally (verse 6).
But the Savior’s power and authority was not limited to His ministry on Earth. Between the time of His death and resurrection, the Savior ministered to the people in the spirit world (verse 7), organizing them and sending missionaries to teach them (see 1 Peter 3:18-20). He provided this way to be sure all people could be taught the Gospel and have the ability and opportunity to accept it.
This is what makes Him “Lord” over all, because His power reaches beyond timing and beyond mortality (verse 8).
This was the plan all along. All the prophets of the Old Testament taught it, and the people of the Old Testament knew about Jesus Christ and that He would come as the Savior (verse 9). Isaiah confirms this, and says that those who follow the Savior will know it has finally come to pass. Now, like then, even more things are coming to pass, and He will come again as promised. This good news is for all people, and we all can rejoice in it (verse 10)! It is good news for those on the journey of mortality (“in the wilderness”) and it is good news for families (“cities”), even and specifically the children of Ishmael (villages of Kedar) are invited into the covenant because the promises to Abraham were for all his children – the Jews and the Muslims both will have opportunity to accept the full restored gospel and receive all He is waiting to give them.
Let them give glory unto the Lord,
and declare his praise in the islands.
Verse 12 celebrates people accepting the Gospel, knowing that this is God’s “work and glory” (Moses 1:39).
Skousen (p. 550) points out that even the “inhabitants of the rock” will praise the Lord, and says that this does not just mean people who live in caves. He says that Abraham, Jacob, Mormon, and other prophets all knew that “the elements… are inhabited by innumerable intelligences that are organized and obey God by following the pattern that He has given them in their various kingdoms and levels of existence” (see also Jacob 4:6; Helaman 12:8-14; and Abraham 4:10, 18). He quotes Brigham Young (Journal of the Discourses, 3:277):
There is life (intelligence) in all matter, throughout the vast extent of all the eternities; it is in the rock, the sand, the dust, in water, air, the gases, and in short, in every description and organization of matter, whether it be solid, liquid, gaseous, (or) particle operating within particle.
Isaiah says that everything is alive, and has intelligence within it. He says that not only is all of creation obedient (and far more than we are), but all of creation is able to praise the Lord for all He has done for all of us. It is interesting that in context, in talking to the Western Hemisphere, that the natives of our land have a far greater respect for nature and mother earth and the living spirit of every piece of creation that we do. We would do well to learn more from them, and to actively seek awareness of the living intelligence in everything around us.
Because everything and everyone will acknowledge the Savior, some will even be jealous of His power. When He was here for His mortal ministry, those in power reigned with unrighteous dominion to have power over Him. But when He returns as King of all, they will have to submit to Him, and He will teach them by example with a good and righteous kingdom (verse 13). But part of that righteousness is meeting justice for those who have refused offers of mercy. This destruction will be so vast for those who have chosen it, that there will be only a small remnant that even survive it (verse 14; see Isaiah 24:6). It will change the very landscape of the planet (verse 15).
Those who do not know the truth will be able to see it, and those who choose righteousness will be taught righteousness (verse 16). But those who reject the truth we be lost when their false gods, idols, money, and illusions of power cannot save them (verse 17). This is not what the Lord wants! The Lord wants us to hear Him, to see Him, to believe that He can do what He has promised to do (verse 18).
Verse 19 is confusing, but the JST helps clarify that Heavenly Father is sending the Savior to the people so that they can receive mercy, see His plan for them, and hear the good news of the Gospel. The Lord tells the people through Isaiah that the truth is right in front of them, but they refuse to notice it (verse 20). Even when we are not righteous, the Lord will keep His promises by trying to bring us into righteousness (verse 21, JST). But when we will not let Him do what He is able to do, then we are left with the consequences we choose (verse 22, JST). He says it isn’t that God isn’t talking or helping or answering prayers, but that the people won’t listen to what He says or do the things that will help themselves (verse 23, JST). He says the people are not abandoned by God, but suffering the consequences they themselves have chosen by rejecting mercy (verse 24, JST). The hearts of the people are so turned away from God, that they don’t even understand that what is happening to them is the consequences of their own choices (verse 25, JST).
He is there, ready and waiting from a “long way off”, wanting to help us.
But we must turn to Him.
We must listen to Him.
We must do the things He asks.