The Lord says that all who are called covenant people, all who are baptized, need to pay attention. They need to listen up, and do what is asked of them. This is ironic, as Skousen points out (p. 602), because archeologists are finding baptismal fonts all over Jerusalem, but the Jews explain them simply as “ceremonial baths”. However, the Jews still practice the ritual of circumcision, which was given to them to remind them of baptism (the 8th day symbolizing the 8th year, in which a child becomes accountable; see also Genesis 17).
The Lord is confronting the people for saying they are His people, but not acting like it.
“Nevertheless, they call themselves of the holy city, but they do not stay themselves upon the God of Israel, who is the Lord of Hosts; yea, the Lord of Hosts is his name” (verse 2). This goes back to the Man-of-Holiness name for Heavenly Father (Moses 6:57), and the Son-of-the-Man-of-Holiness name for His Son, and how we are to be holy to become the People of Holiness, the House of Holiness (Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord).
He is saying “You are not acting like WHOSE you are!”
He is saying “You are stubborn and obstinate and you know better!”
But just as He is just, He is also merciful. The consequences upon His people (Jerusalem, or all of us) do not come without Him first sending a Prophet.
Nephi explains that the Lord does this for two reasons: first, in mercy to warn the people so they can still repent and avoid the consequences; and secondly, so that all will clearly know it is Him who is doing this great work.
We know better, and are without excuse, because He has sent His prophets and His words (even the Scriptures) to warn us all, to guide us, to teach us, to correct us, to show us the way to get home to Him.
And He has done so since the beginning. He doesn’t change. He is the same God He has always been, and works in the same way He has always worked. He used prophets since the beginning, and uses prophets today.
But we have known all of this from since before we were born. This was the premortal covenant, the agreement from before we were even born: that He would atone for us, and we would testify of that atonement.
So even now, as we see these later days speeding up (exponentially), even know in the little day-to-day “normal” moments, we are to testify of the Savior, of His work in and around us, and help others to see and understand and known.
Our whole job of being here is to testify of Him of who He is and of what He has done and is doing for us, so that we can – all together – get back home.
“Thou hast seen and heard all this; and will ye not declare them?” (verse 6).
Yet still, He is merciful us. His “just” action towards us is not to destroy us, so much as to train us and teach us, like chastising a child.
“Nevertheless, for my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off” (verse 9).
He warns us to prevent us from being harmed or lost. He warns us to protect us. But like a child who will not listen, we will get burned if we touch the hot stove.
“For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (verse 10).
This is huge. This is really, really huge. He wants us refined, so that what is not of God is removed from us, and so that we are filled with His righteousness. It is the great exchange we were just reading about in recent chapters. It is the work of the atonement. It is the promise that He will accomplish His work, which is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
We are His people, and He will purify us and refine us until we are like Him, until we can be at-one with Him.
“For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do this, for I will not suffer my name (Holiness) to be polluted…” (verse 11).
Covenant people! Pay attention! I am HE! Verse 12 shouts out this declaration, that He is the first and last, that He is the ultimate, that He is both Who the law pointed of and also the fulfillment of it. In verse 13, He adds that He created the Earth, and even the Earth obeys Him.
“All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; who among them hath declared these things unto them? The Lord hath loved him; yea, and he will fulfill his word which he hath declared by them…” (verse 14)
All of you, listen! Pay attention! My words will be fulfilled! They will happen as I have said, as you know them to be true!
And those who testify of Him, they are called by Him to declare. The Lord brings them to the place of testifying, brings them to the place of declaring His words to the people.
And always, part of the message is that if one is obedient to the commandments, then peace keeps rolling like a river, despite the storms and floods of life; righteousness washes over us in constant renewal. He promises to provide and protect when we behave like (prove ourselves to be) the covenant people we claim to be.
Knowing is not enough; we are called to do.
Then He helps us become.
Isaiah even confirms this by his own experience, sharing his testimony that he has given the Lord’s message and this was his own work to do – and that the Lord has blessed it (verse 15). None of what the Lord has to say should be surprising or feel sudden, because it is what He taught us premortally and what He has taught us through prophets and scriptures and personal revelation our entire lifetimes (verse 16). Isaiah reminds the people that prophets are there to help the people, to protect them, to guide them as a group to where the Lord is trying to bring them (verse 17). But when they will not listen, and will not do what the Lord commands, it grieves the Lord (verse 18). It makes Him sad, knowing the people will suffer because of their choices. He even says they would have had more descendants, and their descendants would not have forgotten the Savior (verse 19).
Knowing the people will be taken captive by Babylon, He promises them again that He will deliver them – but He urges them to keep their end of the promise, which is to testify of Him as their deliverer (verse 20). The Lord has proven He is capable and able and powerful enough to deliver them (verse 21).
But then he gives a lesson important for all of us: their experience of this deliverance, and their happiness from it will only be experienced by those who return to the Lord. Their is no peace, even in the midst of prospering and blessings, if we are not at-one with the Lord (verse 22). And we cannot be at-one with God if we are not at-one with His people. There is only peace and joy in righteousness, and none else.