This chapter continues the Isaiah-ish prophesying.
I love the end of the first verse especially:
“… the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name”.
It so reminds me of Jeremiah 1:5:
“Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee…”
This refers even to our premortal life, the time before we were born on Earth. He knew us. We knew Him.
The Family Proclamation says this:
In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.
This premortal experience of knowing the plan is why we are now called to testify, to help each other remember, to help each other find our way home.
“Thou art my servant…” the Lord says (verse 3), and this is our greatest service: to testify. Using words or simply in how we love others, all should testify of the Savior and His atonement for us. All we do and say should move us to be at-one with each other.
And we should be at-one with each other, no matter what everyone else around us doing. No matter our circumstances, no matter the choices of others, no matter the chaos around us or overwhelming us, it is our duty, our responsibility, our calling to be at-one with God, and to be at-one with each other. He makes it possible, and gives us the strength to do so. It’s a promise.
“though Israel not be gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength” (verse 5).
When there is not-at-one around us, we are to do our part to restore the at-one-ness. Sometimes that means putting in an extra effort. Sometimes it means doing something someone else wants instead of what you would rather do. Sometimes it means taking a stand in our own lives for our own selves; sometimes it means letting it go and not worrying about what other people do. It means teaching others, and leading by example, but then respecting agency while others do their own individual work of learning to make good choices. It always, always means listening to (and obeying) the words of the prophets, whether we are talking about scriptures or the living Prophet, or the Bishop that is the prophet of our ward.
Always, we are to be a Light.
Just as He is a Light to us, the sheckinah of the Old Testament, that pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night that lead the Israelites through the wilderness, so we are to be a Light to others. But like the Israelites in the wilderness, others have to take their own steps. We are only called to show the way. As they learn to follow the Light, they will make it to the promised land. That’s a promise.
“I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth” (verse 6).
It is hard when those we love do not want to make good choices.
And, in a world that is exponentially-escalating-more-and-more-quickly to the very end of these latter days, it sometimes feel as if the ugliness will win.
But the Lord says, “… in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee…”
He will provide and protect. It’s a promise.
But He also makes it possible for His work to be accomplished, even making a way for us to do our testifying in good and appropriate and inviting kinds of ways, and that mostly by example – yes, more than anything else, by being an example.
“Go forth; to them that sit in darkness: Show yourselves.” (verse 9)
When people see the Light, they begin to understand. It’s a promise.
It stirs them up to remembering a taste of before, and leaves them hungry for more.
“They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places” (verse 9).
The “high places” points to the Temple.
When we feed in His ways, and help others feed in His ways – His laws and commandments, His principles and purpose – it leads us to the Temple.
But first, in baptism:
“… for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by springs of water shall he guide them” (verse 10).
Notice that you cannot lead without having mercy, which includes compassion and tenderness and forgiveness.
Then you can lead them to the Temple: “And I will make all my mountains a way” (verse 11).
And through the Temple, we are gathered. It’s a promise.
We are gathered as a people, and we are made at-one with Him and with each other.
Verse 14 speaks of this atonement, this meeting of mercy and justice, this making a way beyond what is possible, beyond what we alone can do:
“… the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me – but He will show that he hath not.”
It reminds me of Isaiah 54, which is one of my all time favorites just behind 2 Nephi 4. I love verses 4-14 of Isaiah 54, but here is Isaiah 54:7-8 that compares to 1 Nephi 21:14:
“For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.”
Then he gives an example of this deep love:
“For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee…” (verse 15).
This one reminds us of Isaiah 49:15, which says the same thing word for word.
It also brings to mind Psalm 27:10: “when my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”
What’s really interesting about this connection is that the verses after that (in Psalm 27) are all about the path, and the strength and courage to walk it… just as this chapter in 1 Nephi discusses.
He is our Light, and by His Light we walk the path. We become like Him by becoming at-one with Him. Becoming at-one with Him is only possible because of the atonement.
“I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (verse 16). (See Isaiah 49:16)
He did this literally, when He was accomplishing the work of the atonement.
It is still true spiritually, because He knows us and loves us and wants us to succeed in making it back home. It’s a promise.
To do so, we must become like Him, even to be pierced like Him, even to forgive like Him.
The great exchange of this atonement gives us His righteousness, clothes us in the order of His house:
“… all these gather themselves together… and they shall come to thee. And as I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee… and bind them even as a bride…” (verse 18).
He then goes on to speak of children, of being rescued from bondage, from generations helping other generations, and all of this is covenant language.
But then He promises to fight our battles; He says this is part of the privilege of being of the covenant, that He will fight for us.
“… I will contend with him that contendeth with thee…” (verse 25).
Compare this to D&C 105:14:
“For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfill – I will fight your battles.”
He will fight our battles.
It’s a promise.