CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 18.
This chapter compares to Isaiah 8.
This chapter opens with Isaiah’s wife having a baby. This is significant because Hebrew tradition is such that names really mean something. So the next prophesy comes through the naming of this child, which is Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “‘to speed to the spoil, he hasteneth the prey”. In other words, the covenant people of the Lord have not listened to what He told them, and they have not heeded His instruction. Because of this, their consequences will “hasten” or speed up the destruction that is coming.
However, we have the pattern of how the Lord works, always. It shows up here again.
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.
We see this with the people here, as we learned in the previous chapter. The people do not repent, so they are conquered and go into captivity with Assyria. But still, the Lord gives them another generation – the 65-100 years – where they have time to repent so they are not destroyed. But when they do not, then the Babylonian captivity happens, and the people are scattered.
This is an important lesson to keep in mind for ourselves, as we liken the scriptures to our own lives.
If we repent, He restores us to an at-one state.
If we do not, we are choosing bondage – whether it be financial bondage, misery-ness of bitterness and un-forgiving hearts and negativity, bondage to the drama of unhealthy emotional expression, or other consequences to our health or jobs or families – these consequences come because of our choices.
But still we can repent, and if we do, He will lighten the load and bless our efforts at getting out of bondage through the process of repentance – which includes being restored to at-one-ness again.
But if we do not repent, then that bondage will become our destruction. Our lives as we knew them will be destroyed, and our families will be scattered.
This is another reason the blessings of the Temple are so significant, because part of those blessings is the gathering of families from the scattering we have experienced. It is the promise of Elijah, that the Lord “shall turn the heart of the fathers (and mothers) to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers (and mothers!)” (See Malachi 4:6).
I know my family has been blessed by this promise, absolutely.
And when we are gathered, as families and as a covenant people, then the Lord can protect us, prepare us, and provide for us.
No matter what “evil counsel” tries against us, it will come to nothing; no matter what they say, it will be meaningless “for God is with us” (verse 10). That’s Immanuel, as promised in the last chapter! When we are at-one, then we are the Lord’s people. And when we are His people, He will instruct us. It’s a promise.
But we must walk in His ways, in the ways of righteousness.
To be His people, we must be holy, which means “set apart”.
To be His people, we must be separated from the world, and doing things His way rather than our own ways or in the ways of “evil counsel”.
“For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying… “neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid” (verses 11 and 12).
Do not be afraid of them, but act in faith by walking in the Lord’s ways and doing what He commands us to do. In this way, we can let God be God.
If we have faith, then we are acting.
Faith is never just sitting around.
Faith is always a call to testify, and a call to act.
“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples” (verse 16).
Our testimony is “bound up” when we give it, whether it be a Fast Sunday or with friends or the way we love others or the good that we do through service.
The Law is “sealed” in us by the Holy Spirit. We know the Law is sealed in us by the evidence of the Spirit working, by the fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (refers to chastity, which includes fidelity, and rules out everything from inappropriate emotional attachments to full blown affairs)” (Galations 5:22-24).
Those are the things that give evidence of the Spirit having sealed the law in us. We are sealed to it by attaching ourselves to the atonement. Then we will know it is sealed in us – we are sealed to it – when we see the evidence of the law being lived in our lives. We will know when a law is taught, and we are softened toward doing better at it, and feel strengthened to continue living it. When we are convicted or think it is hard, we will know it is not sealed to us, and we need to repent and attach ourselves to the atonement, so that the Spirit can seal the law in us.
And then, we can have confidence in the Lord, knowing that He is working in us.
It is not us doing so good, but it is His goodness in us that changes us.
That’s the atonement. That’s the at-one-ment.
And so in this we have peace, where we can be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Isaiah says it this way:
“I will wait upon the Lord… I will look for Him” (verse 17).
Isaiah is saying this in the context of knowing the people are about to be sent into captivity, and that they will still not repent and so will be destroyed after that.
Yet he knows, he has faith-becomes-knowledge, that even still, even then, still the Lord will keep His promises. And so he will wait, knowing the Lord will do what He promised to do.
Anything less is not having faith, not believing the Lord will do what He promised.
And without this faith, without the evidence of the Spirit, without testimony, “there is no light in them” (verse 20). That’s a serious statement, referring back to the Lord as sheckinah, and how we should become like Him, how we should become a light to the world – always, always, always offering hope and love and inviting (through behaviors and words and friendships) to the Savior. Everything we do and say should point to the Savior. That is how we are a “light” to the world around us, because He is our Light.
But without His light, it is a dark world. Without His Light in us, it is a miserable state of being, a miserable way to live life:
“And they shall pass through it hardly bestead and hungry; and it shall come to pass that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward. And they shall look unto the earth and behold trouble, and darkness, dimness of anguish, and shall be driven to darkness” (verses 21 and 22).
It is better, then, to be still and know that He is God.
It is better, then, to be holy, set apart from the world around us.
It is better, then, to wait on the Lord, knowing He will keep His promises.