CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 21.
This chapter compares to Isaiah 11.
In the previous chapter, Isaiah took us from understanding how our enemies (even Satan) attack(s) us, to what that looks like when we are not behaving like covenant people, to the Lord’s call for our repentance, to how He brings us at-one again.
The next step in this pattern, of course, is going to point us to the Savior.
Isaiah opens this chapter with describing how the Messiah will be born of the Jews, and that “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge…” (verse 2).
But we, as Latter-day Saints, also know that this chapter (and the next one) are specifically about the latter-days and the millennial reign of Christ. We know because Moroni said so (JSH 1:40)!
The Book of Mormon Seminary Manual says this chapter has a theme:
God has the power to make great things come out of that which appears devastated.
That makes me cry.
It reminds me of 2 Nephi 4, or other good conversion stories, and the joy that wells up results in songs of praise like what will come in the next chapter (22).
But it has taken time to unfold, to fulfill every piece of the prophecy. When Jesus was born, Israel was like a “stump” of what it had been, but out of His ministry and life and great atoning sacrifice, a “branch” has grown, and life will come (verse 1).
And when life really comes, in contrast to the injustice and sorrow of the last chapter, we read what it will be like in the day when the Lord reigns the Earth:
“But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth… and righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reigns” (verses 4 and 5).
As marvelous as it is to read of this day that will soon come, we are called to “establish Zion” now in our own lives. We should be seeking to live righteously now, including caring for the poor. We should be reproving what is not of God, and testifying of what is of God. Now. We should be meek now.
We should be faithful, now.
When the Earth is restored to its intended state-of-being, there will be physical changes in the dynamics of all living creatures because we will no longer be in the fallen state in which we now exist. Isaiah says, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leapard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (verses 6-9).
The Lord will be there for the Jews as promised, but also for the Gentiles. For all, His “rest” (presence!) will be glorious!
He will gather His people, and He will do so by setting up an ensign for the nations. An ensign is a standard, a sign, something that points the way. It’s like a flag or a symbol, but rich in meaning and in such a way that causes understanding.
We even have the literal Ensign, the church magazine in which living prophets and apostles guide us in the present day. General Conference is an ensign, warning us and guiding us and teaching us what we need to know in these latter-days.
Even in General Conference three years ago, Elder Holland told us that this is part of the fulfillment of these prophesies, even of the “trump” being sounded. That’s a serious statement, in many ways. Both in power of General Conference, and in the timing – as we know the trump being sounded is the final thing that happens in the latter-days of the Latter-days.
But the reason for the sounding of His trumpet is not just to announce His arrival, but also part of gathering His people “from the four corners of the earth” (verse 12).
Being ready now is part of being spiritually gathered.
Being ready now is part of being physically gathered soon.
Attending our meetings on Sundays, attending the Temple regularly and often, and living our lives as covenant people is part of being gathered already.
The song of praise that comes from the experience of being gathered is what the next chapter sings for us!