Dinner Topics for Friday
A Moment on the Life and Times of the Epic Hero, Isaiah
When you understand a few things about this towering prophet and epic hero—Isaiah—it is easier than you think to liken his writings to your own life and times.
When Lehi and his family departed for the New World in about 600 B.C., Jerusalem was ripe for destruction. Isaiah’s fifty-year ministry came to a close almost one hundred years before that, but his far-reaching influence had barely begun. Not only was Isaiah a mighty prophet, but he was also a statesman, who served as adviser to four kings of Judah.
1. Under Uzziah, Judah was a strong military power.
2. Then King Jotham further fortified the nation.
3. King Ahaz was idolatrous; he engaged in human sacrifice of his own children. In the political realm, he tried to appease the Assyrian terrorists by offering them tribute money from the treasures of the temple.
4. Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, tried to cleanse the land of his father’s idolatry.
Meanwhile the powerful and brutal Assyrians had conquered the kingdom of Israel in the north, and moved upon Judah, putting Jerusalem under siege. To safeguard the city’s water supply, Hezekiah constructed a conduit which still exists today.
As the Assyrians were themselves threatened by Egypt, Hezekiah sought an alliance with Egypt. But Isaiah warned that Egypt could not be trusted, and prophesied of the Assyrian destruction and Judah’s future peace and prosperity. Hezekiah remained steadfast and trusted in the Lord by following Isaiah’s counsel. The prophecy was fulfilled, once. It will be fulfilled again, for Isaiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Assyria was a prefiguring, or type, of the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming of Christ.
Thus were the times of Isaiah fraught with wars and contention, as were the times in ancient America, and as are events of our day. The names of the main actors are different, but the scenes and drama are repeated throughout history. Much of what Isaiah saw in his day is not unlike what we see in modern times. These repeated patterns, or type-scenes, are the key to understanding Isaiah’s vast prophetic world view— a window to the future.
Isaiah Spoke of Five Eras
1. His own day.
Consider his perspective. Unlike many self-absorbed persons of our day, Isaiah knew that his grand and sweeping visions were “not about him.” He did not get caught up in the tumultuous moment of his day, but was able to see the total picture.
2. Birth and ministry of Christ in the meridian of time.
Right in the middle of an interview with the wicked Ahaz, Isaiah by command of the Lord, gave the glorious prophecy of the birth of Christ that is famous throughout all Christendom.
3. The Last Days (our times.)
Isaiah describes why we are losing our liberty, due to uninformed citizens. (Isaiah 5:13) He vividly describes the corruption, evil, and immorality of our day …even Political Correctness. (Isaiah 5:20) In Isaiah 29, (2 Nephi27), the prophet saw ahead nearly 3,000 years and described in detail the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the nineteenth century.
4. The Second Coming.
Isaiah’s writings are fraught with prophecy regarding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to usher in the Millennium.
5. The Millenium.
Isaiah saw world events as God sees them; he described them, in some ways like a journalist, but more as a poet, using breathtaking imagery. Isaiah’s superb literary skills are worthy of his subject. Isaiah’s work is the finest epic literature ever written. But there is much more to it than that.
His writings are not a mere history, nor will casual perusal unlock the treasures therein. To limit oneself to a hasty scan would be to walk thirsty past the wells of salvation.
The Savior regarded Isaiah so highly that He gave a commandment, to “search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”(3 Ne. 23:1)
So how does one read Isaiah?
— Pray for the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Christ.
— Keep in mind that the overarching theme of Isaiah is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
— Remember Isaiah’s broad world view, which encompasses at least five different eras in the scriptural spectrum. Look for the big picture, rather than dwelling on fragments that you may not fully understand.
— Search for themes. Do not try to read Isaiah chronologically. Let each chapter stand alone, and find its theme. Chapter headings give helpful clues.
— Research the footnotes.
— Look for parallels, like reading today’s newspaper.
— Remember types and symbols. For example, Babylon means “the world.” The vineyard of the Lord means “Israel.”
— Savor the exquisite imagery. Ponder the themes and the layers of profound meaning.
— Liken the scriptures to yourself. And liken them to the nations and the global scene.
— Be Patient. To plumb the depths of Isaiah’s inspired writing is a lifelong quest.
The Savior desires us to search the words of Isaiah (whose very name means “Jehovah saves”), for they expound the power of His Atonement and our rescue from the fallen state. Furthermore, Jesus knows there are blessings and treasures that await us if we but seek them.
Isaiah knew this, too, when he said,
Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
Copyright 2010 by C.A. Davidson
CES, 1981:Old Testament Student Manual, Religion 302, pp.131-135