Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Furnace of Affliction (Isaiah 40-49)

Christ Comes in Glory

READ Isaiah 40:3-5

What will happen when the Lord returns in glory?

Everything will seem to be upside down – valley’s exalted and mountains made low.

All flesh shall see the glory of the Lord together.

 

READ Isaiah 40:12, 15, 18, 21-22, 25

Who is this Lord who is coming?

He measures the oceans in the hollow of His hand.

The heavens are like a curtain.

The earth is weighed in a cup.

The nations are a drop in a bucket.

Humans are like grasshoppers in comparison.

The Lion, not the Lamb.

 

The Prophet Joseph taught in the Lectures on Faith that we need a “correct idea of (God’s) character, perfections, and attributes” if we are to exercise faith in Him unto life and salvation (see LoF 3:2-5).  The character of God is described by Joseph as…

READ LoF 3:13-18

Why are these character attributes critical to our ability to exercise faith in Him?

Creator and upholder: If God wasn’t the creator and upholder of all things then it might be possible for another, more powerful God to thwart His plans.

Merciful: Our sinfulness would test His limits of patience.

Unchangeable: The plan is the same for all throughout eternity.

God of Truth: Can have faith in His word – if He says you are forgiven, you are – regardless of what you’ve done.

No respecter of persons: all have equal privilege – just do what He says has to be done (sacrifice whole soul, be believing, etc).

Love: it is why He does what He does, i.e. sacrifice Himself to save us.

 

READ Isaiah 40:28-31 and 11

What does He do for those who wait upon Him?

He gives them strength.

He feeds them.

He carries them.

He leads them gently.

What is implied by the word “wait”?

He works according to His own timetable – in line with the character attributes outlined above.

He is a “fourth watch God”.

The fact that we must wait is ultimately a benefit to us – it doesn’t matter to Him; meaning He can act at any time, but He waits for a purpose.

 

READ Isaiah 41:11, 14

What does the Lord do to His peoples’ enemies?

He fights their battles for them.

He confounds, embarrasses and destroys them.

Can his people defend themselves?

No, they are the weak things of the world – without means, power or reputation (“worm”).

They are of necessity, humble.

They trust the Lord to fight their battles and stand as sentinels for His word to do whatever He asks of them.

 

 

A Bruised Reed

READ Isaiah 42:3

What does a “bruised reed” symbolize?

A reed is weak but a bruised reed is very weak – not straight, barely standing up; it has an inherent, fatal flaw.

It is symbolic of those who wait on the Lord.

It is symbolic of the sins and weaknesses that all mortals have.

The shepherds of Israel used to make simple reed pipes to play music on.  If the pipe was stepped on it would easily bruise and would most likely be discarded, as it was easy to make a new one and the bruised pipe no longer sounded in tune.

What is the symbolism of the Lord not breaking the bruised pipe in two and discarding it?

It is symbolic of the way He has promised to bind up our hurts, forgive our sins, and wipe the tears from our eyes.

We are not cast away because of our imperfections.

The Lord wants to save us because we are dear to Him, regardless of how unprofitable we might be.

It speaks to our inherent value in His eyes.

 

READ Isaiah 43:24-25

What does “I have not caused thee to serve with an offering” mean?

He has not burdened us with temporal sacrifices.

He has not required “all that we possess” in order to placate Him to save us.



An Acceptable Sacrifice

In the ancient religions, priests would sacrifice innocent victims to placate the Gods – what does the true and living God sacrifice?

Himself – He is the sacrifice for our sins.

He attempts to placate or touch our hearts with His sacrifice (like Abigail, who did not sin with Nadal but took her husband’s sins upon herself, and sinless of her husband’s crimes, begged for mercy from David).

Why does He do it?

For His own sake – it is His work and His glory.

Because He first loved us.

What sacrifice does He require of us?

Broken heart and contrite spirit (see 3 Nephi 9:19-20).

He wants our whole souls – something that we can give Him that is really ours to give.

 

READ Isaiah 44:3-4

What does the fact that Israel is thirsty and dry imply?

Dry ground = dead ground.

Thirsty = seeking life giving water.

So, the two together could show that they have come to themselves or recognized their terrible state – they realize their need and are seeking Christ.

How do His people react to the water?

They “spring up” – they come alive again and multiply.

They stay near the living water – it is their life source and they don’t want to leave it.

 

 

A Refiner’s Fire

The Lord will save those who come unto Him and wait for Him – but what of those of Israel that profess His name while they turn away from Him in deed?

READ Isaiah 48:1-2, 4-5, 8

Who is the Lord talking to here?

Israel (the Church) – they “stay themselves upon the God of Israel”.

If these are “active” Israelites, why would the Lord accuse them of idol worship?

They say they believe in God but they don’t really.

They are prideful and stubborn – think they know it all, can do it all, don’t really need God except as a tool or cheerleader or a “closer” after “all they can do”.

They believe in other Gods: idols, money, leaders.

 

READ Isaiah 48:8-11

Why is the Lord refining Israel for their own sakes?

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and He cannot abide sin with the least degree of allowance.

His refining opportunities take us to our knees and compel us to call on His name for mercy and grace, if we haven’t already done so – which leads to a mighty change of heart.

We have to sacrifice all things to gain faith sufficient for salvation.

He is testing us in the crucible of affliction – helping us to understand who we will unconditionally love and humbly serve.

If we succeed, it accomplishes His work and His glory – to bring to pass OUR immortality and eternal life.

And remember, it hurt Him more than it hurts us anyway – He suffered all that a God can suffer – an infinite and eternal sacrifice.

 

READ Isaiah 48:16-17

Should this probationary state come as a surprise to us?

No, God has been very plain about His intentions from the beginning.

This world is not a place of ease – it is a test and an opportunity.

The more darkness we endure in Christ, the more light, in equal measure, we will receive because we’ll be capable of receiving it.

Who has been teaching and guiding us from the beginning?

The Lord Himself.

Through His Spirit and directly in person, and through prophets like Isaiah, Nephi and Joseph Smith.

 

READ Isaiah 48:18, 21 and 49:8

What are the Lord’s promises?

If we listen to His voice and keep His commandments – we will have peace and live in righteousness.

He will lead us through our afflictions (deserts) with living water to make it through safely.

He will help and preserve us.

We will inherit a land of promise which is “desolate” now.

All of that implies that life will be very difficult; “peace” is an inward condition and living water keeps us alive but does not ensure us any prosperity.

How are they administered to us?

By covenant with Him.

 

READ Isaiah 49:13-16

What would it take for a woman to forget her nursing baby?

An imminent, horrendous death.

Heroin.

Why will the Lord never forget us?

Those moments of eternal sacrifice and horrendous death (see D&C 19:15-19) were the very things that caused us to be “graven” on the palms of His hands, so that He will never forget us; He refused the narcotic on the cross because He had to finish the cup to the bitter dregs.

 

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