Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Redeemer of Israel, Nephi's and Isaiah's Delight (1 Nephi 20, Isaiah 48)

I don't have a picture of it, but, like this story of a man who was saved from a bullet by his Bible during the Civil War, there is a similar story of a man being shot in his Book of Mormon in World War 1.  The man had his BOM in his shirt pocket when the bullet struck it square in the middle.  The bullet's aim was for his heart.  It entered through the faux leather cover, sliced through the introduction, testimonies of the witnesses, and title page, and ripped through 1st Nephi.  Miraculously, it stopped at 1 Nephi chapter 20.  After recovering from the shock of his experience, the man examined his BOM closely, trying to understand.  When he saw where the bullet had come to a stop he figured it out immediately.  How many times had he started through the Book of Mormon, only to be stopped by Isaiah. 
Warning:  While the cool Civil War photo and story may be true, the story that follows it about World War 1 is fiction, and was completely made up by the author for the purpose of allegorical humor.  My apologies to those of you who swallowed it whole, and who so desperately wanted to believe it.  I'm sure something like this happened some time.  Let's just say that the BOM and The Bible have saved a lot of lives. 

College days.  In the common TV room watching Bonanza. Circa 1993

Note from Mr. John Barney, author, clown and noted relaxation expert!

1 Nephi 20 is the the first of many chapters in the BOM taken from the book of Isaiah, whose writings were a part of the brass plates Lehi's family brought with them.  Nephi loves Isaiah, but acknowledges that he is difficult to understand for those who never lived at Jerusalem, or who were not familiar with the culture there.  You might expect me to study and research the deep meanings of Isaiah for my blog so's I can write more intelectualler about him.  Well, I am not doing that for the following reasons:

  1. I'm way too lazy for something like that.
  2. This blog isn't supposed to be about deep scholarship, but about building a better understanding of the surface.
  3. Even if I went and bought me a big Isaiah book by Hugh Nibley or somebody, I still don't think I would get the things that I don't get, at least, not with enough understanding to write about it.  So's anywayz.

On to Isaiah

1 Nephi 19: 23 (Nephi speaking)

23.  And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in The Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.
Some chapters from Isaiah have plain and obvious prophecies and testimonies of Jesus Christ (like Isaiah 53 for example), while in others, the meaning is harder to see.  Let's take them one at a time...

In 1 Nephi 20 (Isaiah 48) the confusion starts right away.

1 Nephi 20: 1-5
1.  Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of The Lord, and make mention of The God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness.

(Hypocrisy is something that really seems to get on The Lord's nerves) 
2.  Nevertheless, they call themselves of the holy city, but they do not stay themselves upon the God of Israel, who is The Lord of Hosts; yea, the Lord of Hosts is His name.


  1. A stay that extends from the maintop to the foot of the foremast of a sailing ship.
  2. A thing on which something else is based or depends: "whitefish are the mainstay of the local industry".)
3.  Behold, I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them, I did show them suddenly.

(I revealed the gospel to you quite plainly)

4.  And I did it because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and they brow brass.
(Iron sinew = stiff necks = pride = hard to teach)
5.  And I have even from the beginning declared to thee; before it came to pass I showed them thee; and I showed them for fear lest thou shouldst say -Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image hath commanded them.
( I like that verse 5 thing.  Prophets prophecy of things to come so that when they do come, you know for sure that the Prophet, whose real job is to testify of Christ and His gospel, is a prophet, and, therefore, inspired by The Lord)

I like this next part.  This is what I see in there.  If you see something else or different, feel free to add to or take away from in the comments...

1 Nephi 20: 8-11
8.  Yea, and thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time thine ear was not opened; for I knew that thou wouldst deal very treacherously, and was called a transgressor from the womb.
I believe this verse is talking about The Fall, and the effects of it that were a consequence of the righteous choice Adam & Eve made in the Garden of Eden.  "A transgressor from the womb", or subject to the weaknesses of the flesh.  The Lord knew of the difficulty His children would have remaining an obedient people.
 9.  Nevertheless, for my name's sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off.
OK, so He taught Israel what to do, but they tended to be disobedient.  He knew they were a weak people because He understands man's weaknesses.  He will be patient in His judgment for a while, and not pronounce them a lost cause.  He will continue to give them His word through His prophets.
10.  For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
Hard times came upon them.  They were conquered, re-conquered, held as slaves in Egypt for 400 years, conquered again, etc., but this will make them a chosen people again, hopefully.
11.  For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do this, for I will not suffer my name to be polluted, and I will not give my glory unto another.  
The old testament just has a strange way of putting things sometimes.  For The Lord's sake (not ours?) will he be patient in judgment, but allow some pretty tough trials. For "His Name's sake" will He allow their world to be a challenge for them.  The Old Testament sometimes can make The Lord appear like He is saying something self-centered.  Since we KNOW that He is NOT self-centered, we examine the wording more closely.  And, "I will not give my glory unto another."  What comes to your mind when you read that?  To me, it is when Satan argues against Our Heavenly Father's Plan, and wants the glory for himself.  Christ's answer is:  "Glory be to The Father!"  So, I see this as a restatement of His victory over Satan and sin.  His glory is to bring us salvation and exhaltation.  He will not give up on us.

Tolstoy Ploughing -by Ilya Repin

Back in Genesis where The Lord is dealing with Adam and Eve's decision to transgress His commandment, The Lord said, "...cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." (Gen 3:17).  We have an understanding that the consequences given to Adam and Eve were for "their sake", His efforts in helping them come back into His presence and receive Eternal Life.

So, in saying "For Mine Own sake" and "for My Name's sake", The Lord is really saying the same thing, isn't He?  The Lord's work and glory is to bring about our salvation, so if He's not successful, it was all for nothing.  His Name, Jesus Christ, is The Name given under heaven which will bring that salvation.  "For His Name's sake" is just that: for the sake of bringing us salvation.  Does that sound right to you.  That's just my thoughts on that.

Many parts of the Isaiah chapters are still beyond my level of the know.  Sometimes I'll read through a whole chapter and not really get most of it, but a couple of verses will stand out on their own and speak something to me.  If you are one of the trillions of us who don't understand Isaiah, read it anyway. 

Remember how we're supposed to be looking for principles as we read through the BOM?  Here's one from Isaiah:

1 Nephi 20: 18
18.  O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments -then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.
Isn't that a cool way of putting it.  Righteousness as the waves of the sea.  Peace as a river.  That's the reward for obedience.  The consequence for disobedience:

1 Nephi 20: 22
22.  And notwithstanding he hath done all this, and greater also, there is no peace, saith The Lord, unto the wicked.

Christ reading from Isaiah -by Greg Olsen
1 Nephi 20: 20
20.  ... with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter to the end of the earth; say ye: The Lord hath redeemed His servant Jacob.

I love this.  Over 700 years before Christ's birth, Isaiah declared the victory His, the victory Ours.

Peace like a river be with you...


  1. Isaiah is easier to understand if you've read the OT Genesis through 2 Kings. Then read Isaiah and what he says makes more sense as he is explaining to the people that they need to repent and they need a Savior. Also reading the BofM is helpful because the Nephites go through the same "price cycle" as the Children of Israel and need to repent and look to the Savior too.

    1. Nice hint. I still get lost, but I'm getting better.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dear John Barney,

    I knew a John Barney once in Layton, Utah but he was older than you by about 7 years and there's probably not a shortage of men name John from your lineage. I liked what you said about Isaiah and I think you understand things pretty well. I have an Isaiah mentor named Avraham Gileadi who is always ribbing me for my dumb ideas regarding my wild interpretations, but yours sound OK compared to mine. I found the website www.isaiahexplained.com to be helpful because it has Gileadi's translation of Isaiah along side the King James translation plus 30 hours of commentary which are linked at the top of each chapter. BTW...You might also like to participate with a few of us trying to get Dr. Gileadi to do a weekly radio and television broadcast from Provo this year. As a volunteer you would learn a lot with me.