Week Thirty-Eight: Isaiah 13–14; 24–30; 35
Learning line upon line, precept upon precept enables us to move forward in our understanding of the gospel and our relationship with God. But what happens if we do not heed the teachings the Lord is sending us through His holy prophets and through scripture? We should continually monitor our progress as to whether we are moving forward or backward as we strive to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.
In Isaiah 28, the Lord painted a dark picture of the tribe of Ephraim, the ruling tribe in Isaiah’s day. The world surrounding Ephraim was dark and dismal as well. The phrase “in that day” can also refer to the days of the Lord’s Second Coming. This chapter is an example of Isaiah combining his description of multiple time periods. This chapter can be read as a warning for us today who are of the Tribe of Ephraim and the house of Israel, but it was also a warning for the current Kingdom of Israel or Kingdom of Samaria ruled by kings from the tribe of Ephraim. The destruction of the Kingdom of Samaria would soon happen in 720 BCE by the Assyrians. Isaiah would live to see this prophecy fulfilled and also see the Kingdom of Judah saved from a similar fate by an incredible miracle from the Lord, illustrating his power of deliverance.
Ephraim and the people surrounding Ephraim were described by Isaiah as being full of pride, drunkards, and a people whose glory is fading and who wallow in filthiness:
“Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!”[i]
“For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.”[ii]
The Lord teaches his people in increments to prepare them to become perfect. His light can become greater and greater in us as we follow His instructions line upon line, precept upon precept. The Lord does not expect us to be perfect all at once. Instead, the Lord looks to our overall progress, rather than a single event. In latter-day revelation, The Lord taught us:
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”[iii]
As we seek the light of God, we can look forward, with hope, for a perfect day – a day when we will receive of the fulness and glory of our Heavenly Father, just has Jesus Christ has received of His glory. The Lord has promised us:
“For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness and be glorified in me as I am in the Father….”[iv]
Isaiah warned Israel that the day had come when the Israelites were not moving forward. Instead, they were falling backwards, thus becoming broken, snared, and taken away from the promised land because of their own wickedness. In spite of the Lord’s instructions to Israel through His prophets, many Israelites had apostatized.[v] Notice how Isaiah emphasized this point through repetition.
“But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go and fall backward and be broken, snared, and taken.”[vi]
Isaiah illustrated his point by referencing two previous battles at Mount Perazim and Gibeon. These were two places where King David won miraculous battles against the Philistines. The Lord had helped the Children of Israel fight these battles and they were victorious. Now, the Lord would do a “strange work” and a “strange act”[vii] by not coming to their aid. Instead, He will treat the Israelites as if they were Philistines and not save them.
In verses 24-28, Isaiah used a farming analogy to instruct us in the way we should prepare our soul and our hearts for the Lord’s instruction because God instructs us with discretion. The Lord of hosts is wonderful in counsel and excellent in His working.[viii] Isaiah was teaching people who were farmers and who understood his analogy. Isaiah asked the questions: “Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? Doth he open and break the clods of his ground?”[ix] The farmer works hard to prepare the soil before he sows his seed, realizing that the work he puts in now to break up the hard clods of ground will enable the new seeds to sprout easier, especially for smaller seeds to germinate. Isaiah specifically referenced the farmer sowing fitches which is probably fennel seeds and cumin. Both seeds are the smallest of seeds a farmer would sow. For them to grow, the soil must be particularly well prepared. Isaiah descried how the “fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cartwheel turned about upon the cumin.”[x] Thus, these seeds were given special treatment by the farmer.
When we are dealing with troubled times, we may need to give special care to our soil. We too may need to spend more time smoothing out the clods of dirt in our lives and deciding what special care we may need to take to make sure we are continuing to grow in His light.
Even though the times we live in may be hard, as were the times Isaiah lived in, there is always hope for the righteous who put their trust in Him and who continue to learn line upon line, precept upon precept about His gospel. The Lord promises us:
“In that day shall the Lord of Hosts be for a crown of glory and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people.”[xi]
We can look forward to that day when the Lord shall be a crown of glory to us as His people.
May we find joy the Lord this week as we move forward, not backward, line upon line, precept upon precept.
[i] Isaiah 28:1
[ii] Isaiah 28:8
[iii] D&C 50:24
[iv] D&C 93:20
[v] See Footnote 28:13b
[vi] Isiah 28:13
[vii] Isaiah 28:21
[viii] See Isaiah 28:26, 29
[ix] Isaiah 28:24
[x] Isaiah 28:27
[xi] Isaiah 28:25