Week Forty: Isaiah 50-57
Last year, as we studied together the Doctrine and Covenants, we read a great deal about the early saints and their desire for Zion. They were so excited to build the New Jerusalem in Independence, Missouri even though they dealt with trials, persecutions, and even death.
Yet the promises for the future of Zion and the New Jerusalem are sure and as saints of the latter-days, we continue to build Zion looking forward to the future day of New Jerusalem:
“For Zion must increase in beauty and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.”[i]
Isaiah looked forward to this same day for Zion to put on her beautiful garments and Jerusalem, Isaiah’s hometown, to become a beautiful place, a holy city where only the clean and pure would dwell.
“Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.”[ii]
In section 113, the Prophet Joseph Smith gave us commentary on these verses. He referenced the Lord’s call to put on thy strength, O Zion, as a call from God in these last days to bring forth Zion and to redeem Israel through the power of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of the priesthood.[iii] The bands on Zion’s neck are the curses of God upon fallen Israel and the remnants of Israel in their scattered condition among the Gentiles. These scattered remnants are exhorted to return to the Lord and if they do, the promises of the Lord will be upon them. Their future will be with Zion and Jerusalem.
Captive Israel sold themselves for nought, but they shall be redeemed from their slavery without money, through the saving grace of God. Just as God miraculously saved Israel through the parting of the Red Sea in the days of Moses and just as God miraculously stopped the Assyrian army as they surrounded Jerusalem in the days of King Hezekiah, the Lord will save captive Israel and bring Israel to Zion.
So, how will the Lord save Israel in these latter-days and prepare His people for Zion?
Isaiah described two ways the Lord will prepare the world for Zion. First, missionaries will be sprinkled among the nations of the world to bring the gospel message to all kindreds, tongues, and people.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”[iv]
“So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.”[v]
Currently, there are over 54,000 missionaries serving in over 400 missions throughout the world. They are sprinkled throughout the world to prepare all people for the coming of Zion and the Second Coming of the Savior. Last year, over 168,000 convert baptisms were performed because of wonderful missionaries who opened the eyes and hearts of those who harkened to the word of the Lord.[vi]
Second, the Lord will send watchmen or His latter-day prophets to warn and teach His people to prepare for Zion: “Thy watchmen shall lift up their voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.”[vii]
President Harold B. Lee taught: “The only safety we have as members of this church is to…learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet. …There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes. …It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with…your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you.’”[viii]
As we follow the prophets, we will purify ourselves from the evils of the world that surrounds us. To prepare for the salvation of God and future Zion, we must leave the world behind and keep ourselves clean: “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; …be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”[ix] In order to maintain our purity, we must be vigilant and escape the grasp of the world. Watching for and hoping for the Savior’s Second Coming can give us the focus we need to prepare for Zion.
Professor David Moore of the BYU Law School taught BYU students: “We live in the difficult times preceding the Savior’s Second Coming. The world is mainstreaming the ‘strange roads’ of Lehi’s dream and straining to embrace the breadth of ‘the way, that leadeth to destruction.’ The rains will descend, the floods swell, and the winds blow. The only rock upon which we can build to have a ‘sure foundation’ is the Savior, Jesus Christ. We will not find that foundation if we are not watchful, nor can we build upon the foundation of the Savior if we reject or neglect ‘his servants the prophets.’[x]
Ultimately, future Zion will be a joyful place. But we can rely on the Lord now to help us find Zion in our homes in our wards and in our hearts. We can trust in the Lord’s holy arm to be our strength. He will fight our battles and go before us and be our rearward protecting us from any enemies that surround us if we but let Him.
“For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rearward.”[xi]
We are in a battle and the Lord will be before and behind us. Future Zion is glorious, but we may also find Zion now as we sprinkle the gospel around us and follow the watchmen the Lord has sent to prepare for His Coming.
May we find joy in the Lord this week as we seek for Zion and prepare for the Coming of the Lord.
[i] Doctrine and Covenants 82:14
[ii] Isaiah 52:1-2
[iii] Doctrine and Covenants 113:7-8
[iv] Isaiah 52:7
[v] Isaiah 52:15
[vi] Statistical Report, GC April 2022, https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/2021-statistical-report-april-2022-conference
[vii] Isaiah 52:8
[viii] Harold B. Lee, CR, October 1970, 152, quoting D&C 21:6. See also Lee, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2000),84–85, as quoted by David H. Moore, BYU Devotional, August 2, 2017.
[ix] Isaiah 52:11
[x] David H. Moore, “Watchmen on the Tower,” BYU Devotional, August 2, 2016.
[xi] Isaiah 52:12