New blog

Hello there. I’ve been writing more and more posts regarding religion and scripture study on my personal blog, so I thought it might be a good idea to start a new one just for that. 🙂

Plus, I’ve been cleaning up my old website, nephi.org. It’s long been unmaintained, and I’m interested in poking and prodding at it a bit. Right now, it’s got a few bugs hanging about, but I’m working on it in the background on a new host and I’ll have it cleaned up proper soon.

If you want to read what this blog is about, just check out the about page.

I’m going to copy my blog posts about scriptures from my personal one over to here, just so I have them all archived in one place. So there will be a lot of content, but it’ll already be familiar to some.

Comments are enabled for the blog posts, so I’d be interested in hearing your comments if you have any to share. 🙂

Archives: isaiah’s writing styles

I’m still studying Isaiah in my spare time, when I can find it, and I’ve just had some really cool discoveries lately. I realize that these great findings of mine could easily be found by reading a commentary on the Book of Isaiah, but I prefer to locate them for myself — they have far greater meaning, and I won’t quickly forget them (or the experience of enlightment).

Just the other day, I think it was Monday, I was itching for some reason to sit down again and just read a little bit, and see if I could pick something up. It was a long day full of work and other crazy stuff, and by the time I had a second to do anything, it was midnight and I was ready to go to bed. But I flipped open my Bible casually, and just started at Isaiah 1. I won’t go into much detail of what I found, but while I was reading it, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me for a bit, and something just clicked in my brain. I recognized Isaiah’s writing style a little bit.

The chapter is written using a lot of groups of similar sayings. Nearly the entire chapter can be broken down using them. It’s really cool, and quite poetic, as I’m guessing that was the prophet’s intent. For a quick example, see verse 4, how he describes the people in four parts, then lists their actions in three parts following that:

  1. Ah sinful nation
  2. a people laden with iniquity
  3. a seed of evildoers
  4. children that are corrupters /
  5. they have forsaken the Lord
  6. they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger
  7. they are gone away backward

There’s examples like that all over.  Really cool.  For a quick recap of some of the important parts of the gospel, see v16-17, grouped in similar pairs:

  • cease to do evil / learn to do well
  • seek judgment / relieve the oppressed
  • judge the fatherless / plead for the widow

Anyway … none of that is what I wanted to write about right now, but it does give the background a bit to his writing style that I recognized while reading this morning, in Isaiah 2.

Again, the experience was nearly similar … I was just reading along, mostly for just interest and comfort, and I noticed all of a sudden that he uses pairs a lot, or repetition to say the same thing, but with different words.  It’s actually really helpful, because his writings can be really confusing sometimes, but if you notice that he’s saying the same thing twice, then you have a greater pool of comparison to draw from.

It starts in verse 3, and goes from there.  I only copied a few examples, because once you understand the principle, its really easy to see.

  • the mountain of the Lord / the house of the God of Jacob (v3)
  • he will teach us of his ways / we will walk in his paths (v3)
  • he shall judge among the nations / shall rebuke many people (v4)
  • they shall beat their swords into plowshares / their spears into pruninghooks (v4)

Another thing I picked up on is, often times after prophecies, he will give either his own testimony or an admonition or invitation to follow the Lord.  In that example, verse 5 does that: “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

I know it’s easy to read the Bible and it can sound like the Lord is just itching to blow us all to smithereens because we are wicked and going to hell.  The way I see it is that God is trying to tell us the natural consequences of our lives if we do not refrain from sin.

For example, if you are trying to teach your children not to run out in front of cars in the middle of the street, what kind of language do you use to stress the importance of the lesson to them?  You might do something like raise your voice, or use colorful descriptions to get the point across — if you get hit by a car, your brains will be splattered all over their dashboard, and your spleen will be on the curb … for example :).

Just the same way, the Lord is trying to warn us of the bad things, in a stressed tone, that will happen.  It’s not meant to scare or frighten us, just to communicate the seriousness of the consequences.

That was the spiritual lesson I was getting from reading Isaiah, chapter two.  I still think there’s something I’m mising from it overall, as I can feel it just out of reach, so I came here to write in my blog in an attempt to see if I maybe I could find it.  We’ll see, I suppose.

I did want to recount what I summarized the chapter’s lesson as, though.  Rather than try to describe it all over again, I’ll just copy verbatim what I put in my notes this morning:

Reading Isaiah 2, he warns against the proud quite a lot (v6-22), warning them what will happen at the time of the Second Coming.  I think Alma 12:14 summarizes it nicely: “we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.” [Note: read the whole chapter for clarity, I imagine my snippet probably doesn’t make much sense out of context to a visitor.  It’s part of a bigger sermon … he is discussing the wicked there, not all people everywhere.]

The message seems to be that, while they are rich in their worldly accounts (v7) and they have sought after a life of worldliness (v8), that when the the Lord comes, they will not be forgiven (v9), and they will in agony seek to separate them (the works of their hands) from themselves (v20-21).  The Lord will bring them all low, and He alone will be exalted, and destroy their riches, and their wicked works (the idols [represent] the results of their hands) (v17-18).

When we stand before the Lord, everything that we have sought [for] with worldly desires will mean nothing.

See also 2 Nephi 9:28-30Isaiah 2 is also the first chapter quoted by Nephi [in the Book of Mormon] (2 Nephi 12).

Okay, so a quick explanation about that last part — when Nephi, the first prophet-author of the Book of Mormon (an entire civilization is named after him, the Nephites) was writing, he included a lot of writings of Isaiah, since they had taken a contemporary copy of their scriptures with them when they left Jerusalem (600 B.C.).  So, they are a more ancient source of Isaiahs writings that we have, compared to the Bible.  The chapters are nearly exact, except that you can see very small snippets that were removed from the Bible text.  In every instance, the phrases shed a little light on the verses.  I’ll include some here, with the additions — or mormon sauce as my friend Josh calls it 🙂 — in bold so you can see the differences.  They are small, but helpful.

  • 5. O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways.
  • 6. Therefore, O Lord, thou hast forsaken thy people, the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and hearken unto soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.
  • 10. O ye wicked ones, enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and the glory of his majesty shall smite thee.
  • 12. For the day of the Lord of Hosts soon cometh upon all nations, yea, upon every one; yea, upon the proud and lofty, and upon every one who is lifted up, and he shall be brought low.
  • 13. Yea, and the day of the Lord shall come upon all the cedars of Lebanon, for they are high and lifted up; and upon all the oaks of Bashan;
  • 14. And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills, and upon all the nations which are lifted up, and upon every people;
  • 16. And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
  • 19. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
  • 21. To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the majesty of his glory shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

Well, it looks like the stuff there unintentionally, for my part, focused on how the Lord is going to smite everyone.  Whoops. 🙂  More accurately, though, those that are really wicked and evil.

I think it’s interesting that the scriptures that were trimmed are ones that absolve the wicked of the fruits of their works, and downplay the coming of the Lord.  I hate saying something like that, because it sounds snotty, when really I’m just trying to document an intellectual curiosity.  But I also know from experience, that when I do something wrong, usually one of my first inclinations is to rationalize it away, so that my guilt will not be intense.  I don’t like holier-than-thou attitudes any more than the next person.  I need the help of Christ as much as the next man, if not more, because I know more, and am therefore more responsible.

Ah, anyway, good stuff.  I’m loving my good ole scripture study time.  It’s one of the few luxuries I have these days, with the little time I have available to me.  I know the Lord is trying to teach us important stuff in the scriptures, not just doomday prophecies.  You have to really dig to find the lessons, sometimes, but when you do, you appreciate them all the more.  It’s fascinating stuff, methinks. 🙂  Good times.

Archives: studying isaiah

I’m still reading (well, re-reading) and studying the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament (King James Version, for the reference geeks).  I already finished my preliminary run-through of coloring the verses, and now I’m just going through it again trying to see if I missed anything or can understand the scriptures better.  This is the part I really don’t like.

It’s difficult to do a secular study sometimes, because it’s so easy to look beyond the mark.  I was reading a favorite commentary on the Old Testament the other day called The Fourth Thousand Years (by Cleon Skousen), and while I was reading, it occurred to me that I was studying the secular history of the people, the promises and the events that were to happen.  It kind of bothered me a little bit — not the text, but the discovery of what I was doing.  This is a difficult point to make, so I’m going to try and carefully explain it.  I believe there is great worth in studying the history, background, and relationships of the history in general surrounding the scriptures, but I do not believe that studying the gospel should be an academic exercise only.

One scripture that can help illustrate my point is Isaiah 6:8.  In this chapter, the prophet accounts his calling from the Lord.  It reads:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

I’m finding it hard to think of any real commentary that I can add to that.  One thing I like, that Skousen pointed out in his book, is that Isaiah didn’t know or ask what it was the Lord wanted him to go and do … and it didn’t matter to him.  He volunteered, and asked the Lord to put him to use.  I can testify that when we ask the Lord to use us in His service, He will.

Okay, well, I can’t think of a good ending to write up to that, and I have a *really* hard time writing up these posts.  I feel okay about the first part, but can’t come up with anything else, and in my experience it’s better in those cases to say nothing. 🙂

Edit: It occurs to me after walking away for a few moments that my sense of high expectations of self will only serve to keep me from writing any more similar posts in the future, so I think I’m going to go back to my usual mix of stream of consciousness mixed with an overall sense of not trying to offend anyone. 🙂

Archives: the book of isaiah

I bought a second set of new scriptures a few months ago, because I’ve been wanting to do a new markup for an entire set.  This week, an idea came to me of how I could do that, two themes in particular to focus on: the restoration, latter-day work and personality traits and characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I wanted to start in the Old Testament, and settled on the book of Isaiah as the first one to tackle.  It seemed like a reasonable choice, and a good sampling of what most of the Old Testament is like anyway — difficult passages to understand, but with persistence, inspiration and study, you can find some gems.

I’ve been studying it all week, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.  My initial markup of the entire book went fast — I got it all done in two days (Sunday and Monday).  Since then, I’ve been going back over it, and finding more stuff.

The prophets writing style is pretty amazing.  He will switch from theme to theme all the time, sometimes mid-sentence.  The topics he seems to cover the most are: the restoration, the last days, the final judgement, the second coming of the Lord and the millennial reign.  On top of that, there are constant promises, reminders, and prophecies to and concerning the house of Israel (the saints who have accepted the covenant).  There’s just so much.

I’ll quickly share a few verses that have really stood out to me lately, though I can’t go into much detail because of time right now.

Isaiah 5:1-7 is a cool parable of sorts.  I like it because it paints a cool picture of what the Lord has done.  Here’s the actual text from the King James version:

1. Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:

2. And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

3. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

4. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

5. And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

6. And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

7. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

This one touches upon the apostasy of Israel, an event that has happened on numerous occasions.  One thing that stands out to me is in verse 2, documenting all the things the Lord did for His vineyard, he “planted a tower in the midst of it.”  That phrase, “in the midst of it” has been popping up in my brain lately, and it’s interesting to see where it occurs.

When the risen Lord visisted the Nephites in America after his ascension … well, I’ll just quote the verses from 3rd Nephi 11 and point it out there:

And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.

2. And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.

3. And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.

4. And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.

5. And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

6. And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:

7. Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name–hear ye him.

8. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.

9. And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:

10. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

11. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.

12. And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.

Okay, I didn’t intend to quote that much, but I didn’t want to take it out of context, and it’s easier to follow this way.

Verse 8 though, what fascinates me is that when the Lord descended, “he came down and stood in the midst of them”.  When I read the verse in Isaiah, it jogged my memory about this event, and I find it interesting because I had always envisioned Him, for some reason, as appearing on the edge of the crowd and having them come to Him.  That’s not the case, though — He was right there among them.  I think that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, lots of little realizations like that … I could probably write a whole series of posts on the stuff I’m finding in here.  Good times, though.  It’s really fascinating to study, I would recommend and encourage it yourself.