Lesson 40: “Enlarge the Place of Thy Tent”
I have been unable to find a lesson from our past that neatly covers the same ground as this year’s lesson. However, Sidney B. Sperry, professor of Old Testament Languages and Literature, and Director of Religious Instruction at BYU when he wrote his commentary The Voice of Israel’s Prophets in 1965, looks at the chapters from Isaiah that are addressed in our current manual. These sections probably reflect what was taught at BYU regarding these chapters.
ISAIAH, PROPHET-STATESMAN OF ISRAEL
… A Poem of Zion Restored. – Isaiah now turns from his description fo the mission and suffering of the Christ to give us a greater poem depicting the restoration of Zion in the latter days. Our interpretation of this poem is guided by words uttered by the Savior himself when He appeared as a resurrected, glorified being to the Nephite people on this continent. In His ministry among these people, He predicted that in the latter days (modern times) His Church would be established among the faithful gentiles who would be numbered among the “remnant of Jacob” and assist in building the New Jerusalem on this land. Our Lord then spoke of the gospel being preached among the descendants of the Nephites before Him (“remnant of this people”) and of the gathering of the dispersed of Israel from among all nations. Here are some of His words:
And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem. Yea, the work shall commence among all the dispersed of my people, with the Father, to prepare the way whereby they may come unto me, that they may call on the Father in my name. Yea, and then shall the work commence, with the Father, among all nations, in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance. And they shall go out from all nations; and they shall not go out in haste, nor go by flight, for I will go before them, saith the Father, and I will be there rearward. (3 Nephi 21:26-29)
Then follow these significant words:
And then shall that which is written come to pass:
The Savior then quotes Isaiah 54 in its entirety. In other words, the fulfillment and setting of this beautiful poem is to be found in this dispensation. Part of it has doubtless already been fulfilled since the restoration of the gospel; the remainder will be in a time yet future.
The interpretation of the poem seems to be this: Zion is depicted as a lonely widow who is to be no more bereaved, but a mother of many children. She will be enlarged and inherit space of the Gentiles; ruined cities will again be inhabited:
Sing, oh barren, thou that dist not bear,
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that dist not travail;
For more are the children of the desolate
Than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.
Enlarge the palce of thy tent,
And let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations, spare not;
Lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.
For thou shalt spread abroad on the right hand and on the left;
And thy seed shall possess the nations,
And make the desolate cities to be inhabited. (54:1-3)
No more will she be confounded or ashamed, because she will be the Lord’s beloved wife:
Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed;
Neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be ut to shame;
For thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth,
And shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
For thy maker, thy husband,
The Lord of Hosts is his name;
And thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel –
The God of the whole earth shall be called. (54:4, 5)
The Lord acts as a husband who invites back a divorced wife and announces to her that His anger is gone and His love has returned:
For the Lord hath called thee
As a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,
And a wife of youth, when thou wast refused,
Saith thy God.
For a small moment have I forsaken thee,
But with great mercies will I gather thee,
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment,
But with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee,
Saith the Lord thy Redeemer. (54:6-8)
Just as in the days of Noah He covenanted that water should no more cover the earth, so now He swears that Zion shall never more be cast off. Though the mountains depart and the hills be removed, His kindness shall never more depart from her:
For this, the waters of Noah unto me,
For as I haves worn that the waters of Noah
Should no more go over the earth,
So have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee.
For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But my kindness shall not depart from thee,
Neither shall the covenant of my people be removed,
Saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. (54:9, 10)
The Lord describes the building of Zion with precious materials. All of her children shall be taught of Him and great shall be their peace. They shall be established in righteousness and be free from fear and oppression:
O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest,
And not comforted!
Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors,
And lay thy foundations with sapphires.
And I will make thy windows of agates,
And thy gates of carbuncles,
And all thy borders of pleasant stones.
And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of thy children.
In righteousness shalt thou be established;
Thou shalt be far from oppression for thou shalt not fear,
And from terror for it shall not come near thee.
Behold, they shall surely gather together against thee, not by me;
Whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. (54:11-15)
Inasmuch as the Lord created the smith who forges weapons, He can also destroy them. No weapon raised against Zion shall prosper, and the Lord will condemn every tongue that speaks against her:
Behold, I have created the smith
That bloweth the coals in the fire,
And that bringeth forth an instrument for his work;
And I have crated the waster to destroy.
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper;
And every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord. (54:16, 17)
When the Savior finished quoting this beautiful scripture to His great Nephite audience, He made this impressive comment concerning it:
And now, behold, I sway unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles. And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake. (3 Nephi 23:1-3)
An Exhortation to Israel and Others to Receive God’s Word. – Chapters 55:1-56:8 are in the nature of a summons or exhortation for Israel of the latter days – and others who may e joined to them – to accept the gospel and make a covenant with God. The universal nature of the call is remarkable; to be sure, Israel is the chosen of the Lord, but the alien who joins himself to God’s people shall not be cut off:
Neither let the alien,
that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying:
‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’;
Neither let the eunuch say:
‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’
For My house shall be called
A house of prayer for all peoples.
Saith the Lord God who gathereth the dispersed of Israel:
Yet will I gather others to him, beside those of him that are gathered. (56:3, 7, 8)
The Book of Mormon teaches the same doctrine. (3 Nephi 21:11-25)
The blessings of the gospel in the latter day Zion are described under the figure of food and drink:
He, every one that thirsteth, come ye for water,
And he that hath no money;
Come ye, buy, and eat;
Yea, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?
And your gain for that which satisfieth not?
Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good,
And let your soul delight itself in fatness. (55:1, 2; cf. 2 Nephi 9:49-51)
Those who accept the Lord’s invitation will make an everlasting covenant with Him and become sharers of the “sure mercies of David”:
Incline your ear, and come unto Me;
Hear, and your soul shall live;
and I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
Even the sure mercies of David.
Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples,
A prince and commander to the peoples.
Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not,
And a nation that knew not thee shall run unto thee;
Because of the Lord thy God,
And for the Holy One of Israel, for He hath glorified thee. (55:3-5)
the reference to David poses a problem. Who is this David, “a prince and commander to the peoples”? The reader will profit by examining 2 Samuel 7:8-16; 23:5; Psalm 18:50; 89:28-49, where the covenant the Lord made with David is referred to. but David the king transgressed, and his blessing is to be conferred on another b his name and lineage in the latter days. Of David the Prophet Joseph Smith says:
A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness. David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.
Although David was a king, he never did obtain the spirit and power of Elijah and the fullness of the Priesthood; and the Priesthood that he received, and the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage.
It seems entirely possible that Isaiah is referring to a David yet to be raised up to the people of Israel.
In order to reap the promises of the Lord, Isaiah advises his readers to seek God while He may be found and turn from their evil way; he will pardon them and show that He has power to achieve His purposes. (55:6-9) The purpose will be achieved with the restoration of Israel and the redemption of Zion. (Vss. 10-13) chapter 56:1-8 deals with the Lord’s summary of man’s obligations to keep justice, do righteousness, observe the Sabbath and the like. these obligations are the same for both Israelites and aliens.
The Coming of the Lord to Judgment. – Verses 106 of Chapter 63 present one of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring images in the Old Testament. it represents the Lord coming as a glorious conquering figure, in blood-red apparel, from the direction of Edom, here a possible general term for all lands associated with tyranny and oppression. The use of the names of Edom and Bozrah, in verse 1, has caused much discussion among scholars. The Edomites were Israel’s traditional enemies, and the mention of their land in this context seems very abrupt and hard to explain. Some commentators take Edom to be a name symbolic of the enemies of Israel; others believe that since Mount Seir (Edom) represents the traditional abode of the Lord, the passage means simply that He is coming from His abode to help Israel. Section 133 of our Doctrine and Covenants makes an interesting allusion to this and other verses, but before we present its readings let us quote verses 1-6 in full from the authorized Version:
Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah: this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.
The Doctrine and Covenants seems to make clear that the whole passage has reference to the imminent Advent of our Lord in judgment,. Section 133:42, 43 reads:
O Lord, thou shalt come down to make thy name known to thine adversaries, and all nations shall tremble at thy presence – when thou doest terrible things, things they look not for; …
This forceful reference to the Lord’s coming is followed in verses 46-51 with very clear allusions to Isaiah 63:1.4 In the quotation which follows the words in italics indicate these allusions:
And it shall be said: Who is this that cometh down from God in heaven with dyed garments; yea, from the regions which are not known, clothed in his glorious apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? And he shall say: I am he who spake in righteousness, mighty to save. And the Lord shall be red in his apparel, and his garments like him that treadeth in the wine vat. And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame (cf. Isa. 24:23), and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places. (Cf. Isa. 13:9-12_ And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the winepress alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me; and I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart. (D.&C. 133: 46-51_
In my opinion, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspiration does much to clarify the meaning of the passage from Isaiah. It places the time of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words as being yet in the future. The Lord’s red or dyed garments are symbolical of the blood of His enemies, which is spilled when He takes righteous vengeance upon them. The figure of trading the winepress is rightfully held to describe conquest or the taking of vengeance. (Cf. Joel 3:13; Lam. 1:15) The words Edom and Bozrah may possibly have been missing in verse 1 of Isaiah’s text when it was originally written; in other words, the present text may be a corrupted one.
Verse 4 of the chapter from Isaiah indicates the reason why the Lord treads down the “peoples.” The time for the fulfillment of His promises to the chosen Israel is at hand, and for this it becomes necessary to overthrow its oppressors. the expression, “My year of redemption,” is doubtless an allusion to the year of Jubilee, when it was customary to set free Hebrew slaves. (See Lev. 25:39, 40; Exo. 21:2 ff.; Deut. 15:12 ff.)
In the remainder of chapter 63 (verses 7-19) the speaker seems to be exiled Israel. The Lord’s goodness to His people is recalled; He rescued them from bondage and showed them love and pity. (Vss. 7-9) when they rebelled and grieved his holy spirit, the Lord became their foe and fought against them; then they remembered the miracles of the exodus and sought His aid. The spirit of the Lord gave them rest and He again led His people. (Vss. 10-14)
A Prayer of the Lord’s People. – A prayer is given for the Lord to look upon His people once more in yearning and compassion. Why does the Lord restrain Himself, now that His people are in a plight similar to that of their ancestors? Let the Lord intervene for His people’s sake and strike terror into the nations. (Vss. 15-19) the prayer continues through Chapter 64. The people humbly confess their sins and short-comings, admitting that the Lord has hidden His face from them because of their iniquities. (64:5-7) Having done this, they plead:
But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father;
We are the clay, and Thou our potter,
And we all are the work of Thy hand.
Be not wroth very sore, O Lord,
Neither remember iniquity for ever;
Behold, look, we beseech Thee, we are all Thy people.
thy holy cities are become a wilderness,
Zion is become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
Our holy and our beautiful house,
Where our fathers praised Thee,
Is burned with fire;
And all our pleasant things are laid waste.
Wilt thou refrain Thyself for these things, O Lord?
Wilt thou hold Thy peace, and afflict us very sore? (64:8-12)
The Lord’s Answer to the People’s Prayer. – In 65:1-7, the Lord answers the petition of His people. he points out that He had given Israel access to Himself, but apparently few had sought Him out. He had spread out His hands in welcome and friendship, but the rebellious people had passed Him by “in a way that is not good.” The people provoked their Lord continually, not only in their own peculiar ways, but also by adopting questionable foreign practices such as eating “swine’s flesh and the broth of abominable things”:
A people that provoke Me
To My face continually,
That sacrifice in gardens,
And burn incense upon bricks;
That sit among the graves,
And lodge in the vaults;
That eat swine’s flesh,
And broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
That say: ‘Stand by thyself,
Come not near to me, for I am holier than thou’;
These are a smoke in My nose,
A fire that burneth all the day.
Behold, it is written before Me;
I will not keep silence, except I have requited,
Yea, I will requite into their bosom. (65:3-6)
Israel’s Faithful Remnant and the Apostate Factions. – Isaiah taught consistently the doctrine that a little remnant of Israel should be saved. (1:9, 25; 4:3; 6:13; 10:19, 21; 17:5, 6; 24:13) To be sure, Israel would be delivered in the latter days, but only the righteous. Suffering and death would be the lot of the wicked. (57:20, 21) In 65:8-109 the Lord reveals that He will preserve Israel’s faithful remnant in the redeemed Zion, just as the owner of an unfruitful vineyard gleans out the good clusters from his harvest:
Thus saith the Lord:
As, when wine is found in the cluster,
One saith: ‘Destroy it not,
For a blessing is in it’;
So will I do for My servants’ sakes,
That I may not destroy all.
And will bring forth a seed out of Jacob,
And out of Judah an inheritor of My mountains;
And Mine elect shall inherit it,
And My servants shall dwell there.
And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks,
And the valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down in,
For My people that have sought Me.
The apostates who have turned from the Lord and taken over the practices of foreign cults are consigned to destruction, because they refuse to repent:
But ye that forsake the Lord,
That forget My holy mountain,
That prepare a table for Fortune,
And that offer mingled wine in full measure unto Destiny,
I will destine you to the sword,
And ye shall all bow down to the slaughter;
Because when I called, ye did not answer,
When I spoke, ye did not hear;
But ye did that which was evil in Mine eyes,
And chose that wherein I delighted not. (65:11,12)
The fate of the righteous is then contrasted with that of the wicked. The righteous are to have food and drink in abundance; the wicked will suffer a lack of both. The righteous will rejoice and sing; the wicked will cry and wail. The apostates will leave their name as a curse unto the Lord’s elect, but the faithful remnant shall be called by a new name. The righteous shall become a nation transformed; they will honor the God of truth, and their former troubles will be forgotten. (65:13-16)
The Lord then describes a redeemed Zion as a new heaven and a new earth. (Cf. Rev. 21:1-5) Sickness and suffering will probably not be as prevalent as now, for people will live out their allotted spans of life and enjoy the fruits of their own labors. No more will the enemy pre-empt Israel’s property. The Lord will bless His people with revelation (vs. 24), and the world will be at peace (cf. 11:6-10):
For behold, I create new heavens
And a new earth;
And the former things shall not be remembered,
Nor come into mind.
But be ye glad and rejoice for ever
In that which I create;
For, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
And I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.
There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man,
That hath not filled his days;
For the youngest shall die a hundred years old,
And the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed.
And they shall build houses, and inhabit them;
And they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.
They shall not build, and another inhabit,
They shall not plant, and another eat;
For as the days of a tree shall be the days of My people,
And Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth for terror;
For they are the seed blessed of the Lord,
And their offspring with them.
And it shall come to pass that, before they call, I will answer,
And while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy
In all My holy mountain,
Saith the Lord. (65:17-25)
The Lord’s Summation. – Chapter 65 ends on a note of triumph. The Lord’s work with His people brings about the redemption of Zion, and a golden era of peace ensues wherein nothing shall “hurt nor destroy” in all his domain. …