Peace stood out to me in this chapter. Peace like a river.
Nephi quotes Isaiah chapter 48. Baptism is referred to the “waters of Judah” (1). Isaiah addresses this to the house of Israel who are baptized, but “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.” (1)
To me, this sounds like he’s addressing lukewarm members of the Church, those who do not reverence the Lord as they should. These would be those who don’t keep the Sabbath Day holy, for example.
A man’s testimony can be measured by how he treats the Lord’s day. God has commanded His people to honor His day. If we can’t even do one day’s worship right, there is no way we are living right the rest of the week.
Stay upon God
Isaiah says these lukewarm members call themselves God’s chosen but do “not stay themselves upon the God of Israel.” (2)
Several definitions of stay help flesh this phrase out. As a verb, STAY means “to secure upright.” Another definition is “to stand firm, to take up residence.”
To “not stay themselves upon the God of Israel” means these members are not secured in their testimony to God; or they are not standing firm in the Gospel; they do not allow the Holy Ghost to take up residence in their hearts to draw them nearer to God. They’ve veered off the path.
- Do I follow the commandments with exactness, staying on the safe road God has shown to me through scripture and His prophets?
- How can I secure my testimony to God better?
- What can I sacrifice or consecrate in order to allow the Holy Ghost to take up residence in my heart?
Hard like metal
God calls the children of Israel in Isaiah’s day obstinate. He has declared His gospel to them because he “knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass.” (4)
Obstinate means “refusing to change behavior or ideas; difficult to deal with; perversely adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion.”
Am I ever obstinate or make up my mind so that God can’t change it?
This comes back to hard or soft hearts. A hard heart will be obstinate—resistant to change, not easily subdued. A soft heart will turn to God for direction and will humbly be willing to change course, if needed.
A neck of iron sinew would be hard to turn. Necks turn and lets us see things all around us. If we had a neck of iron sinew, we could only look one direction. We would not be able to see all God has put around us. We would believe there was nothing more than what was right in front of us.
A brass brow symbolizes a mind that does not sway, even when God sends promptings to do so.
The metallic imagery is unchangeable—hard hearts, hard minds, hardened spirits.
The next verse implicates idol worship. In our day, we don’t necessarily have golden idols formed to pray to; but we have many idols in the world that distract us or pull us away from God.
Anything (even good things) can become idols if we put them higher than God in our priorities. Work, hobbies, entertainment, success, even family can become idols if they become more important than God. I’ve seen good mothers put their children above all else—even God and the Church—because of a gender issue crisis, for example. Instead of holding firm to God’s words in the Family Proclamation, they graven their own images and worship that which they want, rather than what they should.
Are there any idols in my life that distract me from worshipping God with my whole heart?
Isaiah seems to say in verse 6 that the members know all these things—not to worship anything but God and stay themselves upon the Lord—but they don’t declare them. (6)
We declare things not only through words, but through actions. Isaiah warns members to worship God in word and in deed.
What am I declaring through my words and deeds?
God has shown them new things, “even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.” (6)
When God isn’t our number one priority, we can’t understand spiritual matters. They are foreign to us—gibberish. That’s why the wicked mock sacred things. They don’t understand them.
Our minds and hearts can spiritually atrophy if we worship other things rather than God, our Father.
This verse might be one of my favorites:
“For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (10)
Trials are God’s way of refining us. Refine means to remove unwanted substances in something or to improve it by making small changes.
When we endure hard things, the unwanted character traits and flaws in us are chipped away through this refining process…IF we turn to the Lord for help. Those same traits and flaws can become magnified by trials if we sulk and curse God for our troubles.
It’s interesting how God says He has chosen us in the furnace of affliction. When someone is going through a super hard time, that’s when you see who they really are. And that’s who God chooses—the REAL us. That’s when He sees how deep our testimony goes. That’s when He sees (and we see, too) our true mettle after all the fluff is burned away in the furnace.
God chooses us—all of us. Instead of complaining when trials come, remember that this earth life is meant to show who we really are. We chose to be here. Now, the question is…Will we choose God?
God tells Isaiah who He is.
I am the first, and I am also the last. / Mine hand hath also laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens. I call unto them and they stand up together.”1 Nephi 20:12-13
He is the Creator of the earth. How can we not choose Him? Only the foolish would not choose Him to be in their court.
Peace as a river
The Lord loves those who declare His word. He promises to fulfil every word we declare and to conquer our enemies (even the natural man inside us). The Lord hasn’t spoken in secret. There is always a prophet around to declare Him. It’s up to us whether we listen or not.
Christ will teach us how to profit and He will lead us where we should go. He tells the children of Israel that if they “…hadst hearkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” (18)
A river is always flowing, never ending. The peace God pours out is the same. Always flowing, never ending.
The only thing that cuts us off from His peace is our own choices.
When we leave the river, we will not feel God’s peace.
Ocean waves are similar. They are always coming to shore, never stopping. You can watch all day and they never stop crashing against the shoreline. One after the other, never ending.
Our righteousness can be that way, ebbing stronger and always persisting against darkness, never allowing the Adversary to stop our good works.
God gives a warning, after showing the peace the righteous can have, like a river and like the waves of the sea, and also the great miracles that come to those who follow Him.
There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.”1 Nephi 20:22
Not any. Nada.
Do you want peace?
Then seek after the Lord and stay yourselves upon Him. You might get mocked by the world, but the world can’t give you peace.
Only Jesus Christ can bring true peace into our lives, the kind that passeth all understanding.