1 Nephi 20:17-19, 21-22
I love when Nephi recounts the miracles God performed for the children of Israel in the past and for Nephi’s family in the present. They were an essential reminder of several things, including evidence of God’s existence, proof of God’s goodness, and of how God always fulfills His promises to His covenant people. In chapter 20, Nephi records the words of Isaiah which follow this pattern.
As I read the concluding verses of 1 Nephi 20, a sort of parallel construction struck me. First, Isaiah testifies of the existence of the “Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” and some of His roles such as teacher and leader (v. 17). Then the Lord provides information about potential blessings that could have been available if the audience had been covenant keepers: peace and strength in righteousness, numberless posterity (v. 18-19). The turning point comes in verse 20 where “The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob” provides a sort of hinge. Verse 21 provides the evidence that the Lord has the power to fulfill the promises of verses 18-19: He led the children of Israel “through the deserts” and kept them alive in miraculous ways, like providing water from rocks. This miracle and others demonstrate God’s power and reliability. He always fulfills His promises, therefore we can believe His promises of peace and eternal life.
This setup is why verse 22 struck me so forcefully this time: “And notwithstanding he hath done all this, and greater also, there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” There is an irreducible truth to be gleaned here. Not even God, who has all power, goodness, truth, mercy, and knowledge can grant peace to the wicked. It is an eternal truth that happiness, peace, and eternal life can ONLY be granted on the conditions of repentance and obedience. ONLY covenant, commandment-keeping, righteous people fulfill the qualifications for these blessings. “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). God wants us to achieve lasting happiness, peace, and eternal life so He has instructed His prophets from the beginning of time to teach this eternal truth: happiness, peace, and eternal life ONLY result from keeping the commandments, making and keeping covenants with God, repenting, exercising faith in Jesus Christ, and following God.