Day 14: Justice and Blessings

2 Nephi 15:25

More Isaiah! I’m beginning to see why Nephi felt such an affinity for the writings of Isaiah…maybe just a little. There are so many treasures of knowledge to mine in these chapters. I want to share a thought I had about the justice of God while reading 2 Nephi 15:25.

Isaiah 5, quoted here, begins by laying out a long list of sins. While Isaiah directed his writings toward the ancient children of Israel, this list serves also to inform humankind about temptations common to mortality and to warn against the consequences of sin (choosing to disobey God and give in to these temptations).

In a way, this chapter explores two sides of the justice of the God. God works within an established set of eternal laws, such as consequences follow sin. God helps us keep our spirits safe by providing commandments which, if followed, allow us to reap the benefits of obedience rather than be harmed by the natural consequences of sin. God metes out justice by distributing promised blessings for obedience, and enforcing the consequences of disobedience and sin.

Second Nephi 15:25 explores both the “punishment” side of God’s justice and introduces an important element that enables the “blessing” side of His justice. Verse 25 follows on the heels of the long list of sins God and His prophet have observed among the people and want to warn humankind agains; it confirms the consequence side of God’s justice:

Therefore, is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them; and the hills did tremble, and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets.

Note the factual (if not graphic) account of consequences meted out. It is just of God to enforce the consequences of wickedness. He warns and sends prophets to warn, prophesy, invite repentance, and give people every opportunity to choose obedience and not sin. God is just, therefore He must follow through on the forewarned consequences.

The verse concludes with a confirmation that, yes, God is going to be angry (and sad and disappointed) when people deliberately disobey Him and sin. But it also introduces a note of hope:

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

It is also justice of another sort that God, in the midst of meting out consequences, offers an opportunity for the wicked to come back; “his hand is stretched out still,” inviting us to repent, to choose to be obedient, and to qualify for blessings. This captures a recurring theme throughout Isaiah of the loving, entreating God who invites His children to repent and turn away from sin. I get the sense from the juxtaposition of ideas in the closing line that He would rather mete out the justice of the good: promised blessings granted for obedience and righteousness.

No matter what we’ve done, we can repent and turn to God. He loves each of us and invites us to change our hearts and behavior through Jesus Christ so that we can qualify not just for blessings in mortality, but for the greatest blessing He can bestow—eternal life.

Day 13: Seeing Eye to Eye

2 Nephi 11:2

“And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah….” It’s about here that many readers of the Book of Mormon groan. Isaiah is notoriously difficult to understand. Nephi, however, found so much of worth in Isaiah’s writings that he quoted entire chapters. But I think even more so, Nephi felt a special affinity for the prophet Isaiah. “[F]or my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.”

It strikes me that Nephi didn’t have a lot of religious peers. He had his father Lehi and brother Jacob, both prominent prophets in the Book of Mormon, but Sam seems to have been more of a follower though he was close to Nephi. And then Nephi had to constantly fend off and protect himself against his two older brothers. It probably felt quite lonely as the God-appointed leader, not just socially but also on an interpersonal level and spiritually as well. The Gospel and his prophetic experiences were so important to Nephi but there seem to have been few people with whom he could share and bask in these experiences.

Nephi not only shared a cultural background with Isaiah but they also shared their socio-political history and geography (prior to Nephi’s travels to the Americas). More than just understanding and enjoying Isaiah’s writings, however, Nephi recognized a kindred spirit in Isaiah. They had something in common that bound Nephi to his predecessor.

Seeing the pre-mortal Savior was likely the single most important moment in Nephi’s life as a prophet. He received an incredible first hand witness of Jesus Christ which is so simply and directly stated in this verse. What I found compelling is how Nephi ties himself to Isaiah with this experience. Both prophets saw Christ prior to His birth and mortal ministry on Earth. Both prophets were called to teach about and prophesy of Christ. Though things were lonely for Nephi as a religious leader, He seems to have found respite, solace, and kinship in the writings of Isaiah.

 

Day 1: God and His Prophets

1 Nephi 1:8-9, 14, 19

I love these initial chapters of the Book of Mormon where we first learn about Lehi’s family and his calling as a prophet. Highlighting all mentions of God and Lord as suggested by President Nelson helped me identify the ways in which God reveals Himself and what He is like. Lehi identifies the “luster” of God’s appearance (v. 9) as well as His magnificence (see v. 8). I love that the attributes “power, and goodness, and mercy” are singled out in verse 14. God’s core characteristics, His unchanging perfection, are captured here: He is all-powerful, perfectly good, and merciful.

Lehi’s calling as a prophet couldn’t be more plainly identified than in verse 19. Lehi calls the people to repentance, prophesies of Jesus Christ, and testifies of “the redemption of the world.”