As I’ve searched for ways I can center my life on Christ, I never expected the answer would be to change the way I see Isaiah.
I’ve read the Book of Mormon many times, but in my most recent study I finally noticed just how blatantly we are commanded to study Isaiah.
Of course, I’ve known for a while that there are a lot of Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi, and that Nephi said his soul “delighteth in the word of Isaiah” (2 Nephi 11:2), but the Book of Mormon’s endorsement of Isaiah is much stronger than that.
In 3 Nephi 23:1, Christ himself says, “Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.” Later, in Mormon 8:23, Moroni specifically states, “Search the prophecies of Isaiah,” (and at that point there is no other audience he could have been speaking to besides us).
Either I’d never noticed those two verses before or I’d never taken them seriously.
Additionally, I hadn’t noticed before just how much Christ quotes directly from Isaiah during his ministry to the Nephites. After making this realization, I commented to my husband, “You know, when Christ comes again, I’m sure we’ll all be excited for what He has to say—no doubt expecting Him to reveal the deep mysteries of the universe and other amazing things we’ve never heard before. But instead, he’ll probably begin by lecturing us on Isaiah!”
After thinking a moment, I added, “Which makes me ask myself . . . if that does happen, would I be excited or disappointed?”
I have a habit of skipping, skimming, or dismissing the Isaiah chapters (and I’m probably not the only one). But could changing my attitude and my approach to Isaiah be one of the most important things I can do to personally prepare for Christ’s second coming?
In President Nelson’s October 2020 General Conference address entitled “Let God Prevail,” he concluded with the following invitation: “As you study your scriptures during the next six months, I encourage you to make a list of all that the Lord has promised He will do for covenant Israel.” What verses of scripture have more to say about covenant Israel than the words of Isaiah?
After taking all these things into consideration, the study of Isaiah has begun to feel like a matter of duty to me. Now the question is, can I also make it a matter of joy and excitement?
My new-and-improved study of Isaiah has just barely begun, so I don’t have much to report yet, but in the meantime, I’ll share with you what my close family members and friends recommended when I asked for their advice about how to study Isaiah:
- If you search “Isaiah” on Deseret Book’s website, they have a ton of resources. One particular book worth noting is Understanding Isaiah. One of the three authors is Donald L. Parry, a professor of Biblical Hebrew at BYU and one of the top scholars in the world on Isaiah.
- Consider using newer translations of the Old Testament to supplement the King James Version (KJV). A pretty conservative and well-accepted translation is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which can be accessed at various online sites, such as biblegateway.com. Another good translation is the New English Translation (NET), available at netbible.org. It’s a more idiomatic and less literal of a translation, but it has a ton of translational notes and notes about textual variants. The website also has a parallel Hebrew feature where if you hover over a word in the English text, it will pull up a lexical entry for the corresponding Hebrew word.
- Scriptures.byu.edu/mapscrip is a website that maps out the old and new testaments. You pull up a scripture and it highlights where on the map the groups mentioned in that verse are found. Pretty helpful for understanding the geography.
- Here is a link to a great introduction to Isaiah by professor Terry Ball: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/video/2016-11-0011-understand-isaiahs-prophecies?lang=eng
I’m excited to explore these resources, and afterward I hope I can help others to make the study of Isaiah a delight. Let the adventure begin!