…None shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken; whose arrows shall be sharp, and all their bows bent, and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind, their roaring like a lion. They shall roar like *yawn*... young lionzzz….. yea, they zzhall roar, and lay holdofthepreyzzz……………*snort* and shall carry away…. zzsafeand…none…shalldeliv…zzzzzzzzzz………………………………........... whaaa....huh.....
Oh, hi there. You caught me studying my scriptures….I mean….ok, well, I was supposed to be studying my scriptures, but you see I was in the Isaiah chapters and, well, you know how it is. I mean they are important and all, but really, what on earth does it all mean? Everything Isaiah says is wrapped in a cloak of obscurity and endlessly repeating phrases that go backward and forward and up and down I never know where I am or what or who on earth he is talking about. Just when I think I might have a little inkling he switches gears from the past to the present and back again…..my eyes glaze over, my mind begins to wander and the next thing I know I am in a daydream!
Does this happen to anyone else when they hit the Isaiah chapters? I thought so!
A few months ago, while visiting teaching, my companion and I were trying to encourage a sister to begin a study of the Book of Mormon to help with the atmosphere in her home. My companion proceeded to give her some advice, “When you get to the Isaiah chapters, just skip over them and keep going,” says my companion.
How many times have you heard that, or have been told to “just plow through” without trying to comprehend. How many have tried to comprehend and given up as the mumbo, jumbo gets the better of you?
“Guilty as charged!”
However, about four years ago I decided to give Isaiah a serious study. I found a great book to use as a guide to help me decipher and I dove in. I made it through about 3-4 chapters before my enthusiasm waned. I moseyed on to other areas of the scriptures checking back in now and then to see how old Isaiah was doing. He was still there in all his obscurity. I did another chapter here and there, but not with any consistency. Then decided to read the Book of Mormon all the way through again (actually three times in 90 days, but that’s another story!), and you know, when I got to the Isaiah chapters I actually remembered some of the things I had studied; and since I wasn’t hung up on trying to understand him at face value because of my former study, I was able to understand more of the meaning behind the lines.
I have turned to Isaiah on and off over the years since then and each time I learn something new. I have tried different approaches. Sometimes I have used books written by Isaiah scholars. Sometimes I have just looked up footnote references. I have used the seminary study guides. I have downloaded lectures and read talks and articles that I find on the internet. And I have just gone through verse by verse and chapter by chapter trying to make some sense of it all.
He’s kind of like Shakespeare. The first Shakespeare play I read was The Merchant of Venice. I didn’t understand anything that was going on, until I got a children’s version of the story which brought it down to my level. After getting the storyline, I was then able to go back and read the adult version and even though the language was still somewhat (very) foreign, I was able to pick up more the second time through. Then I watched the play and then I read it again, and I read a couple of other Shakespeare plays and saw a couple more, and do you know, I can read Shakespeare now and actually somewhat understand it? It was being exposed reading by reading, play by play that brought me to that point. That’s not to say that I am an expert on Shakespeare. I still have to get an expert help me to understand things sometimes (i.e. I have my daughter explain things to me). But I enjoy Shakespeare now and I even glean some of the nuggets of wisdom out of him, all on my own!
To understand Isaiah, you have to read him. More than once or twice…or three or four…or…..well anyway, lots and lots! By exposing myself to Isaiah in the inconsistent way I have done, I have found that I am beginning to like Isaiah…I mean, I could almost use the love word here, almost (give me a few more years and I’ll be there)! Crazy, I know, but the more I study his words, the more I understand them, the more I look forward to my Isaiah sessions. In fact the other day I was so excited about something that I had found that I wanted to share it with someone. In fact I wanted to shout it to the whole world…and then it hit me (you can guess where I am going, since you are reading this), I decided that I could share it with the world, or at least those who frequent my part, which isn’t very many, but no matter. You, my lucky reader(s), will get a dose of Isaiah now and then in an effort to whet your appetite for the man and his message!
I think one of the most important things we can come away with from our encounter with the scriptures is how to apply it to our lives, so the approach I’m using right now is to just read each chapter and then write my thoughts and impressions. I have been blessed with some inspiring moments with this approach. Not every day yields a nugget, but when they come, they are worth the effort. And if just one or two people read these thoughts of mine and are inspired, well then I’ve added a little something to the world. If my enthusiasm for Isaiah can just rub off on one person, then that’s one more person who soul will “delighteth in the words of Isaiah”.