2 Nephi 8:1-11 – LeGrand Baker – Isaiah 51
1 Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness.
“Righteousness” is a noun. It is a something, not a description of something else. “Righteous” is an adjective, therefore a description. As we have observed before, it is Zadok which is also a noun, but when used as an adjective it means priesthood and temple correctness — everything done in the right way, with the right authority, using the right words, with the right hand and arm gestures, and dressed the right way. To follow “righteousness” is to follow those who have the authority to assure priesthood and temple correctness. Perhaps the word should be capitalized as representing deity, perhaps not. Perhaps it is the mode of one’s living. In either case, it denotes the audience Isaiah is speaking to.
Verse 3 introduces me to a whole new concept, which, incidently, leads back to an old and cherished conclusion. It’s one of those why-didn’t-you-think-of-that-before? kind of new concepts. We have long since recognized “comfort” as an important code word in both Isaiah and in the Psalms. The Hebrew word translated as “comfort” means the power to transcend sorrow. Non-LDS scholars also recognize that in Isaiah 61:1-3 “comfort” represents the enthronement ritual which follows in verse 3. i.e. to wash, anoint, cloth, give a new name, and the name is symbolic of the tree of life (and, I would add, of eternal increase.)
Here, in verse 3 of Isaiah 51 which Jacob is quoting, we have an extended meaning of “comfort.” For not only will the people be comforted, but the land also. To comfort the land is to make it as Eden — that is to make it a temple, for Eden was the first temple. So in this passage to “comfort” means to make or define a land as sacred space. Then one recalls Paul’s observation that individuals are “temples;” and the idea quickly falls into place that to “comfort” people is to make them sacred space, also. Verse 3 reads,
3 For the Lord shall comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
Now, having discovered the audience to whom Isaiah is speaking, and having discovered the mind-set from which he intends us to listen, this whole chapter becomes alive with meaning. See Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord for an explanation of these code words.
4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear [code word] unto me, O my nation; for a law [code word associated with kingship] shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment [code word associated with priesthood] to rest [code word] for a light [code word] for the people.
5 My righteousness [code word] is near; my salvation [code word] is gone forth, [code words associated with “path” and “walk”] and mine arm [code word] shall judge [code word associated with kingship] the people. The isles shall wait upon me, [prophecy of Christ’ s coming to America ?] and on mine arm [code word] shall they trust.
6 Lift up your eyes [code word] to the heavens, and look [code word] upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner. But my salvation [code word] shall be forever,[code word] and my righteousness [code words: God’ s ] shall not be abolished.
7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, [code words] the people in whose heart [code word] I have written my law, fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.
8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool. But my righteousness [code word] shall be forever [code word] , and my salvation [code word] from generation to generation. [code words]
9 Awake, awake! [code words] Put on strength, [code word having reference to clothing] O arm of the Lord; [code words, They are usually thought to have to do with a show of strength, but maybe they are about something else.] awake [code word] as in the ancient days. [code words, sometimes refers to time of the patriarchs, sometimes all the way back to the Council ] Art thou not he that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? [war in heaven — we are back at the Council now]
10 Art thou not he who hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way [code word] for the ransomed [code word] to pass over? [God of Moses? could be, but the story of Moses seems not to fit just here. Instead this may refer to the creation of the Garden, and bringing that temple out of the waters of chaos.]
11 Therefore,[code word — the tie between what he just said and what he is about to say] the redeemed [major code word. The “therefore, seems to give it the same meaning as “ransomed”] of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion;[code word] and everlasting [code word] joy [code word] and holiness [code word] shall be upon their heads; [code word] and they shall obtain [code word] gladness [a noun — code word] and joy [a noun — code word]; sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
The wonderful thing about code words is that they can have either a specific referent, or can be symbolic like an action, clothing, or a picture, or a performance on a stage. So neither their power nor their meaning is restricted to an explanation of mere words.