Isaiah 40:3-5 — LeGrand Baker — John the Baptist
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
1 Nephi 10:8
8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.
In addition to 1 Nephi, this reference to Isaiah 40 is found in all four of the New Testament Gospels. It is important for four reasons: 1) It identifies John as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. 2) It bears double testimony the Savior–John’s testimony, and Isaiah’s testimony of the eternal validity of John’s testimony. 3) It is evidence of John’s foreordination. 4) It is a key to understanding the second half of Isaiah.
Of those four, the first three are self explanatory, so let me talk about the fourth.
Isaiah is divided into two large sections. Much of the first is quoted in Second Nephi. The second is a review of the cosmic myth or the plan of salvation. The two parts are separated, connected probably, by the account of King Hezekiah’s being healed and then seeing the Saviour.
Because the second large section begins with the prophecy of John the Baptist, it would be appropriate to look at the context in which that prophecy appears. So here is a quick review of at Isaiah 40:
v. 1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
In ancient Palestine, after one had expressed his sorrow or his repentance by putting ashes on his head and dressing in sackcloth, he would express his being comforted by washing off the ashes, anointing himself with oil, and dressing in clean garments.
In Isaiah 61, the Lord speaks of comforting the dead who were in the spirit prison ( see D&C: 138:42) by using that same sequence:
…to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion [make the dead a part of Zion],
to give unto them beauty for ashes [“beauty” has reference to a shining headdress or crown. Before they can be so crowned, the ashes must be washed off],
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness [Same concept as Alma 32: trees make fruit, fruit makes seeds, seeds make trees, and on and on and on: thus the concept of eternal increase.], the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
v. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned:
[Notice that what follows is given as evidence that she is pardoned: note the word “for.”]
for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
[As in Isaiah 61, “double” is a reference to the fact that the birthright son received a double portion of the inheritance, which included all of the blessings of Abraham. These birthright blessings are received “of the LORD’s hand.]
v. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
[“Highway” = WAY is usually a reference to obedience to ordinances and covenants, but since this is written within the context of the preexistence, I would guess that here it has a specific reference to the Covenant of the Father, as in Moroni 10 and Ephesians 1.]
v. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
[Low places will become as temples and temples [mountains] will be low, as in available to everyone. There will be no counterfeits of the WAY.
v. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
[The glory of the LORD can be revealed in only sacred place, often the Holy of Holies, i.e. the throne room.]
v. 6-7 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
[…that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed….are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. (D&C 132:7)]
v. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up,
[As in prayer. When the ancient Jews and Christians prayed, they lifted their hands toward heaven.]
be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
[If one is to see God, it must be in the temple or some other sacred space.]
v. 10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold,
[Scholars say that this is one of those typical statements about the strength and power of the sometimes vengeful God of the Old Testament. However, it seems to me that in this context it is clearly about something else.]
his reward is with him, and his work before him.
[For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)]
v. 11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:
[Fruit of the tree of life]
he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom,
and shall gently lead those that are with young.
v. 12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span….
v. 21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
v. 22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth….