My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to Isaiah 40-49. The title of the lesson was “Comfort Ye My People,” and the lesson began with this introduction.
“Comfort” is the first word of Isaiah chapter 40. It marks the beginning of a different tone, a different emphasis in the prophet’s message. Where Isaiah’s earlier writings warned Israel and Judah about destruction and captivity that would come because of their sins, these later prophecies were meant to comfort the Jews over 150 years in the future—after Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple was desecrated, and the people were taken captive by Babylon. But these prophecies reach even further into the future than to the defeated, disheartened Israelites. They speak to us, who also sometimes feel defeated, disheartened, and even lost.
Isaiah’s message to them and to us is simple: “Fear not” (Isaiah 43:1). All is not lost. The Lord has not forgotten you, and He has power over situations that seem out of your control. Isn’t the Lord “he that created the heavens, and … he that spread forth the earth, and … he that giveth breath unto the people upon it”? (Isaiah 42:5). Isn’t He more powerful than Babylon, than sin, than whatever is holding you captive? “Return unto me,” He pleads, “for I have redeemed thee” (Isaiah 44:22). He can heal, restore, strengthen, forgive, and comfort—whatever is needed for you, in your case, to be redeemed.
As usual, this lesson contains numerous gospel principles, and the one that I want to share is “God’s power is greater than worldly power.” Isaiah repeatedly reminded the Israelites of God’s matchless power. He even compared God’s power to the oppressive worldly power that surrounded them. Isaiah 40:3-8 is one example.
Isaiah is difficult to understand for several reasons. One reason is that he often used symbolic language. Another reason is that he jumps around in his writing. He may be writing of events in his time, then jumps to the latter days or the time of Christ before going back to his own time.
Isiah wrote about valleys being raised up, and mountains and hills being lowered. He wrote about things that were crooked that would become straight and rough places that would become smooth. This sounds like what can happen in huge earthquakes. The Old Testament Student Manual – Kings through Malachi has the following information.
President Joseph Fielding Smith declared that before the Second Coming of the Lord, there will be an earthquake that will be so destructive that mountains will be made low, valleys will be elevated, and rough places made as a plain. It will be so violent that the sun will be darkened and the moon will be turned to blood. The waters will be driven back into the north countries and the lands joined as they were before the days of Peleg. (see Doctrines of Salvation, 1:85; 2:317; Doctrine and Covenants 49:23; 88:87; 109:74; 133:17-25, 44; Isaiah 54:10; Ezekiel 38:20; Revelation 16:15-20.) (As quoted in the Old Testament Student Manual – Kings through Malachi ).
The Institute Manual explains that Isaiah’s statement that “the people are grass.” It explains that the grass grows tall during the spring rains of April and May. Then the hot days of summer come, and the grass quickly turns brown. The statement continued, “The withered, lifeless grass was the metaphor Isaiah chose to describe the wicked whose ways seem to be so attractive to the world but cannot endure long. Only those sanctified of the Lord will withstand the glory of His coming, for the wicked will be as the dried grass before a blazing fire. (Compare Doctrine and Covenants 101:24-25.)
The Lord has the power to change the landscape of the earth through earthquakes and other natural means. He also has the power to destroy the wicked and to save His people even if He must use fire.