Lesson 116

Isaiah 1–2

“Lesson 116: Isaiah 1–2,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Introduction

The Lord showed Isaiah a vision of the apostate condition of Israel, and He commanded the people to repent and become clean. Isaiah prophesied that the house of the Lord would be established in the last days and that the proud would be humbled at the Savior’s Second Coming.

Suggestions for Teaching

Isaiah 1

Isaiah writes the Lord’s words describing the apostate condition of the house of Israel

Invite a student to read aloud the following scenarios. Ask the class to listen for indicators of the spiritual condition of the young man and the young woman in these scenarios.

  1. A young man attends church every Sunday and regularly attends seminary. He also frequently uses foul language, watches inappropriate media, and is cruel to his younger brothers and sisters.

  2. A young woman never misses a day of seminary, always attends church, and recently earned her Personal Progress Award. However, she does righteous things primarily to please her parents and to receive recognition from others. When she is at school, she and her friends make fun of people they see as being different from them.

  • What indicators suggest this young man and young woman may be struggling spiritually, even though they both regularly attend church and seminary?

  • What problems may result from the choices of this young man and young woman?

Explain that like the young man and young woman in these scenarios, the Israelites in Isaiah’s time were performing outward acts of righteousness but were inwardly sinful and unrepentant. Invite students as they study Isaiah 1 to look for principles that can help them avoid going through the motions of being righteous but without real intent.

To help students understand the historical context of Isaiah’s writings, you may want to refer them to the handout “The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah at a Glance” (see lesson 102). Invite students to locate “Isaiah” on the handout. Explain that Isaiah ministered in Jerusalem for about 40 years. He died approximately 100 years before Lehi and his family departed from Jerusalem. Jesus Christ taught: “Great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel” (3 Nephi 23:1–2). Many of Isaiah’s teachings pertain directly to our day.

Invite a student to read Isaiah 1:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for words and phrases that describe the Israelites’ spiritual condition in Isaiah’s time.

  • What words or phrases did you find that indicate the Israelites’ spiritual condition?

Point out that Isaiah often recorded the Lord’s words in a poetic form called parallelism. Parallelism occurs when a writer expresses an idea and then repeats or contrasts the idea using a similar sentence structure with different words.

Invite students to review Isaiah 1:2 and look for an example of parallelism.

  • What example of parallelism did you find? (Students may mention the phrase “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth.”)

  • What idea did Isaiah express through these words? (He invited all people everywhere to listen to the words the Lord had given him.)

Explain that Isaiah also used images to illustrate ideas. Invite students to review Isaiah 1:3 and look for the images Isaiah used.

  • What images did Isaiah use? (Explain that a crib is a feeding trough where an animal receives food from its master.)

  • What did Isaiah contrast the ox and donkey with? (He contrasted them with the rebellious Israelites, who did not know the Lord and were not aware of the physical and spiritual nourishment He had provided for them.)

Explain that recognizing Isaiah’s use of poetic parallelism and images can help us better understand his words.

Invite a student to read Isaiah 1:5–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how the people were affected by their wickedness. (You may want to explain that the phrase “daughter of Zion” in verse 8 refers to Jerusalem and its inhabitants.)

  • What do you think Isaiah was saying about the spiritual condition of the people by describing them as being covered with “wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores” (Isaiah 1:6)?

  • What wicked cities did Isaiah compare the Israelites to?

Summarize Isaiah 1:10–15 by explaining that even though the Israelites were wicked at this time, they continued to offer sacrifices at the temple and they outwardly observed sacred occasions such as the Passover and other religious feasts.

To illustrate the Israelites’ spiritual condition, display a clean, clear glass with water in it. While the students are watching, add one or two drops of red food coloring to the water.

  • How is the water like the intentions of the Israelites’ hearts at this time? (The intentions of their hearts had become contaminated by sin.)

  • How is the glass like the outward behavior of the Israelites? (It is clean on the outside.)

Invite the class to scan Isaiah 1:11–15, looking for words or phrases that describe how the Lord felt about the Israelites’ insincere offerings.

  • What words or phrases in these verses show how the Lord felt about the Israelites’ insincere offerings? (Possible responses include “what purpose,” “I delight not,” “no more vain oblations,” “I will hide mine eyes.” You may need to explain that “vain oblations” are religious offerings given without real intent.)

  • If the people were doing some righteous things outwardly, why did the Lord reject those offerings?

  • What is more meaningful to the Lord than an outward display of devotion? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Our outward acts of devotion to God are more meaningful to Him when the intentions of our hearts are pure.)

Invite a student to read Isaiah 1:16–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the invitation the Lord offered to those who were suffering because of their sins.

  • What did the Lord invite the Israelites to do?

  • How does the Savior help us become clean? (Through the power of His Atonement.)

  • What principle about repentance and forgiveness can we learn from these verses? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that if we sincerely repent, we can be purified of all of our sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.)

Add a capful (about 1 tablespoon, or 15 milliliters) of chlorine bleach to the glass of water, and stir it gently. Immediately the water will begin to lose the red tint. By the end of class the water should be as clear as it was before you put in the food coloring. (Do not allow students to drink the water; it now contains poisonous chemicals.)

  • How is the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ similar to the bleach? (The Savior’s Atonement, like the bleach, has the power to purify, but we must choose to apply the Atonement in our lives by exercising faith in Christ and repenting of our sins.)

Invite a student to read again the two scenarios presented at the beginning of the lesson. Ask students to explain what the young man and young woman could do to repent and become clean through the Savior’s Atonement.

Share your testimony of the power of Jesus Christ’s Atonement to help us become pure. Invite students to ponder for a moment what they feel they need to do to become pure, and encourage them to act on the promptings they receive.

Summarize Isaiah 1:20–24 by explaining that the Lord told the people if they would not change they would continue to suffer. However, as recorded in verses 25–31, He promised that in the latter days, He would again redeem His people.

Isaiah 2

Isaiah prophesies of the establishment of the Lord’s house in the latter days

Give each student a blank piece of paper and a pencil. Ask students to read Isaiah 2:1–5 silently and draw a picture of what Isaiah described. After sufficient time, invite them to explain their picture to another student. You may want to invite one or two students to display and explain their drawings to the entire class.

  • According to verse 2, when will the events described in verses 1–5 happen?

  • How do you think these verses are being fulfilled in our day?

Explain that Isaiah prophesied of many events of the latter days, and he often used symbolism in expressing his prophecies. As is often the case in prophetic declarations, some of Isaiah’s writings have dual or multiple meanings. That is, they can apply to more than one situation or may be fulfilled at more than one time. This is sometimes called dualism.

  • Why do you think Isaiah called the temple “the mountain of the Lord”?

  • According to verse 3, why will people in the last days desire to go to the temple?

  • What can we learn from these verses about what happens as we attend the temple? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that as we attend the temple, the Lord will teach us of His ways.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for blessings promised to us when we attend the temple.

President Boyd K. Packer

“The temple is a great school. It is a house of learning. In the temples the atmosphere is maintained so that it is ideal for instruction on matters that are deeply spiritual. … If you will go to the temple and remember that the teaching is symbolic, you will never go in the proper spirit without coming away with your vision extended, feeling a little more exalted, with your knowledge increased as to things that are spiritual” (“The Holy Temple,” Ensign, Oct. 2010, 31–32).

  • How has attending the temple or studying about the temple helped you learn about the Lord’s ways?

Invite students to seek to learn about the Lord and His ways as they attend or prepare to attend the temple and participate in sacred ordinances there.

Summarize Isaiah 2:6–22 by explaining that in Isaiah’s time the Israelites had become obsessed with wealth and idolatry. Isaiah prophesied that at the time of the Second Coming, the proud and powerful would be humbled for their transgressions.

You may want to conclude by sharing your testimony of the truths you have discussed today.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery—Isaiah 1:18

To help students memorize Isaiah 1:18, write the text of the scripture on the board. As a class, recite the scripture aloud together. Invite a student to erase some of the words from the board, and then recite the scripture as a class again. Continue inviting students to erase words from the board. Repeat these steps until all the words on the board have been erased and students can recite the scripture from memory.

Commentary and Background Information

Isaiah 1–66. The importance of studying Isaiah’s writings

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the importance of studying Isaiah’s writings:

“If our eternal salvation depends upon our ability to understand the writings of Isaiah as fully and truly as Nephi understood them—and who shall say such is not the case!—how shall we fare in that great day when with Nephi we shall stand before the pleasing bar of Him who said: ‘Great are the words of Isaiah’? (3 Ne. 23:1.) …

“For that matter, why should either Nephi or Isaiah know anything that is withheld from us? Does not that God who is no respecter of persons treat all his children alike? Has he not given us his promise and recited to us the terms and conditions of his law pursuant to which he will reveal to us what he has revealed to them?” (“Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah,” Ensign, Oct. 1973, 78).

Isaiah 2:2. Understanding multiple meanings in Isaiah: the “mountain of the Lord’s house”

Dualism and esoteric terms. As is often the case in prophetic declarations, some of Isaiah’s writings have a dual meaning. That is, they can apply to more than one situation or may be fulfilled at more than one time. He also at times combined dualistic phrases with terms that were intended for or understood by only a certain group. Such esoteric language brings to mind religious concepts that only those who have the proper religious background readily understand without further explanation. For example, Isaiah 2:2 refers to the ‘mountain of the Lord’s house’ being ‘established in the top of the mountains.’ President Harold B. Lee said that the phrase ‘mountain of the Lord’s house’ referred to both ‘a place as well as a definition of a righteous people’ (“The Way to Eternal Life,” Ensign, Nov. 1971, p. 15). The establishment of the ‘mountain of the Lord’s house in the top of the mountains’ has been fulfilled by the coming of the pioneers to establish the Church and temple in the tops of the mountains in Utah (see Lee, “The Way to Eternal Life,” p. 15) and will be further fulfilled [by the temple that will be built in the New Jerusalem (see D&C 57:1–3) and] by the return of Judah to Jerusalem, where the Lord’s house will be built (see D&C 133:13). It applies generally to those places where God’s power and authority reside and where He communicates with His people. The phrase ‘all nations shall flow unto it’ (Isaiah 2:2) can refer both to the early gathering of the Saints to the valleys of the mountains in Utah and also to the general gathering of Saints to Zion. The term Zion (v. 3), as well, has several applications. It refers to the New Jerusalem in America, the Jerusalem of Judah, and also the Lord’s people or their places of gathering in all parts of the world. By using such terms as these, Isaiah conveys profound spiritual meaning to those who understand the special significance of his language. …

“This richness of language and meaning seems to be what Nephi meant when he spoke of the manner of prophesying among the Jews. There is frequent reference to the law of Moses and extensive use of imagery, figurative language, and phrases that have dualistic and esoteric meanings. Though modern readers cannot fully grasp the culture and times of ancient Israel, understanding the methods Isaiah used to convey his meaning can give the reader a far greater understanding of Isaiah” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 133).

Isaiah 2:2–3, 5. Understanding multiple meanings in Isaiah: “Out of Zion shall go forth the law”

During the dedication of the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on October 8, 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley quoted Isaiah 2:2–3, 5 and stated: “I believe that prophecy applies to the historic and wonderful Salt Lake Temple. But I believe also that it is related to this magnificent hall. For it is from this pulpit that the law of God shall go forth, together with the word and testimony of the Lord” (“This Great Millennial Year,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 69).