Isaiah 36–39 are historical chapters written mainly in prose. The book of Isaiah to that point is written in a beautiful, mostly poetic writing style, which resumes with chapter 40 and continues to the end of the book. A major theme of chapters 40–47 is the contrast between the Lord’s power to save us and the foolishness of trusting our lives and salvation to any earthly person or thing.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
False gods and other human creations have no power to save or bless. Heavenly Father is our Creator and He will save, bless, and strengthen those who trust in Him (see Isaiah 40:12–31; 41:8–29; 43:14–21).
The Lord sometimes inspires leaders of nations and peoples to help accomplish His work. This occurs when those leaders are receptive to the promptings He gives them, even if they are not aware of where that inspiration comes from (see Isaiah 41:1–4; 45:1–4).
Suggestions for Teaching
Old Testament Symposium 1995 Resource Videocassette presentation 4, “For I Am with Thee” (9:45), can be used in teaching Isaiah 40–47.
Isaiah 40–47. False gods, no matter what their nature, have no power to bless or save. (25–35 minutes)
Display some items or pictures that represent things that can become modern idols, such as money, military equipment, a scientist or scientific equipment, celebrities from entertainment and athletics, or symbols of government. Also display a picture of the Savior. Ask students what all of those things have in common. (They can represent what people put their trust in to bring them happiness and save them from trouble.) Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:12–16 and ask what the Lord said about idolatry in those verses. Read verses 17–23 and ask what the Lord has done to prepare us for the future.
In striking terms, Isaiah contrasted the power of the God of Israel with the lack of power of idols. Divide the class into groups and assign each group one of the following six passages. (If this is too much for the time you have or your class size, use only Isaiah 40; 44; and 47.)
Ask the groups to study their passages and list what Isaiah said about God’s power and glory and the uselessness of idols and sorcery. Have the groups share what they found, especially as it applies to the idols of our day.
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord grouped idolatry with Babylon (see D&C 1:16). Discuss the chart on Babylon that accompanies the commentary for Isaiah 47 in Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi (p. 188). Read the following experience Elder Melvin J. Ballard had while he was trying to solve some difficult challenges:
“On this occasion I had sought the Lord, … and that night I received a wonderful manifestation and impression which has never left me. I was carried to this place [the Salt Lake Temple]—into this room. … I was told there was another privilege that was to be mine; and I was led into a room where I was informed I was to meet someone. As I entered the room I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious being I have ever conceived of, and was taken forward to be introduced to Him. As I approached He smiled, called my name, and stretched out His hands toward me. If I live to be a million years old I shall never forget that smile. He put His arms around me and kissed me, as He took me into His bosom, and He blessed me until my whole being was thrilled. As He finished I fell at His feet, and there saw the marks of the nails; and as I kissed them, with deep joy swelling through my whole being, I felt that I was in heaven indeed. The feeling that came to my heart then was: Oh! if I could live worthy, though it would require four-score years, so that in the end when I have finished I could go into His presence and receive the feeling that I then had in His presence, I would give everything that I am and ever hope to be!” (in Melvin J. Ballard … Crusader for Righteousness , 66).
Isaiah 40. Isaiah’s prophecies teach us about the Second Coming and bring us hope to help us endure faithfully to the end. (15–25 minutes)
Isaiah 40 contains some important teachings about the Messiah, Jesus Christ. George Frederick Handel set most of verses 1–11 to music in his work Messiah. If you can obtain a recording, play several selections that quote Isaiah 40. (Selections that quote Isaiah 40 include “Comfort Ye My People,” “Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted,” “And the Glory of the Lord,” “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion,” and “He Shall Feed His Flock like a Shepherd.”) Invite class members to listen carefully and then find the reference that was sung. Tell them that people throughout the world sing this music about the Savior and His divine mission, even though many are not even Christians. The music has great power to bring emotional and spiritual responses.
Use activity A, B, or C for Isaiah 40 in the student study guide (p. 148) as you read and discuss this chapter and apply its teachings to your students’ lives. After the activity, ask them to each select an inspiring passage and to explain to the class why they selected it. Encourage students to memorize their passages and to recite them when they need a spiritual uplift.