Years ago I loved running long distances most days of the week, but the marathon always seemed too much to take on. Finally, I tried one, but had an awful experience 20 miles into the run; I had hit the “wall.” I never felt worse in my life—some police officers noticed me, put me in their squad car and hauled me to the finish line; I was convulsing along the way. It was most disheartening for someone who had run hundreds of miles in preparation
The “wall” in long distance running is part physiological and psychological. Surprisingly you can train yourself out of it. Needless to say, I did not let that ever happen again. I trained longer and harder and never hit the “wall” again during a race.
Reading scripture can be a daily run of sorts, but when it comes to 1 Nephi 20 it is like hitting a readers “wall.” You race through the first 19 chapters just fine, then stumble into Chapter 20 and hit Isaiah. It doesn’t get much better if you plow through the next chapter, Chapter 21, but remember it “is part physiological and psychological.”
Regarding this, President Boyd K. Packer warned readers that while they “readily understand the narrative of the Book of Mormon. … the prophecies of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah … loom as a barrier. … You, too, may be tempted to stop there, but do not do it! …The Lord had a purpose in preserving the prophecies of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon.” ( The Things of My Soul, Ensign, May 1986)
So here we stand at our reader’s “wall” and it is time to move forward with Chapter 20 (Isaiah 48) and I think this overview from Joseph Spencer will be helpful before we start reading. He says 1 Nephi 20 “opens (verses 1–2) with the Lord making clear that Israel has been unfaithful, but this is immediately followed with an outline of the Lord’s double strategy for keeping Israel faithful: first by providing them with prophecies long in advance of fulfillment (verses 3–6a), and second by providing them with brand new prophetic things to think about (verses 6b–8).”—Spencer, Joseph M., The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record, Greg Kofford Books.