Looking to Understand Isaiah? Start Here:

Three Tips From David Ridges to Get You Started

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David Ridges Give Insight Into Looking to Understand Isaiah

David J RidgesDavid Ridges, LDS scholar, and longtime Seminary and Institute teacher suggests three things to get into the Book of Isaiah. These include:

  1. Go to 1 Nephi 19:23-24 to search for the two main reasons, according to Nephi, that Isaiah is so valuable for us.

    23 And I did read many things unto them which were written in the abooks of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet bIsaiah; for I did cliken al scriptures unto us, that it might be for our dprofit and learning.24 Wherefore I spake unto them, saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a aremnant of the house of Israel, a bbranch who have been broken off; chear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written.

    (Answers: Isaiah persuades us to more completely believe in Christ.
    And, he gives us hope that we can make it. Example: Isaiah 1:18.))

  2. Isaiah is deliberately symbolic which gives several possible levels of meaning. An example again from Isaiah 1:18 where “crimson” is a colorfast dye in that culture.

    18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet [cloth dyed with scarlet, a colorfast dye], they shall be as white as snow [even though you think your sins are “colorfast,” the Atonement can cleanse you]; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool [a long process is required to get wool white, but it can be done]. Ridges, David J., The Old Testament Made Easier

    So, even though you may think your sins are “colorfast,’ the Savior’s Atonement can cleanse them too!

3. Open your scriptures to Isaiah 6, which has only 13 verses, and work through it verse-by-verse, making notes right in your scriptures (as seen in Isaiah Made Easier).

1 In the year that king Uzziah died [about 740 BC] I [Isaiah] saw also the Lord [Jesus—see footnote 6c in your Bible] sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up [exalted], and his train [skirts of his robe; authority; power. Hebrew: wake, light] filled the temple [symbolic of heaven—see Revelation 21:22, where the celestial kingdom does not need a temple but, in effect, is a temple itself].

2 Above it [the throne] stood the seraphims [angelic beings]: each one had six wings [wings are symbolic of power to move, act, and so forth, in God’s work—see Doctrine & Covenants 77:4]; with twain [two] he covered his face [symbolic of a veil, which shows reverence and respect toward God in biblical culture], and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts [a word repeated three times forms the superlative in Hebrew, meaning the very best]: the whole earth is full of his glory.

4 And the posts of the door moved [shook] at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke [shaking and smoke are symbolic of God’s presence in biblical culture, as at Sinai, Exodus 19:18].

5 ¶ Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone [completely overwhelmed]; because I am a man of unclean lips [I am so imperfect], and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal [symbolic of the Atonement; also symbolic of the Holy Ghost who guides us to the Atonement; we often say that the Holy Ghost “cleanses by fire”] in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar [the “altar cross,” representing the Savior’s sacrifice for our sins]:

7 And he laid it [the Atonement] upon my mouth [inadequacies, sins, imperfections], and said, Lo, this [the Atonement] hath touched thy lips [Isaiah’s sins and imperfections—see verse 5, above]; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged [the results of the Atonement].

8 Also [then] I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I [Isaiah], Here am I; send me [the cleansing power of the Atonement and help of the Spirit gave Isaiah the needed confidence to accept the call].

9 ¶ And he [the Lord] said, Go [this is the official call], and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.

10 [In your imagination] Make the heart [A] of this people fat [unfeeling, insulated from truth],
and make their ears [B] heavy [deaf to spiritual matters],
and shut their eyes [C] [spiritually blind];
lest they see with their eyes [C’],
and hear with their ears [B’],
and understand with their heart [A’], and convert, and be healed.

11 Then said I, Lord, how long [will people be like this]? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate [in other words, as long as people are around],

12 And the Lord have removed men far away [people are gone], and there be a great forsaking [many deserted cities] in the midst of the land.

13 ¶ But yet in it [the land] shall be a tenth [a remnant], and it [Israel] shall return [includes the concept of repenting], and shall be eaten [in other words, pruned—as by animals eating the limbs, leaves, and branches; in other words, the Lord “prunes” his vineyard or cuts out old apostates, false doctrines, and so forth; He destroys old unrighteous generations so new may have a chance to grow]: as a teil [lime?] tree, and as an oak, whose substance [sap] is in them, when they cast their leaves [trees that shed the old, non-functioning leaves and look dead in winter but are still alive]: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof [Israel may look dead, but there is still life in it].

These three things should help get anyone excited about Isaiah.

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DAVID J. RIDGES taught for the Church Educational System for thirty-five years and has taught for several years at BYU Campus Education Week. He taught adult religion classes and Know Your Religion classes for BYU Continuing Education for many years. He has also served as a curriculum writer for Sunday School, seminary, and institute of religion manuals. He has served in many callings in the Church, including Gospel Doctrine teacher, bishop, stake president, and patriarch. He and Sister Ridges have served two full-time CES missions together. They are the parents of six children and grandparents of ten grandchildren so far. They make their home in Springville, Utah.

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