John Bytheway and Darryl Alder from Discover with Darryl talk about the Servant Song in Isaiah 49.
1 Listen, O isles, unto me;
and hearken, ye people, from far;
The Lord hath called me from the womb;
from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.
2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me,
and made me a polished shaft;
in his quiver hath he hid me;
3 And said unto me, Thou art my servant,
O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain,
I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain:
yet surely my judgment is with the Lord,
and my work with my God.
5 ¶ And now, saith the Lord
that formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob again to him,
Though Israel be not gathered,
yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord,
and my God shall be my strength.
6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and to restore the preserved of Israel:
I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles,
that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
7 Thus saith the Lord,
the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One,
to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth,
to a servant of rulers,
Kings shall see and arise,
princes also shall worship,
because of the Lord that is faithful,
and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.
8 Thus saith the Lord,
In an acceptable time have I heard thee,
and in a day of salvation have I helped thee:
and I will preserve thee,
and give thee for a covenant of the people,
to establish the earth,
to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners,
Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves.
They shall feed in the ways,
and their pastures shall be in all high places.
10 They shall not hunger nor thirst;
neither shall the heat nor sun smite them:
for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them,
even by the springs of water shall he guide them.
11 And I will make all my mountains a way,
and my highways shall be exalted.
12 Behold, these shall come from far:
and, lo, these from the north and from the west;
and these from the land of Sinim.
13 ¶ Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth;
and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people,
and will have mercy upon his afflicted.
Darryl: John, when I was reading this chapter in ‘Isaiah for Airheads’; it was the first time I was ever exposed to the servant songs. That day, I read what you wrote, but I went out and discovered there were either four or five more songs. So, what’s that about?
John: I don’t know.
Darryl: It’s kind of a mysterious thing.
John: Yes, somebody identified that as a servant talking and then the identity of this servant is one of the things that there’s…
Darryl: There seems to be some controversy.
John: Some controversy, or just it’s multiple. It could be the house of Israel itself, it could be certain prophets or it could be Jesus. So, I think it’s all of that.
Darryl: So, you’re saying Isaiah could have meant more than one?
John: Like almost everything else he did, it seems like there can be multiple ways of looking at those things, which is kind of nice. It helps us to say…
Darryl: Layers and levels. So, because you chose to identify the first 13 verses as this servant song, which is the second servant song I found, I went with that in my study. But some others stop at verse 7, some at 6. What was it about the poetry in the first 13 verses that seemed like that made it the whole song.
John: Yes, and I could’ve moved that anyway. It sounded to me like almost a dialogue with the servant talking with God or saying prayers and having him answer as they’re going back and forth. And then finally the Lord taking over. I don’t know if you get answers just like that.
Darryl: But when you said that, I just have to tell you what I’ve tried today. I came to ask you this question. So, do you know the tune to the servant song and would you like to try to sing it with me?
John: That’s the thing, as a kid you see a song and you think, it’s going to rhyme and it’s going to have a melody; but this is something else. This is, I think like the Psalms in the Old Testament, where it has a poetic character to it.
Darryl: So, I’ve kind of gotten the impression Isaiah might have been more than the average kind of educated Jew and so he might’ve taken that extra class to learn how to do poetry right. So, can you give us any insights into the strangeness of poetry in his writing?
John: I know there are different sorts of parallelism, and so he’ll say something…
Darryl: Can you tell me what that means?
John: He’ll say it again. He’ll use a phrase and then he’ll use it again, but in different words. For example, in Isaiah 53, the Messianic chapter, it says “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” He’s saying the same thing, but I’m going to say it again using different words, and there’s half a dozen of different kinds of parallelisms that off the top of my head.
I’m the airhead, I can’t remember, but clearly, he was a poet and a scholar and could do that, which is one of the reasons I think they say greater the words of Isaiah because he did it with such skill.
John Bytheway connects Isaiah 49 to 1 Nephi 21
Darryl: So, when I compare Nephi chapter 21 with Isaiah 49, there’s something interesting here because Nephi has inserted an entire sentence. Now, I finished college in the 70’s and in the 80’s there was sort of this storm about chiasm in the Book of Mormon. I’m surprised because I outlined this, and it looks chiastic. So how does that fit into poetry, these chiasms?
John: Yes, that’s got to be part of it. Right? And, like you said, that was something that kind of John Welch wrote his article for the new era in ’69, but the idea that chiasm is something that Isaiah employed.
Darryl: And probably others.
John: Sure, and is Nephi putting that in there, or is he reading right off the plates of brass?
Darryl: So, what do you think? Do you think Nephi was reading the plates of brass or do you think he was putting his own commentary in?
John: I do. But I think probably, he was reading the plates of brass. But who cares what I think. Nephi also is a prophet and it’s okay for a prophet to comment on the prophet. And so, what we have, particularly in this chapter as you mentioned, is a lot more than what’s in the King James.
Darryl: Right with that little section.
John: Even verse one.
Darryl: So after the first 13 verses, then what? It looks like the chapter’s got 2 parts.
John: Yeah, and then we’ve got the Lord kind of making his case that you have not been forgotten, and everything I’ve promised before is going to come to pass.
Darryl: But why does that matter? Oh, woe is me. Isn’t that the Jewish nature? Sorry, that’s probably not fair to say. I mean, Isaiah certainly plays it out like that over and over.
John: The way the Jews as a people have been treated over the centuries, I put in my book that some secular Jews would say God died during the Holocaust.
Darryl: That was a comment that made me really sit up and take notice.
John: Wow, that’s brutal. And the rest of these verses are reminding all of this, you’re not forgotten, you’re remembered. And all of these promises I made will come to pass and that’s the cool thing about calling them Covenant Israel where there are two parts to it. And the Lord’s going to remember his part of the Covenant.
John Bytheway on Remembrance
Darryl: So, the promise here, “I’ll not forget thee house O Israel.” You wrote some things about remembering that really impressed me.
John: President Kimball was giving a talk to CES educators years ago and he just said, when you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? He said, it could be ‘remember’. I used this in my classes because if you watch for ‘remember’ and ‘forget’, as you go through the scriptures, you will see it all over the place. It seems that the challenge that we all have is really just remembering, and that’s why I think we need so many reminders and that’s why there are weekly things that we do, there are monthly things that we do, like fasting. There are daily things that we should do, like prayer and pondering the scriptures. All of it, I think helping us to remember, keep it top of mind.
Darryl: You made a note about the Sacrament prayers?
Darryl: They both have ‘remember’ and ‘remembrance’ in them.
John: Yes. Each one, twice.
Darryl: So, this is interesting that God’s saying he won’t forget us. It’s pretty easy to forget God, to not say prayers at night. Don’t you think that’s a pretty easy thing to do.
John: Yes, and I think when we’re reading the Book of Mormon about the Zoramites, that went up to the Holy stand, said this prayer and then, I guess whoever was writing it, Alma or [inaudible 00:06:59.08] it and then they would go home never speaking of God again, until they would come back to the holy stand. And we want to think those silly Zoramites, but we can…
Darryl: But we can be a little like them, can’t we? So, now I want you to think about this for a minute. Because if the nation of Israel’s crying, “O woe is me”, look at all the bad things: Assyria’s come, Babylon’s come, we’ve been scattered. Don’t you do that in your life, I do it in mine?
John: To be forgetful?
Darryl: No. Just to say, “O woe is me”, God’s forgotten me.
Darryl: This really impressed me – he said, I will not forget thee. Doesn’t it feel like he forgets us as people, look around us, in this world.
John: Yeah, I guess it kind of depends on what we’re focusing on. I think president Eyring’s advice about keeping a journal is not just for your trips and your trophies, but it’s always, document the hand of the Lord in your life. And if you’re keeping that as King Benjamin might say, always before your eyes, then you see he hasn’t really forgotten me, has He? And he will turn bad things to good even, and that’s more of a where’s your focus type of thing that I guess is something we all need to do.
Darryl: So, how about these marks in the Savior’s hand? When he was resurrected, I’m assuming like all of us, he was resurrected whole, but for some reason…
John: They’re still there.
Darryl: What’s that about?
John: What I’ve read is that the prophecy in Zechariah, 13:6, “those are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” An easy answer is they have to remain to fulfill that prophecy. And also, when he appeared to the righteous among the Nephites and Laminates in 3rd Nephi, 11 – he invited them to come up one by one and to feel those wounds, so they had to be there for that kind of as an evidence of what he had done on the cross. And so, they had to be there for that. I think it’s President Joseph Fielding Smith, who said that they would… I think his wording was ‘reappear as needed but ultimately be cleansed.’ So, that’s interesting. Is it kind of a partial resurrection of that part, but those wounds, what’s the song? ‘Poor wayfaring man of grief, the tokens in his hands I knew’, that they’ll remain as a testimony of who he is and what he’s done and that we’re not forgotten.
Darryl: So, sort of to close, this is the last thing I wanted to ask you about. When I was 17, Israel was attacked simultaneously by 3 countries. As a country, it was only 20 years old. It was known as the ‘six days war‘. And for most of us, at least in the church, we assumed Armageddon was about to be engaged and here we are now 50 years later, Israel still coexists. Talk to us a little bit about the re-establishment of Israel; about its size, its neighbors. You’re going there in a couple of weeks, right? So, give us some experiences about being in Israel because it’s tiny, but it could be a county.
John: Yes, it’s tiny, and what was it? 1949, the United Nations created it, and some have looked at this gathering of Kings and Queens as the United Nations doing that and could be. And the question that Laman and Lemuel asked right after 1Nephi 21 is, is this temporal or spiritual? Because when you read the Book of Mormon more often, it sounds like a gathering, is that they’re gathered here to Christ first, accepting them as their Redeemer, gathering in their testimony and then in their real estate.
Darryl: Well, that hasn’t happened in Israel.
John: Right, and so some of have said, well maybe it’s a preliminary gathering where they’re in the right place, but their testimony of Christ as the Redeemer, as the Messiah, that hasn’t happened yet.
Darryl: So, let me go back to that six-day war thing. So, when the United Nations established the State of Israel, I think as a church we all thought, okay, here it is, this is the ending, but I’ve been told by a friend that he’s never seen a more secular state. It couldn’t be the same thing that we’re hearing about here.
John: Yeah, interesting, because, yeah by the Book of Mormon definition, it sounds like they have to gather in their testimonies first before they gathered at stakes of Zion to real estate type of a thing. So, I can see that argument that no, that’s not the gathering we’re talking about, but it sure is something and it’s been massive. And as you said, Israel is this tiny sliver on the Eastern Mediterranean there and there’s a tension there.
Darryl: So, I have had some fun with Google maps the last couple of weeks. You can zoom right down and look at the orchards. Oh my gosh, there’s a difference between what they farm in Palestine and what they farm in Israel. This is a country that’s making the desert blossom. Millions of Jews live there now, but if the whole world is to gather there, talk to us about what kind of a straight place this might be because it’s pretty small.
John: Because it’s not very big and also when you leave Jerusalem and you get out on the highway near the old road to Jericho, just the green and the trees suddenly change to nothing and just…
Darryl: But why? Couldn’t they make all of the desert blossom, does that have to end at a border? What about the Jews in Israel today that are making that happen?
John: I don’t know.
Darryl: It’s just fascinating me that as a people, they’ve gathered, it looks like they formed a kind of agronomy that lets them be independent.
John: Yes, you go to certain places, like when you go further north to Megiddo and things like that, there’s fields and things and everything like that. But there are still some real desert places and going down to the Dead Sea and so forth. But I remember coming up one of those highways and just seeing miles of tomatoes, everywhere.
Darryl: Wow, what’s your favorite thing about going to Israel?
John: It’s not something that I expected, and it’s not something that gets talked about that much, but my favorite thing was sitting on the south steps of the temple and knowing that after the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus comes out, who did sin, this man or his parents that he was born blind? Neither, but that the works of God to be shown and he tells them to go wash in the pool of Silom, which is, the path that is right there. And a pretty good argument that it all happened right there, that the Savior had been on those steps and just, I don’t know, sitting there on those steps was, for me, that was wonderful.
Darryl: Great witness. Thank you very much for being with us today. Hope you have a good trip.
Darryl: We’ll see you. Bye.