David Ridges – Biggest Hurdles to Understanding Isaiah

Biggest hurdles to understanding Isaiah

Kelsey Wilding:  What is the hardest hump to get over to actually learning Isaiah?

David Ridges:  To me it was his manner of prophesying, Nephi said that too.  It was learning to look beyond the words to the symbols and seeing him as symbolic.  And once I broke through that with a lot of help from these great scholars that I mentioned earlier, then I just read it and love it.  The symbolism, for instance, when Isaiah gets his call, he feels very unworthy and he mentions, this is again in Chapter 6, this is verse 5, ‘woe is unto me for I am undone, for I have seen the Lord, the Lord of hosts, for I am a man of unclean lips.’  And that’s one of the things that makes it difficult to understand Isaiah, the idiomatic traces that he uses.  Idioms.  I don’t know whether you know what idioms are but let me just give you an example.  We use them all the time.  We say that guy is living high on the hog.  Maybe you haven’t heard that.

Kelsey Wilding:  No.

David Ridges:  Boy, we’re going to have to find something else.  Have you ever heard of anybody say, he’s on the ball?

Kelsey Wilding:  Yes, I’ve heard that.

David Ridges:  Ok, here we are.  He’s on the ball.  That’s an idiom.  Somebody who is learning English as a second language might hear somebody say, boy, that guy is really on the ball, and they say I don’t see any ball under his feet.  He’s not rolling or standing on top of a ball, what do we mean?  Well Isaiah does that.  He uses idioms, things that mean something to his audience but don’t mean anything at all for us.  So, he said, I’m a man of unclean lips and woe is me, because I’ve seen the Lord, and I’m a man of unclean lips.  What he is saying is, unclean lips in his culture, that’s an idiomatic phrase, meaning I am unworthy, I have so many shortcomings and sins that I’m not worthy to see the Lord, and I’m overwhelmed because I have just seen the Lord.  Ok, with that in mind, that’s one of the things that makes Isaiah difficult, is his idioms that he uses, but when you understand that, then you go on with this part of his call, and remember he said, I have unclean lips, and he also said, I live among the people of unclean lip, I dwell among the people of unclean lips.  And so, the next verse says an angel goes to the altar and takes a red-hot coal and comes back over to Isaiah and puts that red-hot coal right on his lips.  This is a fun one to teach.  [inaudible 00:03:08.00].  What did he say his problem was?  He has unclean lips and the angel says, here I’ll fix that and burns his lips.  Well, that’s not very nice.  The Lord is supposed to be pretty nice, you know that.  And well, so, when you stop looking at it, you ask the question, ok, what’s the altar? Do you think in this part of Isaiah, what does that symbolize?  An altar, always in the Old Testament mind would mean sacrifice. That’s what they used.  They sacrificed animals representing Christ and that is the last and ultimate sacrifice.  It’s the Savior on the altar cross, so to speak.  The altar kind of gets him, and he sacrificed Himself that we might be cleansed and forgiven, and so in Isaiah’s writing, he’s saying I’m a man of unclean lips and an angel took a red-hot coal off of the altar, in other words, the atonement, and applies it to my uncleanliness, unworthiness, then it’s beautiful.

Kelsey Wilding:  So, did you make an idiom conversion chart?

David Ridges:  I haven’t made an idiom conversion chart.  That would be quite a task.

Kelsey Wilding:  That would be an interesting one.

David Ridges:  Maybe that’s my next book.

Kelsey Wilding:  I’ll read it.

David Ridges:  We’ll say, call out by Kelsey, because she got the idea.

Kelsey Wilding:  Yeah.

David Ridges: Yes, at any rate, we’re on the next verses and Isaiah, why does he feel like now because of the atonement of Christ applied and it says right in there, that this hath touched thy lips, and has purged your iniquity and your sins are taken away.  Now that part is pretty easy to understand, with the rest of the background we just gave, right?

Kelsey Wilding: Yeah.

David Ridges:  Yeah, and then he hears the Lord speaking, the Father to the Son, saying whom shall we send.  They’ve got a major mission and Isaiah now says instead of feeling overwhelmed, undone, he says, here am I, send me.  And that’s what happens to every one of us.  When we receive a calling that is somewhat overwhelming, we think, I’m not worthy, I’m not capable, I can’t do that.  Was the bishop really inspired, what’s going on here?  But when you know through the atonement of Christ that your inadequacies are taken care of and your sins, by the atonement of Christ, then you feel confident, that you can become competent, and you accept the call.  And Isaiah does.  Well, that’s a long way of answering that question.

Kelsey Wilding:  That was a good answer.  I appreciate it.

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I’m a connoisseur of the esoteric, whether in scripture or desserts. Isaiah’s air of mystery reaches through the ages to draw me in and compels me to uncover his ancient mysteries. While design is my calling, occasionally I lend my words to Searchisaiah.org.


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