Several chapters in the book of 2 Nephi are actually direct quotes from the Book of Isaiah. These chapters have the reputation of being difficult to understand. In 2 Nephi 11, we get some insight on why Nephi included the following chapters in his record. Understanding why he included them will help us to understand them – we will know what to look for!
Why Nephi Includes Isaiah’s Prophecies – The Principle of Multiple Witnesses
In 2 Nephi, we read:
“And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.
3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.” – 2 Nephi 11:2-3
Why is Nephi including the words of Isaiah? Bottom line – because Isaiah is another witness of Jesus Christ. And, as Nephi brings up – the Lord will establish his word by the words of three. So, we have Jacob’s witness of Christ, Nephi’s witness of Christ, and now Isaiah’s witness of Christ.
If we keep this in mind – that the words of Isaiah which were included by Nephi will witness of Christ – then it will help us as we read the following chapters. Keep that in mind – How does this witness of Christ?! It’s like a puzzle. If you are handed 500 puzzle pieces and the person giving them to you says, “complete this puzzle,” but you have no guide, no picture, no clue as to what it will make – then the puzzle is pretty hard.
Isaiah’s words can be puzzling, but we have a guide. We have a picture that we can look at to help us understand how to put the puzzle together.
Putting the Puzzle Together – Hint One – The Coming of Christ
“Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.” – 2 Nephi 11:4
The first reason that Nephi spent so much time quoting Isaiah is because he loves to prove to the truth of the coming of Christ. Isaiah’s writings are filled with prophecies concerning the Lord’s coming.
In fact, as Nephi explains, the entire law of Moses was given to prepare the people for the coming of the Savior. Everything that God has given, since the beginning of the world, typify of Christ.
Now, Nephi wrote this chapter somewhere between 559-545 BC. Isaiah wrote his prophecies somewhere between 739 and 681 BC. The point is – these prophecies were written centuries before Christ came. We have hindsight. We know that the Savior came as prophesied. And we know that He will come again.
So – when we read the prophecies of Isaiah we can look for the prophecies that indicate His coming(s). We can also keep in mind that this is what Nephi was doing when he chose the writings that he included. (Nephi didn’t copy down the whole book of Isaiah, he only picked a handful of chapters, so I think that it is okay to assume he picked these chapters for a reason).
Oh – one more thing, anything that is included in these chapters that references the Law of Moses – we can remember is also typifying of Christ.
Hint Two – The Covenants of the Lord
Nephi explains his next reason for including these chapters:
“And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers;…” – 2 Nephi 11:5
Nephi loves the covenants of the Lord. Nephi is a covenant person and a covenant keeper. He understands the purpose of the covenants that we make with the Lord – that they are essential for our deliverance from death and hell. He also understands that God didn’t need to covenant with us; He doesn’t need us, we need Him.
Nephi loves these covenants so much, we can guess that he loves the scriptures that taught him about these covenants – which is another thing we can look for in the “Isaiah chapters.”
Hint Three – His Grace, Justice and Power, and Mercy
Now, we read of another thing that Nephi delights in, and it can help us with understanding the “Isaiah chapters.”
“…yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death.” – 2 Nephi 11:5
It is important not to disconnect the covenants from the One who gave us the covenant. Think of them – Jesus Christ and the Covenants we make with Him – together in the same breath. Jesus Christ is a major part of these covenants. In fact, they wouldn’t even be available to us without Him. The very fact that He has given us covenants we can make with Him tell us so much about His love and grace that He has for us.
By understanding our covenants, we will better understand our Savior. As we better understand our Savior, we will better understand our covenants. It’s this cycle that reinforces itself – for good. An upward spiral.
In the chapters of Isaiah, if we will look, then we will learn about the covenants that the Lord made to our fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And we will learn the difference these covenants make in our lives.
Hint Four – Save Christ Should Come, All Men Must Perish
And women, too. Nephi writes:
“And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish.
7 For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time.” – 2 Nephi 11:6-7
Finally, Nephi is including the words of Isaiah so that we will understand the importance of 1) Christ’s coming, 2) the Covenants of the Lord = without Him and without His covenants, all men and women must perish!
Whether we believe it or not, Christ is central to our lives, the plan of salvation, and our very existence. And if we will choose to learn more about the Savior and His covenants, then we will be able to understand that our lives depend on Him.
These are three major things that we can learn as we read the Isaiah chapters. If we keep an open mind, and remember these three hints, we will be able to put together the “Isaiah Chapters” puzzle. We will be able to “lift up [our] hearts and rejoice.”