20 And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.
21 But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren.
22 For behold, the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure. And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also.
(2 Nephi 10:20-22)
The people of Nephi were from Jerusalem. Even though many of them (including Jacob) were born in the wilderness after Lehi’s family left the city, they knew that they were of the house of Israel, and they knew that the land of Israel was the holy land to which the Lord had led their ancestors when they were delivered from slavery in Egypt. So they must have felt somewhat unanchored in this new land on the American continent, somewhat like strangers, foreigners far from home.
I think that’s the reason Jacob chose to quote Isaiah 51 as part of this sermon. “My righteousness is near,” the Lord says,”my salvation is gone forth…. The isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust” (2 Nephi 8:5, Isaiah 51:5). It seems pretty clear from the context that Jacob didn’t know how large or small this new land was where they had made their home. They traveled across the sea to reach it, so in his mind it was an island.
His main point is, even though you may be far from home, you are not forgotten. The place may still feel unfamiliar, and you may not fully understand why you are there, but the Lord remembers you, and you can continue to trust in Him.
Today, I will follow Jacob’s advice: I will “not hang down [my head].” I will remember that, even though my own circle of influence may seem small (like an island), and even though I may feel disconnected from other places I’ve lived, people I’ve known, and responsibilities I’ve had, I’m here for a reason. The Lord has placed me where I am and given me the responsibilities I currently have for a reason, and I can find happiness in my current circumstances. I will remember that “the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off,” and that “we are not cast off” from His love and support.