43 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
44 As many were astonished at thee—his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men—
45 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
(3 Nephi 20:43-45)
On the second day of the Savior’s visit to the American continent, after praying with the people and administering the sacrament, He resumed the sermon which He had begun to deliver the day before. He had ended by quoting Isaiah 52:8-10 (3 Nephi 16:18-20). Now, after urging them to carefully study the words of Isaiah, He quotes several other passages from that chapter, culminating in the passage above.
In this passage, Isaiah prophesies that a servant of God will act wisely and be honored for it. The people of the earth will be shocked at what this servant can accomplish because he will be so badly damaged: more than any other person has ever been. As a result of this suffering, however, this servant will “sprinkle many nations,” and the rulers of the earth will be speechless before him.
This servant represents Jesus Christ and the passage describes the effects of His Atonement on the world as a whole. I’m particularly interested in Isaiah’s statement that the Savior would “sprinkle many nations.” What did he mean by that?
The Lord had promised Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (3 Nephi 20:25, 27). (See Genesis 12:3, Genesis 22:18.) The scattering of Israel therefore served two purposes:
- It was the consequence of Israel’s disobedience to God.
- It distributed the people of the covenant to all parts of the earth, so that the truths they had been taught could bless all of God’s children.
By scattering the children of Israel, God was actually fulfilling His original covenant: blessing all of the nations of the earth by disseminating His gospel to them through His covenant people. He scattered the descendants of Abraham so that He could ultimately gather all of His children, in all parts of the earth.
The imagery of sprinkling in the passage above relates to this process of scattering and gathering. As the gospel is distributed throughout the world, people are astonished at the power they experience through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and they are gathered into the fold of God. Perhaps that is why, in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, he changed the word “sprinkle” to “gather” in this passage: “So shall he gather many nations” (Isaiah 52:15, footnote a).
For me, this concept of scattering in order to gather has personal significance. Just a week ago, one of my daughters traveled to Brazil, where she will serve as a missionary for the next 18 months. Her whole life will be devoted to sharing the gospel with the people of Brazil, bringing them closer to Christ, so that they can come into the fold of God. In our own small way, our family is participating in a “scattering” so that we can help with the gathering of Israel.
I’m grateful for a Heavenly Father who acts to bless all of His children in every part of the world. Today, I will thank Him for the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the gathering of His children, so that all of the nations of the world can be blessed.