Nephi explained why he quoted so much from Isaiah: “My soul delighteth in his words.” He introduced thirteen consecutive chapters of Isaiah by saying that he hoped the words would make us “lift up [our] hearts and rejoice for all men” (2 Nephi 11:2, 8).
Immediately after, we begin to read, and we find phrases like the following:
- “The fear of the Lord shall come upon them, and the majesty of his glory shall smite them” (2 Nephi 12:21).
- “The people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor” (2 Nephi 13:5).
- “As the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, their root shall be rottenness, and their blossoms shall go up as dust” (2 Nephi 15:24).
How are passages like that supposed to bring us joy? As I’ve thought about it today, I’ve come up with three reasons:
1. Joy is a consequence of righteous living.
After Nephi and his people fled from his brothers into the wilderness and established a new city, he said, “We lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). He knew that happiness isn’t just a function of our desire or attitude; it’s a consequence of living according to true principles. “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10), as Alma would later teach his son Corianton. So one way that Isaiah helps us to be happy is by clearly identifying sinful thoughts and behavior and warning us of their consequences.
2. God will not abandon us.
No matter how bad things get in the writings of Isaiah, God is always there, patiently waiting for the opportunity to deliver his people. After Israelite civilization descends into chaos and anarchy, the Lord will wash away their filth, purge their blood, and make their homes holy (2 Nephi 14:4-6). In response to extraordinary callousness toward the poor and toward spiritual knowledge, He will “lift up an ensign to the nations” (2 Nephi 15:26). Even as the people suffer the consequences of their sins, “his hand is stretched out” toward them, offering them deliverance (2 Nephi 19:12, 17, 21).
3. God’s justice provides deliverance to the victims.
When the people marvel at the fall of the powerful king of Babylon, their words of wonder are also words of gratitude to God: “How hath the oppressor ceased, the golden city ceased! The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, the scepters of the rulers” (2 Nephi 24:4-5). We can find joy in the knowledge that all wrongs will one day be righted, even those that seem beyond our control.
Today, I will find joy in the teachings of Isaiah. I will look for principles to help me live joyfully. I will take comfort in knowing that God is watching over me and that malicious and destructive behavior will not continue forever.