Nephi continues to quote Isaiah in these chapters (2 Nephi 15-20). One footnote of interest prior to this reading is found in 2 Nephi 12:2, footnote a, “Comparison with the King James Bible in English shows that there are differences in more than half of the 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon, while about 200 verses have the same working as the KJV.” An example of how this comparison is helpful is found in 2 Nephi 12:16, footnote a, “The Greek (Septuaging) has ‘ships of the sea.’ The Hebrew has ‘ships of Tarshish.’ The Book of Mormon has both, showing that the Brass Plates had lost neither phrase” (see, “Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish”: Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16 for an insightful article on this verse).
One thing that has always stood out to me in these pages is the phrase, “but his hand is stretched out still”. It follows the very threatening phrase, “his anger is not turned away” (2 Nephi 15:25; 19:12,17,21; 20:4). So is it a good thing or a bad thing that “his hand is stretched out still”? Well, I guess it depends on what you decide to do when God stretches His hand out (For a great article on this thought see, “His Hand Is Stretched Out Still”: The Lord’s Eternal Covenant of Mercy).
Isaiah may have intended more than one meaning with the phrase “his hand is stretched out still,” because the Lord’s hand can be extended for both justice and mercy. One meaning may be that because the people of Isaiah’s time did not turn away from sin (see Isaiah 9:13–16), they would experience the Lord’s hand in the form of destruction. But Isaiah may have also been teaching that the Lord still offered hope for eventual mercy if the people would repent. How can both images of the Lord’s hand stretched out—one threatening justice and the other offering mercy—help us decide to repent and come unto Him?
The following chart comes from the Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2014:
“The phrase ‘his hand is stretched out still’ can represent both the justice and mercy of God—justice (destruction and punishment) for the wicked and mercy for the repentant if they will turn to God. From the context of the surrounding verses, the reader can often determine which meaning was intended by the scripture author.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminds us of the merciful aspect of this imagery:
“To all of you who think you are lost or without hope, or who think you have done too much that was too wrong for too long, to every one of you who worry that you are stranded … , this conference calls out Jehovah’s unrelenting refrain, ‘[My] hand is stretched out still’ [Isaiah 5:25; 9:17, 21]. ‘I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them,’ He said, ‘[and even if they] deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, … if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts’ [2 Nephi 28:32]. His mercy endureth forever, and His hand is stretched out still. His is the pure love of Christ, the charity that never faileth, that compassion which endures even when all other strength disappears [see Moroni 7:46–47].
“I testify of this reaching, rescuing, merciful Jesus, that this is His redeeming Church based on His redeeming love” (“Prophets in the Land Again,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006).
One way to understand and apply Isaiah’s writings is to consider his possible use of Hypostasis. Have you ever heard of hypostasis? Hypostasis is a technique that is used frequently in the scriptures. This technique uses a part of the corporeal nature of God to represent God as a whole. An example of this is when the scriptures say something to the effect of “the voice of the Lord”, “the face of God”, “the arm of the Lord”. These “parts” of God are used to imply that God himself–whole and complete–was actually present. So, if “his hand is stretched out still”, then the implication is that HE is still near. So, how are you going to react to His hand?
What I am referring to can be illustrated in Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. The Rod of Iron is usually thought of and portrayed in visuals as something akin to a guardrail. However, Lehi, Nephi, and Isaiah NEVER use the word rod in this way (see 2 Nephi 20:5, 15, 24, 26, for example). They always use the word rod to talk about something that is held in the hand and stretched out (with the exception of 2 Nephi 21:1, 4; Isaiah 11:4, although these work too). What does this change about how you picture, or think, of the “rod” that is coming from the Tree of Life”? If the Tree of Life typifies Christ (see my SNellFour post), then what is the Tree of Life holding out to all? Is His hand “stretched out still”? How one reacts to His outstretch hand makes all the difference.
Just as it was significant as to how the people reacted to the “rod” in the vision of the Tree of Life, it will depend on how we react when His hand/presence is “stretched out still”. If His hand is stretched out, then we must do as Isaiah admonishes:
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
You may enjoy learning more from the following :
- KnoWhy: 2 Nephi 15:13, 25; Isaiah 5:13, 25, Why Do Early Nephite Prophets Speak about the Scattering of the Jews?
- KnoWhy: 2 Nephi 15:21; Isaiah 5:21, How Does Nephi Use Isaiah to Teach Us to Avoid Pride?
- KnoWhy: 2 Nephi 19:12; Isaiah 9:12,Why is the Hand of the Lord Stretched Out Still? (Although it may appear at first that my post and this article are contrary, they are actually complementary. The article teaches an important concept to help us to understand the literal meaning of Isaiah’s use of the term, “his hand is stretched out still”. My post then builds on that concept by explaining that how we decide to respond to God’s outstretched hand is what will make all the difference.)
ON THIS DAY IN 1829: April 21 to about May 10, 1829, Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith continued dictating the translation of the Book of Mormon to Oliver Cowdery.
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