Do you remember how Jacob was reading from the prophet Isaiah? Jacob and Nephi really liked Isaiah. Of course, they had never met Isaiah. All they had was a book. A book God had given them. A book they almost left in Jerusalem, but God really wanted them to have this book so he sent Nephi and Lamen and Lemuel and Sam back to get it. Do you remember that brass book? Well Nephi and Jacob really liked the book and in particular they liked Isaiah.
Of course, Isaiah wasn’t the only prophet in the book. There were a whole bunch of prophets, but Isaiah was their favorite. Isaiah wrote a lot of stuff we call poetry because it doesn’t make much sense right away. But Jacob and Nephi really liked his poetry because they felt that they could relate with it.
RELATE (a definition)
To relate is to put on the same pair of shoes. So if you have ever tried on your mother’s heels and slipped and tripped and said, “wow, these are slippy, trippy shoes.” Your mother could reply, “child, I relate with you.”
And if dark clouds are twirling and thundering in the distance. Big and dark and empty like your stomach before dinner—rumbling and tumbling and maybe a little grumpy. Then you could say, “Clouds, I relate with you.”
Well Nephi and Jacob could relate with Isaiah. Isaiah kept writing about his people, his city, his family. They were doing all sorts of bad things. God had made them wealthy but the people were using their money to buy big and unnecessary treasures for themselves rather than helping the poor. God had given them a land full of animals and resources. But they had taken the horses and the resources and turned them into weapons, like chariots. God had given them life and a body like his own body: legs, shoulders, head, and hands. But the people had used their hands to make sculptures of pretend Gods that didn’t even look like them. In short, they had taken everything God had given them and walked away without even thanking him for it.
This made Isaiah sad. The people believed they had made their own wealth because they were smart. They believed that they won their own wars because they were strong. And they believed that they were successful because they were righteous. But it wasn’t any of those things. It was because of God.
And so Isaiah went from feeling sad to feeling angry. He was so angry he wanted God to punish the people so that they would know they were being bad. And so they would know that without God they weren’t very smart or strong or righteous. They were nothing without God.
But God shook his head and told Isaiah to go and preach repentance to the people so that they could be happier. Because God knew that when people start believing that they are their own reason for success, then they start believing that they are their own reason for failure. They begin to think that they deserve what happens to them. And living like this is very sad and very lonely because it misses grace.
GRACE (a definition)
Grace is realizing that everything is given to you like a birthday present. It’s not really deserved. It’s not really earned. It’s a gift. And it’s given by someone who loves you. And knowing this makes all the difference. And so no matter what it is, whether it’s fame and money or baldness or cancer, you can have the strength to unwrap it and say, “Thank you God.”
Grace is what the people were missing. Even Isaiah got so caught up in what his people were doing wrong that he too missed grace. He didn’t want to preach to them because he knew they might listen. And if they listened, they would hear the truthfulness of God. And then they would repent. And Isaiah knew God well enough to know that if the people repented, God would heal them, no matter what.