Yea, for thus saith the Lord: Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever? For thus saith the Lord: Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement? To whom have I put thee away, or to which of my creditors have I sold you? Yea, to whom have I sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.
Wherefore, when I came, there was no man; when I called, yea, there was none to answer. O house of Israel, is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make their rivers a wilderness and their fish to stink because the waters are dried up, and they die because of thirst.
Sometimes its just gratifying to know that – while we often sell ourselves by our iniquities – we are not cast off forever, and that God always has the power to redeem and deliver.
Perhaps amusingly, it is much the same verses that leapt out at me today as did when I wrote the original post. They summarise a key point of this passage, however: God is not unfaithful, and does not abandon us. We often abandon him, like Israel did many times, but God will continue trying to reach out, being faithful to his covenant, and has the power to do so.
This chapter is a quotation of Isaiah 50, although the way this chapter’s beginning and ending synchronise with the chapter divisions in Isaiah is an artefact of the post-1879 chapters; in the 1830 edition 2 Nephi 6-8 are all one chapter.
A key part of this chapter, as it is for these chapters in Isaiah, is this image of a servant, one described here as being given “the tongue of the learned” to address the people (v.4), who listens to the Lord and does not rebel nor turn back (v. 5), and who the Lord will help(v. 9). Many of these words can apply at least in part to a number of prophetic figures, as I mentioned in the post on 1 Nephi 21//Isaiah 49. As I discussed there, however, and as can be seen in things like Abinadi’s interpretation of Isaiah 52:7 in Mosiah 15:14-18, many of these prophecies can simultaneously apply to a range of prophetic servants or such servants generally, and at the same time apply above all else to Christ himself. In this chapter, it is perhaps verse 6 and 7 that show this most clearly, where the servant states:
I gave my back to the smiter, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
For the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded. Therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
And again, much as in 1 Nephi 20-21//Isaiah 48-49, the consequences of continuing to reject the Lord and refusing to obey the voice of his servant are laid out, here in verse 11:
Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow.
Those that “kindle fire” – which as fire provides both light and warmth, suggests those that seek guidance and security from sources other that God – will be left to their own devices, indeed to my ear it seems suggested that they’ll be damaged by the very sparks they kindle, and ultimately receive sorrow when they could have received joy.
For those interested in the textual differences between this chapter and Isaiah 50 in the KJV, see pp. 396-398 in the appendix of The Book of Mormon and its relationship with the Bible. Perhaps one the most substantial additions/substitutions in this passage is the addition of “O house of Israel” in verse 2 and the substitution of “O house of Israel” into verse 4, clearly indicating that it is the house of Israel that is not cast off forever (and so resisting any supercessionist reading of this chapter). Another substantial addition is the whole clause of “and I will smite him with the strength of my mouth” to verse 8, indicating that the theme of judgment is likewise never that far away.