Thursday, March 6, 2014

Isaiah 1:16-17 -- "Wash You, Make You Clean"

16.  "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17.  "Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."

After condemning the sins of His people, the Lord now instructs them in verses 16 & 17 on how to correct themselves.  By instructing them to wash and make themselves clean, he is commanding them to repent and be baptized.  He tells them to put away their evil doings and give up their sins.

The commandment to repent and be baptized is repeated throughout scripture for it is the gateway to eternal life.  In 2 Nephi 31:17-18 we read:

"Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter.  For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

"And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive."

I like the phrase, "Learn to do well" in Isaiah 1:17.  To me, it shows the patience and mercy of the Lord.  "Learn to do well" seems to me to imply that doing well will take time.  We may not get it immediately.  It may take time to learn to truly be obedient, but our continued effort and repentance is what is necessary.

How do we learn to do well?  The Lord has said, " learning, even by study and also by faith."  (D&C 88:118)

2 Timothy 3:15-16 says:

"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." 

I believe we learn to do well as we study the scriptures.  We come to know the doctrine and have it written in our hearts, which leads us to want to do those things we are instructed to do.  It is only through the spirit that we can truly learn and change.  Studying the scriptures not only teaches us how we should act, but brings the spirit into our lives so that we can have the strength and ability to do well.

The scriptures, as Timothy teaches, are also a wonderful tool to show us our mistakes.  They reprove us and correct us, helping us recognize when we have erred.  This recognition is important as we "learn to do well."  This knowledge is gleaned through experience as we turn from our mistakes and choose to do better.

Continuing in Isaiah 1:17, "seek judgement" means to seek justice, and the footnote referenced for "judge the fatherless" states, "give a just verdict to the fatherless," in other words, defend their cause, "plead for the widow."  In verse 17, the Lord is telling us to be proactive in comforting and defending those who stand in need of our help.  This reminds me of a verse: D&C 58:27:

"Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;"

"Anxiously engaged," as well as all the action verbs in Isaiah 1:17, indicate to me that doing well is not just about not sinning, but is about actively doing good, seeking out the needy, coming to their aid.  As the Lord states in the previous verse (D&C 58:26):

"For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward."

Isaiah 1:16-17 shows the progression we must make to become like Christ.  As we repent and turn from our sins, we enter into the gate through baptism.  We learn to do well through study and experience, requiring continued repentance when we make a mistake.  As what we learn becomes written in our hearts, we are changed and will seek to turn our faith into action, actively seeking to do good beyond what we've been commanded.

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