I love Isaiah. He’s pretty blunt. If you are searching for scriptures that will comfort you and make you feel better about yourself, avoid his writings at all cost! He is more likely to point out your weaknesses than your strengths.
Nephi loved Isaiah, too. He quoted from him often, sometimes entire chapters. In 2 Nephi, 12:11, Isaiah chapter 2 is quoted saying this:
“And it shall come to pass that the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.”
Later on in the same chapter, Isaiah declares:
“And the idols he shall utterly abolish.
“And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
“In that day, a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which he hath made for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the majesty of his glory shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
“Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?”
If there is anything I know about Isaiah, it is that he loved to paint pictures with his words. As I have studied his writings, I find that when I picture the things he is describing, I learn much more than if I simply try to dissect his words. So, as I picture these scriptures, I find that there is much to be learned from it about our preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord.
The words ‘lofty’ and ‘haughty’ have very similar meanings. ‘Lofty’ is the outward expression of people who think that they are better, smarter or more important than other people. They may be high in power or looked up to. Some might even believe they deserve to be admired. ‘Haughty’ refers to those who are blatantly and disdainfully proud. With those definitions in mind, think about the first scripture quoted: Those who look upon themselves as being higher up or admirable will be humbled (I hate it when the Lord decides to humble me…I never know what I might be forced to endure) and those who are blatantly proud and disdainful will be bowed down (I visualize this as being forced to drop to my knees, lower my head to the ground and beg for mercy). None of that sounds very appealing. I can think of nothing more degrading than the picture that this scripture conjures up in my mind, particularly when I think of it in the context of the Second Coming.
So what might cause me (or anyone) to be caught giving ‘lofty looks’ or displaying haughty behavior? I mean, we have been warned that He is coming for as long as I can remember. I dare say it is something I have been taught my entire life. The answer just might be found in the second set of verses I quoted: idols. I find it interesting that Isaiah says almost the same words twice. The main difference I see is that in the first instance, Isaiah proclaims that “they shall go” (referring to the idols) and in the second, he says “a man shall cast”. A seemingly minor change…or is it? When he says “they shall go”, I believe Isaiah is talking about idols that are human and can hide themselves in the rocks and caves to avoid the awful trembling of the earth. That begs the question, who are my human idols? Who are the people I worship? Does my worship of them automatically put them in a position to have to hide?
The second group of idols that is mentioned are those made of silver and gold. I think this might refer not only to the actual silver and gold metals, but to all of those things that can be bought with silver and gold. Are there things in my life that have become more important to me than the Savior? Do I own items that I simply couldn’t live without? Will I be ashamed, at the coming of the Lord, at the amount of time and attention I have given these objects?
As I have pondered these questions, I am realizing that I have many idols. In recent years, the Lord has slowly been revealing to me what those are. It seems that He wants my heart, and anything that is competing with that is subject to be taken from me or destroyed. I haven’t ever thought of myself as being prideful, but maybe I am. Perhaps there are good things that I am proud of, but they are directly competing with the Lord for my heart. Those are the things I have to let go…and hopefully I can come to that point before He has to rip everything I love away from me.
With these thoughts in mind, I have created a list of things that might be competing with God for my heart, things that make me proud or prideful. I am learning to recognize them, and hopefully, I’ll soon understand how to put them second to my love and loyalty for the Lord.
- My family – I didn’t know how proud I was to have a family with 5 children who had all become followers of Christ and were doing the things they had been taught since childhood…until that was taken away from me. I was somewhat like my mom, hoping and praying that even though they were raised by a completely dysfunctional mother, my children would somehow make it through unscathed, serve missions and marry in the temple. It has been hard for me to let go of the shame caused by the fact that this is not how things have turned out. Somehow, it seems as if I have failed as a mother. And to let others know that is difficult. My children were idols that I could hold up to the world to show as successes in my life.
- My husband – I have always believed that my husband was the most wonderful man on the planet. It has brought me a great deal of pride to be married to him. His ability to serve and love other people has always been amazing to me. I have clung to him and his reputation, hoping that as people came to love him, they would have the same acceptance for me. In my eyes, he was perfect, and through him, I just might be able to make it! Recently, I’ve come to realize that he is not perfect…and not only that, but it is not his job to save me. There is only one Savior and his name is not Jim. It is hard to take him off the pedestal I have had him on all these years and look at him as a normal man making normal mistakes. I still love him with all my heart, but the problems in our marriage over the past couple of years have effectively removed the perfect image that I had before. I guess I loved him and looked up to him more than I did to God, so that dream of the perfect husband who loved me more than any one else had to be taken away, too. He had become an idol in my life.
- Money – We are not financial wizards. As a matter of fact, we are pretty awful at handling our money. But we have always been able to pay our bills and that has been a great source of pride for me. I don’t like to rely on other people to take care of me or my family. It actually worries me that our financial situation is improving. With all of the things that have been ripped away from me in the past 2 years, I have to wonder: Is the Lord going to take that bit of security away from me, too? I hope not. I don’t know if I can handle one more crisis. And that is why I have decided that money can be considered an idol in my life…not because I worship it or spend it excessively, but because I fear living without an adequate amount to provide for me and my family. I am trying to address this fear before the Lord decides to take matters into His own hands.
- Food – I am a food addict. I love food. I turn to food for comfort, acceptance, love, hope, and peace. I know that sounds crazy, but the more I pay attention to my eating habits, the more aware I become of my food addiction. I’m afraid it has become an idol because I don’t know how to live life without food. I love it…and I turn to it without even thinking. I would say that food definitely gets more attention than God.
- Perfection – This idol is huge. Throughout my life, I have spent a lot of time not just trying to look perfect, but trying to actually create a perfect life. I needed that facade in order to feel any self-esteem or have any sense of being ‘worthy’. If I fell, then I was worth nothing, and in reality, I was simply following the counsel given in Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” It is a painful way to live when your goal is always perfection, but it’s only way I have known. It’s ironic that the very trait I thought I was developing for God, that of perfection, has actually led me further away from Him. I simply haven’t understood the difference between perfection and purity, the first being an idol, and the second being the act of giving my heart to Him. Only recently have I begun to understand…
I’m sure I will think of other idols as I go through this journey of healing. These are not things I necessarily need to give up completely, but the attitudes surrounding them definitely need to change. I want to give my whole heart to the Lord. I want to know Him and feel His presence in my life once again. I want Him to be the One I turn to for peace and comfort in times of trial. I want the Lord to be first in my life.
When I envision the coming of the Savior, I see myself kneeling before Him, but I hope it will be out of respect, love and a deep gratitude for who He is and what He did for me, not because I am forced to do so. I also hope that humility will be part of my character and not a trait I am required to take upon myself. I know I am nothing…and that is OK.