Wednesday, November 7, 2007

He that is Left in Zion Shall be Called Holy

Isaiah 4 describes a time when "Zion" will be stripped and cleansed. The obvious referent is the Babylonian captivity. But as we are wont to do in reading Isaiah, we can see the events of two and a half thousand years ago as a foreshadowing of our own times. Having just read Revelation, I am still thinking about the times of trial we are promised before the Savior comes again; so I see in the description of what Zion went through in the Babylonian captivity as a foreshadowing of what Zion will go through before the Savior comes.

This chapter describes a cleansing and a purging process, whereby "filth" is washed away, and "blood" is purged by judgment and burning. What is left behind after the purging will be "holy."

This is a process we see at work in cyclical fashion throughout the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon promises that when the people of this land are righteous -- when we are humble, when we show concern for the poor, when we honor the principles of Zion (i.e., we are one with each other and with the Lord), we will thrive. When we are wicked -- when we are lifted up in pride, when we stop caring about the poor, when we become obsessed with false divisions and status, we will experience catastrophe. This is the Lord's way of helping us achieve holiness.

This text in Isaiah applies these principles specifically to Zion -- to the Church, to the people of God. It warns us that there will be a time of trial coming, after which Zion will be purged, and only those who are holy will remain. To me, this is a warning to watch my heart, to cultivate now the virtues of holiness while there is day, while there is time.


GeckoMan said...

I don't want to believe in a vengeful God, one that 'cleanses' humanity with fire and earthquake and pestilence. But regardless of my desired belief, there is much scriptural language to this God of punishment and wrath. Certainly prophecies of troubles in the last days and retribution against the wicked are not too comforting either.

I am sure my evolving beliefs will never define who this God of Justice and Mercy really is. I hope for the God of Grace that extends consequences and forgiveness beyond just that of mortal death and allows us growth and recognition of error in order to become holy, as He is. It is difficult to walk this path of faith that is somewhat liquid gray and relative, knowing that rigid requirements of black and white are more easily conformed to. So I simply must trust in the feelings of the Spirit, as you do, and live true to those promptings and believe in a Redeemer who, more than anything I know, loves me and encourages me to holiness.

J G-W said...

Latter-day Saints have an interesting perspective on biblical images of wrath... We see them as reminders of how desperately God is trying to save us from the consequences of our own wickedness; consequences which he cannot just make vanish, because the laws of the Universe are irrevocable. Unlike in mainline Christian theology where everything exists at God's whim and where "wrath" seems capricious, in LDS theology God is desperately trying to draw us into a higher understanding. That is the whole purpose of this mortal probation. I find this LDS perspective deeply comforting.

And while mainline Christians criticize the Mormon perspective by suggesting that we do not believe God to be in control of all things, we understand that God is God precisely because he has risen to mastery of all things. He is trying to share that power with us. The thought of this overwhelms me with gratitude and hope.

Biblical images of destruction are simply holding up a mirror to us. They are showing us where we are headed unless we turn away from egotistical worldliness and toward the God of peace and love and humility. So talk of cleansing and purging does not frighten me. It gives me peace and reminds me of God's complete, irrevocable, fundamental love for each and every one of us.