Isaiah 6 retells the experience Isaiah had when he saw the Lord in the temple. The Lord called Isaiah to be a prophet, to go for him and teach the people, to bring them to understanding that they may be healed (Isaiah 6:10).
The Heavenly Council
The expression in Isaiah 6:8 “who shall go for us?” is reminiscent of other heavenly/grand council scriptures. In Abraham we read: “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the aintelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the bnoble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast achosen before thou wast born. And there stood aone among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and bwe will make an earth whereon these may cdwell; And we will aprove them herewith, to see if they will bdo all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:22-25).
Later in this chapter we read: “And the aLord said: Whom shall I bsend? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And canother answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will dsendthe first. And the asecond was angry, and kept not his first bestate; and, at that day, many followed after him (Abraham 3:27-28)
The Lord asked Job “Where wast thou when I alaid the bfoundations of the cearth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath alaid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the acorner stone thereof; When the morning stars asang together, and all the bsons of God shouted for cjoy? (Job 38:4-7)
The relevance of these passages to the youth are significant. The youth need to know that they were with the Lord in the divine council prior to the creation of the world. The Lord knows their potential. They are going through this mortal experience, not knowing what the Lord sees in them. They are the children of a loving Father in heaven, who cares for them and will hear and answer their prayers.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council. (History of the Church, 6:364.)
President Ezra Taft Benson stated: “And now we’re here- our memories are veiled- and we’re showing God and ourselves what we can do. And nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us. And then, as President Brigham Young said, we’re going to wonder why we were so stupid in the flesh. God loves us. He’s watching us, he wants us to succeed, and we’ll know someday that he has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us. If we only knew it, there are heavenly hosts pulling for us- friends in heaven that we can’t remember now, who yearn for our victory. This is our day to show what we can do- what life and sacrifice we can daily, hourly, instantly bring to God. If we give our all, we will get his all from the greatest of all.” (Ezra Taft Benson, BYU Devotional Address December 10, 1974; see “We Seek That Which is Praiseworthy” Ensign, Dec. 1988, p. 6 and Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 24)
The relevance of Isaiah’s call to serve
In a very real sense Isaiah’s call to serve is our call. His response should be ours. I see Isaiah’s response in Isaiah 6:11 as a plea for the lost House of Israel. When he asks, “how long?” I believe he asked the Lord how long this sad state of hardness among the Israelites were to continue – a question forced from him by his love and sympathy for the descendants of Abraham. In this text Isaiah is acting as a mediator, similar to Moses’ dialogue with Jehovah in Exodus 32:9-14 and Abraham in Genesis 18:23-32. These passages foreshadow the love the Savior Jesus Christ has for all mankind. The desire of the prophets in the Old Testament is always to save and redeem those that are lost, thus typifying the master they serve.
By relating Isaiah’s thought and feeling to the lives of the youth, they will begin to see the book of Isaiah in a more personal and meaningful way. Some questions to consider: when did you feel deep empathy for someone who was making wrong choices? How did you deal with someone who was difficult and did not want to change? How are we like Isaiah in this chapter?
Understand not… perceive not
Isaiah is commanded to go preach to a people whose hearts are so hardened that they will not hear his message (Isaiah 6:9-11). The text reads as it should – Isaiah knows that Israel will reject his message, but there is a silver lining. A remnant shall return (Isaiah 6:13, 10:21-22, D&C 133:23-33) and this remnant of Israel is alive today. The seminary students of today are a portion of the remnant Isaiah speaks of.
Isaiah likened the restoration of the covenant people to the oak and teil tree, extremely healthy trees that cannot be destroyed by simply chopping them down, for their remaining stumps regenerate the tree by sending forth new shoots. In this manner Isaiah taught that a part of Israel would return, and like the oak and teil, which though eaten or consumed to their substance or stumps, yet contain a seed that can (and will) regenerate. Isaiah indicated that this restored branch would be both beautiful and fruitful (Isaiah 4:2). Isaiah will continue to use imagery similar to this in chapter 11 when he speaks of another tree cut down with shoots springing from it in the last days. This tree will become “an ensign to the nations” (Isaiah 11:12) that the Gentiles will seek. When they do find it, they will have rest (Isaiah 11:10-12).