I’ll never forget the first time I really understood Isaiah. Let me re-phrase that: the first time I really understood 3 full verses in Isaiah…in a row (that’s a pretty great accomplishment, isn’t it?).
I mean, I had always known that it was important to study the book of Isaiah. The Savior himself confirmed this to the Nephites when he appeared on the American continent: “Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23: 1). Nephi gives a second witness to this: “but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah.” But I always wondered why is Isaiah so puzzling if it’s so important?
Despite my struggles with the mysterious symbols, places and language Isaiah frequently used, I committed to plowing through the book again, in hopes that I could try to pull some meaning from it. I had been on my “Isaiah mission” for several days when one quiet morning I opened to Isaiah chapter 41. I began studying it verse by verse, painstakingly trying to look up any footnotes or do a Google search any words that I didn’t understand, just as I had for many previous chapters.
About halfway through my study time, one verse in particular suddenly stood out to me: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 41:14). Okay, I thought, we are always told we are Israel, right? Those who follow God? That personalized this verse a bit. The Spirit confirmed my observation and then said, “Pay attention to the next verse! This is how the Lord is going to help you.”
The Weapon We Had All Along
I moved on to verse 15: “Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.” Okaaaaay…what?! I re-read it. The Spirit said, “Do a Google search on the words!” I immediately searched the term “threshing instrument.” Google said it was an ancient farm implement used for harvesting grains. “Hmmm. Not sure how that applies? ” I thought. “Look up images!” the Spirit persisted. I scrolled through the variety of photos and drawings of a threshing board or sledge, as it is commonly called. I suddenly stopped at this one:
The top image didn’t mean much to me. But the bottom one…the bottom one reminded me of something. “Look closely. What does it remind you of?” encouraged the Spirit. Pulling my mind out of the uses for agriculture and just looking at the shape and design–it suddenly hit me!
“A KEYBOARD!” I exclaimed. “It looks like a keyboard!”
“Yes,” the Spirit confirmed. “Keep pondering.”
The next part of the verse read: “thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.” I recalled being taught once that mountains (when referred to in the scriptures) often symbolize the powerful and prideful people of the world.
“So the proud people of the world are going to be sifted? Made humble? Through a keyboard?” I wondered.
“Exactly!” interjected the Spirit. “Keep reading.”
Verse 16 goes on, “Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them…”
I slowly started to see the whole picture. I was finally getting this! “Fan” could equal posting something on social media or a blog and then “the wind” is obviously how our words can spread so quickly. I mean, a viral post can easily be seen going through the world like a whirlwind, right? (Like this amazing song that now has over 8 MILLION VIEWS!)
So as we send out our words of truth to the world, or “fan” the mountains and hills with our words, they shall be “carried away.” In other words, the fact that there is really no substance to their prideful words and false beliefs will be made apparent and our words will be strong enough to prove that. The seemingly knowledgeable, powerful people of the world will be as chaff, carried away.
And lastly, Isaiah even indicates the content of posts that will carry out this important work—they must be bold in indicating our faith and focus on the Lord. The last phrase in verse 16 states, “…and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.” That made complete sense.
But the Spirit wanted me to notice one more thing.
“Teeth,” He reminded me.
“Teeth?” I questioned.
“Sharp…” He hinted, reminding me of the adjective used to describe the tool.
Right! So the words we use should be to the point—not necessarily harsh, but to the point. We should be bold, purposeful and direct with our words as we use this “new, sharp threshing instrument.” We should not try to hide our faith, but proclaim it!
Sweep the Earth as With a Flood
I was amazed at how Isaiah’s words suddenly became clear to me and how specifically they applied to us in the last days. I mean, I know there are probably many interpretations of this set of verses, but what I was taught by the Spirit that quiet morning was confirmed to me a few months later by Elder David A. Bednar, in his landmark speech at BYU Education Week 2014.
He first quotes President Brigham Young who stated:
“Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind has been given by direct revelation from God, though but few acknowledge it. It has been given with a view to prepare the way for the ultimate triumph of truth, and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin and Satan. We should take advantage of all these great discoveries, the accumulated wisdom of ages, and give to our children the benefit of every branch of useful knowledge, to prepare them to step forward and efficiently do their part in the great work.”
(Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 18–19).
President Young’s comments remind us that the ancient threshing instrument used in Isaiah’s time to harvest grain was an inspired invention used to assist them in meeting their temporal needs. Similarly, the keyboard (aka Internet/technology) was given to us in our day as a kind of spiritual tool (to gather or sift the good people of the world) and also a weapon (to provide us with a way to combat the prideful, false teachings of those with worldly power).
Additionally, Elder Bednar not only identifies the tool or weapon that Isaiah refers to in Chapter 41—he encourages us to use it! (Notice in the following quote that Elder Bednar’s “sweep” is virtually identical to Isaiah’s “fan.”)
“My beloved brothers and sisters, what has been accomplished thus far in this dispensation communicating gospel messages through social media channels is a good beginning—but only a small trickle. I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood. Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.”
We know we are living in the last days. We know there is a fulness of evil running rampant on the earth. We know it is easy to feel like we are in the minority. Like we are powerless.
But if we search…if we seek…if we ponder, the Spirit will share with us the specific tools we need to defend ourselves against the adversary. Whether we find this inspiration in a blog post, in a conference talk, or in the book of Isaiah, we can be sure that the Lord will lead us to powerful weapons designed to combat the darkness on earth. The question is, are we willing to use them?