Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Peace like a river, righteousness like waves

18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:
19 Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me. (Isaiah 48:18-19)
These verses are both easy and hard to understand. It is easy to see that if we keep the Lord’s commandments, we’ll have peace and righteousness. But it is hard to see why Isaiah compares the peace we will have to a river, and why he compares the righteousness we will have to waves of the sea. Is he just doing it because it sounds pretty? It is easy to think so. I thought that was his intention, until recently, when I started to realize that Isaiah made these comparisons to teach gospel principles.

[T]hen had thy peace been as a river - I was always somewhat puzzled by this phrase, because I never thought of a river being very peaceful, since it is always moving. But then I remembered something about keeping the commandments that made it clear. Obeying a commandment brings a certain blessing. We know that from Doctrine & Covenants 130:20-21. But not only do we get a blessing, we also get a feeling of peace. So what happens if you obey a bunch of commandments? You get a bunch of blessings and feel a bunch of peace, right? Right. Then what happens if we are continually obedient to the commandments? We’ll get a constant stream of blessings and feelings of peace from God, right? That’s peace flowing to us like a river. You’ve just learned from Isaiah that peace flows to us like a river when our obedience continually flows like a river.

[T]hy righteousness as the waves of the sea - What qualities of waves can be compared with righteousness?

They both wear down barriers over long periods of time. The more you keep the commandments, the more of an example you are to the people around you, and the more people will become curious about the gospel because of how they have seen you act. Their barriers to the gospel will be slowly broken down by your righteous influence.

Also, just like one wave follows another onto a beach, one godly character trait after another will come to us when we continually keep the commandments. That’s righteousness coming to us in waves.

If we want peace and righteousness (both very much like happiness) we must keep the commandments. I know this is true. The more obedient to the commandments I am, the happier I am.

Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof – I used to pass over this part thinking that I already knew what it meant. It immediately evoked in my mind the words that were used in Genesis when the Lord promised Abraham that he would have posterity as innumerable as the sand of the sea or the stars in the sky. But recently I found yet an additional way of understanding this line and it was related to the previous idea of having peace as a river when we keep the commandments continually. When we keep the commandments, it doesn’t just affect us, it affects everyone around us. When we have children, our obedience to the commandments will create an environment of peace and righteousness for them and they will be immersed in it, just like sand and gravel in the river bottom are immersed in the river water that flows around it. That’s a beautiful image and a wonderful promise, isn’t it? Isaiah was teaching us that if we always keep the commandments, our children will have a wonderful environment to learn from.

In what ways do you feel you benefitted from an upbringing like that? In what ways do you feel you have done this for your children? What is something you can do differently to give this gift to your children? Share with me.

2 comments:

Heatherlady said...

thank you for these insights. I've always wondered about these phrases too. I love your insights into them, especially about getting a constant flow of peace. I love, love, love that!

Kimberly said...

I'm so blessed to come from long lines of faithful members. My family isn't perfect, but we are free from consequences of unrighteousness. My parents are happily married, and all of us are still going to church and working on being better people.

My husband's family is not blessed in this way, and you can see the ripples everywhere. It's amazing how much our decisions affect others.