In 1 Nephi 19, Nephi laid out what he hoped to establish through the prophecies that he quotes. In this chapter, he continues to use the words of Isaiah to illustrate his point that “and all the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord, saith the prophet; every nation, kindred, tongue and people shall be blessed” and that god “surely did show unto the prophets of old all things concerning them; and also he did show unto many concerning us.” Thus, he searches the words of Isaiah to show that he and his people have a role to play in the Lord’s scattering and gathering of Israel.
I was particularly struck by the addition to the first verse of this chapter. Whatever the source of this addition, this verse would have synced very closely with the prophecies of Lehi in Jerusalem and confirmed their divine vintage.
“And again: Hearken, O ye house of Israel, all ye that are broken off and are driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors of my people; yea, all ye that are broken off, that are scattered abroad, who are of my people, O house of Israel. Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye people from far.”
Nephi’s people could relate to having been “driven out” because of the wickedness of the religious leaders of the time. They had seen those in Jerusalem persecute and attempt to kill their father, and experienced Laban’s murderous rage. And because of their father’s faith, they had been “broken off” and “scattered abroad” upon the “isles.” Thus, these word’s of Isaiah were further confirmation that God was mindful of them and that he spoke to them. Even though they were far from their land of birth, they were being asked to “listen” and to “hearken” to the words of God.
This chapter contains some truly profound promises that would have comforted the weary travelers of Lehi’s family as they stepped into a new world. God promises that he will never forget the covenant he has made with them. He promises that he will guide and protect them and eventually will gather them together again.
All of these promises would have been glorious, but I suspect that one verse in particular would have stood out as especially meaningful. At least it did for me:
“ 6 And he said: It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth.”
Isaiah speaks messianically not only of the gathering of Israel, but also the spreading of the Gospel light to the gentiles and “unto the ends of the earth.” As a scattered people who would live in a strange land among strange customs and people, Isaiah’s words must have given Nephi and his people a sense of missionary purpose. Later, these words must have inspired efforts to reclaim their fallen brethren and those around them. They would have inspired a greater desire to be righteous and to do the work of God. They would have helped Nephi and his people realize that their dispersion allowed them to truly be tools in the hands of God.
I also enjoyed Michael Austin’s commentary on these chapters at BCC