Look Upward

2 Nephi 18 teaches us to look upward and align ourselves with God. Isaiah prophesied to Ahaz, king of Judah, in 2 Nephi 17/Isaiah 7, that God would be with them in their battles against the wars that their neighbors were trying to wage against them if they would be established in righteousness. However, in this chapter Isaiah lamented that the people of Judah “refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin [king of Syria] and Remaliah’s son [Pekah, king of Israel]” (2 Nephi 18:6, see also Isaiah 8:6). They felt the need to “associate [them]selves” into “a confederacy” and “take counsel together” against the approaching Assyrian armies.

“The waters of Shiloah symbolized for Isaiah the calming, steady, sustaining influence and power of God that needed to be part of the nation’s political life” (Book of Mormon Study Guide for Home Study Seminary Students). If the people continued to reject the Lord and made alliances with the nations of men, Isaiah prophesied that “the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria and all his glory; and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks. And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land” (2 Nephi 18:7-8).

Isaiah invited the people and the nation of Judah to seek the Lord’s power and trust in Him for sustenance and deliverance from the Assyrians. “Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary….wait upon the Lord…look for him….look upward” (2 Nephi 18:13-14, 17, 21). Many of us have personally experienced the calming, steadying influence of the Lord in our lives, but have we ever considered how the power of God guides, protects, and blesses nations when its leaders seek counsel from God and not from man? “Should not a people seek unto their God….to the law and to the testimony” for counsel and direction?

The Israelites ignored the prophet Isaiah’s counsel to Ahaz and later sought an alliance with Egypt against the Assyrians:

“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.

“…this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Isaiah 30:1-3, 9-11).

“Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord! Yet he also is wise, and will…arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity. Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit…. 

“Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted….Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man” (Isaiah 31:1-3, 6, 8).

The Lord doesn’t want us to be defeated or destroyed. He wants to deliver us. But, He will not supply us with His power or divine intervention unless we ask for His assistance. He has given us the gift of agency and respects that gift even when we use it unwisely and to our detriment. The Lord continually invites us to look to Him for help for ourselves and our leaders that we may have peace (see 1 Timothy 2:1-5). He waits patiently for us to come unto Him. “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you” (Isaiah 30:18). In His mercy, the Lord will enable us to overcome and do all things when we “look for him” and return to Him. “For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

After Ahaz’s death, his son, Hezekiah, succeeded him as king of Judah. Hezekiah was a true hero for he “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord….He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments…. And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not” (2 Kings 18:3-7). On the other hand, the king of Israel, Hoshea, and his people were carried away by “the waters of the river, strong and many” into Assyria “because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them” (2 Kings 18:11-12).

Hezekiah went to the temple and sought the Lord’s counsel and help as the Assyrians “reach[ed] even to the neck” and attacked Jerusalem. The Lord heard his prayer and saw his righteousness and promised to defend the city. “Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed” (Isaiah 37:36-37). Hezekiah exemplified the simple counsel we give children to help them cross the street safely: “Stop, look, and listen.” He stopped the wicked practices his father had implemented in the government and the church. He looked upward for heavenly help. And he listened to the counsel of the Lord. Then he stood amazed at the miracle the Lord performed by his angel to deliver his people from the Assyrians. May we look upward for heavenly help in all areas of our lives, trusting in the Lord’s presence and power at all times because of our faithfulness to Him (see Isaiah 38:1-8). He will be our security and our sanctuary.

*Think of a time you looked upward for heavenly help. What were the results?
*How has the Lord been your security or your sanctuary?
*Think about your main concern or problem right now? Have you counseled with the Lord about it as much as you’ve counseled with others?

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