2012 Fireside on Sermon on the Mount, Isaiah



The Jerusalem temple was controversial
·      There was violent disagreement over what furnishings, where, who could enter, and what they should do inside
·      Various reformers, whose work is characterized as movements of national repentance.  Two most famous:
o     Hezekiah did various things, including breaking up Moses’ bronze serpent that had been in the temple and cutting down the Asherah, a sacred tree that was a woman (2 Kings 18:4).  Serpent was an ancient symbol of Christ (2 Nephi 25:20).  We’ll see more about the tree later.
o     Josiah dragged lots of furnishings out of the temple, including again the Asherah, and smashed it all up.  He killed the opposing priests and burned their bones on their own altars (2 Kings 23).
·      This controversy also affected the texts: Hezekiah and Josiah are heroes because their partisans edited the Bible.
·      Isaiah lives during Hezekiah’s reign.  Nephi is born during Josiah’s reign.  Lehi is of the party of Josiah’s enemies—the Jews at Jerusalem persecute him and kill the prophets.  What we have in the Book of Mormon is the point of view that was written out of the Old Testament.


The temple in the prose sources
·      Three rooms: Ulam, Hekal (“big house,” also the name of the temple as a whole), Debir (“place of the Word”)
·      Incense altar, shewbread, veil, ark, 2/4 cherubs, rock, presence of God
·      Lamp.  7 branches, Exodus 25—looks like a TREE.  keep your eye on it.
·      Temple is a mountain, temple is heaven, temple is up

Isaiah 6 is the Key
·      Isaiah called to prophesy in a way that no one will understand, vv. 9-10
·      Explicitly in the temple, v. 1.  Would know it’s the temple anyway, because he uses temple images.
·      This is the key: when I show you temple images, those of you who know the temple images will know what I’m talking about.  What temple images?

Matthew 13:10-15 knows the Key
·      quotes Isaiah 6
·      v. 11 the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”; mysteries are ordinances
·      what is the “kingdom of heaven”?

Sermon on the Mount
·      has baffled commentators; clearly not a sermon
·      John Welch, 20 years ago, it’s an ordinance... in three rooms
·      Not an exact script, more like an aide-memoire, so someone who knew the ordinance could be reminded of: drama; four covenants; practice instructions; ritual actions
·      set-up: Jesus goes “into” a “mountain” and “sits”; his disciples approach, and he teaches them

First Room
·      Blessings are promised to the righteous (5:3-12).  First and last blessing are the same – the “kingdom of heaven.”  Also, will see God, become the children of God, be comforted. 
·      Covenant penalty: cast out and trodden upon (5:13).
·      The worshippers are the city on the hill, identified with light (5:14-16).  Anointed?
·      Moses and his law (5:17-20).  At least a reminder of the law of Moses—also, suggests that priest who is leading the people in this room is Moses.  Malachi knows Moses as a temple priest, an eved on Mount Horeb, who comes before Elijah who comes before the Lord (Malachi 4:4-5).  Same three figures on Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17).
·      You have to be reconciled to your brother before you can bring your gift to the altar (5:21-24).
·      Encounter with an Adversary, who can have you thrown into prison, from which you can only emerge by redemption, the payment of debt (5:25-26).
·      Law of chastity (5:27-32).
·      Taught to swear oaths yea and nay (5:33-37), not by God-heaven-earth-Jerusalem-head.  3 Nephi version of prohibited oath omits Jerusalem, which makes the forbidden oath exactly the one sworn by the secret combination in Ether 8:14.
·      Law of love your enemies (5:38-47).
·      Declared teleioi, shalems (5:48).

Second Room
·      Commandment to give alms (6:1-4).  “Alms” is dikaiosyne in v. 1 and eleemosyne in v. 2, “righteousness” and “charity.”  Right and left hand imagery suggests more is being said here: maybe gestures with hands; you, the people of the right hand, keep your doings separate from the people of the left hand.  Matt. 25:31-33, the sheep under the right hand and the goats under the left at Day of Atonement. 
·      Where is God?
·      Personal prayer (6:5-6).  Who are the hypocrites?
·      Group prayer (6:7-13).  No vain repetitions, but here’s an example.
·      Law of forgiveness (6:14-15).
·      Fasting, washing, and anointing (6:16-18).  Did the worshippers enter in a fasted state?  Were they washed and anointed here, or reminded of a prior washing and anointing?
·      Law of not serving Mammon (6:19-24). 
·      Ritual action: those who seek the kingdom of God and righteousness are clothed and given food and drink by God (6:25-34).  Stage directions imply that God must come out now.  The worshippers have begun to receive their blessings—they are seeing God.

Third Room
·      Warned that they must exercise righteous judgment (7:1-5).  Why?  Because they approach their own personal judgment.
·      Don’t share holy things with dogs (7:6).  They will trample them, and turn and attack you—this is the covenant penalty again (5:13).
·      Triple petition.  Ask a gift, making a claim that you are one of the children (7:7-12).  Another of the promised blessings is now about to be tested.  Reminds us of 4 Nephi 3, where all were “partakers of the heavenly gift.”
·      Enter the strait and narrow gate (7:13-14).
·      There is a warning about false prophets beneath a fruitful tree (7:15-20).  Notice tension with prose accounts—tree is in a different place.  We’ll see that what the false prophets and hypocrites did was exactly move the tree.  Here the worshipper sees it in its proper place and hears a condemnation of those who moved it.
·      Entrance into the kingdom of heaven (7:21-23).  A promised blessing is fulfilled, and now we understand Matt 13’s “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” reference.  This is the moment of judgment.  Are you a child of God who will receive the heavenly gift?   Are you worthy of the name you have been taking on yourself?  The Lord is the priest of the third room.  He is the fruit of the tree.  Suggests John the Baptist’s identification with Elijah might be rooted in this context.
·      Those who pass judgment are declared “wise” and build on the rock (7:24-27).

This Ordinance is the Worship of the Shalems
·      Leviticus 7 is the law of the Peace Offerings (7:11).  Can also be translated as the law of the sacrifice of the Shalems.  It is a feast, and includes meat and bread (7:12-17).
·      Exodus 24 shows us this feast and identifies it by name.  The meat is offered on an altar (24:5), and then Moses and the elders go up onto a mountain.  They see God and they eat and drink (9-11).
·      Psalm 23 is inside the temple.  Shadow of death, presence of enemies, restful waters, the Lord is a shepherd with a staff (see also Psalms 110:3) who provides comfort (a beatitude), and he anoints the singer, provides a cup and a table (feast).  He leads in the path of righteousness in order to get his name.  This is the same ordinance.
·      Melchizedek conducts Abraham through the same ordinance (Gen. 14:18-20).  Bread and wine, blessings—will obtain heaven and earth, God will defeat his enemies.  Melchizedek is melekh shalem.
·      Who provides the shalem feast?  God, Yahweh the shepherd, Melchizedek = the same person.  This feast was a prophecy of the coming of Christ, which is why Hebrews (and John 1) identifies Christ as a Melchizedek priest.

1 Nephi 8 Shows the Same Ordinance
·      What is the situation in Lehi’s day?  The royal tribe of Judah—the Jews who were at Jerusalem—kill the prophets.  That’s Josiah’s reforms.  The prophets are temple visionaries: Nephi knows the “goodness and the mysteries of God”, shows us two visions of the Holy of Holies: 1:6, 1:8-14).  Lehi and his family flee.
·      (Not all of them do.  Malachi, Enoch people, Dead Sea Scrolls, first Christians... those who don’t flee stay underground.  This is how they’ve already been living, as we’ll see.)
·      Forward progress begins in a field, large “as if it had been a world” (8:20).  “World” is olam; first room of the temple is ulam.
·      Middle scene is dominated by a great and spacious building, the hekal (8:26-27).  It’s above the earth because it’s the temple, so it’s “heaven” or a “mountain,” and in Hebrew language the temple is always “up.”  It’s full of people in “exceedingly fine” clothing, which is how Aaron and his sons dress to enter the temple in Exodus (28:39; 39:27-29).  The mists of darkness (8:23) are the incense of the middle room.
·      For the action, Lehi stands beside the tree at the end of a straight and narrow path (8:11, 20).  Also calls to a loud voice to his family (8:15).  He is in the debir.
·      People come forward and eat the fruit of the tree (8:11, 16).  What is the fruit of the tree?  It’s bread, and Jesus identifies himself with it:
o     Manna is white and sweet and kept in the temple (Ex 16:31-34).  Fruit is white and sweet (1 Ne. 8:10-12).  Jesus is Manna (John 6:30-35, 50-51).
o     Shewbread is topped with Frankincense and kept in the temple in the form of twelve cakes (Lev. 24:5-7).  It’s eaten as a memorial.  Jesus identifies himself as Shewbread in an “upper room” when he breaks bread into twelve pieces in “remembrance” (Luke 22:19).
o     Revelation 22:2 is a vision of the holy of holies with the throne of God and the tree of life with twelve fruits (not “kinds of”).  Fruit of the tree is bread, in the Holy of Holies.
o     Malachi accuses the priests of his day of offering polluted bread, which he also identifies as fruit (1:7, 12).
·      What is the tree?  We already know it’s the lamp, and Nephi shows us that it’s also a Virgin (1 Nephi 11:7-13).  She’s a woman with seven branches.  The tree is “precious above all” (11:9), which tells us why it’s so difficult to piece this stuff together—the plain and precious things have been written out (13:28-29).
·      Should we astonished that Nephi is showing us temple visions?  The first thing he tells us about himself is that he knows the mysteries of God.

<<—<<  BREAK  >>—>>

Isaiah Overview
·      EVERYONE is Isaiah’s disciple.  This is ironic, because I think none of us knows how to read him.
·      Nephi quotes Isaiah 2-14, tells us to liken it unto us (11:8).  We do it very badly, because we have no idea what he’s talking about.
·      Not prophecies of distant future.  Nor does he care about the foreign policy of his day, though it gives him a pretext to prophesy.  Isaiah is the leader of an exodus in a time of apostasy, just like Nephi.  The Isaiah chapters are a sort of charter in which Isaiah first describes his own time and calling, and then uses the language of his sacred ordinances to criticize and threaten his apostate enemies.  APPLYING READING TECHNIQUES USED IN APOCRYPHAL LITERATURE TO ISAIAH.
·      Isaiah’s calling is in two diptychs: 3 (apostasy) and 4 (calling); and 5 (apostasy) and 6 (calling)

Isaiah 5
·      A woman sings about her beloved’s vineyard.  It’s on a hill, fenced in, and there are a winepress and a tower (5:1-2).  This is an apostate temple.  In Matthew 21, Jesus uses the same image to describe the apostate temple in his day.
·      The apostates will be trodden down (5:5).  This is the covenant penalty (Matt. 5:13).  The royal tribe (“men of Judah”) is guilty (5:7).
·      The sinners join house to house (5:8).  1 Kings describes the debir and the hekal as separate “houses” (7:50).  The sin here is creating some confusion in the temple, mixing up the middle and inner rooms.  The inhabitant will come out of great and fair houses (5:9).  Sterility results.
·      The apostates feast, with wine and music (5:11-13).  Though this looks like the feast in the temple, they regard not the work of the Lord or his hands, so all they get is drunk, and despite their feast, they end up thirsty and famished, because they have no knowledge.
·      Judgment is promised: God will be “in Righteousness” (=the Melchizedek priest) and the lambs will feed again after their manner (davar) (5:16-17)
·      Extended specific, vivid description of sin in 5:18-23:
o     they sin with a rope (18)
o     they drag out something secret (19).  echoes Gen 19:5; counsel is “tree.”
o     switch light and darkness, and bitter and sweet (20)
§      Genesis 1:4-8: the waters of the temple are divided in two by the veil
§      1 Nephi 8, 11, 12: beside the tree, the river is living water; elsewhere, it is filthy hell
§      Exodus 15:23-25 bitter --> sweet
o     call themselves “wise” (21)
o     they are drunkards instead of true feasters (22)
o     they have removed the righteousness from the righteous ones and made a wicked man righteous for a bribe (23).
·      In response to the apostasy, the Lord will raise up an ensign to gather the nations (5:26-30).  Ensign is a banner on a stick = a staff = a Melchizedek priest = Isaiah.

Isaiah 6
·      Isaiah is called in the temple, instructed to prophesy in code.  We can see some of the reason why, now—the royal tribe has gone apostate, and they’re changing up the order of the temple with sledgehammers.  Isaiah’s mission is going to be an underground one.

Isaiah 3
·      The problem is leadership.  We’re missing the man with the staff, and therefore have no bread or water for the feast (3:1).  Due to murdered priest of 5:23.
·      The “princes” of Judah are base children, and are arrogant before the “ancient” and “honourable” [elder and glorious] temple priest (3:4-5).
·      Transitions immediately to: a ruler is needed in the house of the father.  A brother is chosen, but he can’t be the ruler or the healer, because his house has no bread or clothing (3:6-7).
·      The wicked “declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not” (3:9).  Their sin is that they removed the angel from her house.  Is this boasting recorded in 2 Kings 18:4-5?
·      The righteous will still eat the fruit (3:10).  FRUIT=BREAD=CLOTHING.
·      “Wicked” will have the reward of his hands (3:11). 
·      Rebuke of the daughters of Zion (3:16-24).  In context, this can only mean that they are someone important, someone whose clothing matters, and who had apostatized.  More on that for another day.
·      The temple mourns (‘her gates’ or ‘the chests of the world’), a woman collapses to the ground (3:25-26)

Isaiah 4
·      Seven women take hold of a man; we’ll provide bread and clothing, we need someone whose name to take on us.  They again eat the fruit (4:1-2). 
·      There is judgment and repentance in the community (4:3-4).  There is a new exodus, following a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night into dwellings and assemblies (4:5).  There is a tent—a movable temple—to hide in and be safe (4:6).

·      We’ve been reading all the scriptures wrong.  It’s all about the temple, and the fight over it.
·      We’re very lucky to have the Book of Mormon.  It’s a time capsule containing the losers’ point of view.
·      No way Joseph Smith made this stuff up.

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