We have often heard it said that freedom isn’t free. We look to our servicemen, our government officials and our religious leaders to fight for our rights and pay the price required to secure America’s freedoms.
But the Lord has already set the price to be paid for this nation’s freedoms and that cost is detailed in one of Isaiah’s most famous Hebrew poetry couplets, Isaiah 1:18–20. The first half of the couplet is well known, and reads,
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD:
though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
But the second half of Isaiah’s couplet is often forgotten, and reads,
“If ye be willing and obedient,
ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel,
ye shall be devoured with the sword:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 1:19–20).
In this Hebrew poetry couplet, the two halves must go together. They set forth the rules or the price to be paid for maintaining our spiritual and physical freedoms in this land.
The first half of the couplet states that spiritual freedom or forgiveness of sin, comes at the price of repentance (Isaiah 1:18). The second half of the couplet states that physical freedom or the right to remain unmolested on covenant land, comes at the price of obedience to God’s laws (Isaiah 1:19–20). And America is covenant land under God.
We see fulfillments of Isaiah’s couplet in the lives of the ancient house of Israel.
In 701 B.C. the prophet Isaiah promised the Jews of his day that the Lord would forgive them and allow them to remain on covenant land if they would repent and obey God’s laws. But only the Jerusalem Jews repented and were obedient to their God. As the Assyrians invaded Judah, 46 walled cities were destroyed and the surviving Jews were taken captive to Assyria. Amidst the carnage, the Assyrians laid siege to Jerusalem, the last standing fortress in Judah. Judah’s king Hezekiah pled with the prophet Isaiah for assurances that the Lord would spare the righteous Jerusalem Jews. The assurances were given by a prophet of God and in the night an angel of the Lord destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers for the sake of the repentant, obedient Jerusalem Jews (Isaiah 37:36). They and their nation were miraculously delivered by God.
Approximately 100 years later in c. 600 B.C., the prophet Jeremiah promised the descendants of the 701 B.C. Jerusalem Jews that the Lord would forgive them and allow them to remain on covenant land if they would repent and obey God’s laws. But the Jews by 586 B.C. refused to repent and obey God’s laws and Jerusalem was put under Babylonian siege. Judah’s king, Zedekiah, pled with the prophet Jeremiah for assurances that Jerusalem would again be miraculously spared by the Lord as it had been in 701 B.C., but the prophet Jeremiah could not give those assurances (Jeremiah 21; 37). The wickedness of the people had bound the Lord’s hands and the Jews, the last of the ancient house of Israel in Canaan, were swept away from covenant land by the sword.
What happened in those intervening 100 or so years? At some point between 701 B.C. and 586 B.C., the Jews stopped listening to the warning voice of prophets and scripture. They no longer believed in the standards of right and wrong as set forth by God’s laws. And therefore, they no longer repented and were scattered and taken into bondage.
It has been said that “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana). Isaiah’s couplet is still in force today, for God is the “same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Many today want assurances that America will remain a free nation, blessed and protected by God. But for this to be so, we must be willing to pay the same price that was required of ancient covenant peoples, meaning that we must repent and obey God’s laws.
To what sources do we look today to know God’s laws, that we might repent? The answer is found in Isaiah 8:20.
“To the law [scriptures] and
to the testimony [of prophets]:
if they [men] speak not according to this word [of scriptures and prophets]
it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).
Today, those with “no light in them,” tout their own laws, and “. . . call evil good, and good evil . . .” (Isaiah 5:20). They preach that whatever a person does is acceptable, that there is no standard of right and wrong as set forth by God’s laws, therefore there is no need to repent. The leader of the worldwide Mormon faith, President Thomas S. Monson has cautioned,
“The face of sin today often wears the mask of tolerance. Do not be deceived; behind that facade is heartache, unhappiness, and pain. You know what is right and what is wrong, . . . you be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone” (Monson, “Examples of Righteousness,” Ensign, May 2008, 65).
But standing alone, the age–old question arises, what can one man or one woman do to make a difference? The prophet Joshua gave the unwavering answered when he said,
“. . . choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
The scriptures bring a special power of protection into our homes and they also contain valuable instruction for our day from prophets long dead. To the brother of Jared was given a promise for this land:
“Behold this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off. This cometh to you, ye Gentiles [meaning us], that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, . . . Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (The Book of Mormon – Ether 2:10-12).
This is a chosen land, a covenant land under God. May we be willing to pay the price for our freedoms by our continued repentance and obedience to God’s laws and may we all be blessed with peace and the providence of God.
Kim Higbee is the Stake Relief Society President of the Katy Texas Stake.