26 And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth; and behold, they shall come with speed swiftly; none shall be weary nor stumble among them.
27 None shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken,
28 Whose arrows shall be sharp, and all their bows bent, and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind, their roaring like a lion.
Even as I type this I can hear the collective sigh of each one of you saying: “Not again. Please, not Isaiah … Anything, but Isaiah. Now, I don’t pretend to understand everything Isaiah wrote, or even most … okay, maybe even not much; but I want to share with you a few things about this scripture that I think is profound for our day.
Let’s take it a verse at a time … I find that makes it much easier to understand and digest. I know some of you may be thinking, but if it’s Isaiah you want to read it as fast as you possibly can – Not so. I think the best way is to read it like you would have to eat an elephant, one bit (or in this case, one verse) at a time.
Starting in verse Twenty-six. “And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far”. An “ensign” is a flag that symbolizes a nationality. I believe what Isaiah is describing here is that in the last days the Lord will show to the world a place where He has gathered His people.
“And will his unto them from the end of the earth.” Like a snake “hisses” to get attention or to warn its prey, I believe this “ensign” will “hiss” or warn the world..
“And behold, they shall come with speed swiftly: none shall be weary nor stumble among them.” Again, I believe that this means the Lord will send people throughout the world with great speed and they won’t be tired.”
Verse Twenty-seven reads; “None shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken.” I believe this means those who come from the Lord’s gathering place will arrive at their destination fresh and energized.
Verse Twenty-eight: “Whose arrows shall be sharp, and all their bows bent, and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind, their roaring like a lion.” I think this could mean that when they arrive they won’t only be energized, they will have be ready for battle and armed with effective weapons.
Okay, now let’s put this all together and see what in the world Isaiah might have been seeing in his vision.
Here’s how I see it. Isaiah sees that in the last days the Lord will gather His people together in a specific and physical place. From that place His people will send forth a word of warning to the rest of the world. As part of that warning He will send messengers throughout the world. Those messengers will go into the world quickly and will arrive at their destinations fresh and ready to combat the evils of the world with effective and powerful weapons.
I hope you can see where this is going. I believe in these verses Isaiah is seeing the miraculous missionary effort of our day! He has already gathered the Saints into Stakes throughout the world. His ensign has been raised in these Stakes. From the members of the church the word of warning is going to all the people of the world. That word of warning comes from the tens of thousands of missionaries who are sent forth each year. The miraculous part comes in the fact that wherever these missionaries are called, they arrive fresh … even as Isaiah states without a latchet of their shoe broken. They carry with them the ultimate weapon against evil, the Book of Mormon and they go forth preaching with the roar of a lion!!
Wow! Can you imagine what a miracle this would have been in Isaiah’s day to travel with such speed around the world and to arrive fresh without sleeping and without so much as a latchet of the shoe being broken. In Isaiah’s day just traveling a distance of a few hundred miles would require days of travel and sleep … repairing shoes and clothing that would wear out and break along the way and finally arriving at the place tired, dirty and worn out. But this isn’t how Isaiah saw the latter-days and it’s not how our missionaries go forth today.
Our missionaries today leave on jet airplanes and can travel almost anywhere in the world in 24 hours or less. (Although it did take me more than 24 hours once to travel to Cape Town, South Africa.) When they arrive in their mission they are dressed in the same suits they wore when they left. They arrive somewhat fresh (although mostly scared) and they carry with them the message of the restored gospel and the evidence of this great restoration – the Book of Mormon. They do this to warn the world of the evil that keeps people from drawing closer to the Savior.
This is why I believe Nephi felt it was so important to include this part of Isaiah’s writings in the Book of Mormon … because he, too, could feel the importance of these words as they described the last days.
I think the most impressive part of this message is that both Isaiah and Nephi saw our day and saw the missionary effort going forth. Here, nearly 2,600 years ago, two of the Lord’s prophets (because the Lord said out of the mouth of two or more witnesses would every word be established) witnessed and testified of the latter-day miracle of the missionary work throughout the world. They saw you young men flooding the earth with the truth. They saw you arriving in your fields of labor quickly. They saw you preaching with the roar of a lion to the people of the world. They saw how your missionary work would bless the world and bring souls to the Lord. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to be part of a great prophesy in the last days.
To you young men – as you prepare to serve your missions, remember it’s the Lord’s work. Prophets of old have seen our day. He will help you. He will bless you. He knows your message will prepare the world for His second coming.
To you young women – if you don’t serve a mission yourself, be a great example of righteousness to the young mean you know and encourage them to serve with their heart, might, mind and strength. Let them know that the Lord needs each one of them to take the gospel to the entire world. Let them know that the Lord will bless those who seek to bring souls to him.
I know that both Isaiah and Nephi saw our day. I know they saw this great army going forth. I know you are part of this great army. I know the Lord knows you and trusts you to serve him and to bring souls to him. I know if you go forth your life will be blessed beyond measure. Best of all He has shown us, through His prophets, how everything ends … and you know what? If you’re on His team … you win.