Isaiah 59

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save

Jeffrey R. Holland

However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines. (

Jeffrey R. Holland

To all of you who think you are lost or without hope, or who think you have done too much that was too wrong for too long, to every one of you who worry that you are stranded somewhere on the wintry plains of life and have wrecked your handcart in the process, this conference calls out Jehovah’s unrelenting refrain, “[My] hand is stretched out still.” (see Isa 5:25;9:17, 21) “I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them,” He said, “[and even if they] deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, … if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts.” (2 Ne. 28:32) His mercy endureth forever, and His hand is stretched out still. His is the pure love of Christ, the charity that never faileth, that compassion which endures even when all other strength disappears. (

Isaiah 59:2 your iniquities have separated between you and your God

There is a famous quote from President Spencer W. Kimball about his favorite method of drawing nearer to the Lord.  He said, “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 135)

Certainly, the scriptures are a great way to narrow the gap between us and God.  Unfortunately, for most of us who are not as righteous as President Kimball, one of the biggest obstacles between us and God is our own sins.  We look to God and pray to God and long to be closer, but not enough to repent of our sins.  The Lord said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him” (Rev. 3:20).  So why don’t we just open the door? Could it be because we don’t want him to see what we are doing when the doors are closed?

What if we alter his famous passage to fit with this verse of Isaiah?  It might read, “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away.  If I repent, repent, repent of my sins the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.”

“Repentance should be our first item of business as we bow before the Lord. By confessing our sins, seeking the Lord’s forgiveness for our failings, then seeking his help to overcome, we unburden ourselves before the mercy seat. Then, with clean hands and pure hearts, our “confidence [waxes] strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45), and we can stand worthy before our Father. In this state, we can communicate with our Father, express our love to him, and feel his love in return.” (Gaylen Hinton, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Oct. 1993, 61)

Marion D. Hanks

Paul wrote to the Romans that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Rom. 8:39

I am sure this is true. I bear testimony that this is true. But it is also true that we can separate ourselves from his spirit. In Isaiah it is written: “… your iniquities have separated between you and your God. …”  Isa. 59:2  Again, “… they have rewarded evil unto themselves.”  Isa. 3:9

Through Helaman we learn that “whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself …”  Hel. 14:30 and from Benjamin, “… ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord. …”  Mosiah 2:36  (Conference Report,  Oct. 1973, 21)

Isaiah 59:3, 7 your hands are defiled with blood… your lips have spoken lies

Isaiah describes the component parts which make of the body of the wicked.  They have hands defiled with blood, fingers defiled with iniquity, lips which speak lies, tongues full of perverseness, feet that run to evil, and a mind full of evil thoughts. 

Instead, we should seek to have hands that serve, fingers pressed firmly against the iron rod, lips which never speak guile, tongues which declare the word of the Lord, feet shod with the preparations of the gospel of peace, and a mind garnished unceasingly with virtuous thoughts.

Isaiah 59:5-6 They… weave the spider’s web… Their webs shall not become garments

The wicked are likened to spiders.  The fruits of their labors are likened to spider webs.  But just to be clear—they are not useful spider webs.  Isaiah must have known that some spider webs could be used to make clothing. Sound ridiculous?  What about the silk cocoon of the silkworm?  Consider the following:

“A RARE TEXTILE made from the silk of more than a million wild spiders goes on display today at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

spiderweb silk.jpg

“To produce this unique golden cloth, 70 people spent four years collecting golden orb spiders from telephone poles in Madagascar, while another dozen workers carefully extracted about 80 feet of silk filament from each of the arachnids. The resulting 11-foot by 4-foot textile is the only large piece of cloth made from natural spider silk existing in the world today.” (

Isaiah 59:9-10 we walk in darkness.  We grope for the wall like the blind

Joseph Fielding Smith

The Lord has not left us to grope in darkness, but has given to every man that is born with understanding the power to discern between good and evil, truth and falsehood, through the power of the intelligence, light of truth, or light of Christ born with him. However, as man departs from the truth, the power of intelligence forsakes him and for that cause he does not come unto God. (The Way to Perfection [Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1949], 230)

Elder Brigham S. Young

The gospel is of a character that a man may be benefitted by it if he will, but it has no help for the man who fails to take advantage of that which it offers. It is a perfect system of self-development. A man can rise to the most exalted heights, if he will; or he may loiter by the way, waste the day-light until he is overtaken in his darkness and thence must grope his way, because he failed to take advantage of the light. (Conference Report, April 1927, Afternoon Meeting 59)

George Albert Smith

If we go into darkness, if we let our hearts be filled with covetousness or corruption, or give way to licentiousness, drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, unbelief, or any crime that corrodes our system or organization, so that our tabernacles become unfit for the holy Spirit to dwell in, it will withdraw from us, and the light that is in us becomes darkened, and that darkness is so great that we grope as a blind man and wander hither and thither, and those who suffer themselves to be led by these blind men fall into the ditch with them, but the work rolls right along. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 17: 196)

Joseph Fielding Smith

The Lord has marked out the way. He has given us a key to the situation. It was never the intention of our Father in heaven to leave men to grope and feel their way in darkness and that without any light to guide them, and expect them under such conditions to find their way back into his kingdom and into his holy presence. That is not the way of the Lord. All down the ages from the beginning our Father in heaven has shown his kindness for his children and has been willing to give them direction. From the earliest times the heavens have been opened, the Lord has sent messengers from his presence to divinely appointed servants, men holding the authority of the priesthood who have been commissioned to teach the principles of the Gospel, to warn the people and teach them righteousness; and these men have received this knowledge, this inspiration and guidance from these messengers from the presence of God. This is true of our own dispensation. There is no need for men to shut their eyes and feel that there is no lght only as they may depend upon their reason, for the Lord has always been willing to lead and direct and show the way. (Conference Report, October 1931, First Day—Morning Meeting 13)

Ezra Taft Benson

[The] temple will be a constant, visible symbol that God has not left man to grope in darkness. It is a place of revelation. Though we live in a fallen world-a wicked world-holy places are set apart and consecrated so that worthy men and women can learn the order of heaven and obey God's will. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 252)

Isaiah 59:14-18 judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off

Justice and judgment are a main theme of this chapter: (verse 4) none calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth, (verse 8) there is no judgment in their goings, (verse 9) therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us, (verse 11) we look for judgment, but there is none, (verse 14) judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off, and (verse 15) the Lord saw… that there was no judgment.  As Solomon, Isaiah laments the lack of justice among the wicked, “when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2).

What is justice?  The U.S. pledge of allegiance invokes the principle of “liberty and justice for all.”  The very purpose of the founding institutions of this country are to preserve justice and liberty.  But Isaiah is teaching us that liberty and justice don’t come from the state, but from our own internal state of righteousness.  Those who commit sin can never be free, regardless of their country of residence.  There is no justice in a legal system that is based more on political correctness and social mores than truth in God’s law.

God can’t stand it; He must not be able to look continually upon this wicked world.  In disgust, He must have to look away.  Even among those to whom the law and covenants have been given, he looked and saw “there was no man” to exercise judgment (v. 16).  How disappointing to do all things for the good of His children only to find them in self-destruct mode.  “The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment” (v. 15). 

Perhaps He thinks, “do I really have to do everything myself?”  Since no man can establish judgment and justice in this wicked world, the Lord will have to do it himself.  So He puts on his breastplate of righteousness and his helmet of salvation; His garments of vengeance are red like him that treadeth the wine-vat; His anger is piqued; He is clad with zeal.  But to do what?  What does justice look like at the Second Coming?  What has to happen for this earth to be established in judgment and justice?

God will repay.  Everyone will get what he deserves.  According to our deeds, we can expect a reward.  That means a recompense to his enemies and a blessing to his friends.   It means the islands will be repayed—the final compensation of good for good; a recompense of evil for evil.  Only then, can judgment stand and justice reign.

   Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

   In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jer. 23:5-6)

Neal A. Maxwell

God gladly credits in the book of life (Revelation 20:12) all our goodness and service. At that moment of perfect judgment, realization, and recognition, all will acknowledge not only that Jesus is the Christ but that God's judgment and justice are perfect! (Alma 12:15) (We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984], 82)

John Taylor

We should be governed by the principles of law and equity. The Scriptures say, speaking of the Lord, "judgment and justice are the habitation of thy throne." But

   who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

   He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

   He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

   In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

   He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. (Ps. 15:1-5)

Let us seek to promote one another's welfare, and feel that we are brethren, that we are the representatives of God upon the earth. Our Heavenly Father is desirous to promote the happiness and welfare of the whole of the human family. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 22: 230 - 231)

Isaiah 59:19 the enemy shall come in like a flood

This is apocalyptic drama.  The bad guys have the good guys surrounded.   With overwhelming force and speed, the armies envelop Jerusalem.  There is no escape—no hope for rescue.

   For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle…

   then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle…

   and this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. (Zech. 14:2-3, 12)

Isaiah 59:20 the Redeemer shall come to Zion

Orson Pratt

There is one thing sure—as sure as the sun shines forth in yonder heavens, so sure will the Lord fulfil one thing with regard to this people. What is that? He will return them to Jackson County, and in the westerns part of the State of Missouri they will build up a city which shall be called Zion, (D&C 57:1-3; D&C 84:1-4) which will be the headquarters of this Latter-day Saint Church; and that will be the place where the prophets, apostles, and inspired men of God will have their headquarters. It will be the place where the Lord God will manifest Himself to His people, as He has promised in the Scriptures, (Zech. 2:10; Isa. 59:20) as well as in modern revelation. (D&C 45:67; D&C 116:1)

“Do you believe that?” says one.  Just as much as we believed, long before it came to pass, what has taken place. The world can believe what has taken place, because it has been fulfilled. The Latter-day Saints believe in prophecies before they take place. We have just as much confidence in returning to Jackson County and the building of a great central city that will remain there a thousand years before the earth passes away, as the Jews have in returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the waste places of Palestine. (Journal of Discourses, 13:139).

Orson Pratt

And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.” (Isa. 59:20) The Zion that is here spoken of is called upon to “arise and shine; for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” (Isa. 60:1) There is no one thing more fully revealed in the Scriptures of eternal truth, than the rise of the Zion of our God in the latter days, clothed upon with the glory of God from the heavens—a Zion that will attract the attention of all the nations and kindreds of the whole earth. Ps. 48:2 It will not be something that takes place in a corner (Acts 26:26) on some distant island of the sea, or away among some obscure people; but it will be something that will call forth the attention of all people and nations upon the face of the whole earth. The rise of Zion, the latter-day Zion. What are we to understand by the meaning of Zion? What I understand, and what the Scriptures have portrayed in regard to the meaning of Zion is, a people who shall receive the law of God, and who shall be acknowledged of the Lord as his people—a people who shall be gathered together from the nations of the earth, and build a house to the name of the Lord in the latter days. A people who shall have their abiding place in the mountains, and who shall build a city that shall be called Zion. (Journal of Discourses, 16;78)

Isaiah 59:21 this is my covenant… my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth

Another amazing Isaiah promise goes almost undetected.  What could be a greater blessing to a loving patriarch or matriarch than to have their testimony of the truth stand for generations of their posterity?  All their children know—all their grandchildren know of their undying love for the Lord and of their commitment to serve his cause at all cost.  What sort of legacy are we leaving our children?  Will they look upon us for inspired counsel, unwavering testimony, and teachings of truth?  Will they be disappointed when they read our journal?  Will there be a journal for them to read?  Will our testimony be contained therein? 

Take home lesson:  The Lord gives us inspiration on a regular basis.  Some of these moments are priceless; others may seem mundane.  None of them will survive the amnesia of time unless we write them down.  May our legacy of inspiration and revelation be recorded in heaven and live on in our descendants.

Spencer W. Kimball

His work all done? Not so, my friends, for it is scarce begun.

You think his dear sweet voice is ever stilled? Not so! Know ye

that testimonies truly borne by conscientious bearers

do not fall unheeded, unremembered, lost for aye.

But faithful angels write down each one's every word, a record

for all time--eternity. Rejoice at this assurance.

It is sure forgiveness follows testimony borne

and nothing's lost that fits into the great eternal Plan.


His work all done? Not so, my friends, for it is scarce begun.

In this life's work we make a bare beginning. There's no end.

How glorious the truth that our eternities are built

upon foundations firmly set in these our mortal days.

(BYU Studies, vol. 25 (1985), Number 4 - Fall 1985; 164)