Isaiah 27:1 In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword… shall slay the dragon
We all love stories about knights slaying dragons with the sword. Well, Isaiah is prophesying of just that event. The brave knight is the Messianic Jesus; the dragon is Satan and his kingdom. The metaphor is a “fairy tale” dragon slaying.
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon… And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out… and his angels were cast out with him.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down. (Rev. 12:3, 9-10)
Isaiah 27:2-3 In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine
If you don’t like mixing metaphors, don’t read Isaiah. We have a quick switch of imagery from the dragon to the vineyard. As Jesus taught: “There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower” (Matt. 21:33). The vineyard is the House of Israel. The householder is the Lord. The winepress produces the fruit of the vineyard.
The Lord seems happy to take responsibility for the vineyard: “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.”
The Lord of the vineyard is willing to take his prize fruit to whatever patch of ground will receive it. He goes further than that; he makes every effort to make the precious [vineyard] flourish in every part of the globe where it proves at all possible. If it does not work in one place, he takes it to another; if that one turns back, he moves it. If things have improved in a former spot, he goes back to work on that. It is a policy of endless patience, training, adaptation, experimentation, cultivation, grafting, transplanting, fertilizing, watching and waiting, etc. (Hugh Nibley, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, edited by Don E. Norton and Shirley S. Ricks [SLC and Provo: Deseret Book Co., FARMS, 1994], 388.)
Isaiah 27:4 who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle?
Imagine piles of dried thorn bushes and briers set in array to defend an ancient army. They would provide little protection from the power of Christ. The briers and thorns are the opposite of the fruit of the vineyard. The former is the product of the curse of Adam and the latter is produced by the redemption of Christ. The enemy camp is Satan and his forces; the Lord of the vineyard is Christ who leads his own army.
And the lord of the vineyard said unto one of his servants: Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take all the strength of mine house, which are my warriors, my young men, and they that are of middle age also among all my servants, who are the strength of mine house, save those only whom I have appointed to tarry;
And go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard; for it is mine; I have bought it with money.
Therefore, get ye straightway unto my land; break down the walls of mine enemies; throw down their tower, and scatter their watchmen.
And inasmuch as they gather together against you, avenge me of mine enemies, that by and by I may come with the residue of mine house and possess the land.
And the servant said unto his lord: When shall these things be?
And he said unto his servant: When I will; go ye straightway, and do all things whatsoever I have commanded you;
And this shall be my seal and blessing upon you—a faithful and wise steward in the midst of mine house, a ruler in my kingdom.
And his servant went straightway, and did all things whatsoever his lord commanded him; and after many days all things were fulfilled.
Again, verily I say unto you, I will show unto you wisdom in me concerning all the churches, inasmuch as they are willing to be guided in a right and proper way for their salvation—
That the work of the gathering together of my saints may continue, that I may build them up unto my name upon holy places; for the time of harvest is come, and my word must needs be fulfilled.
Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be;
While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire. (D&C 101:55-66)
Isaiah says, “I would go through them, I would burn them together.” This is the imagery of the Lord’s army breaking down the walls of the enemy, throwing down their towers, scattering their watchmen, binding the tares (or briers and thorns) in bundles and burning them with unquenchable fire.
Isaiah 27:5 let him take hold of my strength
Those who choose to follow the Lord may “take hold of his strength.” They may join his army even if they used to fight for Satan. The Lord of the vineyard doesn’t want to destroy but to save. He doesn’t want to burn the tares (hence, the text says, “Fury is not in me”); he wants to gather his fruit. In order for the fruit to be any good, it must take hold of his strength. If so, then they can expect to blossom and bud, to fill the face of the world with fruit, and to enjoy the peace of their Lord.
“Let him take hold of my strength.” This is a great invitation from Him who said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Do we take hold of his strength? Do we harness the power of his atonement? Do we avail ourselves of the grace which he so freely gives?
“When we work with the strength of the Lord, all things are possible. If we obey the commandments and follow the teachings of the Church, God will bless us in our righteous desires. Because of their desire and obedience, the sons of Mosiah were blessed with success in their missions. When they gloried in the many miracles they had seen, they did not glory in their own strength; they gloried in the miraculous deeds of God.” (Kent P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29 [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 339)
What a glorious promise! In overcoming limitations through the grace of Jesus Christ, our opportunity is to be among the weak things that become strong in the strength of the Lord. Let us claim that promise! (Lighten Up! [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 51)
…chapter after chapter he (Isaiah) goes on to declare that Zion's strength is in the Lord Almighty; and his strength is with her because of her faithfulness and integrity. If the elders of Israel had the vision of their minds opened to see Zion in her beauty and glory, they would have no time to sin or do evil; but they would rise up in the strength of the Lord God of Israel and accomplish all that he requires at their hands. Zion is yet in her weakness, but the little one shall become thousands, and the small one a great nation. We talk of the future and of the promises of God to us. They are worthy to be talked of, worthy to be lived for, and to rejoice over, because they are true. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 11: 248)
Isaiah 27:7-8 Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him?
In the final battle between the Lord and the dragon, does Satan get what he deserves? Is he finally punished for all the wickedness, violence, and murder? Does he ever get a dose of his own medicine? It is as if Isaiah is hoping that the Lord will not let him off too easy—to make sure he suffers as he made us to suffer.
Verse 8 seems to say, “Those who witness the final struggle might argue that he hasn’t been punished harshly enough. Others might say the punishment was too harsh, but when the destructive east wind comes, the Lord will make sure it blows for a while, lest Satan get off too easy.”
Isaiah 27:9 By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged
By what shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged? What is the fruit to take away his sin? It is the atonement of Christ. The atonement of Christ is the power that destroys the dragon. All his work to make us sin, his successes in tempting the saints, the small battles he has won will be overcome by our knight in shining armor. He will purge our sins and the infinite atonement is all the fruit needed to take away sin.
Isaiah 27:9 when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder
The altar, groves, and images in this verse are the idols of the wicked which will be destroyed at the Second Coming. That is when Israel is redeemed, speaking prophetically; it is an apocalyptic event. On an individual basis, Israel is redeemed every day, every Sacrament Meeting, every baptism, every contrite confession of sins.
Isaiah 27:11 when the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off: the women come, and set them on fire
Apparently, Isaiah didn’t take the time to tell us he was switching metaphors again. So far we have the Lord of the wine vineyard. who is our knight in shining armor to destroy the dragon. Now, it turns out that there are olive trees in the vineyard as well. Isaiah switches to the Zenos allegory:
Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard…
And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.
…wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow… until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will I sweep away the bad out of my vineyard. (Jacob 5:63-66)
Notice how important the women are? They are crucial in gathering the bad and bitter branches for burning. They are essential for the good to overcome the bad.
Eliza R. Snow
Who are these my sisters? They are the daughters of the most high God, and we are here in this dispensation to cooperate with God and our brethren in saving the human family. We read that one hundred & forty-four thousand Saviours are to stand upon Mount Zion, has women anything to do in this great work of salvation, or are the sisters merely machines to be saved by the brethren, In these last days woman has her part to perform, which is a significant part, we are apt to think little of the responsibilities that rest upon us. Woman is designed to be a help meet for man, and the work of the last days cannot be accomplished without our assistance. (BYU Studies, vol. 36 (1996-97), Number 1--1996-97)
Isaiah 27:12 ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel
Bruce R. McConkie
Isaiah prophesied that the Lord “shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” The Lord’s promise is: “Ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel.” (Isa. 27:6, 12)
That is to say—Israel shall be gathered one by one, family by family, unto the stakes of Zion established in all parts of the earth so that the whole earth shall be blessed with the fruits of the gospel.
This then is the counsel of the Brethren: Build up Zion, but build it up in the area where God has given you birth and nationality. Build it up where he has given you citizenship, family, and friends. Zion is here in South America and the Saints who comprise this part of Zion are and should be a leavening influence for good in all these nations.
And know this: God will bless that nation which so orders its affairs as to further his work.
His work includes the building up of Zion in the last days. He has commissioned us to do that work for him. The foundations of Zion have already been laid in North America, in South America, in Europe, in Asia, in the South Pacific and in every place where there are stakes of Zion. But Zion is not yet perfected in any of these places. When she is perfected, it will be as it was with Zion of old—the Lord will come and dwell with his people. (Conference Report, April 1977, 118)
Isaiah 27:13 the outcasts… shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem
Isaiah usually ends his chapters with millennial events that are so impossible to his readers that there is no way they could believe it. In Isaiah’s day, the outcasts of Egypt and Assyria would never come to Jerusalem to worship at the holy mount. That is crazy talk. It is part of Isaiah’s pattern of shock and awe to prophecy of millennial events that turn his listeners on their heads.
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance. (Isaiah 19:23-25)