Okay, so I, Christina, am definitely not an Isaiah expert, and if you are, you might not need these tips. But if you’re like me, not an Isaiah scholar but really wanting to learn something from his writings, these tips are for you.
See, this past week I read a couple of chapters of Isaiah (and many of you might have as well if the Come, Follow Me study is part of your life), and when I read them, I felt like they made less sense than usual. Honestly, how does Isaiah make less sense than before?? You’d think I’d keep building in previous readings of it. But I’ll let that go.
Anyway, because I felt like I wasn’t getting as much out of it, I started wondering how to get more out of Isaiah even when the symbolism and all that isn’t clicking in my mind.
So here are three ideas I came up with. If you have others, I’d LOVE to hear them since I think we can all benefit from each other’s study tips.
Start Where You Are
I think we sometimes get really hard on ourselves. Like we should be getting way more out of our scripture study than we are. And because we know Isaiah has so much depth, I think that the expectation of learning a lot is even higher.
But we don’t need to have that high of an expectation for ourselves. Should we expect to learn? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we should expect to be at a scholar level when we aren’t.
We need to let ourselves go through the process of learning. And as we read, we receive insights and revelation specific to our lives. Whatever that revelation is, we shouldn’t discount it as not deep enough or big enough.
Even the little revelations we have can play a significant role in our lives. And even if we don’t understand everything in Isaiah, we still learn things for our individual needs as we read his writings.
The other thing to remember about this is that even if you don’t understand the symbolism or the historical context of Isaiah, there’s still a lot you can learn from him.
Some of Isaiah’s writings aren’t symbolic after all. We can take them literally sometimes. And just because you have an insight that’s different from what most people have doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
There’s no one right way to interpret a text. If your insight is different from other interpretations, that just means it’s what you need at that time. As long as it’s doctrinally correct, embrace the insight and revelation.
Of course, you can learn from the scholars as well if you want to add that to your study. Doing so can help you broaden your horizons, but it’s okay to study Isaiah without referring to the scholars as well. Both ways are good for different study goals.
Find How Isaiah Talks about Christ
This is probably the thing that helped me most with Isaiah this week. Nephi, in 1 Nephi says this about Isaiah:
23 … but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.1 Nephi 19:23
Nephi taught the words of Isaiah to his people for the specific purpose of persuading them to believe in Christ and to believe that Christ is their Redeemer. We can read Isaiah with this lens as well.
As you read Isaiah, ask yourself, “How does this section of Isaiah persuade me to believe in Christ?” In some cases, this might give you insight into symbolism. But more importantly, it will focus your attention on Christ. You’ll understand the prophecies about Him better and see the role He plays in all of our lives – and in your life specifically.
For me, asking this question this past week helped me feel like I came away from Isaiah with a better understanding and that there was a purpose to me reading Isaiah. And it helped me pay better attention to the verses I was reading because I was looking for Christ in the verses.
After I read each chapter, I took a minute to write a brief summary of how that chapter had persuaded me to believe in Christ. I’m hoping to refine this summary process a bit when we read more Isaiah in the next few weeks, but putting the little summary together did help me see the value of looking for Christ in Isaiah’s writings.
So if you feel like you need to get more out of your Isaiah reading, try this. See if it works for you. See what you learn about your Savior by searching closely for Him while you study Isaiah’s writings.
Pray It Out
Here’s my last tip, and it’s kind of an obvious one. But I think that it’s worth repeating. Before and/or after reading Isaiah, take a minute to pray for more understanding.
See, you can learn all you want about the scriptures on an intellectual level, but you won’t have your best understanding of them unless you gain spiritual learning as well. After all, the scriptures are intended to help us become closer to God so we can follow Him and become like Him.
Also, if we want answers, especially about the things in the scriptures, we need to ask God for help. We need the Holy Ghost guiding us when we study, and we need God’s wisdom and knowledge to really see what the scriptures teach us.
God is happy to give us answers and understanding, but often He waits for us to ask for those answers before He gives them to us.
This really goes back to how our relationship with God works. He’s like our partner – He agrees to do certain things for us if we agree to do certain things for Him. So we can’t get something without putting forward effort.
And honestly, it usually isn’t a lot of effort. Sometimes, for the partnership to work, all we have to do is ask a question. And other times we need to put more time and study into the question before we can receive the answer.
So pray about your scripture study, especially if you struggle with Isaiah. It might take time to understand it the way you want to, but allow yourself the process. Ask questions and look for ways to study it that you haven’t tried before.
And share your ideas in the comments below!