I was in my early morning quiet time and I put on Handel’s Messiah. The song I loved the most this time was 3rd on my Spotify track, sung gloriously by a tenor. It had so much comfort and joy in it that I listened to it over and over:
“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:” (Isaiah 40:4)
I was surprised to read in two different Isaiah commentaries that I had a different interpretation of this verse. My interpretation was so obvious to me. One author said, “This passage may refer to the great earthquake that will accompany the Lord’s return (Rev. 16:18-20). Symbolically, it suggests that the humble will be exalted and the proud brought low.” 2. This author included these 3 scriptures as a comparison:
“Wherefore, be not deceived, but continue in steadfastness, looking forth for the heavens to be shaken, and the earth to tremble and to reel to and fro as a drunken man, and for the valleys to be exalted, and for the mountains to be made low, and for the rough places to become smooth—and all this when the angel shall sound his trumpet.”(D &C 49:23)
“And be adorned as a bride for that day when thou shalt unveil the heavens, and cause the mountains to flow down at thy presence, and the valleys to be exalted, the rough places made smooth; that thy glory may fill the earth;” (D&C 109:74 )
“And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found.” ( D&C 133:22)
The other author, Victor Ludlow, wrote, Isaiah, Prophet, Seer and Poet. In the book, Victor Ludlow says , “Isaiah continues his discourse by describing the power God has to transform mountains and valleys into new formations…Isaiah speaks of mountains being lowered, valleys exalted, crooked paths straightened, and rough places leveled. It appears to have two literal fulfillments:1) the events in America concurrent with Christ’s death and 2) events throughout the entire world prior to His second coming. Figuratively, the transformation of the land may symbolize the spiritual vice and coarseness of people, which must be eliminated in order for them to receive Christ and his gospel.”
The beauty and brilliance of Isaiah shines forth through so many different meanings. His words are a glorious prism to look through and see how he can skillfully write so many interpretations. I have another interpretation: I feel like, with all of Isaiah’s writings, that he is talking about the Atonement. Esther Rasband says it so well in her book, The Promise of the Atonement, Cure for Broken Dreams, “The Lord promises victims full restitution and thorough healing” and, “All damage can be completely overcome by the supreme energy of an infinite atonement. God the Father has in the power of his Son’s mercy the miracle of total healing—the miracle of unlimited justice. He could require us to endure to the end because He and His Son were committed to making it possible for there to be an end: an end of suffering, and end of hurt, and end to the Fall itself.”
“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:”
This verse, to me, is a promise that all will be righted by the Savior. All will be squared and healed for us. For me, I rejoice when I hear the music from the Messiah. It’s my favorite music of the year. I love hearing Isaiah’s poetic phrases put to masterful music. I love the promises and comfort Isaiah’s word’s bring me. I believe, through the power of the Atonement, we can feel peace here on earth, right now, with whatever mountains or crooked paths we are dealing with. We need not wait until Judgement or death, or being in heaven. He will heal us now if we let Him. He is waiting to give us peace. If God can move mountains and make the crooked, straight, what could He do with our lives? Joy to the world!
1.This song is by George Frederic Handel and appears in the oratorio Messiah, HWV 56 (1741).
2. Understanding Isaiah, Donald W. Parry