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This is my 14th message from the book of Isaiah of Old Testament. In my previous message, I spoke from Isaiah 55:1,「“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;」
Isaiah talks about the work of redemption accomplished by Christ on the cross in Chapter 53, he prophesies about the beginning of work of restoration in Chapter 54, and he encourages us to come before Him for the waters, seeking and receiving the salvation given by God in Chapter 55. Now, from Chapter 56, the 6th part of the book of Isaiah will begin. In the 5th part, Isaiah prophesies about the work of the Savior Jesus, and in the 6th part, he speaks to the people who were made new, to have the renewed worship.
The invitation to this renewed worship is not just for the Israelites, it is spoken to the people all over the world. In response to that invitation, let us come into the blessings of worship and prayer. Now, please read Chapter 56.
Verse 1 says,「This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.」(Isaiah 56:1 NIV)
We believers are waiting for the Savior Jesus to come back again. The day is getting closer everyday. If so, we should pay more attention to our action so that we can live a life that pleases God. In this passage, Isaiah gives us a challenge to maintain justice and do what is right. The words “Justice” and “judgment” are synonyms. It is clear that judgment requires justice. Then, what is the standard of judgment in the Old Testament? It is the law, and its center is the Ten Commandments of Moses, which is written in Exodus 20. The first to fourth commandments are about God, and the fifth to tenth commandments are about people. You can read that in Exodus 20: 1-17. Jesus refers to this commandment and describes that the most important commandment in the Law is, firstly to love God and secondly to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Reference; Matthew 22:37-40) Those who are waiting for the day of the Lord’s coming, they would pay more attention on these commandaments of Jesus in their lives. And from the commandments about God, Isaiah mentions the importance of keeping the Sabbath. Verse 2 says,「Blessed is the one who does this— the person who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.”」(Isaiah 56:2 NIV) 「“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.」(Exodus 20:8) This is the fourth commandment. The seventh day of the week is the Sabbath of the Lord, and the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and make it holy. (Exodus 20:11) To Keep the Sabbath, it is still a part of our worship service. During our worship service, we give thanks to God who created this world. We give thanks to God who created everything, yet He supports us and protects our daily lives as well as our work. The day of Sabbath was created for the Israelites to remember the work of God’s creation, and His mighty work of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. I believe God’s intention of the Sabbath is for us to remember the work of His salvation and to be refreshed both physically and mentally in the presence of God at least once a week. These kinds of resting days are important not only for the Israelites, but also for us, the modern day Christians.
In verse 3, Isaiah prophesies about “foreigner who is bound to the Lord” and “eunuch”.
Foreigners here are Gentiles who have come to believe in God from the pagan world. Eunuch officials are those who were physically castrated to serve the palace and they were forbidden to attend the Lord’s meetings. (Reference Deuteronomy 23:1) Isaiah prophesies that these people will be invited to worship the Lord. Through worship, these people are given more blessings than the blessings that can be obtained in this world. Verse 4 and 5 say,「For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.」(Isaiah 56:4-5 NIV) “Giving an everlasting name that will endure forever” is a promise that the blessings of heaven will be given. Through worship, they will be able to receive the blessings of heaven.
Verses 6-8 describes that the new worship is open to believers all over the world. Verse 6 promises that even Gentiles like us, if we bind ourselves to the Lord, serve Him, love the name of the Lord, keep the Sabbath, and keep the covenant with Him, then we will be able to be added to the special blessings. That promise is expressed in verse 7,「these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”」(Isaiah 56:7 NIV)
My holy mountain originally refers to Mt. Zion, and the house of prayer refers to temple. In the background of this passage, there is the prayer of the completion of King Solomon’s temple. In 1 Kings 8: 41-43, King Solomon prays to God to hear the prayers of people including foreigners every time they pray in the temple. Isaiah prophesies that the prayer of King Solomon comes true. Not only that, even more promises and joys are included in verse 7. God promises to give them joy in the house of prayer, their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on His altar, for His house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Let us pay attention to those expressions. The verse that Jesus quoted when he cleansed the temple was「‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’」(Matthew 21:13 NIV) Jesus fulfills this promise by dying on the cross. The Holy Spirit has been poured, churches have been born, and new houses of prayer are expanding all over the world. Not only for the people of Israel who were scattered around the world, but also for foreigners and eunuch, the house of prayer will be birthed into.
Through Churches, the new houses of prayer are spreading all over the world. Our Church is one of them. We are the people who seek the Lord’s heart. Let us rejoice in the Sabbath, give thanks to the grace of God, and rejoice in a life of prayer. We would like to walk as the Gentiles who are bound to the Lord, serve Him, and love the name of the Lord.