Isaiah 56 – A House of Prayer for All Nations
A. A promise for those outside the borders of Israel.
1. (1-2) A call to righteousness.
Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
a. Keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come: This prophetic Word is directed to God’s discouraged people, who have slacked in obedience and righteousness. They see no reason to repent as long as things look down. God shakes them out of this by calling them to keep justice, and do righteousness in anticipation of what He will do.
i. It’s like the person who says, “Lord, I’ll start giving when You bless my finances.” No; start giving now, and do it in anticipation that God will bless your finances.
b. Blessed is the man who does this: There is both the inherent blessing of obedience, and the Old Covenant blessing to the obedient.
2. (3-8) A promise for the foreigner and the outcast.
Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak, saying, “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”; nor let the eunuch say, “Here I am, a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants; everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.”
a. Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak saying, “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”: Why shouldn’t they say it? Because it isn’t true. They may feel like they are utterly separated . . . from His people, but God promises they aren’t. So He says to them, “Don’t say that!”
b. Nor let the eunuch say, “Here I am, a dry tree”: The eunuch is cited as an example of an outcast. Eunuchs were denied full participation in temple rituals (Leviticus 21:18-20). God didn’t want them to accept their feelings of being cast out. Though they may feel that way, God’s Word is higher than their feelings.
i. Often when people feel like foreigners or outcasts, the feelings become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is only be refusing to embrace such feelings, and choosing instead to trust in God’s promise, that such feelings can be broken. If God says you belong, then you belong.
c. To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house . . . a place and a name: This is God’s call to the one who feels like an outcast. Simply, He says, “Walk right. Live in obedience, and I will honor and bless you. I will give you a place and a name in My house.”
i. For many, this isn’t good enough. They demand the recognition and honor of men. It isn’t enough for God to give them a place and a name in His house. They must have a place and a name among men. Life is easier and more pleasant when we have a place and a name among men; but we must be able to find contentment having our place and name only with God.
ii. The place and name we find with God is better than that among men. It is better than that of sons and daughters; it is an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
iii. Wolf on a place and a name: “An interesting application of this verse is the ‘Yad vaShem’ (A Memorial and a Name), the building in Jerusalem to honor the Jews who died in the holocaust during World War II but whose names are recorded in perpetuity.”
iv. This also prophesies the passing of the dominance of the Levitical order. Clearly, giving eunuchs a place and a name in God’s house contradicted the command of Leviticus 21:18-20. But under a coming New Covenant, there is a higher principle at work than the shadows of the Levitical law.
d. Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: God’s people had slipped into the idea that they were accepted by God no matter what, and that others were rejected by Him no matter what. Here, the Lord makes it clear that even when a foreigner or a eunuch follow hard after God and come to Him in obedience, He will receive it.
e. For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations: God wanted His temple – His house – to not only be a place where the Jewish people would worship Him, but to be a house of prayer for all nations.
i. The violation of this principle made Jesus angry. When He came to the temple and found the outer courts – the only place where the Gentile nations could come a pray – more like a swap meet than a house of prayer, He drove out the moneychangers and the merchants (Matthew 21:13).
f. The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others”: Because of the pain of exile and captivity, Israel had become intensely self-focused. They believed God only really cared about them, and the rest of the nations (many of whom treated Israel cruelly) did not matter. But God wanted to expand the vision of Israel beyond her own borders, so they would know that God loved the perishing world and wanted them to love them also.
B. A promise to judge the blind leaders of God’s people.
1. (9) A word to the beasts of the field.
All you beasts of the field, come to devour, all you beasts in the forest.
a. All you beasts of the field, come to devour: The Lord God invites the beasts of the field to a great feast – to eat up the corpses of His enemies after they lay on the field of battle.
b. The same picture is used in Revelation 19:17: Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”
2. (10-11) A word about the unfaithful leaders of Judah.
His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yes, they are greedy dogs which never have enough. And they are shepherds who cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his own gain, from his own territory.
a. His watchmen are blind: The leaders of God’s people are blind; judgment is on the way, but they don’t see it and warn God’s people. They don’t fulfill their purpose as watchmen. They are ignorant, like dumb dogs, simply sleeping.
b. They are shepherds who cannot understand: These ungodly leaders are a sad contrast to the godly leadership personified by King David in Isaiah 55:3-5. These are unfaithful shepherds, who only look everyone for his own gain.
3. (12) A word from the unfaithful leaders of Judah.
“Come,” one says, “I will bring wine, and we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; tomorrow will be as today, and much more abundant.”
a. We will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink: Worse than being passively ignorant and blind, they are actively wicked. As judgment approaches, they simply drink and get drunk.
b. Tomorrow will be as today, and much more abundant: Their blind faith in progress has replaced a reasoned faith in God. They are ripe for judgment, and unprepared for judgment. Since the picture of Isaiah 56:9 relates to the pictures in the Book of Revelation regarding the return of Jesus, we can see this as a picture of the leaders of the unprepared world – perhaps even the unprepared church – at the return of Jesus.
© 2001 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission