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Third in a Series from Isaiah February 13, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Isaiah, Sermons.

Isaiah 56:1-8

In chapter 54 God promises hope to those who live in a desperate situation and then in chapter 55 He invites them to come to Him for forgiveness. In these eight verses we see what happens to those who answer the invitation. This is important because not everyone who answers God invitation is transferred immediately into God’s presence. In fact most of us are like Abraham, we are looking for a city not made with hands whose builder and maker is God. So what happens after we accept God’s invitation to come and be forgiven?

A. We accept certain responsibilities when we answer God’s invitation, that is, accepting God’s invitation carries certain responsibilities (verses 1-2).

1. We are responsible to practice God’s justice and righteousness (verse 1). There are two sides of God’s justice and righteousness. The side that we need to look at first is that we as sinners cannot practice God’s justice and righteousness unless God does a work in us. We need to be transformed.

I’m thinking of a man who had no interest in Christ. His wife went to church and took his children to church but he was not interested. He drank way too much. He began to go to Bible studies and hear the Word of God. One Easter Sunday, he heard the message and realized that there was nowhere to go but to Jesus Christ. God put a hunger in that man’s heart for God’s Word. As God continued to work in his heart, he began to drink less and less. One day he was sitting in his living room with a beer in his hand and he said to himself, I don’t want this and I don’t need this. Why did he change his outward behavior? Because God did a work inside of him.

2. We are responsible to practice God’s justice in our actions (verse 2). The specific example given here is the keeping of the Sabbath. The Sabbath, however, could be used improperly. In Isaiah 1:13, God expresses displeasure with the observance of the Sabbath as well as with other ceremonial and sacrificial observances of the law. The reason given (in verse 17) is the propensity for injustice especially toward the oppressed, the orphan, and the widow in Judah. They were observing the Sabbath but not remembering what God had said in the Decalogue (Deuteronomy 5:15), “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” The ritual observance without remembering and practicing of the meaning of the observance is the sin of Judah (Isaiah 1:17) and the joy of observing the Sabbath will be destroyed by judgment of God (prophesied in Hosea 2:11; recorded in Lamentations 2:6).

B. Accepting God’s invitation gives a family to those who have no family (verses 3-5). In fact, later in Isaiah a blessing is promised to those who both keep justice and the Sabbath (Isaiah 56:1-2). This blessing is specifically extended to the eunuchs (verses 3-5) and the foreigners (verses 6-7) who keep the Sabbath and hold fast to the covenant of the Lord. Although eunuchs and certain foreigners had been forbidden to be a part of the assembly (Deuteronomy 23:1-8), they receive mercy when they enter voluntarily into the covenant of the LORD. Again, in a vivid and direct way, those who might not expect to be a part of God’s everlasting covenant with Israel are invited in with open arms if they fulfill the same conditions of the covenant that Israel also were given beginning in Exodus 19-20.

C. Accepting God’s invitation gives us the opportunity to worship God (verses 6-8). Isaiah emphasizes with the eunuch and with the foreigner that God is interested in reaching out to those who are outside of His family and His kingdom. Israel had a lot of trouble with foreigners. They would find themselves compromising their beliefs, adding other gods to their worship to the true God or they would isolate themselves in uncompromising self-righteousness, believing that they are somehow better than others.

This second trouble is a danger for us also. “A Christian worship service is beginning, and two young men come in who are clearly out of place. Their clothes are outlandish and not very clean. Their hair is lank and long. Their arms are covered with tattoos. They are clearly not of the evangelical subculture. Are they earnestly seeking salvation? Are they believers who have left all to follow Christ? Who knows? Who cares? They don’t belong because they are different from us…They don’t have the right family credentials, so they don’t belong” (Oswalt).

1. Worship begins with commitment to God (verse 6). We live as if being a Christian is really only a matter of birthright, of adoption, and has no real impact on how we live. It may change our ideals, but it does not change the realities. Thus, we see the spectacle in North America of persons claiming to be born-again’ Christians whose ethical lives are no different from those of a lost world” (Oswalt).

We tend build our spiritual lives on cheap materials. Years before any had died in the astronaut program, an astronaut was asked before he launched how he felt. “With a grin, [he] replied, ‘It really makes you think twice in here when you realize everything in this whole project was constructed according to the lowest bid!’” (Charles Swindoll in Living Above the Level of Mediocrity)

2. Worship is expressed through the means God provides (verse 7). The Sabbath in Leviticus 23:1-3 was emphasized as more than a day with no work. It was a holy convocation, that is, a day of assembly. This is the same type of assembly that God commanded Israel to observe in relation to the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Compare Exodus 12:16 with Leviticus 23:4-8). Such a day was called together for the purpose of delighting in God (Isaiah 58:13-14).

3. Worship looks forward in confidence and faith (verse 8). There is hope in both the promise of the covenant Leviticus 26:40-45 and in the carrying out of that promise. The removal from the land is temporary and serves a restorative purpose for the land. Ultimately, there is coming a day, as pictured in Ezekiel’s temple description when the Sabbath will again be observed with an understanding of what is holy (Ezekiel 44:24; 45:17; 46:1-4, 12). This ultimate restoration is also described in Isaiah 65:22-23 as the new heavens and the new earth, when “from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh will come to worship before [the LORD].”

First John 2:29-3:9 is the New Testament example of the teaching that we see in Isaiah 56. Are you abiding in Christ? Are you standing strong? Or are you like the world? The world believes that doing the right thing outwardly will outweigh or counteract any inner deficiency. The believer realizes we are helpless against our deficiencies and need to abide in Christ.

Next week: The Blind Lead the Blind – Isaiah 56:9-57:2



1. Resources for Isaiah 56:1 - 8 - February 26, 2012

[…] 1Third in a Series from Isaiah « Eternally Significant SUBMIT […]

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