Today my wife and I taught a Sunday School Lesson based on the last part of the Book of Isaiah. This portion of Isaiah has always been a personal favorite of mine. I especially love Isaiah’s sweeping vision of the last days and the Millennium. What stands out to me the most is how revolutionary Isaiah’s teachings on the spread of the Gospel to the whole world and even to the stranger or the gentile would have been to those of his time. Living in the 21st century, we take for granted that knowledge of Christ has spread across the world. Yet, in Isaiah’s time knowledge of Jehovah the God of Israel was localized and not well known. Those in Babylon or Assyria saw Jehovah as another deity of a conquered people. In Israel likewise, the idea that those no born in the covenant could become part of Israel was foreign and revolutionary. After all, only those of the tribe of Levi could hold the priesthood, and gentiles were not allowed access to the main portion of the Temple of Solomon.
This all makes Isaiah’s proclamation in Chapter 56 all the more incredible.
3 ¶Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
The Lord is telling all those who will hear, that his house and the ordinances and blessings therein are available to all. None are turned away from the House of the Lord if they are willing to covenant with the Lord and keep the commandments (Sabbath is often a shorthand for other commandments). Elsewhere, in Isaiah 66 Isaiah talks about those that will help gather Israel and talks about calling priests and levites from among the nations.
I love the reference to gathering the Outcasts. This is such an accurate description of what the savior did in his life. Whether tax collectors, cripples, or Samaritan, the Lord invited all to follow him. In our day likewise our call is to take the Gospel to all the nations of the world regardless of race, language, or religious belief. It is truly incredible to be a part of the Lord’s work in these latter days and to proclaim the gospel to all the world.
I also love the reference to Eunuchs ie those unable to have children naturally. God promises them a name better than of sons and daughters. He promises that they will be children of the covenant and receive all of the promises blessings. Many today are unable to have children either due to not being married, due to same sex attractions, or simply due to infertility. Yet, the Lord’s promise through the prophet Isaiah is to all. No matter how broken we think we are, the Lord will heal us and bless us. His house is open to us if we are worthy and striving to keep the commandments. There will be no blessing lost because of our condition in this fallen world. I testify that Isaiah’s promise is true and that the Lord truly loves all of this children