Up until now Isaiah has prophesized about the salvation that will come by the Lord’s servant’s cross. Also he speaks about how we must respond to this salvation. In today’s passage he speaks about how we should look forward to this salvation which is close at hand.
- Maintain justice, do what is right (Vs. 1,2)
The first point is that we must “maintain justice and do what is right.” (1) Please look at verses 1 and 2. Verse 1 says, “This is what the Lord says,
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.’”
“Maintain justice” (1) means to obey the Word of God and do the will of God. “Do what is right” (1) is to have a right relationship with God. In other words, it is to believe in the Lord’s salvation, and to live prepared for the Lord’s second coming so that whenever he returns it’ll be o.k. God said to Israel to “Maintain justice and do what is right.” (1) That is because God’s “salvation is close at hand” (1) and his “righteousness will soon be revealed.” (1) If Jesus was coming this evening, how would you prepare? Probably you would go home and desperately try to clean. You will prepare the everything and get dressed, won’t you? Won’t you stop your life covered with sin and get ready so that you’re o.k. no matter when the Lord comes? All those who look forward to the Lord’s salvation, the Lord’s second coming, keep themselves pure. This is what Christians living in the end times should really be like.
Paul said about this salvation which “is close at hand” in Romans 13:11 to 14, “Do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
Now the Lord’s “salvation is nearer now” (Romans 13:11) so “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Roman 13:12) We must “behave decently.” (Romans 13:13) If you think about it, 2000 years have passed since Paul wrote this.
In other words, the Lord’s “salvation is nearer now” (Romans 13:11) than when Paul wrote this. If so, we must purify ourselves and “behave decently as in the daytime.” (Romans 13:13)
Concretely how we should live is recorded in verse 2. “Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
As an example of maintaining justice and doing what is right here it talks about keeping the Sabbath day. That is because one of the reasons that Israel was captured and deported by Babylon was because they hadn’t kept the Sabbath. The Sabbath started from sun down on Friday until sun down on Saturday. This day was the Lord’s holy day of complete rest and they weren’t allowed to do any job of any kind. If someone did any work on that day he had to be killed. That was the eternal covenant between God and Israel. It was the unique and special symbol that Israel was the people of God, but they didn’t keep the Sabbath. Therefore, God had them captured by and deported to Babylon. Therefore, for the Jews who were promised that they would return to Jerusalem the number one priority for doing what is right is to keep the Sabbath.
What does this mean for us Christians? Paul in Col. 2:16-17 says, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. They are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
The Sabbath is a pattern of Christ. In other words, it is not necessary to concern oneself with the Sabbath. What we need to be concerned about is Christ himself. To be concerned about Sabbath is like talking to a shadow. It is a false teaching. It is a wrong teaching that causes people to become separated from the truth. We must not be confused by such teachings. That is because the reality, Christ, is coming. This Jesus Christ is really the Lord of the Sabbath, what the law was aiming at. Therefore, no matter how earnest you are for the law, if there is a gap between it and Christ, then you have totally missed the mark so you have misplaced your priorities. Because Christ is the reality we must do what Christ desires.
What Christ desires is what the rules of the Sabbath were aiming at: to set aside one day of the week as the Lord’s Day and make it holy. That day is to be a rest from all work, and to remember the Lord and for worship. That is the purpose of Sunday worship. We gather and worship every Sunday to remember the Savior who has atoned for our sin and rejoice in him, and give praise and thankfulness to him from our heart. It is dangerous if we fall to legalism and we just stress gathering and worshiping in form on Sunday. The Lord saved us from sin. By the Son, Jesus Christ’s blood he redeemed us from the knot of sin that we could not get out of on our own. We remember this work of salvation and give thanks and worship to the Lord. This is the purpose of Sunday Worship. To do that we separate ourselves from all things of this world and concentrate on the Lord so that we don’t get so busy that we forget the Lord. If not, we can’t concentrate on the Lord. We are easily influenced. So on Sunday, as a memorial to Christ’s resurrection from the dead, we gather together, and worship the risen Lord. This is what is meant by setting the day aside. We make the day as theLord’s Day. We set the day apart, and cut off all our relationships with this world and the things of the world and look to the Lord. To establish such a life style is what the Sabbath is aiming at.
Of course, not just Sunday is the Sabbath. For Christians every day is the Lord’s Day. However, if every day is the Lord’s Day, of course, naturally you will want to make this day the Lord’s Day and set it apart to worship together with your loving brothers and sisters in Christ.
By obeying the Sabbath, while having the assurance that we are the Lord’s, by putting all our burdens at the feet of the Lord, we obtain peace and physically and spiritually receive strength. We can be energetic and healthy. This is the secret to the blessing that the Lord has ordained. It’s not good just to work haphazardly. Work hard 6 days and rest one day and worship God. This is the principle ordained by God for a blessed life. If not, not only will we miss the blessings, we will fall into the condition of being prisoners to something.
In the Living life devotional there was an article by Don Mahban. In the age of the opening of the West in America, a horse carriage left St. Louis in the midland for Oregon. The party was all devoted Christians so the Lord’s Day they stopped moving and rested. Of course, they rested and worshipped. However, gradually winter closed in on them. Some of the people became anxious that they would not arrive before the snowstorms came so they suggested that they continue running without resting on the Sabbath.
They weren’t able to unify their opinions so they divided into 2 groups and continued their trip. One group rested completely on the Sabbath and the other continued to travel on the Sabbath. The group that rested arrived at their goal, Oregon, the earliest. They rested on the Sabbath and were fully rested so they were reenergized and could continue running strong the other 6 days. Don Mahban summed up his conclusion with, “God esteems those who esteem his commands.”
This is what is desired of Christians living in this age. The Lord says, “Maintain justice and do what is right…Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand
from doing any evil.” (1,2) God will bless such a person. Now the Lord’s “salvation is close at hand” (2) so let’s obey God’s Word more and more and walk the road that pleases the Lord.
- A house of prayer for all nations (Vs. 3-8)
Next let’s consider verses 3 to 8. Verse 3 says, ”Let no foreigner who has bound
himself to the LORD say,
‘The LORD will surely exclude me
from his people.’
And let not any eunuch complain,
‘I am only a dry tree.’”
“Foreigner” (3) is the Gentiles and “eunuchs” (3) were men whose testicles had been cut off. Foreigners were outside the blessings of Israel and they thought that they could not receive those blessings. However, the work of the servant of the Lord would change this. God’s blessings would not only be for the Israelites, but would extend to the Gentiles. Therefore, ”Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say,
‘The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.’” (3) Also Eunuchs were excluded from the assembly of the Lord. In Deut. 23:1 it says, “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.” Therefore, they were truly like “only a dry tree.” (3) It was though that as a human they were completely without worth. However, such eunuchs were not to say, “I am only a dry tree.” (3) That is because as it says in verse 4 and 5, “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. This means that they will be given the same grace as Israel. That is because in the course of time the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ will destroy the barrier that gave them feelings of alienation.
Ephesians 2:11-16 says, “Therefore. Remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men) remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, now has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, but abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
The Gentiles (eunuchs) “were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:12) However, even such people by being in Jesus Christ “have been brought near.” (Eph. 2:13) That is because Christ was put on the cross and by his body did away with the hostility. Hostility was put to death by the cross.
The same was for the “foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD.” (3) As it says in verses 6 and 7, the “foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD…all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and hold fast to” (6) God’s covenant, the Lord will bring to the Lord’s “holy mountain and give them joy in” (7) God’s house. “My holy mountain” (7) and “my house of prayer” (7) is Jerusalem. Jerusalem is God’s temple. God will bring them there and “give them joy”. (7) This is really a surprising prophecy for those who know about the temple courts. That’s because any one including Gentiles could enter the courts, but foreigners could not enter into the temple. However, in God’s kingdom Gentiles and Jews can enter into the same temple and pray. “Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on” (7) the Lord’s altar. That’s because as it says in the end of verse 7, “my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” It is not just for the Jews. It is “a house of prayer” (7) for all those who believe in Christ. People from all over the world can worship God. Gentiles too, Eunuchs too, those who until now have been separated far from God too, anyone if they believe in Jesus, can center the temple and worship anytime. The benefit of worship is that you will be blessed.
That is because Jesus is really the real temple. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19) This temple was the body of Jesus. The temple is the place where God and man meet. There is no one else except Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins and then rose on the third day that can really offer us that meeting. In the temple of Jesus’ body all people can worship God. They can receive God’s blessings. However, that is not all. It is said that the body of those who believe in Jesus “is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 6:19) whom they “have received from God.” (I Cor. 6:19) This means that we ourselves are the temple and we can worship God anytime and anywhere. We don’t have to go out of our way to go to the Jerusalem temple. We don’t have to go the splendid St. Peter’s Cathedral. We can go boldly before God, fall down and worship him and receive grace anytime and anywhere. Anyone can.
Jesus quoted this passage, “my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (8) when he cleansed the temple. “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matt. 21:13) Then Jesus “drove out all who were buying and selling” (Matt. 21:12) in the temple overturning “the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.” (Matt. 21:12)
Intrinsically, the temple must be a house of prayer. It was to be a house of prayer for all nations, a place where they will be given joy, but at such a place religious business was being performed. Jesus was enraged over it.
How about us? Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit whom we received and it must be a house of prayer, but even so aren’t we making it into a den of robbers? Are we not using it for our own pleasure rather than for God’s glory?
Please look at verse 8. The Lord says, “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” “Those already gathered” (8) are the Jews. Those that the Lord will gather besides those already gathered are the Gentiles. In the last days of the world both the Gentiles and the Jews without discrimination will receive God’s blessings. Such a day will come. We too who are Gentiles by the blood of Jesus will be brought near. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit whom we received. Let’s remember this grace and may our bodies “be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (8)
- Don’t hold God in contempt (Vs. 9-12)
The third point is to not hold God in contempt. Let’s look at verse 9 to the end of the chapter. Verse 9 says, “Come, all you beasts of the field,
come and devour, all you beasts of the forest!”
“Beasts” (9) are a symbol that is used for God’s judgment. For example, Babylon was a beast. Babylon like a beast ate the people of God, Israel. God is saying to all the beasts of the field to “come and devour.” (9) The reason is in verse 10. “Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep.”
“Watchmen” (10) are the people who stand up on the wall and keep watch. If the enemy comes, they announce it without delay. However these people who are supposed to be “watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge.” (10) The leaders should be watching to see what condition their people are in, but they haven’t realized at all what is happening now
That is really like “mute dogs…they lie around and dream, they love to sleep”. (10) Even if the enemy comes, they don’t bark, but just sleep. The watch dog does not fulfill his role as a watch dog at all. “They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.” (11) Then they say in that verse 12, “’Come’ each one cries, ‘let me get wine!
Let us drink our fill of beer!
And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better.’”
Surely “tomorrow will be like today, or even far better” (12) so “let us drink our fill of beer!” (12) In other words, they weren’t concerned at all about the coming judgment of God upon them. They though they didn’t have to worry about sinning. They thought worrying about it wouldn’t change anything. They thought they should enjoy life, have fun and be amused. They thought it was best to do what they wanted to do. They said this and they didn’t try to change their attitude nor change the direction they were going.
However, God is not doing anything because he is being patient. He is being patient and giving us a chance to repent. If we think that our sin is a good thing and continue to sin, then it is natural that God’s judgment will come. God will say, “Come, all you beasts of the field, come and devour,” (9) and the beasts will come.
The disciples saw the magnificent temple of Jerusalem and thought that it would never be destroyed, but Jesus said to them, “Not one stone here will be left on another, everyone will be thrown down.” (Matt. 24:2) As the prophecy says, the Jerusalem temple was destroyed to dust in 70 A.D. by the Roman Empire.
Therefore, don’t look at the situations that you can see with your eyes and think that its o.k. and all will go well and become prideful. You mustn’t take a defiant attitude thinking that you’re not bothering anyone so its o.k. to do anything you want. We must not hold God in contempt. That’s because God’s “salvation is close at hand and” (1) his “righteousness will soon be revealed.” (1) Let’s once more check to see if your thoughts are separated from Lord’s will or not and if so humbly repent and return to the Lord Jesus Christ. If so, the Lord will forgive us. He will lead you to a new road of life. No matter how large your sin is, even “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (1:18) That is the Gospel, the good news. Let’s be like those who live in the life of the Gospel. This is really what the Christian life is like for those who wait expectantly for the salvation of God.