A House of Prayer for All People

Isaiah 56:1-8

The call has gone out, first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. Jews are exhorted to rejoice because of what God will do as he enlarges his family. Something we can relate to in own experience: joy when the Lord sees fit to add child or grandchild or great-grandchild to our family. Joy also when another family is added to ours through marriage. Rejoicing when the Lord adds to our church family, whether individual or couple or family.

Now move to another level: a single church is given prospect of going global. Means more than just more church members; means that dozens and hundreds and thousands and millions will be added to God’s family. One at a time adding up to people from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9) brought into God’s kingdom. Now that’s cause for joy, especially since call to those nations issues immediately on heels of announcement of a global multi-cultural church.

Must remember who is calling people to salvation, calling them to be adopted into royal family: the Holy One of Israel. This wonderful gracious Father seeks out children to adopt in all sorts of places and circumstances (more on that in a little bit), loving and bringing them under his special care just as they are. But he is not content to leave them just as they are; if they are to be part of family, must bear family resemblance. Means children of family must resemble their father, in this case their Heavenly Father.

Good earthly father expects children to have certain appearance, behave according to certain standard; Heavenly Father expects no less. Heavenly Father has also spared no resources necessary for conforming his children to the family likeness (Rom. 8:29), making them holy as he is holy (Eph. 5:27). Through prophet Isaiah, God holds up standard of practice for those who respond to his invitation; he identifies what sort of people he will adopt, some of blessings he has in store for them.

A. the practice v.1-2 (also 4, 6)

think God’s thoughts (1) Regardless of period in history, the one who hears Gospel call and responds in faith has immediate duty to think in certain way, then act accordingly. God exhorts his people to think his thoughts, to think about situations and people and actions as he would. WWJD presupposes WWJT; to do as Jesus would do, people of God must think as Jesus would think.

do God’s will (2) God expects his people to be ones “who commit themselves to obedience,who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it, who refrain from doing anything that is wrong.” (NET) Holiness requires that right doing follow right thinking, obedience to revealed will of God – doing what God commands, not doing what he forbids.

choose what pleases God (4) God makes great and precious promises to those who choose what pleases Him. Here God moves beyond thinking and doing, both of which can be done out of sense of duty. Now he gets into area of desires: God’s intent for those who are holy is to willingly select, even prefer what please him rather than what satisfies self. Members of God’s household should do their Father’s pleasure because they love him and desire to please him most of all.

summarized (6):

become followers of the Lord – God has called them, they have “attached themselves” to the Lord with determination to not be separated

serve him – attachment comes with commitment to serve their Father; not only want “in” to the family, are willing to do Father’s bidding

love the name of the Lord – primary motivation of all the rest: a love for God that is response to his love for them demonstrated in his covenant faithfulness

want to be his servants – again, raised to next level: beyond simple willingness to obey, have an unquenchable desire to serve and to serve One in particular

observe the Sabbath and do not defile it – #1 way to express love for God to God: remember his Day, the “one out of seven” that “God blessed …and made …holy” (Gen. 2:3).

faithful to his covenant – to the extent that they are able, do their part to remain faithful to God

B. the people v.3-4, 8

foreigners (3a) No one should say because of their ethnic heritage that “The Lord will certainly exclude me”; neither should they be able to say the same of his people, that they will exclude outsiders because of their origins. God has long arms and includes people of all colors, languages, cultures in his church and so must we.

eunuchs (3b) No one should be able to say because they are disabled in some way that they are of no use to God’s family. That they can serve no useful purpose, less welcome because less valuable. Club-footed Mephibosheth had a place at David’s table; the Ethiopian eunuch had a place in Philip’s ministry; the paralyzed man received forgiveness from Jesus first, then physical healing almost as afterthought.

outcasts (8a) There’s a sign down the road “Catholics can always come home”. Umm, God wrote the sentiment first and with much more positive emphasis. He promised to bring outcasts into his home: outcasts – those who have been displaced, homeless, isolated and alone. First promise here to Jews in far countries; principle applies to any who fit the basic description – outcasts of society who are overlooked, neglected, left to fend for themselves.

others (8b) If there are any others missing from these categories, God will gather them as well. God is committed to having all sorts of people in his family; he expects his family to give them warm welcome. God still actively pursuing people all over world – ones we would classify as reached / unreached; third world / industrialized; north/south/east/west; with purpose of adopting as children.

C. the place v.5a, 7

God’s house – house of prayer – for all nations, all peoples. Jesus applied text to Jerusalem temple but extends far beyond that. Any place where there is place of worship devoted to true God, people of all nations – sorts – categories must find a home and a welcome. Consider what God does to gather children into family: if God thinks they are suitable for adoption, his “already children” must accept them regardless of how they look, sound, smell or act. And all who find a place in God’s house should observe the “house rules” – first and foremost a place of prayer.

D. the promise v.5b, 7

place and name (5) Those adopted into God’s family can expect blessings from relationship with him that no earthly circumstance can match. Home – status – inheritance – future – hope: summarized in

1 Pet. 2:9-10But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

“A child of Jehovah, a subject of grace / I’m of the seed royal, a dignified race; / An heir of salvation, redeemed with blood, / I’ll own my relation, my Father is God!” Primitive Baptist Hymn Book

joy (7a) Not a re-write of a Charles Dickens novel, poor waif taken from one bad situation into even more awful circumstances. God promises to make his adopted children joyful – joy, what we experience when expect to receive something good. In this case, all the good God has stored up for his children, what he is committed to granting both in this life and the next.

acceptance (7b) God promises his children will be accepted, whether in sacrifice of animal or, this side of Calvary, sacrifice of praise. True children bringing sincere gifts motivated by pure heart are accepted by good Father. God’s promise encourages us when we come to our Father, sets example for how we should relate to those around us.

God’s kingdom is huge, room for millions, even billions in the royal family. Not all roads lead there, not all doors open into it. There’s only one road, one way that leads to true God and his name is Jesus. There’s only one door into God’s kingdom, it’s in shape of a cross. When you come to that door, your own name and heritage and accomplishments and goodness are of absolutely no value, will gain you absolutely nothing. Only by putting all confidence in what Lord Jesus accomplished on that cross in your place and wearing his goodness can you be given entrance into God’s kingdom.

Have you entered his kingdom, been adopted into his family and given an eternal inheritance? Give God praise and thanks, then tell your family and neighbors and friends. Are you still an outcast, never having come to God by faith? Until moment Lord Jesus returns, there’s room at the cross, that door will open, God’s family can be your family, too. Don’t delay, come to Christ while it is still “Today”.

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