BLESSING PROMISED TO ALL WHO COMMIT TO GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS – EVEN GENTILES AND EUNUCHS
How big is God’s heart for sinners? We learned in Chap. 55 that the gospel of God is a “Whosoever” gospel. While some people might try to twist the doctrine of God’s Election to make it seem like He is small-hearted and restrictive in confirming His covenant to the small nation of Israel; in actuality God wants to embrace all who will make a commitment to His righteousness.
That message of inclusiveness should strike a chord with Gentiles like ourselves who have come to the party as outsiders. You all know what it means to be an outsider. You have that feeling of awkwardness and loneliness as you observe the love and fellowship of a group that has bonded together over common interests. You stand on the outside, lacking that position of privilege and status and wonder what it would be like to be included as an insider. In business, I understand what it means to be an outsider – go try to do business on the Eastern Shore when you don’t have roots there; or go down south into VA and try to fit into the good old boy network when it is obvious you are a Northerner.
Message of Paul to the Ephesians: 2:11-22
The ultimate passage about how Outsiders can become Insiders
Constable: Chapter 56 contains moral exhortations in view of God’s salvation. . . Since His salvation was about to appear, in return from captivity and in the atoning work of the Servant, His people should practice justice and righteousness (cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Titus 3:8). They had a responsibility beyond just believing His promises (chs. 54—55). Notice that practicing justice and righteousness does not accomplish salvation. They should be its consequence; they cannot be its cause (cf. Rom. 12:1-2).
Oswalt: The righteousness that chs. 1-39 called for, but that the people could not produce, can be produced by means of the righteousness of God that chs. 40-55 revealed (cf. 53:1).
BLESSING PROMISED TO ALL WHO COMMIT TO GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS – EVEN GENTILES AND EUNUCHS
I. (:1-2) BLESSING PROMISED TO ALL WHO COMMIT TO GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS
A. (:1) Ethical Requirements Emphasized
“Thus says the LORD,”
1. Conditions for Blessing
and do righteousness,”
Parunak: What is the relation between “judgment” and “justice”?
The two nouns first occur together in God’s statement about Abraham:
Gen 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and
they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD
may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
They form a basic claim to godly conduct that is frequent throughout the OT (see notes).
• The first word, “judgment”, is a name for law, and emphasizes what is according to God’s legislation.
• The second word, “justice”, is literally “righteousness,” and indicates what is according to God’s character.
Perhaps the best translation of the two is the AV’s in Ezek 18 and 33 (repeatedly), “lawful and right.” Here, “Obey the law, and do what is right.” The association of the two recognizes that simply doing what the law says is not enough. It is possible to be obedient outwardly and yet harbor inward rebellion against the Lord. Our Lord frequently emphasized this principle in his dealings with the Pharisees.
What is involved in Guarding justice and doing righteousness?
Isaiah had already addressed this at the beginning of his book:
1:16-17; 21-23; 10:1-2
2. Promise of Blessing
“For My salvation is about to come
And My righteousness to be revealed.”
Beall: The general exhortation to live righteously in light of the Lord’s salvation (56:1-2). The Lord begins in v. 1 by exhorting unnamed people to “keep justice and righteousness” because God’s salvation is “near to come” (compare the “near” of 55:6–God’s salvation was near at this time, but He might not always be so near), and His righteousness would soon be revealed (compare Rom 1:18; as Young states, “when the salvation of God comes, His righteousness is also revealed” [3:389]).
v. 2 continues by pronouncing a blessing on the one who does what God says, and specifically who does not defile the Sabbath or do evil. Keeping the Sabbath would, of course, be a sign in those days of putting oneself under God’s covenant with Israel (see Exod 31:12-17).
B. (:2) Ethical Requirements Repeated
1. Promise of Blessing
“How blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who takes hold of it;”
Parallels to Psalm 1 throughout
2. Conditions of Blessing
“Who keeps from profaning the sabbath,
keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
Don’t want to get off track by diving deep into the controversial topic of whether Sabbath observance is still binding on Christians today – that would require a whole series of messages on its own; here Sabbath keeping in the Jewish context of those under the Mosaic law is used as a part for the whole to speak of obedience to God’s commands overall
Yet I understand the importance of which side you come down on in this controversy
I will just cite some overall conclusions from Dr. John MacArthur without trying to confirm them or make the argument here
Remember our focus in this passage – Outsider can Become Insiders
Constable: Ethical conduct will result in divine blessing. Profaning the Sabbath and doing evil are the opposite of preserving justice and doing righteousness. They represent specific acts of obedience (observing the Sabbath) and an attitude toward life (doing good). By refraining from work on the Sabbath, the Israelites expressed trust that God would provide for their needs as He promised. Next to circumcision, keeping the Sabbath was the central sign of the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Exod. 31:13-17; Ezek. 20:12-17). God’s standard is perfection: His people were to keep their hands from doing “any evil” (cf. Matt. 5:48).
Parunak: What he asks here is not simply keeping the Sabbath, but keeping the Sabbath while avoiding any evil. This pairing is an example of the relation between judgment and justice in v. 1. The first is a ritual, outward, conformity to the law, while the second is a deeper conformity to the law of God.
David Thompson: Three times in this chapter the Sabbath day is mentioned (56:2, 4, 6). The Sabbath day was a sign between God and Israel (Exodus 31:12-17). It was never a sign between God and Gentiles. The thing that characterized the Sabbath in the O.T. is that it was a day of complete rest from any physical activity, especially an agricultural or business pursuit (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-17; 35:3; Leviticus 25:4; Numbers 15:32-36; Nehemiah 10:31).
According to Paul, the New Testament believer is complete in Jesus Christ and the law was nailed to the cross and the Sabbath is no more (Colossians 2:10-16). In fact, Paul warned believers not to ever be enslaved to the law day observances (Galatians 4:9-10). In this Church Age, we worship God on Sunday, the first day of the week. We are not obligated in any way to keep the Sabbath because Christ nailed it to the cross.
However, after this Church Age is over, God’s program will once again swing back to Israel; and in the Tribulation and also in the Millennium, there will be a reinstatement of the Sabbath Day
II. (:3-8) TRADITIONAL OUTSIDERS (GENTILES AND EUNUCHS) INCLUDED IN THIS PROMISE OF BLESSING
A. (:3) Traditional Outsiders Must Not View Themselves as Excluded
1. (:3a) Example of the Gentiles
“Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,
‘The LORD will surely separate me from His people.’”
Parunak: The “son of the stranger” could become an Israelite by receiving circumcision. Why then does Isaiah treat the admission of this category of person, like that of the eunuch, as something new?
Note the parallel between Exod 12:43 and 12:48.
Exo 12:43 There shall no stranger eat thereof :
Exo 12:48 no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
The parallel shows that the “son of a stranger” is simply an “uncircumcised person.” By receiving circumcision, a foreigner ceases to be the “son of a stranger.” But in this case, Isaiah is proposing something very radical: there will be a day when the Lord will receive the “son of the stranger” without the need for circumcision, in his condition as a foreigner. . .
Isaiah brings together the requirement for circumcision and the exclusion of the eunuch. Ethnic continuity is at the heart of Israel’s identity in the OT. They are carrying the promised seed of Abraham that will one day yield the Messiah. Circumcision reminds them of their role in passing on and extending the nation. Only those who are able to procreate, and who are marked in a way that reminds them of their procreative responsibility, can fully participate in the community.
In our passage, the Lord reveals that the day will come when this physical, ethnic character of the people of God will come to an end. No longer will the eunuch and the uncircumcised be excluded from the house of the Lord.
Jerry Scott – Illustration
Almost every one of us has the unpleasant experience of being an “outsider” at some point in our life. Ever been ‘shut out?’
Discrimination, that is, choosing to accept or reject people based on color, sex, or religion is a “skill” which we learn fairly early in life.
Little boys form their clubs and put the sign over the door of the clubhouse, “no girls allowed!”
As early as first or second grade, kids have already decided who is cool and who isn’t, who is an insider and who is an outsider.
The little kid who was born with bigger ears than other people, who has clothes that are last year’s style, is marked an outsider and shunned fiercely!
2. (:3b) Example of the Eunuch
“Neither let the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’”
Could be a Eunuch:
– in a physical sense
– or in a functional sense
Beall: In vv. 3-8, two specific groups are encouraged by the Lord: proselytes (Gentiles who worshipped the Lord) and eunuchs (who were excluded by the Law from entering into the assembly [Deut 23:1]).
Constable: God’s exclusion of foreigners and eunuchs from Israel’s public worship (Deut. 23:1-8) was not because these types of people were intrinsically evil and therefore unacceptable to Him. God excluded foreigners because He wanted to teach His people that opposition to His will and His people has abiding consequences. He excluded eunuchs because He wanted His people to learn that the destruction of sexual organs that He created has consequences. These consequences affected their worship of the Holy One of Israel, as well as their public life and their private life. Ruth and the Ethiopian eunuch are the proof that God accepts people on the basis of their faith in Him—in spite of their ancestry or personal history. Non-Israelites and disabled Israelites could enjoy the blessings of God’s salvation (personal salvation and millennial blessings) along with normal believing Israelites. This passage helps us understand the qualifications for elders and deacons in the New Testament. While the office may be closed to a particular individual because of acts he committed previously that have continuing consequences, he is fully acceptable to God and capable of serving Him in equally significant ministries.
B. (:4-7) Traditional Outsiders Not Viewed as Excluded by the Lord
1. (:4-5) Example of the Eunuch
“For thus says the LORD,”
Constable: The prophet prefaced his shocking explanation of the spiritual acceptability of ritually unacceptable people with, “For thus says Yahweh.” This was not just his opinion but divine revelation.
a. Conditions for Blessing
“To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,”
b. Promise of Blessing
“to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial,
And a name better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.’”
Beall: an everlasting name that would not be cut off (pun intended?)
Constable: This promise can be very comforting to childless couples. If they follow God faithfully, He will bless them more greatly than He would bless them if they only had physical children.
Oswalt: The barren woman will have more children than the fertile woman (Isa. 5:1), and the nameless eunuch will have a name forever. Instead of being limited to what little posterity children could give him, the eunuch who trusts God will live forever in God’s house (Ps. 23:6).
2. (:6-7) Example of the Gentiles
a. (:6) Conditions for Blessing
“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,”
“To minister to Him,”
“and to love the name of the LORD,”
“To be His servants,”
“everyone who keeps from profaning the sabbath,”
“And holds fast My covenant;”
Grogan: The six marks of the foreigner (v. 6) provide a beautiful description of true godliness, with love as its great dynamic, the very antithesis of Pharisaic legalism.
• “join themselves to the Lord,” choosing to associate with him rather than with the world
• “serve him,” seeking to accomplish his purposes rather than our own
• “love the name of the Lord,” seeking to see him honored
b. (:7) Promise of Blessing
“Even those I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”
Oswalt: All of Israel’s separation from the world was in order to keep Israel from being absorbed into the world and thus losing the ability to call the world out of itself into the blessings of God. But should Israel ever come to believe that its separation was so that Israel could keep here God and his blessings to herself, then all was lost. It is precisely this attitude that infuriated Jesus (Matt. 21:13) and that Isaiah is countering in this segment and in this division.
C. (:8) Summary: Promise of Extension of Salvation Blessing to Outsiders
“The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,
‘Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.’”
Look at story of Jesus – go out into the highway and byways and compel them to come in
Parable of the Great Supper – Luke 14:15-24
Beall: v. 8 concludes by saying that the Lord who gathers the dispersed of Israel will also gather others to them, namely the Gentiles. Jesus’ words in John 10:16 are similar: “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” The gospel of salvation to the Gentiles is not just a NT concept; it is rooted in the prophecies of the OT as well (compare 49:6: the Servant’s task to be “a light to the Gentiles that you should be my salvation to the ends of the earth”).
Constable: With an unusually strong declaration (cf. 1:24), sovereign Yahweh affirmed that He would gather many other Gentiles to Himself along with the Israelites (cf. 19:25; 49:6-7; 51:5; 55:5; John 10:16). He would not save only Israelites, but Gentiles as well. The new revelation, or mystery, concerning the relationship of Jews and Gentiles in the church (Eph. 2—3), was not that God would save Gentiles as well as Jews. It was that in the church He would deal with Jews and Gentiles on the same basis. Jews would have no advantage over Gentiles as they did previously. Now both types of people could come into relationship with God directly through faith in Christ. Formerly Gentiles came into relationship with God indirectly—through Israel—through faith in Yahweh. The Lord was not referring to the Babylonian exile or to geographical dispersal, but to those scattered from Himself.
So the encouraging truth for anybody who sees themselves as a poor, helpless sinner in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ is that Outsiders can become Insiders.
But the opposite is true as well: Insiders can become Outsiders:
There are many who view themselves as Insiders who will tragically find when Jesus returns in all His righteousness, that they are truly Outsiders.
Look at what Jesus had to say at the end of His Sermon on the Mount to the ultimate group of self proclaimed Insiders – the self righteous Pharisees and religious leaders of his day
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. [Sound familiar: ‘Preserve justice and do righteousness’] Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” Matt. 7:21-23
Acts 10:34, 43 Peter preaching to the household of Cornelius: “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him . . . through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”