Isaiah  56

 

 

 

                        AN EXHORTATION TO OBSERVE THE LAW,

                        ESPECIALLY THE LAW OF THE SABBATH,

                                    COMBINED WITH PROMISES

                                                            (vs. 1-8)

 

There was much of the Law which it was impossible to observe during the Captivity.

Sacrifice had ceased, the temple was destroyed, almost all the ceremonial law must

have been suspended; even the command to do no work on the sabbath day cannot

have been kept by a nation of slaves, whose masters would certainly not have permitted

them to be idle one day in seven. Still, the spirit of the ordinance might be kept by

devoting the day, so far as was possible, to religious observance, as to prayer and to

meditation upon holy things. This is now enjoined on the captive Jews, with the

promise of a blessing — a blessing in which even the most despised part of the

nation, the proselytes and the eunuchs, might participate.

 

 

1 “Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation 

is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.” Keep ye judgment,

and do justice; rather, keep ye Lawand observe righteousness. The exhortation is

general, and has no special bearing on trials or law-courts. It is a call on the Jews,

in their captivity, to keep, so far as was possible, the whole Law given on Sinai.

My salvation is near to come. The nearer the time of deliverance approaches, the

more faithful and exact ought Israel to be in life and conduct. God's "salvation"

and His "righteousness" go hand-in-hand. It is as His righteous people,

"a holy seed" (ch. 6:13), that He is about to vindicate and rescue them. If they are

no holier than others, why should He do more for them than for those others?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 “Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that

keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.”

That doeth this... that layeth hold on it; i.e. that doeth according to the exhortation

in v. 1. That keepeth the sabbath. The prominent place assigned to this duty by the

evangelical prophet is remarkable. We may observe, however,


(1) that the spirit of obedience is better tested by a positive than by a moral ordinance;

      and


(2) that as, probably, there could be little outward keeping of the sabbath by the captives,

it would have had to be kept inwardly by spiritual exercises, by silent prayer and

praise, together with prolonged meditation upon holy things. In the absence of all

the ordinary aids to devotion, the religious condition of the people must have

depended very much on their keeping up the recollection of the sabbath, and

hallowing it so far as was possible; e.g.:

 

a.      doing no work for themselves,

b.      neither buying nor selling,

c.       making their devotions longer, and

d.      keeping God in their thoughts throughout the day.

 

The nearer the time of deliverance approaches, the more faithful and exact

ought Israel to be in life and conduct.   “Seeing then that all these things

shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy

conversation and godliness” – II Peter 3:11 – Concerning the Sabbath –

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of

some is; but exhorting one another:  and so much more as ye see the

day approaching” – Hebrews 10:25

 

God’s “salvation” and His “righteousness” go hand-in-hand.

 

"Blessed is the man that doeth this"

 

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.” The son of the stranger; 

i.e. the foreigner, who has become a proselyte. During the depression of the Captivity

these are not likely to have been many. Still, there were doubtless some; and these,

who had embraced Judaism under such unfavorable circumstances, were entitled to

special consideration. As Messianic hopes prevailed, and the time of restoration to

Palestine drew near (v. 1), they might naturally be afraid that they would not be looked

upon as equals by the native Israelites, but would be made into a lower grade, if not

even excluded. The Lord hath utterly separated me; rather, the Lord will utterly

separate me. They do not suppose it done, but think it will be done. The eunuch.

Isaiah had prophesied to Hezekiah that a certain number of his seed should serve

as eunuchs in the royal palace of the King of Babylon (II Kings 20:18). Daniel,

Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were such persons (Daniel 1:3-6), and there may

have been others. By the letter of the Law (Deuteronomy 23:1), they were cut off

from the congregation, but practically it would seem that during the Captivity they

were on a par with other Israelites. These persons feared, with more reason than the

foreign proselytes, that, on the return of Israel to their own land, a stricter practice

would be established than had prevailed during the Captivity, and the letter of the Law

would be enforced against them. I am a dry tree. Therefore useless, and entitled to no

consideration at all.

 

4 “For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose 

the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;” The eunuchs that...

take hold of my covenant. The law of Deuteronomy 23:1 shall be abrogated under

the new condition of things, for such as "take hold of God's covenant."

 

5 “Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place

and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting

name, that shall not be cut off.”  In mine house; i.e. "in my Church" (compare

I Timothy 3:15). Within my walls. Within the walls of my "holy city" (see above, 

ch. 54:11-12; 60:14; 62:12). A place and a name; or, a memorial and a name; i.e. 

honourable mention, like that promised to the woman who anointed Christ for His

burial (Matthew 26:13). Such mention is found in ibid. ch. 19:12Acts 8:27-39.

 

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;”  Also the sons of the

stranger (compare v. 3). The proselytes shall not be treated as they fear. On the contrary,

God will treat them in exactly the same way as His original people - will conduct

them to Palestine, settle them in His "holy mountain," admit them to the temple

services, accept their burnt offerings and their sacrifices. All this will be a foretaste

of their position in the Christian Church, where there will be neither Jew

nor Gentile, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, but a community

where all are brethren and all have equal privileges.

 

The importance of “taking hold of God’s covenant!”  (vs. 4,6)

 

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.”

My house of prayer. In Solomon's address to God at the dedication of the temple,

its character, as a house of prayer, is abundantly laid down (I Kings 8:29-53).

And no doubt it was used for the purpose of prayer, as well as for the purpose of

sacrifice, from its first erection to its final destruction. But the purpose of sacrifice

so far predominated, in fact, over the other, that the expression, "my house

of prayer," comes upon us in this place to some extent as a surprise. The prophet

seems to anticipate the time when the temple should be emphatically a προσευχή -

proseuchae -  to pray to God - the legal sacrifices having received their fulfillment

(Isaiah 53:10), and being thenceforth superfluous and out of place. For all people;

ratherfor all the peoples. All the ends of the earth were to see the salvation of God

(Psalm 98:3); "All nations were to fall down before him; all people to do Him service."

(ibid. ch. 72:11).

 

8 “The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather 

others to Him, beside those that are gathered unto Him.”  The Lord God; rather, 

the Lord Jehovah - Adonai Jehovah. An unusual phrase. Which gathereth together

the outcasts of Israel; i.e. the Lord who has pledged himself to bring back Israel

from captivity, and to gather together Israel's outcasts from all regions (ch. 11:11

27:12-1343:5-6). This same Lord now promises something further: "He will

gather others also to Israel, besides His own gathered ones." Introduced with such

emphasis and formality, this was probably, when delivered, a new revelation.

In the present arrangement of the prophecies, however, it announces no novelty.

The addition of Gentile members to the Israelite community has been declared

frequently (see ch. 44:555:5).

 

 

                                    A WARNING TO THE WICKED

                                                (ch. 56:9 thru 57:21)

 

 

                        THE BLIND GUIDES OF ISRAEL REBUKED

                                                            (vs. 9-12)

 

A sudden change of style marks the introduction of an entirely new prophecy.

The eye of the prophet, apparently, goes back from the period of the exile,

which he has been so long contemplating, to his own day, or at any rate to

the pre-exile period, and rests upon Israel in their own land. He sees them”

 

·         misled by their teachers (vs. 10-12),

·         given to idolatry (ch. 57:3-9), and

·         offering themselves a ready prey to their enemies (ch. 56:9).

 

9 “All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.”

Beasts of the field... beasts in the forest; i.e. "all wild beasts of whatever kind"

all the enemies of God's flock (see Jeremiah 12:9Ezekiel 34:8). Come to devour. 

Make haste, now is your opportunity. The people have none to protect them,

and will be an easy prey. Come, set to work; devour.

 

10 “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs,

they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.”  His watchmen are

blind. Israel's "watchmen" are his guides and teachers, the prophets (Jeremiah 6:17; 

Ezekiel 3:17Habakkuk 2:1). At the time of which Isaiah speaks, they are "blind"

(ch. 29:1835:542:7,16,18-1943:8), or without knowledge - like the "blind

guides" of the Gospel (Matthew 15:14Luke 6:39). They have not the spiritual

discernment which would enable them to lead the people aright. Further,

they are dumb dogs. Instead of acting as faithful watch-dogs, who give warning

of the approach of danger by their barking, they remain apathetic, and utter no

warning at all. It is as if they passed their lives in sleep.

 

11 “Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are 

shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one

for his gain, from his quarter.”  Yea, they are greedy dogs. Another defect

is noted. Not only do they fail in the way of neglect of duty, but they are actively

culpable. Being worldly and not spiritually minded, they are "greedy" after gain.

Anciently, the taking of a gift, or fee, from those who came to consult them was

regarded as no dishonor to the prophetic office (Numbers 22:7I Samuel 9:7

I Kings 14:3); but the nobler class of prophets declined to make a profit of their

spiritual powers, and would receive no fee (II Kings 5:16Matthew 10:8Acts 8:20).

In Ezekiel and Micah the taking of gifts by prophets is regarded as discreditable

(Ezekiel 13:1922:25Micah 3:3). From his quarter; rather, to the uttermost 

or every onewithout exception.

 

12 “Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong

drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.”

Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine. Here we have mention of a third defect.

The prophets of the time are not only negligent of their duty, and covetous,

but they are given to excess in wine and to long revels, such as even the heathen

considered to be disgraceful (compare ch. 28:7, where both priests and prophets

are taxed with habitual drunkenness). To-morrow shall be as this day; i.e. the

drinking shall continue - we will have a two days' bout of it. And much more

abundant; rather, very exceedingly abundant. There is no comparison of one day

with the other; but simply a promise that on both days the drinking shall be

without stint. (On the drunkenness occasionally prevalent in Oriental countries,

see Herodotus,1:133; Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 8:8, § 10; Dur. Samuel Fr., 13; and compare

the remarks of Sir H. Rawlinson on the inebriety of the modern Persians in the

author's ' Herodotus,' vol. 1. p. 219, edition of 1862.)

 

Those who look to their own way and seek their own gain are WHOLLY

UNFIT to bear the message of God!

 

THEY ARE WORLDLY MINDED, NOT SPIRITUALLY MINDED –

they are greedy after gain or as the New Testament calls it “filthy

lucre” -

 

Below is an excerpt from the Spurgeon Sermon:                        

                        

                   Rejectors of the Gospel Admonished

                                      April 17, 1881)

 

 

Isaiah spoke more of Jesus Christ than all the rest of the prophets, and yet the

message of love was treated as though it were an idle tale. His doctrine was clear

as the daylight, and yet men would not see it, so that he had to ask with sorrow,

“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”

It was not the fault of the preacher that Israel rejected his warnings: all the fault

lay with that disobedient and gainsaying nation. The people to whom he

spoke so earnestly were drunken in a double sense. They were overcome

with wine, and so general was this vice that Isaiah says, “But they also

have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the

priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed

up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision,

they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so

that there is no place clean.” What can be conceived of more potent to

blunt the point of gospel truth than intoxication or excess? When a man is

given to wine how can the Spirit of God dwell in him? How is it likely that

the truth shall enter an ear which has been rendered deaf by this degrading

vice? How is the word of God likely to operate upon a conscience that has

been drenched and drowned by strong drink? I charge you, if any of you

are given to drunkenness, flee from this destroyer before your bands are

made strong and yon are hopelessly fettered by the habit.  It is small wonder

that the preacher is defeated if his ardent zeal has to compete with ardent

spirits. When Bacchus rolls the wine-cask against the door it is hard to

force an entrance, even though we demand it in the name of King Jesus.

Men are in an ill state for hearing when the barrel and the bottle are their

idols. It is not at all marvellous that the gospel should be neglected by men

who have put an enemy into their months to steal away their brains.

 

The people to whom Isaiah spoke were also drunken in another sense,

namely, intoxicated with pride. Their country was fruitful, and its chief city,

Samaria, stood on the hill top, like a diadem of beauty crowning the land,

and they delighted in the glorious beauty which is on the head of the fat

valley. They themselves were brave, and among them were many

champions whose strength sufficed to turn the battle to the gate, therefore

they hoped to resist every invader, and so their hearts were lifted up.

Moreover, they said — “We are an intelligent people; we want no

teaching, or if indeed we endure instruction it must be of a high class; we

are men of cultured intellect, instructed scribes, and we do not need

persons like Isaiah to weary us with their ding-dong of ‘precept upon

precept, line upon line,’ as if we were mere children at school. Besides, we

are good enough. Do we not worship our God under the form of the

golden calves of Belial? Do we not respect the sacrifices and the holy

days?” So spoke the more religious of them, while the rest gloried in their

shame. Being intoxicated with pride it was not likely that they would hear

the message of the prophet, who bade them turn from their evil ways. Even

so he that is righteous in his own esteem is never likely to accept the

righteousness of Christ. He who boasts that he can see will never ask to

have his eyes opened. He who claims that he was born free, and was never

in bondage unto any man, is not likely to accept the liberty of Christ. Pride

is the devil’s drag-net in which he taketh more fishes than in any other,

except procrastination. The destruction of those who are proud is certain;

for who can help the man that refuses to be helped, and where is the

likelihood that there shall be either repentance of his sin or faith in Christ in

the man who does not know that he has sinned, and who believes that if he

has done so he can easily wipe out the stain?

 

The two forms of drunkenness are equally destructive, and I beg to call

your attention to this fact. Whether body or soul be intoxicated mischief

will surely come of it. Many are pleased if I speak against drunkenness of

the body, and I feel bound to speak as earnestly as I possibly can, for it is a

monster evil; but I beseech you who are sober, and perhaps total

abstainers, to dread the other intoxication; for if any one of us should be

intoxicated with pride on account of our own sobriety it will be ruinous to

our souls. What if we are temperate and self-denying, there is nothing in

this whereof to glory; we ought to be greatly ashamed of ourselves if we

were not so. Let us not get drunk with pride because we are not drunkards;

for if we are so vain and foolish, we shall as certainly perish by pride as we

should have done by drink. I am indeed rejoiced when a man gives up his

cups; but I am far more happy when at the same time he renounces his self-

confidence; for, if not, he may still remain so besotted as to refuse the

gospel and perish by his own wilful rejection of mercy. May the Holy Spirit

deliver us all from such a sad condition. I confess I feel encouraged this

morning by Isaiah’s want of success. When he says, “They would not

hear,” I comfort myself concerning those who pay no heed to my

exhortations; perhaps it is no more my fault than it was Isaiah’s. At any

rate, if Isaiah still went on speaking even when he cried, “Who hath

believed our report?” much more may I, who am so much inferior to him,

be willing to persevere in telling out my Master’s message as long as my

tongue will move. Peradventure God may grant repentance to the

obstinate, and ears may yet be unstopped, and hearts may yet be softened;

therefore, let us try again, and once more publish the glad tidings of peace.

If the blessed Spirit be with us we shall not give the gospel call in vain, but

men will fly to Jesus as doves to their windows.

 

 

·         Below is the inscription on the grave monument of

       Mr. Spurgeon  in the West Norwood Cementary,

       London, England

 

E'er since by faith I saw the stream

Thy flowing wounds supply

Redefining love has been my theme

And shall be till I die

Then in a nobler sweeter song

I'll sing Thy power to save

When this poor lisping stammering tongue

Lies silent in the grave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."

 

This material can be found at:

http://www.adultbibleclass.com

 

If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.