The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 56:1, 6-8, and is the beginning of the third main section of the prophet’s writing. Verse 1 of this pericope provides a type of hinge for the entire writing. The first portion of the verse, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness…,” sums up chapters 1-39 of Isaiah. The rest of the verse, “…for my salvation is near in coming and my righteousness is being revealed,” summates the second portion of Isaiah, chapters 40-55. Now, our reading moves into the final, major section of the Prophet. This does not recommend there is a different author for these three sections. It argues the opposite and shows the book of Isaiah to be a well-organized whole.

The scandal of verses 6-8 for the Jewish people is the inclusion of all nations and peoples into the Holy House of the LORD. Even though this should have always been apparent in the covenantal promises of the LORD God, the Jews had long-ago moved away from this understanding. R. Lessing in his Isaiah 56-66 Commentary says it well:

“Israel was never intended to exist in isolation (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 45:14, 23). Yahweh’s mandate was clear: the nation was to be His missionary to the world (Exodus 19:6). When Israel embraced the lie that she could keep Yahweh and his blessings to herself, then all was lost. Jesus describes this tragedy when he cleanses the temple during Holy Week: “it is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers” (Luke 19:46; cf. Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17) (p. 66).

So, when Jesus cleanses the Temple, He quotes in part verse 7 of our text. Even more radical and offensive to the Jewish audience is the indication that the foreigners would minister within the House of the LORD! Burnt offerings, sacrifices, and prayers will be accepted at the altar. The question might be, “When will this become a reality?” One might argue it should take place when Christ entered the world as the incarnate Son of God. However, the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD soon after His Ascension. If we equate the language of “Holy Mountain” with the Holy Mountain in Isaiah 25, then we see reality taking place in the courts of Heaven, in the heavenly Jerusalem, the everlasting Mt. Zion when Christ comes again. This explanation seems to fit well with the overall eschatological theme of this last section of Isaiah. However, one could make an argument for a both/and reality. Gentiles serve as priests in the “Temple” (not the physical Zion) at Christ’s first coming and that servanthood is brought to total fulfillment in the second coming.

+Gentiles serve as priests in the “Temple” (not the physical Zion) at Christ’s first coming and that servanthood is brought to total fulfillment in the second coming.

56:1 שִׁמְרוּ (shim-Ru) root: שׁמר (shaw-mar) Qal: “to keep; to guard”

וַעֲשׂוּ: (va-a-Su) root: עשׂה (aw-saw) Qal: “to do” These two verbs together take on covenantal significance (Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 19:9).

מִשְׁפָּט (mish-Pat) “justice”

קְרוֹבָה. (ke-ro-Vah) “close; near”

יְשׁוּעָתִי (ye-shu-a-Ti) “salvation”

לָבוֹא (la-Vo) Qal, infinitive construct: “to come”

לְהִגָּלוֹת. (le-hig-ga-Lot) root: גלה (gaw-law) Niphal, infinitive construct: “to be revealed”

56:6 הַנֵּכָר; (han-ne-Char) “foreigner” (the sons of foreigners)

הַנִּלְוִים; (han-nil-Vim) root: לוה (law-vaw) Niphal: “to join oneself; to be joined”

לְשָׁרְתוֹ (le-Sha-re-To) root: שׁרת (shaw-rath) Piel: “to serve; to minister; to attend to the service of God” The verb indicates foreigners will have priestly functions/roles in the House of the LORD.

וּלְאַהֲבָה (u-le-a-ha-Vah) root: אהב (aw-hab) Qal: “to love”

שֹׁמֵר (sho-Mer) Qal, participle: “to keep”

מֵחַלְּלוֹ (me-chal-le-Lo) root: חלל (khaw-lal) Piel, infinitive construct: “to not profane”

56:7 וַהֲבִיאוֹתִים (va-ha-vi-o-Tim) root: בוא (bo) Hiphil: “to bring; to cause to be brought”

הַר קָדְשִׁי (har kod-shi) “holy mountain”

וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים (ve-sim-mach-Tim) root: שׂמח (saw-makh) Piel: “to be glad” Piel has the causative sense: “to make them glad; to cause them to be glad”

תְּפִלָּתִי. (te-fil-la-Ti) “prayer”

לְרָצוֹן (le-ra-Tzon) from: רצוֹן (raw-tsone) “favor; acceptance” The idea is “divine” favor.

56:8 מְקַבֵּץ (me-kab-Betz) root: קבץ (kaw-bats) Piel: “to gather; to collect”

נִדְחֵי (nid-Chei) root: דחה (daw-khaw) Niphal, participle: “to be scattered; to be banished”

לְנִקְבָּצָיו. (le-nik-ba-Tzav) Niphal, participle: “to gather; to collect”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 56:1, 6-8.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 56:1, 6-8.