ISAIAH CHAPTER 56.
True Repentance Necessary for Admission to the Kingdom of God.
ADMONITION AND COMFORT TO THE AFFLICTED. — V. 1. Thus saith the Lord, the same God of the covenant who has spoken in the foregoing powerful appeals, Keep ye judgment, equity or righteousness in living in conformity with the demands of the covenant with Jehovah, and do justice, following the ordinances of His will, the admonition presupposing a neglect in this respect on the part of the Lord’s people; for My salvation is near to come and My righteousness to be revealed, namely, in the glories of the Messianic revelation. It is the same message which was proclaimed by John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt. 3, 8; 4, 17. V. 2. Blessed is the man that doeth this, weak and mortal as he is in his own person, and the son of man, offspring of sinful and mortal parents, that layeth hold on it, namely, in observing the covenant made upon Sinai, that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, since it was the day when the blessed communion between God and His people was stressed most strongly, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. In urging the keeping of the Sabbath and the observing of the demands of righteousness the prophet is not insisting upon a mere outward mechanical observance of the Law, but desires a return to the ancient covenant faithfulness. V. 3. Neither let the son of the stranger that hath joined himself to the Lord, the non-Israelite, the proselyte from among the Gentiles, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from His people, since people of his class were not admitted to the same privileges as native Israelites; neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree, for even if he could have become a member of the Jewish Church, his family would immediately have become extinct in the nation. Over against these laments the Lord gives His gracious reassurance: v. 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, observing the will and command of the Lord in every respect, thereby giving evidence of the proper condition of their hearts; v. 5. even unto them will I give in Mine house and within My walls, the Temple as symbolizing His Church, a place and a name better than of Sons and of daughters, of those who claimed recognition on the basis of their external membership in the Jewish nation only; I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off, namely, by accepting them fully into the grace of His Messianic kingdom. V. 6. Also the sons of the stranger, of the non-Israelite, of the Gentile, that join themselves to the Lord to serve Him, in the true worship of faith, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, in an inner and truly cordial service, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it and taketh hold of My covenant, v. 7. even them, no matter from what nation they come, will I bring to My holy mountain, to Zion with its Temple, as representing His holy Church, and make them joyful In My house of prayer, by refreshing them with the blessings of his grace; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar, their entire worship being pleasing to Jehovah; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people, not only the Jews, but the Gentiles as well being included in the membership of His Church. Cp. Eph. 2, 19. V. 8. The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel, those who were dispersed among the nations, saith, Yet will I gather others to him, to Israel, to the true people of Jehovah, beside those that are gathered unto him. The Gentiles are not excluded from the kingdom of the Lord, as Jesus Himself plainly tells the Jews, John 10, 16.
THE NEGLECT OF JEHOVAH’S FLOCK BY ITS SHEPHERDS. — V. 9. All ye beasts of the field come to devour, yea, all ye beasts In the forest! It is an ironical call to the enemies of the Church to take advantage of Israel’s helplessness, since she is lying there without protection, her shepherds living a life of ease and indulgence. V. 10. His watchmen, the men on the lookout in the watch-tower of city or fold, in this case the prophets of Israel, are blind, the false teachers deliberately blinding themselves against the needs of the people; they are all ignorant, lacking in true spiritual understanding, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark, like shepherd dogs too lazy or indifferent to raise the alarm at the coming of the wolves; sleeping, lying down, idle dreamers and sluggards, loving to slumber, delighting in self-indulgence. Instead of feeding the flock of the Lord with the Word of God entrusted to them, the false prophets of all times have only their own comfort, the enrichment of their own lazy selves, in mind. Physical laziness usually goes together with intellectual and spiritual relaxation. V. 11. Yea, they are greedy dogs, which can never have enough, the covetousness of false prophets having become proverbial, and they are shepherds that cannot understand, that is, they want to be shepherds, they desire so to be regarded, and yet they have no insight into the demands of their position, they do not realize that their actions give the lie to the title which they bear; they all look to their own way, following the desire of their own evil heart, every one for his gain, from his quarter, to the very end of the gain which they may get out of their position, every one intent upon getting as much as possible out of the people and out of his office. V. 12. Come ye, say they, in the spirit which always characterizes their self-indulgence, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink, in an orgy of bestial drinking; and to-morrow shall be as this day and much more abundant, literally, “great, much more in excess,” a strong expression denoting the habitual and intentional indulgence in intoxicants, with all its accompanying bestiality. Chap. 57, 1. The righteous perisheth, namely, while the false teachers are forsaking their duties, and no man layeth it to heart, no one is aware of the fact that the hand of God interferes in graciously taking the believing Israelite out of this world before the great Judgment descends upon it; and merciful men are taken away, by a sudden death, apparently before their time, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. V. 2. He shall enter into peace, namely, the one to whom Jehovah thus shows His mercy; they shall rest in their beds, slumbering safely in the chambers of their graves, each one walking in his uprightness. This fact, rightly considered, is a source of comfort in every form of bereavement among the faithful, since the Lord, by taking His believers away from this vale of tears, spares them many a bitter experience to which they are subject as long as they sojourn in this sinful world.