Isaiah 56: 1, 6-8 (Pentecost 11 -2017)
“His House is For All People”
Listen in on Solomon’s sermon prayer upon the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem: “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— 42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel and may know that this house I have built bears your Name” (1 Kings 8).
Outreach was very much on the heart of the Lord, and very much on Solomon’s heart, upon the completion of His Temple. The primary function of the impressive structure was to gather his people to his Name. But the LORD still has the guest in his heart. Generations later he again makes that clear through Isaiah in the lesson today. “These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.” This is true: God’s House is for All People.
For Those Already Gathered
For those already gathered there is the Keeping the Sabbath Day and making it Holy. The most obvious way they did that was … They went to Temple! A full sanctuary speaks a message. In one of the gathering Ascent Psalms, likely song along the journey up the mountain to Jerusalem the people sang: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122:1)
There in the House of God they sang songs of the Messiah. Think on Isaiah 53 and the news of the Christ. They sang of his humility and humanity in coming to earth: “he had no majesty that we should look at him … a man of sorrows” (verse 3). They sang of his forgiving work of the cross: “We all like sheep have gone astray and by his stripes we are healed for the LORD has laid on him the guilt of us all” (verse 5-6). They sang of Easter and heaven and the resurrection of all people: “He will see his offspring and the Lord will prolong his days … he will divided him a portion among the many and share the spoils with the strong” (Verses 10-12).
Think on our Christ-centered Worship Today. It is and ought to remain the same. Let our worship be filled with the many who rejoiced at the invite. Let our sanctuary be filled with the gathered who sing the songs of the Christ. Let our songs be filled with the truths of the Scriptures and encased with Treasures Old and New. Let the foreigner join us at the learning gate (or in this case our pews) and see Christ-centered, joy-filled worship that preaches Christ. Let our presentations of the Gospel be seriously genuine! Let the guests leave saying “these people have taught me Jesus Christ and they loved it!”
The Lord also desires that those who gather lead lives that displaying his Righteousness. (CS. Verse 6) In days of before Jesus Israel followed laws that are called: “The Hedge.” God was essentially saying:“When these people do these things that I ask them they are showing themselves to be my people.” “This is what my people look like.”
We have those same expectations in the New: It does matter to God how we conduct our lives among the people not yet gathered. Truthfully, it matters to the skeptics as well. Scan the letters of Paul the missionary to the Gentiles. You will see: Colossians 4: 5-6 “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
1 Thessalonians 4: 11-12 “ … and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Timothy 3: 7 “He [the pastors, the elders] must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” 1 Peter 2 :12 “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
For Those Being Gathered
Think on how that happened in the Old Testament. Think of Rahab’s family in Jericho. When she spared the lives of the 12 spies, the Lord spared her and her family. After Jerico’s destruction, they were welcomed into the family of the True God. Think of Naaman the leper. After the servant girl introduced him to Elisha, he was not only healed of leprosy, he was brought to faith in the Lord of Israel. It is his delight that all be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
That was already evident in the giving of the Law. The Third Commandment, regarding the keep of the Sabbath, includes the proselytes at the gate (Exodus 20:10), i.e. Gentile people who were interested in being converts to the true Israel. Think of all the foreigners among the tents of Abraham and his descendants. Every Sabbath they were included in the significance of the third commandment as the converts at the gate (Exodus 20: 10).
Think on Jesus’ ministry. Sometimes he is preaching to crowds and going Temple. Most often we see him touching the life of individuals. Today in the Gospel lesson that individual is a Canaanite. He goes to great lengths to test her faith. He extends his walk with her long enough to have her begging for crumbs. He gives her more than crumbs! He gives her the complete cake of his grace: healing for her daughter, forgiving love, strength of faith, and most importantly, his sacrifice on the cross was for her sins, too! His salvation is for everyone; first for the Jew and then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). His Table of blessing was for her, too!
This Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 14-16).
I was a Sesame Street kid in the 70’s. There was frequent segment on called “Who are the People in your Neighborhood?” It taught the reality that there are all kinds of people in our neighborhood (the fireman, the policeman, the mailman, et.). It has always stuck with me: we ought to know, respect and care about these folks. Do we build a bond with them that is more than a small talk “hello” in the store? Yes! We begin a journey that includes conversations from people who know and believe. Who are the people in your “neighborhood”? They are His, too, bought by the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the whole world. (John 1: 29).
“These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.” This is why Messiah came! Jesus died for all. The unconditional forgiveness he won of the cross brings joy to those who have been brought to know and believe it. Converts to Christianity are some of the most joyful people I know. They know what they were missing. They know the joy of God’s gracious mountain of blessings! God our Savior want all to be saved. He gave his Son for them to prove it! Therefore his House is a House for All; for those of us who gather often, and for those he gathers through us to His Son! In Jesus’ Name. Amen.