Isaiah 56 – What does it mean to “seek the LORD?”
The Duty of Man and the Mercy of God (56:1-2)
Those who “seek the LORD” will seek righteousness and do righteousness. They will guard and keep the Law and Commandments. To them, the LORD promised, “my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed” (56:1). Such a man is “blessed” [happy] and he “keepeth the Sabbath,” and “keepeth his hand from doing any evil” [not defile the Sabbath, but keeping it as a day of worship, and rest] (56:2).
The Sabbath and its adherence by the “children of Israel” (Exodus 31:12-18) was a sign of sanctification to both Jews and Gentile believers who became part of Israel (“sons of the stranger,” 56:3, 6).
The Blessings of the LORD: A Universal Invitation (56:3-8)
Understanding the heart and compassion of the LORD for sinners, and reflecting the Great Commission of the New Testament (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 1:8), the invitation to come to the LORD was universal. The LORD assured believers, both the “son of the stranger” [non-Hebrews who had come by faith to accept the God of the Scriptures] and “the eunuch” [castrated or disfigured men unable to procreate] had their place among His covenant people (56:3-4). Yet, the inclusion among God’s people was not without duty, for they were to “keep[the] sabbath…and take hold of [God’s] covenant” (56:4). To “join themselves to the LORD,” non-Hebrew believers were to serve the LORD, love His name, “be His servants,” and keep “the sabbath from polluting it” (56:6).
None who came to the LORD by faith would be turned away. They could to come to Zion (the “holy mountain”), offer sacrifices, and worship there because the Temple would “be called an house of prayer for all people”(56:7). Isaiah promised, the LORD would not only gather “the outcasts of Israel” (those taken captive to other lands), but also “gather others to him” (56:8).
The Failure of Israel’s Leaders (56:9-12)
Isaiah prophesied that hostile nations, described as “beasts of the field…[and] beasts in the forest” (56:9), would attack Judah, but the leaders of God’s people had failed to warn the people. The LORD’s “watchmen” (His prophets and priests), were spiritually blind, lacking discernment, lazy, and immoral (56:10). They had become like “greedy dogs,” selfish and looking to their own pleasures.
Closing thoughts – Reminiscent of many unfaithful pastors in our day, the “shepherds” (spiritual teachers of Israel) were foolish. They were self-serving (56:11), drunk, and narcissistic (56:12a). Rather than warn the nation concerning the consequences of breaking covenant with the LORD, they persuaded the people every day would be the same, and failed to warn the people regarding the imminent judgment of the LORD (56:12b).
Remembering Isaiah’s prophecies were the precursor of God’s judgment, the prophet proposed the righteous who died (57:1) were fortunate to “enter into peace” (57:2). They would escape the sorrow of watching Jerusalem destroyed, and the people led away into captivity.
The Folly and Fate of Spiritual Adulterers (57:3-15)
Judah had become a nation of spiritual adulterers, who made sport of the righteous, and mocked the LORD (57:3-4). They worshipped lifeless “idols under every green tree,” and sacrificed their “children in the valleys” (57:5; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35).
The nation failed to turn to the LORD, debased themselves before the heathen, and sought the favor of kings (57:9). Without the LORD’s blessings, the people despaired with “no hope” (57:10). They had forsaken the LORD, and in their hour of need, He became silent (“I held my peace,” 57:11). God declared, Judah’s pretense of righteousness, “shall not profit thee” (57:12). The LORD warned, when you cry, “let thy companies [idols] deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them [idols] all away” (57:13).
Though Judah would be punished for her sins, the LORD promised, “he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain” (57:13). Isaiah reminded His people their covenant was with “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity [eternal God], whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place [heaven], with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (57:15).
Closing thoughts – Though Judah would be punished for that nation’s sins, the LORD promised He would not be angry forever (57:16). He lovingly assured Judah He would “heal” [pardon; restore], “lead” [guide], and “comfort” His people (57:18). The wicked, however, like a troubled sea, would not find rest (57:20), for “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (57:21).
Are you at peace? While there is no peace to the wicked, those who trust Christ as Savior are “justified by faith, [and] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Perfect peace is promised to those “whose mind is stayed on [the LORD]: Because he trusteth in [the LORD]” (Isaiah 26:3).
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith