November 8 – Isaiah 56:1-8


Passage Intro

This chapter is a pretty pivotal one in Isaiah for two reasons; first, it looks back on the first 55 chapters in a quick summary (v.1) before transitioning to the promise of the coming Kingdom in chapters 56-66. At this point, Israelites who had heard Isaiah’s condemnation and repented from their sin would be nodding their heads at these commandments; keep justice and do righteousness—got it. But the second pivotal aspect really changes things, because in this passage God opens up the promises of his coming Kingdom to two unlikely groups: foreigners and eunuchs. Specifically, those foreigners and eunuchs who have “joined” themselves to the Lord, believing in him as the only true God and trusting in his covenantal promises. These two groups had, historically, only one foot in the door with God. They could believe, even live in Israel, but certain worship practices were forbidden from them according to Mosaic Law. For example, Exodus 12:43-45 forbid foreigners from eating the Passover feast, and Deuteronomy 23:1 forbid eunuchs from entering the Temple courts at all. For these people there were constant signs and awkward moments that indicated their outsider status, despite their fervent belief in the Lord. You can imagine that the people of Israel were not always kind and inviting towards them.

And yet, according to this text, God invites these people in. He tells them not to believe their doubts and convince themselves that, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people.”(v.3) One should ask, why were they wondering this to begin with? Likely the people of Israel had done nothing to dissuade them of these doubts. In this respect God is far more welcoming than his people were, and gives his invitation to these people as a precursor to the revelation of his coming Kingdom, which will be for “all peoples,”(v.7) not just Israel. And how is it that these promises are enjoyed by people outside of covenantal Israel? By their trusting faith not in themselves but in God’s promises of salvation and blessing. This is nothing but the good news that Jesus sent us to preach to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), the gospel that saves Jews and Gentiles alike by grace through faith (Acts 15:11; Eph. 2:8).

And what does God promise these people who join themselves to him? Not just a foot in the door, but a place to belong. In fact, the promises given to eunuchs in this passage are especially beautiful. In the Temple, where they had not been allowed in, they will not only gain access but receive “a monument and a name better than sons and daughters.”(v.5) God doesn’t just let them in to stand at the back, he gives them a place, a plaque with their name on it, a praiseworthy title in his own house. Both foreigners and eunuchs will be brought to God’s holy mountain, the Temple, where God will hear their prayers, receive their sacrifices (by extension, forgive their sins), and make them joyful. This is a beautiful inheritance that God extends to these people who, depending on the point in history, were not often welcome among Israel.

God brings near the far off (Eph.2:13). To turn this passage on ourselves, we may feel much like the foreigner and the eunuch, as self-conscious outsiders who worry that we don’t have any place with God. But according to this passage, what is it that secures our place with him? Belonging to a certain group of people, having the right religious pedigree, sticking to all the rules? Certainly not—according to the gospel, our place with God is secured by God himself, through Christ’s work on our behalf, and we enjoy that place not by fitting in or assimilating to a specific culture but by trusting in God’s promises through faith.

But perhaps we read this and we feel a little more like the Israelites who were, perhaps, not that thrilled to hear that their covenantal blessings would be enjoyed by outsiders. When God sent Elijah to the non-Jewish widow (1 Kgs. 17) and Jonah to sinful Nineveh, healed Naaman (2 Kgs. 5); when Jesus sent the woman at the well back to her native Samaria to preach the gospel (Jhn 4); when God does this sort of thing, what does it tell us? That God welcomes in those who do not belong. In fact, that is the same gospel that saves everyone—those who did not belong to God due to their sinful rebellion are made to belong through Christ. So how does this apply to those of us who, like the Israelites, already feel like we belong? We should consider that God will, most likely, save people we don’t like all that much. Folks we would rather not share a meal with, who like things we look down on, who live on the side of town we’re scared of—God will save “those” people right alongside us. And if God so loves these people, what then are we called to do? We should run all our thoughts and behaviors towards others past that question.

This week during our service we observed Orphan Sunday in partnership with Lifeline Children Services. As a church we want to continue growing in our care, advocacy, and service for vulnerable children and their families. Lifeline Children Services is a multifaceted organization that will help us do that; you can find out more information about them here:

If you’d like to continue the discussion from Sunday specifically about caring for children in foster care and adoption, here’s an alternative discussion guide from Lifeline for your group. We’d recommend sending it out in advance since it’s a little longer than our norm: Lifeline Adult Lesson 

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Isaiah 56:1-8 for us?

• What stands out to you from this passage?

• Historically, foreigners and eunuchs were excluded from God’s temple and his covenant blessings. How does that help us understand this passage?

• What all does God promise the foreigner and eunuch who has “joined” themselves to him?

• What does this passage tell us about God’s desires?

• What is convicting about this passage to you?

• What might it look like to make these desires our own desires?