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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 56

Verses 1-2

Do Righteousness

The opening words of this chapter are a repetition of the admonition in the previous chapter (Isaiah 55:6-Judges :). The thoughts and ways of Israel are not those of the LORD (Isaiah 55:8). The precious promises that follow in that chapter are an exhortation for those living in sin to leave their ways and for the unrighteous to give up their thoughts.

In the previous chapter we heard the invitation – four times “come” – to receive the blessings of the new covenant. In the next two chapters, Isaiah 56-57, which is the final part of the second part, Isaiah 49-57, we can recognize the response to this invitation. First, in the pious heathen peoples who will be introduced into the kingdom of God, Isaiah 56:1-8, and second, in the wicked Israelites who will be banished from that same kingdom, Isaiah 56:9 to Isaiah 57:21. In these two groups we recognize the fulfillment of the words of the Lord Jesus to the centurion of Capernaum (Matthew 8:11-2 Kings :; Matthew 19:30).

Let them preserve “justice” and do “righteousness” (Isaiah 56:1). Then they will be in accordance with the attributes and actions that apply to God’s kingdom. The reason why they should do this is twofold: the kingdom will soon become public in salvation as well as in righteousness. When they realize how near His salvation is and that His righteous acts are about to be revealed, they will be encouraged to persevere.

A special blessing is promised to him who keeps God’s commandment (Isaiah 56:2). Of all God’s commandments, the Sabbath commandment is mentioned here as an illustration of keeping God’s commandments. This is the best test of whether someone really wants to keep God’s commandments. He who loves the LORD shall keep them. In addition, the Sabbath is also a sign of the covenant (Ezekiel 20:12) in connection with the new covenant. Keeping the Sabbath commandment reveals the mind of the heart that wants to do righteousness. It is open, not only to the Israelites, but to every “son of man” (Isaiah 56:2), i.e. also to those from the nations.

Besides keeping from profaning the Sabbath commandment the LORD also speaks about keeping the hand from doing any evil. The hand speaks of deeds. He who lives internally (heart) and externally (hand) in accordance with God is “blessed”.

For us, the Sabbath is the peace in Christ, which we can only enjoy if our hand does not evil.

Verses 3-8

Foreigner and Eunuch

Isaiah 56:3 mentions the two kinds of people who are outside the promises of Israel. The first is “the foreigner”. This is the foreigner by origin but who has come to live in the land and knows the LORD. He has joined the Jewish people – such a person is called “proselyte” – and maintains the Jewish laws. There are such people in Babylon. The foreigner might think that the call to go back to the land of Israel does not apply to him.

But he need not fear that the LORD will separate him from his people and rob him of the privileges he has enjoyed. The “blessed” of Isaiah 56:2 applies to all men, all mortals, who fulfill the conditions of Isaiah 56:1. It is not his genealogy that is decisive, but the question whether he maintains the justice and righteousness of Isaiah 56:1.

The second is the “the eunuch”. The law forbids him, even though he is an Israelite, to become part of God’s people (Deuteronomy 23:1). He can think he cannot be part of it because he knows his own condition as eunuch. Just as a dry tree bears no fruit, a eunuch one cannot conceive offspring.

However, the LORD has an encouraging word for “the eunuchs” who cling to His covenant (Isaiah 56:4). Their fears will prove to be unfounded. They are allowed to be in His house. He even gives them the promise of a memorial and a name that are better than that of sons and daughters (Isaiah 56:5). Anyone who thinks he is only a second-rate believer, someone who thinks he is underprivileged, not in count, gets an extra encouragement here.

We may gratefully accept this encouragement and pass it on to others. Every member of His people is one for whom the Lord Jesus has given His life. Their name will never be eradicated, but will be known to God forever (cf. Revelation 3:12). It is not about who they originate from, but what they have become in Him.

If they keep the Sabbath (Isaiah 56:6), God will bring them to His holy mountain and give them joy in His house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7). He will destroy any barrier to fellowship. They will be a full part of the congregation of Israel. He will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices on His altar, for His house will be called “a house of prayer for all the peoples” (cf. Matthew 21:13). And He Who in the future brings together the dispersed, will still bring together more people (Isaiah 56:8). The LORD will bring together these dispersed, the eunuchs, the scattered of Israel, the ten tribes, as well as the others, the nations.

This also applies to today. The gospel continues and every day many throughout the world come to repentance (Acts 2:47). They come to His house, the New Testament church of the living God. The church is also first and foremost a house of prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-Exodus :).

Verses 9-12

Judgment on the Wicked

With Isaiah 56:9 begins a new section that runs through Isaiah 57. We are in a very different atmosphere with a very different tone. It is no longer about restoration, but about judgment. While the faithful nations and outcasts are being saved, judgment goes to the apostates in Israel, the followers of the antichrist. The wild animals, that is the Assyrians under the leadership of the king of the North, are called upon to feast on the unbelieving part of the people of Israel (Isaiah 56:9).

This is due to the attitude of their leaders, who are guardians of the people and have the task to warn the people of danger. The safety of the people, however, is not at all their concern (cf. Jeremiah 6:17). They are blind to it (Isaiah 56:10). They think only of their own convenience and enjoyment. They dream, lie down, slumber and are blind to spiritual values and reality. It is from this attitude, as it were, that the call goes out to the wild animals to come and devour them. The LORD never judges without showing the righteousness of judgment. He does so by revealing the moral condition of the people and their leaders.

These leaders only awaken from their own ease when they can indulge in pleasure, orgies, and drinking (Isaiah 56:11). They are dogs that fatten themselves to satisfy their lust for pleasure, but they cannot bark to warn the people. They are worthless shepherds. They go their own way, the way that gives them the most. If there is any thought of tomorrow, then only to revel even more (Isaiah 56:12).

All those who have been given a responsibility by the Lord Jesus to take care of His flock as shepherds must guard against a gradual decrease in their obligations to the flock. They must also guard against lording over the herd or seeking sordid gain (1 Peter 5:2-Leviticus :).

The situation outlined above also applies to today. Who still has the courage to take spiritual responsibility and to warn against the secularism of the church, against all kinds of modern idols such as psychology, the prosperity gospel, cultic fashion, for wolves in sheep’s clothing who spread error under the cover of Christendom? Who still warns the young people in the church against the charismatic errors of our time, such as speaking in tongues, visions and so-called prophetic messages? On the other hand, there must be a call to study God’s Word for themselves in order not to fall prey to every wind of doctrine.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 56". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.