ACCEPTANCE FOR ALL SINCERE WORSHIPPERS
Isaiah 56:4-7. Thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant: Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar: for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
THE concluding words of our text sufficiently shew the scope of the whole passage. The chapter begins with proclaiming the approach of the Gospel dispensation, under which the way of obtaining righteousness and salvation through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ was to be fully revealed [Note: ver. 1.]. In our text, the admission of all persons to the benefits of that dispensation is insisted on; and it is declared, that “in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, whatever may be his disqualifications according to the law, shall be accepted [Note: Compare Acts 10:34-35.].” Since God has a people scattered over the face of the whole earth, he will now have his Church open for the admission of every child of man.
In making known these gracious purposes, the prophet sets before us,
I. The character which God approves—
At no period did God ever approve of those who confined their obedience to the observance of any rites or ceremonies: at all times he has spoken the same language; “My Son, give me thy heart.” Accordingly in the description which is here given us of those who shall find acceptance with him, there are two marks whereby they are universally distinguished;
1. Their obedience to his will—
[Whatever conflicts they may have sustained in the earlier stage of their Christian experience, the first act which truly and properly designates them the Lord’s people is, their “joining of themselves to him” as his people. Till they have done this in sincerity and truth, they cannot be acknowledged as his. There may indeed be circumstances wherein a public devotion of themselves to him cannot be expected; but where the situation of the persons admits of it, there must be an union with the Lord’s people, and an open acknowledgment of Christ as their only Lord and Saviour — — —
Nor must this be a mere empty profession: those who are upright before God will join themselves to him “to love and serve him” with their whole hearts. All other lords must be renounced; and God alone be honoured and obeyed.
Neither must this change be the result of fear alone: there must be a cordial consent of the will, and “a choosing of the things that please God.” There will, it is true, be still “a law in their members warring against the law in their minds;” but the deliberate purpose of their hearts must be to please God; God only, God universally, God always.
In one thing will they be particularly distinguished, that is, their reverence for the Sabbath, and their delight in sanctifying it to the Lord. This is twice mentioned in our text: and if we bear in mind, that the whole passage relates to the times of the Gospel, we shall see, that the sanctification of the Sabbath is a duty of perpetual obligation; and that, however some of the ceremonial observances relating to it under the Law are abrogated, the spiritual improvement of it will characterize the Lord’s people to the end of time. Indeed this is one of the most prominent features in all who are truly upright before God: Whilst the world at large make the Sabbath a day of carnal ease or pleasure, and the generality of those who profess some regard for it sanctify only a part of it to the Lord, and that rather for conscience sake than became they have any pleasure in its duties, the upright devote to God and to the work of their souls the whole of it, and are as eager to improve that day for their spiritual advancement, as the ungodly are to improve the other six days for the advancement of their temporal welfare [Note: Isaiah 58:13-14.].]
2. Their affiance in his covenant—
[If we could suppose all these dispositions and actions to be united in a man who should disregard the Gospel covenant, they would never secure to the possessor the approbation of his God, The very best of men are sinners before God and must seek for mercy in the way in which alone it will be vouchsafed. The way which God has appointed, is, through the covenant of grace; in which God has agreed to accept the atonement offered by his only dear Son, and to receive for his sake all who will plead the efficacy of that atonement. If any man think that his own virtues will suffice to recommend him to God, he will be left to suffer the penalty due to his iniquities, and will perish under the accumulated guilt of having despised the salvation offered him in the Gospel. In rending the Scriptures, we shall do well to notice how often “the keeping of God’s covenant and his commandments” are united together. Neither of these can by any means be dispensed with: they ate both necessary for their respective ends; the one, to obtain mercy with our offended God; and the other, to manifest the sincerity of our faith and love. We must bear in mind therefore, that an humble afflance in the Lord Jesus Christ is quite as requisite for our acceptance with God, as any obedience to his commands can be; and that “the laying hold of God’s covenant” is essential to the character of all who would be approved by him.]
Such being the character portrayed in our text, we proceed to notice the terms in which God has described,
II. The approbation with which he will honour it—
Whatever disadvantages such a person may labour under, God will,
1. Accept him in all his services—
[Eunuchs and strangers were disqualified by the Law from entering into the congregation of Jehovah [Note: Deuteronomy 23:1-8.]. But God promises, under the Christian dispensation, to admit all without any exception, provided their dispositions and habita be such as he approves; yea, God himself will “bring them to his holy mountain [Note: Hebrews 12:22.],” by sending his shepherds to search them out, and to bring them upon their shoulders rejoicing.
Moreover, God will “make them joyful in his house of prayer.” This is a blessing experienced by none but those who are truly upright. In the house of preaching indeed, the vilest hypocrites may be delighted [Note: Ezekiel 33:30-32.]: and it would be well if the undue preference given to preaching, and the late attendance at public worship, observable among religious professors in the present day, did not give reason to fear, that their religion is in their ears only, and not in their hearts. Certain it is, that, amongst those who are truly upright, such conduct would be abhorred: they delight to draw nigh to God, and to pour out their hearts before him: and this, not only when some fluent person is exhibiting his gifts, but when the prayers of our Liturgy (better than which were never composed by mortal man) are offered up in the presence of the congregation. The man that has not his heart in tune for such prayers as those, has yet to learn what his wants are, and what should be the posture of his soul before God. To the penitent and contrite soul they will often be as marrow and fatness; and to join in them will be the sublimest pleasure he can enjoy.
Whilst they “draw nigh to God, God will also draw nigh to them,” and will “manifest his acceptance” of them by some special tokens of his love. In former times he often testified his acceptance of the sacrifices by sending fire from heaven, to consume them upon the altar: now he will do the same, as it were, in a more secret way: he will send his Spirit into the soul as a Spirit of adoption, he will “shed abroad his love there,” and will fill it with an abundance of grace and peace.]
2. He will number them amongst his most-favoured servants—
[To be childless was, under the Jewish dispensation, accounted a misfortune, and even a disgrace: and persons considered themselves as living in their posterity. Of this happiness the persons addressed in our text were deprived: but God assured them, that “he would give them a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters:” their children, even if they were as numerous as those of Ahab, might be cut off in a few hours, and their inheritance in Israel might be lost: but God would give to them a name and an inheritance that should endure for ever. To every one that answers to the foregoing character is this promise made: and to every one shall it assuredly be fulfilled in its season [Note: Revelation 3:12.]. Even at this time have they the earnest of these blessings in their souls; and in due time they shall possess them in all their fulness [Note: 1 John 3:2.].]
In this view of our subject we have,
1. An antidote to despondency—
[Those who are upright in heart are still, as formerly, ready to entertain desponding fears, and to imagine that there is something in their situation and circumstances which renders their case peculiarly hopeless. But God delights to encourage such persons with the most consolatory declarations [Note: Isaiah 40:27-28.]. Let not any then say, “I am a dry tree,” or suppose that he is incapable of yielding fruit to God: for those who are “farthest off, may yet be brought nigh by the blood of Christ [Note: Ephesians 2:12-13.];” and “strangers and foreigners.” if they embrace and obey the covenant of grace, shall become “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God [Note: Ephesians 2:19.].”]
2. A stimulus to exertion in the cause of Christ—
[The same principle of unbelief which discourages men in relation to themselves, operates powerfully to repress their exertions for others. The state of the heathen is thought to present insurmountable obstacles to their conversion. But the most ignorant savages are not farther from a participation of the Gospel, than eunuchs and strangers were from communion with the Jewish Church: yet these have already found access to God: why therefore may not they? Indeed we are assured by the prophet, that the remotest Gentiles shall be gathered to the Lord [Note: Isaiah 60:3.]; and our Lord himself confirms the joyful truth [Note: ver. 8.]. Let us then open wide the door of God’s house to the Gentile world: let us encourage them to “lay hold on his covenant:” and let us, each according to his ability, labour to hasten forward that glorious day, when all the nations of the earth shall be converted to the Lord, and “become one fold under one Shepherd [Note: John 10:16.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 56". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany