23 February 2021Isaiah 56:1-8
..for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (v. 7b)
Isaiah is a prophetic book in the Old Testament. The book consists of 66 chapters and, although it bears the name of the prophet Isaiah, scholars believe that it has more than one author. The first 39 chapters date back to approximately 730 BC, before the Exile. Chapters 40-55 cover the period of the Exile which lasted from 586 to 536 BC; the date of this section is uncertain. Chapters 56-66 form part of what is known as 'Third Isaiah' and appear to deal with the period after the people had been released from captivity and returned to Jerusalem. It is preceded by promises of hope and restoration in chapter 55 and followed by comments on lawlessness and foolishness in verses 9-12.
The foreigners referred to in today's passage are gentiles who were not welcome in the Temple. Eunuchs were men who had been castrated so that they could not father children. They were usually slaves or servants and were outcasts in the eyes of the community. The holy mountain refers to Mount Zion, the place of the Temple, which had been left in ruins and was rebuilt when the people returned to Jerusalem. The Sabbath was a day of rest and worship and refers to the account of creation in Genesis when God rested on the seventh day. Sabbath observance was an important part of Jewish law.
The message in this passage speaks about including everyone, whether gentile, eunuch or any other foreigner. If these people showed faithfulness to God they were welcome in the Temple and the covenant which God made with God’s people will include everyone who pleases God.
In our contemporary context, eunuchs and foreigners are those people whom the Church and society exclude, either indirectly or on purpose.
- Who are the eunuchs and foreigners in our communities?
- What challenge does this passage offer to the Church as it strives to be more inclusive?