In the light of the resurrection, the whole world, the whole universe – looks different. That light shines into the darkest recesses and changes everything. But what about all this suffering and hardship we are experiencing? In 1Peter 5:6,7, I have said humble yourself under my Mighty hand. Now the world is filled with pride even in my children – believing that their victories are theirs and not mine – just remember clearly –“ you are just a sinner saved by Grace”. Everything that you are achieving are just signs of the process of salvation I am doing in your life. So I need to strip away your sense of security placed in the wrong things so that you will find your security in me alone. everywhere where my children are suffering I am working in many ways and I always sustain them and not test them or you more than you can bear with my help. But I am teaching you to have the correct perspective. What you are and what you do are just gifts from Me. So 1 Peter 5:7 Roll your burdens onto me and I will tenderly care for you – you must just trust that promise and do it.
Now we come to Isaiah 56. At a quick glance you will see that the phrase “Who keep my Sabbaths” is repeated. The question is, “how should we interpret this under the New Covenant?” The danger is that the wrong interpretation actually can skew our Christian walk. I recently heard a speaker going on about how the church has fallen away and his solution? To go back to celebrating the Sabbath. He was focusing on the many people who braai and drink on a Friday evening when they should rather be celebrating the Sabbath.
OK, so let us look at ch 56. The key word is in vs 1, “salvation”. This chapter continues with the invitation issued in ch 55. The whole of what is discussed falls under the umbrella of salvation. Remember that salvation is not a once-off act, it is a continuous process which is started at a specific time, but only completed when we are with the Lord. So the invitation in ch 55 has been to the Israeli nation. To continue with this process, 56:2, “Happy (blessed”, is a picture of a right relationship with God) is the one who, does right, and preserves justice and keeps his hand from evil. These are signs of what, in ch 56? They are signs that the person is keeping the Sabbath.
From vs 3 – 8 he now includes two other groups of people who have apparently been excluded from this blessing. Eunuchs and foreigners. Many men have been made into eunuchs in Babylon and as such have been cut off from their inheritance. Also this is a reminder that it is part of God’s plan to include foreigners in His salvation plan.
Why is the key to this the keeping of the Sabbaths and holding fast onto the covenant? Briefly this is how it works. The Sabbath celebration in the Old Testament was looking forward to being fulfilled in Jesus when he came, as part of the New Covenant. The Sabbath had two components. The concept of rest and a sign to remind the people of the conditions of the Old Covenant, placing Yahweh at the center of their whole lives. (Exodus 31:13).
Under the New Covenant, Jesus represents the center of worship in Himself. It is no longer appropriate to only worship Him on a specific day, we are to do that at all times and continually cf Romans 12:1. Furthermore, we find rest in Him cf Matt 11:28. “Come unto me and I will give you ??? REST”. In Jesus we find the ultimate rest from our works in trying to achieve our own salvation. To keep the Sabbath under the New Covenant is another way to say we must maintain our ongoing relationship with Jesus. It is a continuous experience and responsibility.
So when we look at Isaiah 56, we see that those groups of people (that actually means everyone), mentioned three times will be happy or blessed with the ongoing benefits of salvation if they maintain their ongoing relationship with Yahweh. And the “house of prayer”? Well, Jesus made it clear that He also came to fulfill the role of the temple, or God’s house of prayer. So those who keep the Sabbath can enjoy and rejoice in Jesus, with all the others who are doing the same.
Beautiful isn’t it? Such a waste to focus on a day when we should be focusing on Jesus in person and our relationship with Him. Easter is such a great reminder of just that. Of course it is also a very strong reminder, as we saw how important God saw the role of the Sabbath in the OT, of the importance of keeping our regular times of worship and prayer and rejoicing in Him.