Isaiah 56 begins by saying, “Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come, And My righteousness to be revealed.”
What does this mean? First let’s look at “justice.” The Hebrew word for justice is mishpat. According to the Complete Word Study Dictionary, this is a legal decision given by God to be followed by the people.[i] Righteousness is tsedeqah. This is to do what is right according to the law. Essentially, YHVH expected His people to obey the law and to see that no one was denied justice. The people were to be judged fairly no matter what their economic standing was. The reason for this was because His salvation was about to come and His righteousness was to be revealed.
How can we understand the significance of this? Maybe a story would help. Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I went on a retreat with some other youth. We had a wonderful time studying the Scriptures and forming close bonds with one another. Our guest speaker was from out of town. We had never met him before and never expected to see him again. Several months later, our youth group was called together for an unscheduled meeting. While we were waiting to find out what the purpose of the meeting was, that same guest speaker walked into the room. Suddenly, there was a silence that fell on the room. During the time between the retreat and the day we saw the guest speaker again, our youth group had slacked off and to some degree we had drifted apart. We had slipped back into some of our former habits and mindsets; life had gone back to usual. The euphoria of the spiritual high we experienced a few months ago was gone. When we saw the guest speaker, we were reminded of how far we had strayed from what we had learned, from YHVH, and from each other since that weekend we shared together. We weren’t prepared for the arrival of this man. We never expected to see this man ever again. In a similar way, if we are not careful, we won’t be ready for Yeshua’s arrival. Needless to say, this was a valuable lesson for us.
First Thessalonians 5:2 tells us that the Day of the Lord will come in a similar fashion; Yeshua, who fully embodies YHVH’s righteousness will come like a thief in the night. People will believe all is safe, peaceful, and secure but destruction will suddenly come upon them and they won’t escape it. Disciples of Yeshua should not be taken by surprise. First Thessalonians 5:8 suggests we need to wear a breastplate of love and trust and a helmet of the hope of being delivered in addition to being sober. This reference should remind us of the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation in Ephesians 6:14 and 17. This breastplate should also remind us of the breastplate that was worn by the High Priest. According to Exodus 28:15, this breastplate was made for judging (misphat). The High Priest’s holy turban had an ornament on which was written, “Set apart for YHVH.” Set apart (qodesh) can also be translated “dedicated, holiness, or consecrated” which is what we should be. We are to be set apart not just to YHVH Himself but to righteousness (tsedeqah). We need to trust in Yeshua; show love to YHVH and man; and hope for our deliverance because YHVH has not intended that we experience His fury. This is what it means to be ready for Yeshua’s return.
Since we don’t see the signs of Yeshua’s return taking place around us, we often think that Yeshua is not going to return any time soon. This causes us to live as if we can afford to live as we please. If Yeshua were to return at an unexpected time, how would you react in His presence? Would you rejoice because you had been observing His law? Would you feel shame because you had not?
Isaiah 56:2 continues by saying, “Blessed is the man who does this [keeping justice and doing righteousness], And the son of man who lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil.” We tend to think this is a message just for the Jews but it is not.
Isaiah 56:3 gives us news that brings joy to the foreigner: “Do not let the son of the foreigner Who has joined himself to the Lord Speak, saying, “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”; Nor let the eunuch say, “Here I am, a dry tree.”
Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever feel like you’re the only one that is trying to observe Torah or live righteously? Do people condemn you, a Gentile for living a Torah observant lifestyle? It can be very painful at times especially if your spouse and friends do not walk that path with you. You aren’t totally accepted by the Jews who are still YHVH’s people and it can be very hard to find a Torah observant community that you can fit into. Even when you find such a place, life’s circumstances can still zap your strength and make you feel like a dry tree. I am intimately acquainted with these scenarios. My heart truly goes out to you if this is your situation. May the Holy Spirit be the oil of gladness that can soothe your grief and pain.
This is why Isaiah 56:4-8 is absolutely precious to me. It says, “For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, 5 Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name That shall not be cut off. 6 “Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants — Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant — 7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” 8 The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him Others besides those who are gathered to him.”
These verses still bring tears of joy to my eyes and warm my heart because I love YHVH and I want to serve Him with my whole heart the best I can. It is so precious to read that like the eunuchs that cling to YHVH’s covenant, YHVH will:
- bring me to His holy mountain;
- give me a place (John 14:2);
- take away my grief and give me joy (Rev. 21:4);
- give me a name better than that of sons and daughters (Rev. 22:4).
We will not be cut off from His presence. So much for common names like Johnson, Miller, Jones, Doe, or Brown! YHVH’s name will be on our foreheads because we are His sons and daughters. Despite what others may say about the offerings being obsolete, I intend to bring offerings that will be accepted on His altar. I hope this is your desire as well.
In addition to the offerings of animals, prayers will be offered. When I used to live in eastern Europe, the churches there were often called houses of prayer. Although visitors often came from surrounding countries, those houses of prayer were primarily for the nationals and not for all of the nations. One day, YHVH’s house will be called a house of prayer for all of the nations. Righteous people will come from all over the world. They will not be coming as tourists; they will be coming to worship! I believe YHVH always intended for this to take place so that people from all of the nations could be blessed. In the meantime, let us judge justly and live a life of Torah observance.
[i] Complete Word Study Dictionary, AMG Publishers.