Sep. 6, 2019

Be Strong, You Belong

Isaiah 56:1-2 NIV

Isaiah 56 opens with a directive that is supported throughout the remainder of the chapter. Verses 2-8 are about those who have a hope and a promise in the Lord. While verses 9-12 paint a grim future for those who do not adhere to the Word of the Lord.

Isaiah 56:1 There isn’t a more striking attention getter than this opening clause,

This is what the Lord says:

“Maintain justice
    and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
    and my righteousness will soon be revealed.

 

I Corinthians 7:6 records the Apostle Paul as saying, “I say this as a concession, not as a command." (NIV) The KJV of the bible uses the word ‘permission’ instead of ‘concession’. Paul makes a distinction in I Corinthians 7 as to when he speaks by permission and not by directive. Paul has what he believes to be an inspired opinion. He is offering details about godly living for believers. Paul’s opinion is that this is the best way to serve the Lord without distraction. But he knows and acknowledges that his personal lifestyle choices are not practical or doable for everyone.

In contrast, Isaiah’s discourse opens with, “This is what the Lord says…” Isaiah wants his audience to know that what he is sharing is not simply his own idea. This is straight from the Lord. It should draw the people to perk up, pay attention and strictly adhere to what is being said.

 The mid-portion of Isaiah 56:1 issues the directive: “Maintain justice

    and do what is right,

This is a command but also a reminder and an encouragement. At this time in their history, Israel was in exile. They were captives in a foreign land. In oppressive circumstances it is easy to forego the standards which previously guided your life. Prolonged captivity can cause people to let go of principles that they strictly clung to before. Through Isaiah God was reminding them not to let justice and righteousness slip from their consciousness. Though they may have been surrounded by injustice and unrighteousness they were not to forget the basic statutes of godliness.

 No matter what unpleasant circumstances may arise in your life, don’t allow what is around you to get in you. Keep justice and righteousness as pillars of your life. This means using God’s standards as the blueprint for our thinking and actions. We are not to let the ungodliness of others goad us into following their patterns of unbelief or misbehaving. Remember who you are in the Lord and represent Him well.

The final phrasing of Isaiah 56:1 offers the reason for staying within the safety of God’s design for each one of us.

 

…for my salvation is close at hand
    and my righteousness will soon be revealed.

 

When we are enduring a trial or weathering a storm it is easy to want to throw in the towel and say, “What’s the use? I’m tired. I give up. I quit.”

God knows we all have a breaking point. He knows we need to see a sparkle of light and to hear an encouraging word. This final clause of verse 1 is the wind that should swell our sails again. God was telling the Israelites to hold on a little longer. Soon His righteousness, His way of doing things would be revealed. They could look for and expect God's rescue and they would be back in their homeland. This same message is for God’s people today. Don’t give up. Soon the great plans God has for you will be revealed. His salvation, the deliverance He has for you is not far off. Just hold on a little while longer. What He has for you is well worth the wait.

 Isaiah 56:2

Blessed is the one who does this—
    the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
    and keeps their hands from doing any evil.”

Verse 2 further encourages that the person who retains the edicts of God in their mode and manner of living is blessed. That person is satisfied spiritually and morally. It is difficult to disturb the peace of a person who is certain of what they believe and why. The heathen nations around Israel did not obey the dietary, liturgical, social or cultural laws that God had given to the Jewish people. God warned the Jews not to neglect keeping the Sabbath. They were not to relax in any way the standards God had set for them. They were not to adopt the idolatrous ways of the people around them. We, too, are charged with this same mandate. The rudiments or basic principles that God has established all have blessings attached to keeping them. There are also dire consequences for ignoring them. It is better to obey than to need to apologize or ask for forgiveness. Obedience simplifies life. Disobedience complicates life. They knew what God had said and what He required. Some choose to adopt the adage, "When in Rome...". This means that many accept and incorporate the ideals of the ungodly if they are in that type of environment for any length of time. God says to guard against that. Keep your moral, spiritual and cultural compass pointed toward Jesus. Anything else will lead us in the wrong direction.