Gathered Into God’s House

August 20, 2023

Pastor John Hering

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

This is what the Lord says. Protect justice, and carry out righteousness, because my salvation is coming very soon. My righteousness is ready to be revealed.
Then the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him and to love the name of the Lord and to become his servants, every one of them who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, those who take hold of my covenant—I will bring them to my holy mountain, and I will make them glad in my house of prayer.  Their whole burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar.  For my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples of the world.  This is the declaration of God the Lord,
who gathers Israel’s dispersed people: “I will gather still more people to my house besides the ones already gathered.”

Everyone has things they really enjoy. Kaison loves his Kingdom Kid’s picture he colored!  Perhaps you like golf or cooking.  If so I would imagine that the grooves in your irons are cleaned out and your golf balls are washed and your golf glove is always ready to go.  Maybe there is a person who means a lot to you. You have their picture in your wallet/purse, you make plans during the week on how you will make this person feel like they are a special person.  It is said of some people that “they worship the ground on which their loved one walks.” How romantic!  If you want to show such a person how much you relish in them, you might even admire the things they admire (like go shopping even if you don’t really like too, or go to the ballet even if you really can’t stand guys dancing in leotards).  The text before us today relates to worship.  How would you describe true worship of God?  I found a quote in an article by Jimmy Needham that sets the stage for these words written by the prophet Isaiah concerning worship, God’s house and prayer.  Listen: “We don’t really love or worship God until we love and admire the things which God requires and which God loves.”  May the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts from Isaiah 56 to consider what it means to be

Gathered Into God’s House of Salvation

By God

Gathered in a specific way –  In the chapters just before our text today Isaiah proclaims an awesome invitation by God:  Come all of you who are thirsty (Is 55:1). Then Isaiah tells us why we should come to hear his Word: Let him turn to the Lord, and he will show him mercy. Let him turn to our God, because he will abundantly pardon (Is 55:7).  Then we learn what his Word does: in the same way my word that goes out from my mouth will not return to me empty. Rather, it will accomplish whatever I please, and it will succeed in the purpose for which I sent it (Is 55:11). Today we learn why it is so important for God to gather his people into his house of prayer.  Listen: This is what the Lord says. “Protect justice, and carry out righteousness, because my salvation is coming very soon. My righteousness is ready to be revealed.  Justice means fairness based on an agreed upon standard.  God’s standard is his holy will.  Righteousness is what God declared to us through his Son.  When we fail and sin, we trust in Jesus who saved us.  God is in the business of saving people.  Being a part of the Lord’s family means we will enjoy salvation. It also means we have a responsibility.  Protect justice, and carry out righteousness.”  God’s goal for us is a perfect relationship with him and an expectation of perfect behavior.  Isaiah gives us a list of 5 specific examples to look at:

  1. Then the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord. We might think of Abraham – he was a foreigner called by God to move to a different country.  Abraham could have refused, but he faithfully bound himself to the Lord’s will and decrees, leaned on them and relied on them.  He willingly joined himself to the Lord.
  2. to minister to him, The word Isaiah uses has the meaning of “service with willingness” or we might call him a volunteer today. Joseph found himself in many situations where he could have turned his back on the promises of the Lord, but he rather found opportunity after opportunity to willing serve his gracious God. 
  3. to love the name of the Lord and to become his servants,  Now Isaiah moves from the actions seen to the attitude unseen.  It speaks to our hearts and causes us to examine them closely, because God will, even if we don’t.  To love the name of the Lord is to have an appetite for him – a hungering and thirsting for his grace and love.  When one has an appetite for the Lord then will follow the worship.  To gather with God’s people to relish, cherish, and take great pleasure in the God of our Salvation.
  4. every one of them who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it.  This is another part of b  Isaiah warns us not to profane the Sabbath. This was the cornerstone of obedience to God and played a major role in the way the Israelites showed their faith to God.  Listen: “Speak to the people of Israel. Tell them, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths diligently, because the Sabbath is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, so that you may know that I am the Lord, who sets you apart as holy” (Ex 31:13).  To grasp this truth we want to remember that Sabbath means, “rest.”  Our true rest comes from Jesus Christ who fulfilled all of God’s law for us.  However, while this commandment no longer stands before us as a ceremonial law, it still stands as God’s holy will for us to worship him. God gathers his people together to be blessed through the true spiritual rest that comes from God through his Word and sacraments.  Coming to church is not all about the coffee, donuts, fellowship or friends.  We better not be here for the pastor, for our parents or for the way people will think of us if we’re not here.  Let us be here because we recognize the blessings for our soul.  You will have great joy in coming to worship when you come to: a) praise him for his goodness.  b) join fellow believers to pray.  c) sacrifice yourself as a living sacrifice to the service of your God.  God gathers his people through the Word to hear the Word.  Despising God’s Word, showing contempt for it or letting the things of this world take precedence over hearing it jeopardizes our faith and may exclude us from God’s righteousness and salvation.  Look at your heart and take this little test:  Is your eagerness, joy, and willingness to worship the Lord a reflection of thanks for all Jesus has done for you?  I pray it is. When you have such eagerness this is a demonstration how God has gathered you.  If not, then now is the time to repent and turn to the God of your salvation with confidence of his love for you.
  5. those who take hold of my covenant.  Finally, God specifically gathers his people together to hold fast to his covenant.  For us, it is no longer the covenant that says, “Obey me perfectly and enter heaven.”  No, our covenant is the new covenant that was poured out on the cross for us.  Ours is the covenant of grace.

When God invites and impresses on us the blessings of gathering for worship in God’s House, he also gives them this great assurance: I will bring them to my holy mountain, and I will make them glad in my house of prayer.”  You recognize God’s holy mountain as a place of safety when the devil comes with his temptations, when the evil world brings doubts, and our sinful flesh causes anger. God gives to his people a place to enjoy God’s peace – Isaiah calls it my house of prayer.”  This is the place of refuge for our souls.  This is the place where we confess our sins and hear his forgiveness proclaimed.  This is the place where we listen to God’s Word, pray to God and receive his blessing. Here are people Gathered By God to enjoy the God’s House of Salvation.

Dear members and friends of Divine Peace.  We have tried to make it easy to recognize to what lengths the Lord has gone to bring us to himself.  It’s right there in the front on the wall.  There our Savior died to wash away our sins.  There Jesus conquered the power of Satan and opened the gate of heaven for us all.  Today we thank the Lord for gathering us together in his House of Prayer. Today our faith is strengthened and our lives of service renewed as God’s people.  So, are we finished?  No!  While we thank the Lord for sending the Messiah to be our Righteousness, now, God uses us to turn to our friends, relatives, acquaintances and neighbors so God can gather them into God’s House of Salvation.

For God

When God gathered his chosen people, the Jewish nation, to be his own people, this did not mean the rest of the world was on its own.  God has always wanted all people to be with him forever in heaven. Peter affirms this desire by God: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  Isaiah points out this importance by putting God’s declaration first in the sentence: This is the declaration of God the Lord, who gathers Israel’s dispersed people: “I will gather still more people to my house besides the ones already gathered.

Our God is a God of action and the Bible records many examples of God gathering people from the world to be a part of his family.  Joseph lived in Egypt and married an Egyptian from whom two of the tribes of Israel were established, Ephraim and Manasseh.  Moses married a Midianite woman.  Ruth was a Moabite woman, yet these women are included in the descendants of Jesus!  Yes, God wanted to gather more and more people into his house of prayer.  Even through Jesus’ day there were the proselytes of the altar (those Gentiles who followed all the Jewish laws) and the proselytes of the gate (those who believed, but didn’t follow all the rules).  All of these people were receivers of God’s loving action and  Gathered Into God’s House of Salvation For God!

So, just how important was it For God to gather more people in his temple? Isaiah gives on example of just how special it is for God’s people to be in the temple For God. Their whole burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar.The sacrifices meant something!  It showed submission to the Lord by offering a choice sacrifice, offering, or gift.  It showed faith to offer sacrifice something you really liked, such as your best calf or oxen.  It showed understanding because they realized they weren’t really giving God anything, for everything belongs to him anyway and we are simply managers of the blessings God allows us to have while on this earth.  Yes, the temple was a great place of worship For God.  Jesus doubled down on the importance of God’s temple when he quoted Isaiah as he “…entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers’” (Matt 21:12). There is a warning for us here as well.  Many times the Israelites were rejected by the Lord because their offerings were no longer For God.  Their offerings became form over function.  May we all bring our offerings For God because we recognize this service if pleasing when it comes from a heart thankful for all he has done for us and used to invite more people to come here to God’s House of Salvation.

We all have things we enjoy—golf, shopping, and special people in our lives.  You honor and respect those things.  Today we were reminded to honor and worship the God of our Salvation.  God also has things he enjoys.  He enjoys having his people gather to reminded of their salvation and to bring more people into his kingdom.  I understand that going to church does not make a person a Christian, but, dear Christians, if you agree that the church was created By God, and it is very important For God, then why wouldn’t we want to go?  Wouldn’t we rather think like this: “We don’t really love or worship God until we love and admire the things which God requires and which God loves.”  And since we love it so much, why wouldn’t we want to invite others to join us for the Church Is For All People.  God grant that you and I would always have the spirit of truth strengthened in us as we gather in God’s house of Salvation with an attitude that says, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord” (Ps 122:1)  Amen.

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