Isaiah 56: 6-7a “And to foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant–these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.”
Serving the Lord of heaven and earth isn’t dull, boring drudgery. It isn’t the everyday, go-through-the-motions work of someone who simply wants to make a living or get the job done. Isaiah’s words suggest several reasons why this is true.
First, the word translated “serve” doesn’t speak of any ordinary kind of service. The task itself might not look different than work other people are doing, but this service takes on honor and privilege because of whom you are serving. I know many people who worked as cooks in a restaurant. Many young people get their start at earning a paycheck by flipping hamburgers a few hours a week. It’s usually not considered a glamorous job. I also have a relative who cooked meals for a living, but he did his cooking at the White House in Washington D.C. That job is considered very prestigious, all because of the people he served.
Janitors clean buildings all over the world. But Christians who clean their churches, clean their homes, or clean to make a living serve their Lord with this humble task. Teachers teach the “three Rs” to their students in thousands of languages in schools around the globe. But whether God’s faithful people are teaching Bible stories to their Sunday school classes, or algebra to a room full of bored teenagers, their efforts serve the One whose saving work is recorded on the sacred pages, and whose genius invented the math that orders our world. It is an honor to serve the one and only God, the Maker of all things, and the Savior of all the world, no matter the kind of activity that is involved.
A second special feature of this service is the force behind it. Isaiah speaks of “foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him.” For believers, service to God is a labor of love. What else could it be when we know how he first served and loved us? Professor Siegbert Becker once wrote, “It is impossible to see ourselves as sinners deserving eternal damnation in hell and then to come to the conviction that the suffering and dying Christ has procured full and free forgiveness for us by taking our guilt upon himself and by giving his own righteousness to us as a free gift of his love, it is impossible to come to that conviction without coming to love him who gave himself into death that we might have everlasting life….To know him is to love him is more applicable to our Savior than to anyone else.” Love for the Lord who loves us sets a believer’s work and service apart.
To the prophet Isaiah’s original audience, perhaps the most shocking thing about the service mentioned was the people performing it. They were “foreigners,” Gentiles, non-Jews. These were not members of God’s chosen nation.
But they were people the Lord had chosen nonetheless. It turns out that good news about a God who dies to rescue lost souls, forgives sins, and gives his gifts for free works on human hearts regardless of race, culture, or nationality. It worked on our hearts, too. We have been given a place in God’s “house of prayer.”
May we find joy in serving him there.