Isaiah 56:6-7 “And 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. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
Do you hear the sense of special privilege in these words? If someone of a different race visited our services, we would simply welcome them. We would work to lead them toward membership. During my seminary years, I visited an inner city church of another denomination once. I was treated like a celebrity. It wasn’t that way in ancient Israel.
If a non-Jew visited the Lord’s house of prayer on his holy mountain, the temple in Jerusalem, they were permitted to enter one little area called the Court of the Gentiles. This is the area Jesus had to cleanse of the animal salesmen and money lenders during his earthly ministry. The Jews had so little respect for the Gentiles. If the noises and smells of business interfered with their worship, what did they care? They were just Gentiles. They probably weren’t going to be saved anyway. That’s how the majority of the Jews felt about it.
If a Gentile tried to enter the other areas of the temple, especially the central court where the sacrifices took place, he was taking his life into his own hands. The Apostle Paul almost lost his life once because they suspected him of bringing Gentiles into this area.
The Lord had a different idea about all of this. It’s true that he segregated Jew and Gentile until Jesus came. But he had always intended to usher in a day when all people would have full access to his worship. That is the promise he is making through Isaiah here.
Since Jesus came, God’s temple isn’t a building. It is any place you have believers gathered. The room in which we gather for worship may not look so special. But the privilege to gather is so valuable you can’t put a price on it.
When I lived in Dallas, there were country clubs with initiation fees of $100,000. Annual dues exceeded $25,000. That just bought your membership. You still had to pay for all the services a la carte. But you had access to the most exclusive gatherings. You could hang out with the richest of the rich.
Gathered around God’s word, we receive something far more valuable. Jesus himself promises to be where two or three are gathered in his name. He completely forgets that we are sinners. He himself washed every sin away in his own blood.
As a result, we have access. He listens when we pray–genuinely listens with attention and concern. He is present in his word. In his Supper, he–the only God of the universe and Savior of your souls– comes to you personally, intimately, under the roof of your own mouth. All is forgiven and every barrier between you and God has been removed.
You can’t buy access like that. But it has been freely given to you. Don’t miss the privilege and blessing waiting in God’s house today.