Finding Joy

Isaiah 56:6-7 “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.”

The kind of service God’s people offer him is not dull drudgery. It isn’t the go-through-the-motions kind of work of someone merely trying to make a living. This service is special, and Isaiah provides a couple of reasons why this is true.

First, the word translated “serve” doesn’t speak of ordinary service. It is special because of whom you are serving. The task might not be remarkable, but it takes on a unique honor because of the one served. For example, many people work as cooks in a restaurant. It’s hardly a glamorous job. I also have a relative who served as a cook at the White House in Washington D.C. His position was considered prestigious because of the person he served.

Janitors clean buildings all over the world. Salesmen call on millions of clients every day. Teachers teach students in many different languages in many different schools. But the work Christians do to take care of their churches, deliver the gospel, or teach the faith to children has a special honor and privilege. These tasks serve the one and only God, the Savior of the world. He privileges his people to serve him.

The other special feature of this service is the force behind it. Those who serve do so “to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him.”  Service to God is a labor of love. What else could it be when we know how he has first served loved us? 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.” 

For the people who lived in Isaiah’s day, it may have come as a surprise that this service came from “foreigners.” That would mean Gentiles, non-Jews. No one at that time considered Gentiles God’s kind of people. The came from the wrong family background. But in his grace the Lord made no distinctions. He intended to call even those who had not known him to faith and service.

Good things wait for those who serve him: “…these will I 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.”

The blessing of joy the Lord gives isn’t tied to being well fed, well clothed, or well supplied. We find it especially in his house of prayer. Once that meant the temple in Jerusalem. For us it appears wherever we gather to worship him. Even when life becomes painful, we still find joy in God’s house of prayer. There God solemnly pronounces all our sins forgiven. There Jesus comes really, bodily, to be with us in his supper. There we still meet God today, and he gives his people the promises that make life joyful, even when it doesn’t seem very livable.

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