Gathered of God (continued)
Scattered Ones Gathered Into Fellowship In God's House (continued)
During the captivity there was no place on earth where the Lord could truly reign among His people. There were individuals like Ezekiel, or those of whom we read in Daniel, who faithfully represented Him and maintained the testimony to His universal sovereignty. These, however, did not cease to long and pray for the day of recovery, when the house of God would once again come into being. They knew that the Lord's purposes required a re-gathering of His scattered people, with their establishing in a united fellowship in Him. This is the spiritual meaning of the house of God. For us it is not a building or a locality, nor must we be content to regard it merely as something doctrinal into which we enter when we become the Lord's. It is a practical life together in the fellowship of the Spirit.
Gathered On the Basis of Grace Alone
Isaiah's ministry was one of comfort, or perhaps better, of encouragement. The purposes of God are so often hindered by timidity or lack of inspiration among His people. There are so many objections, so many arguments and questions, that we tend to accept the low level of things as they are, instead of responding to the heavenly vision and call. The house of God seems to be a dream or a vision; we gaze upon it but take no active steps to enter it in a practical sense and to enjoy the blessings that are to be found therein. From the words of Isaiah we gather there were two groups particularly susceptible to a spirit of discouragement, the eunuchs and the foreigners. The prophet's message is to assure them that they are to share in God's gathering. He speaks to those who are ineligible on natural grounds, assuring them of the abundant grace of God. His house is not concerned with what we are in ourselves; admittance cannot be governed by human considerations; grace has made it a house of prayer for all peoples.
But there must be some qualification, for God's house is holy. Why are these outcasts received, and given so warm a welcome? How is it that God says, "Even them will I bring ... and make them joyful in My house of prayer?" There are three statements which seem to give the answer to this question. They love the name of the Lord, they keep the Sabbath and they hold fast His covenant.
Gathered In Virtue of Christ's Finished Work
The second and central feature really includes the other two. They are true keepers of the Sabbath. This stress upon Sabbath observance is the more remarkable since the prophet is particularly strong in expressing God's indifference to mere ritual. Nobody could be more emphatic than Isaiah in assuring the people of God that the whole realm of religious observance, even though prescribed by the Scriptures, is in itself of no value to the Lord and rejected by Him. His message to the people was often in such terms as, "Your new moon and your appointed feasts My soul hateth; they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary of bearing them" (Isaiah 1:14). In spite of this, Isaiah lays great stress on the need for keeping the Sabbath. This is surely because of the spiritual meaning attached to that day.
What is the spiritual meaning? It is simplicity and utterness of faith as to the finished work of Christ. This is a term which we make much of in relation to the salvation of sinful men; we rejoice that redemption is secured by the finished work of Christ upon the Cross. But what is true as to the justification of the ungodly is equally true in regard to every phase of spiritual life and experience. The whole work is completed in Christ. Human effort can provide nothing at all, for God's rest is based upon the fact that in Christ and by His Cross all the work is finished. We are called on to find all our life and energy on this basis - that we keep God's Sabbath. Some people, of course, talk a lot about the finished work of Christ and yet live lives which are not glorifying to Him. This is as though they were approving of the idea of the Sabbath - marking it, as it were, upon their calendars - and yet failing to be governed by it in a practical way. God is calling for those who are true keepers of His Sabbath, those who by faith are proving in ever new ways and ever greater fullness the glorious perfection of the new creation in Christ.
We can profane the Sabbath in two ways. The first is by trying to do something, or thinking that we can do something, to add to God's work in Christ. It is the intrusion of self-wisdom or self-effort into the spiritual life. The second is by failing to count on the Lord's sufficiency. If we are governed by some lack or weakness of ours, or succumb to our own sense of unworthiness, the purposes of God in our life are hindered and we are in effect denying the finished work of Christ, profaning the Sabbath.
(continued with # 22 - (Gathered Into Fellowship With God Himself)