William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.Isaiah Chapter 56
The next two chapters carry on the same line of truth we have seen since the rejection and atoning death of Christ came distinctly into view, and pursue the consequences of that infinite fact. As far as a natural division goes, one might be disposed to close the first subject treated in them with Isaiah 56:8, and then to take from verse 9 to the end of Isa. 57 as completing not the second only but the entire section, which began with Isa. 49. According to this we should have here, first, the ways of Jehovah founded on the Messiah's death for sin in respect of the godly, even outside Israel; and, secondly, His ways, when He was displeased with the ungodly, not merely outside but in the midst of Israel. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.
Some have drawn from the Lord's citation of a clause of this section, that He intimates its then approaching accomplishment in the Christian church. Now it is not denied that as we have broad moral principles of grace on God's part in Isaiah 55, so too in its flowing out to the Gentiles in Isaiah 56, which are now realised in the gospel and the church, even more fully than anything here developed. But we ought not to overlook the fact that neither in Matthew nor in Luke is the Lord represented as quoting the reference to all the nations: an omission the more notable inasmuch as in both these Gospels, above all others though in each for a special reason, we have more respecting the change of dispensation then at hand, and the call of grace going out to the Gentiles than anywhere else. One cannot but gather thence, that, though in fact, as the full citation in Mark shows, the Lord did quote the words of our prophet without abridgement, yet this marked exclusion of "all nations" in the two Gospels which most insist on the change from Israel to the Gentiles, is meant to intimate that no such application was then in His mind, but simply the gross perversion of Jehovah's house of prayer into a den of robbers before His eyes, even as Jeremiah reproached the Jews of his day. There is nothing therefore, if this be correct, to turn aside the fulfilment of this blessed fruit of the cross from the future, however large the terms may be, and this not without purpose on God's part.
The chapter then opens not with a call to sinners, as such, to repent and believe the gospel; but to the people of God to keep judgement and do justice, though the reason assigned is in no way the law given by Moses, but "My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed." When the apostle unfolds the glad tidings, he says that God's righteousness is being revealed in the gospel; that it is manifested apart from law. Clearly this goes farther. Salvation is come, as we find in Ephesians 2:8. "For by grace are ye saved through faith"; though, in view of our resurrection and glory, we as truly say that it is nearer than when we believed. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith (Galatians 5:5). The righteousness is established, and we are justified in virtue of this already; but we await through the Spirit the hope, the glorious issue, proper to that righteousness, when even in the body we shall be conformed to the image of God's Son: "whom He justified, them He also glorified." But this is the language of the New Testament apostle, not of our Old Testament prophet, who is occupied with the earthly people and their hopes, but in God-given terms of such comprehensiveness as to justify the largest ways of grace.
"Thus saith Jehovah, Keep ye judgement and do righteousness: for my salvation [is] near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed [is] weak man [that] doeth this, and the son of man [that] holdeth fast by it; that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil" (vv. 1, 2). The following verse (3) is even more express: the most distant, "the son of the stranger," and the most desperate, "the eunuch," were not beyond the reach of God's merciful and mighty blessing. And this is repeated in the most forcible language as to both classes in the subsequent verses, concluding with the expression of Jehovah's mind to be known and read of all men, that His "house should be called a house of prayer for all peoples." "Neither let the son of the stranger that hath joined himself to Jehovah speak, saying Jehovah hath entirely separated me from his people; nor let the eunuch say, Behold, I [am] a dry tree. For thus saith Jehovah, Unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose [the things] that please me, and hold fast by my covenant, unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger that join themselves to Jehovah, to minister unto him and to love the name of Jehovah, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and holdeth fast by my covenant - even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices [shall be] accepted upon my altar: for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. The Lord Jehovah who gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather [others] to him, with those of his that are gathered" (vv. 3-8).
The second part (from Isaiah 56:9 to Isaiah 57:21) stands out in startling contrast at first sight; but it flows, without doubt, from the same principle as the first. The grace which goes forth ever so actively to the most miserable is of all things the most intolerant of evil; and its dealing is ever most delicate and jealous with those that are near enough to be so much the more responsible to reflect Jehovah brightly. "All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, all ye beasts in the forest. His watchmen [are] blind, they are all without knowledge; they [are] all dumb dogs, they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, the dogs [are] greedy, they can never have enough; and these [are] shepherds [that] cannot understand: they have all turned to their own way, each one to his gain, from every quarter. Come ye, [say they,] I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to-morrow shall be as this day, [a day] great beyond measure" (vv. 9-12).
The Gentile oppressors are first invited to lay waste (v. 9). Those who ought to have watched and tended the beautiful flock of Jehovah not only slept, but they awoke to their own greed of gain and love of present ease, as indifferent about God as about His people (vv. 10-12). It is a vivid picture of that living to self and the things that are seen, which at a later date characterised the Sadducees who denied not only the resurrection but angel or spirit. The origin of their name is of small moment, their materialism was ruinous. If, as is said they derived their title from pretension to righteousness, or even claimed to be a sacerdotal aristocracy from the eminent priest who in early days superseded Abiathar, either origin matters little. High-sounding representations among the Jews, as elsewhere, are commonly put forward to cover ungodliness and sensualism. And this frightfully evil state is here declared to have been conspicuous among the watchmen and shepherds of the chosen people. Such corruption laid the people and their leaders open, as we shall see in the chapter that follows, to yet worse, beneath which depth is none lower, idolatry leading the way.
Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.
Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.
His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.
Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.