1 Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
2 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.
3 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.
4 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;
5 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.
6 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;
7 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.
8 The Lord GOD, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
9 All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.
10 His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
11 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.
12 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.
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The 56th chapter of the book of Isaiah in the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible is a profound discourse on the themes of universal salvation, the importance of righteous living, and the dire consequences of negligent leadership. It offers a message of hope and inclusion while also serving as a stern warning against complacency and misconduct, particularly among those in positions of authority. This chapter, as part of the larger prophetic book of Isaiah, contributes significantly to the Bible's overarching narrative of God's redemptive plan for humanity.
The chapter begins with a clear command from God: "Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed" (Isaiah 56:1). This verse sets the tone for the entire chapter, emphasizing the importance of righteous living and the imminent revelation of God's salvation. It is a call to action, urging the people to live according to God's laws and to prepare for His impending intervention in human affairs.
One of the most striking themes in Isaiah 56 is the concept of universal salvation. The chapter makes it clear that God's salvation is not limited to a specific ethnic or cultural group, but is available to all who are willing to obey His commandments and choose righteousness. This is particularly evident in verses 3 to 8, where God extends His promise of salvation to the "son of the stranger" and the eunuchs – two groups that were typically marginalized and excluded in ancient Israelite society.
The text states, "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" (Isaiah 56:3). This verse is a clear indication of God's inclusive nature. It emphasizes that anyone, regardless of their background or physical condition, can be part of God's people if they align themselves with His ways.
The promise of inclusion continues with the assurance that the eunuchs who keep God's sabbaths and choose the things that please Him will be given a place and a name in His house and within His walls (Isaiah 56:4-5). This is a significant promise, considering that eunuchs were often viewed as incomplete and were typically barred from religious participation. Similarly, the "sons of the stranger" who join themselves to the Lord to serve Him and love His name will also be brought to His holy mountain and made joyful in His house of prayer (Isaiah 56:6-7).
While the first part of Isaiah 56 offers a message of hope and inclusion, the latter part serves as a stern warning against negligent and unrighteous leadership. Verses 9 to 12 depict the leaders of the people as blind and ignorant watchmen, greedy dogs that can never have enough, and shepherds that lack understanding. These leaders are portrayed as being more interested in their own gain and pleasure than in the welfare of the people they are supposed to lead and protect.
The text states, "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" (Isaiah 56:10-11). This portrayal of the leaders is a strong indictment of their failure to fulfil their responsibilities and shows the dire consequences of such negligence for the society at large.
The chapter concludes with a depiction of these leaders' self-indulgence and lack of concern for the impending danger: "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" (Isaiah 56:12). This verse points to the leaders’ complacency and their failure to recognize the seriousness of their situation, despite the repeated warnings and admonitions from the prophet.
The themes and messages in Isaiah 56 remain relevant today. The chapter's emphasis on universal salvation and inclusion challenges us to broaden our understanding of who can be part of God's people. It urges us to reject any form of discrimination or exclusion based on ethnicity, culture, physical condition, or any other human-defined criteria. Instead, it calls us to embrace the biblical principle that anyone who chooses to align themselves with God's ways can be part of His people.
The chapter's warning against negligent leadership is also a timely reminder for those in positions of authority, whether in religious, political, or social contexts. It underscores the importance of integrity, responsibility, and selfless service in leadership. It also highlights the dire consequences of complacency, self-indulgence, and lack of understanding in leaders, reminding us of the need for vigilant, wise, and compassionate leadership.
In conclusion, Isaiah 56 offers a profound message of hope, inclusion, and responsibility. It challenges us to live righteously, to embrace all who choose to align themselves with God's ways, and to demand and exemplify responsible and compassionate leadership. As such, it contributes significantly to our understanding of God's redemptive plan for humanity and our role within that plan.