Have you ever been led astray by your GPS? When the GPS first became popular there were several reports of people following GPS instructions and driving into a lake or going the wrong way on a one-way street. Even with outstanding advancements in technology, it can sometimes be hard to get to a place if the technology is faulty or if you enter the wrong address.
When I first moved to the Outer Banks eleven years ago there were parts of Southern Shores that were not on the satellite maps. I spent one frustrating afternoon trying to visit a church member only to have to return to the church to get directions. I was using one of the older free-standing GPS units and I had left my cell phone at the church, so I couldn’t call anyone for directions. By the time I got back to my office it was too late for the visit and I was in tears. So much for advanced technology!
Isaiah was an 8th Century prophet who was the voice of God’s concerns during the Babylonian exile. His basic function was to be a GPS to the Israelites. He gave words of direction, instruction, and hope during the dark time of exile from Israel. The people of the diaspora desperately wanted to return home. They were looking for a way back. They needed a GPS to direct them to the holy mountain. Then came good news: insiders and outsiders alike were called to come to worship.
Isaiah 56 (The Message)
“And as for the outsiders who now follow me,
working for me, loving my name,
and wanting to be my servants— All who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it,
holding fast to my covenant—
I’ll bring them to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
The outsiders are us, folks. The Gentiles and outcasts who chose to follow God received an amazing offer to enter into the house of worship.
Here is the map for both insiders and outsiders to follow, laid out in two steps.
- Keep the Sabbath and don’t defile it.
2. Hold fast to my covenant.
Sabbath-keeping is so important to God. It is a mandatory respite from our busy life that directs us to intentionally stop everything and focus solely on God. Many of you will remember “blue laws” that required that everything shut down on Sundays. By removing all temptation, families couldn’t defile the Sabbath with distraction, leisure, or (worst of all) work.
God’s covenant was spelled out to the people in the Ten Commandments. By following God’s law, people could find their way into God’s house and remain there all of their days.
They’ll be welcome to worship the same as the ‘insiders,’
to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar. Oh yes, my house of worship
will be known as a house of prayer for all people.”
Here’s the best part. The house of worship becomes a house of prayer for ALL people. Imagine it! If we were to follow the directions laid out for us in this passage, we could be gathered together into a house of prayer for all people.
The Decree of the Master, God himself,
who gathers in the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather others also,
gather them in with those already gathered.”
What do you need to do today to re-direct your life so that you are headed in the right direction? What does God’s covenant mean to you? Are you loving God and loving neighbor in everything you do? Are you defiling the Sabbath or keeping it holy?
All are welcome to worship in the house of prayer, where there is plenty of joy to go around. Come! Now is the time to worship and pray.