Blog 21: Isaiah 56-57 Fourth Sunday of Lent

Where the Lord Dwells

Mothering Sunday 10 March 2013 11.00am

The first nine verses of chapter 56 are in fact the continuance of the great invitation of chapter 55 and the conclusion of Scene three of Act 10 of the Vision. They spell out how the temple and the worship of the Lord is to be opened up to the God-fearing foreigner and to the eunuch – groups previously forbidden to enter the temple.

It is this open-access worshipping society that sparks off the comments of the neighbours in Scene four of this Act (56:9-57:13).

An observer remarks that building a temple without building their defences leaves them vulnerable – the watchmen are inept – so the predators will have a field day and gain a great haul (56:9-12).

Chapter 57 looks to how things are in the city and comments on the collapse of order and justice[1], but God’s promise of peace still holds (v2). The next ten verses recite the faults of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who still play unjust politics and still, like the people of Israel two centuries before, rush off to pagan rites and Baal worship with all its sexual rites which are quite explicitly described. In verse 11 The Lord asks himself what he should do with those who fear pagan Gods and not him – he asks sarcastically if these Gods will help – but in spite of it all he reiterates the promise. The one who takes refuge in the LORD will possess the land or inherit his holy mountain.

The fifth and final scene of the act (57:14-21) is another expression of grace by the God who lives in a high and holy dwelling, but dwells with the humble and contrite of heart. Whatever the opposition and the presence of idol worshippers God still offers his peace to the true worshippers and to the approaching pilgrims who meet the only requirement that they are humble and contrite in spirit – there is no other requirement neither of race or anything else.

[1] This matches with the prevailing times in the Persian Empire where Xerxes is wholly preoccupied by his war with the Greeks.