An Incentive for Godly Living
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah, that portion of the Word of God in which we are meditating. May we remind you that we have been studying the book of Isaiah for quite some time, and we have followed what we have suggested to you are the natural divisions of the book, keeping in mind that there are two main divisions, the second division beginning with chapter 40.

The two main divisions of the book of Isaiah are somewhat like the divisions of our Bible. The book of Isaiah has 66 chapters; our Bible has 66 books. The last section of the book of Isaiah has 27 chapters; our New Testament has 27 books.

Keep in mind that the main theme of the second section of the book of Isaiah is the theme of comfort. We find that theme following through the three sections of that portion of the book of Isaiah, because we have pointed out to you that the 27 chapters which make up the last section of the book of Isaiah fall naturally into three divisions.

I am calling that to your attention by way of review, because we are finishing the second section of this last portion of the book of Isaiah. That will be evident when you glance with me at verse 20 of chapter 57:

Isaiah 57

20But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
21There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

You will recognize those words as being the dividing line for the sections involving these last 27 chapters.

Introduction

Look back to Isaiah, chapter 56. I would like for you to notice with me the first two verses which will form an introduction to our discussion. It will not only form an introduction, but establish a principle that I trust every person who is interested in the vitality of the Word will recognize as being applied to his own heart and to his own life. Notice the words:

Isaiah 56

1Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
2Blessed 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.

The exhortation which is found in these first two verses is couched in Old Testament language in terms of Sabbath-keeping, which was the sign in the Old Testament of a faithful, coherent religious life centered in the Word of God.

We would not suggest to you that Sabbath-keeping is entailed upon people who are living in this Age of Grace, but we would suggest to you that the principle of faithfulness to God in the light of His Word is just as important in this Age of Grace as it was in the Age of Law. I think that if our backs were to the wall and we had to have a point-by-point discussion, we would say that it is even more important, because those of us who are living on this side of the Cross certainly are a more enlightened people than those who were living on the other side of the Cross.

The incentive for godly living represents the real principle of prophetic study. Why do we study prophecy? Why are we interested in what the future holds? Well, there are many people who have a carnal interest in prophetic study. I have had the experience in other places where I have been conducting meetings of various types of having all kinds of people come up when I would mention that I was going to speak on some prophetic subject such as the near return of the Lord Jesus Christ. People will come out for a subject like that who will come out for no other.

I recognize that in the hearts of some, there is a real desire to know the truth of the Word of God, but in conversation with others an examination of their testimonies would reveal that they are not interested in the prophetic Word because of a deep spiritual desire to go on with God; they have a carnal interest in things future. They would just as soon go to a soothsayer as to a preacher if they could get anything near the truth. Many Christians even fall into that error of being interested in the study of prophecy for prophecy's sake. However, the principle for the study of prophecy is enunciated in verse 1:

Isaiah 56

1Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.

Notice the phrase, my salvation is near to come , and the statement, my righteousness is to be revealed .

You who have been studying the book of Isaiah with us know that those two phrases refer to all of those wonderful truths related to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of His millennial reign upon the earth. What the Spirit of God is saying in verse 1 is to live in the light of what you know is supposed to happen. You are to live in the light of what is plainly revealed in the Word of God as God's plan and God's future purpose. We study prophecy so that our knowledge of the future will have a very definite effect on the kind of lives that we live.

I was once in conversation with an individual and we were discussing what we refer to as pre-millennialism and post-millennialism . The terms are rather insignificant. It doesn't matter too much about the terms, but we were using those terms because they were familiar. I made mention of the fact that a certain commentary was of a post-millennial character and another was of a pre-millennial character. Then I made the statement, “But, if you know that, you can watch for it.” Then this individual made a very sensible statement: “I'm not so sure that he could be right on these other things, because I think the understanding of the prophetic Word colors your interpretation of all the Word of God.” And it does. We must not forget that God's teaching related to the future does color our interpretation of the Word of God, and this is what I would like for you to get. It ought to affect the kind of lives which we live.

That is emphasized in verse 2, where we read:

Isaiah 56

2Blessed 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.

Don't let the phrase, the son of man , throw you. We are still talking about an ordinary man, but you will remember that this is poetry here, and in poetry the secret is not using the same words or phrases all the time. The man in the son of man is talking about the same individual. We are reading that the man who lives his life in the light of the prophetic Word is a blessed man, a satisfied man, and is well-rounded in every sense of the word.

Then the emphasis is placed upon the fact that blessed also is the man who layeth hold of it. Layeth hold of what? Layeth hold of prophetic truth. Let that sink in. There are many individuals who have never really laid hold of the truth. Oh, yes, they can give you all the facts. They can give you all of the divisions. They can tell you what is going to happen and when it is going to happen, but they have never laid hold of the truth. You know why I know that they have never laid hold of the truth? You might say that they can't understand it properly. Well, that is not it. Do you know the reason I know that they have never laid hold of it? I have not seen the effect in their lives that I ought to see. That is the reason that I know they have never laid hold of the truth.

Truth Related to Salvation

Turn with me to the New Testament, the first epistle of John, and notice chapter 3:

I John 3

1Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

If you are thinking, you will see that we have presented to us in this verse the wonderful truth related to our salvation. The wonderful truth related to our present relationship to God. We are the sons of God right now—not going to be, but right now. We have the definite assurance of it very plainly taught in the Word.

We have another wonderful truth in verse 2 and that is the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is coming. We are told that when the Lord Jesus Christ appears, we shall be made like Him. We shall see Him as He is. This is the hope that every born-again believer has.

What do you do when you have this hope? A lot of people do no more than go around singing, “Some golden daybreak Jesus will come.” Some people go around talking about the fact that Jesus is coming and they can prove it, because they can take you to chapter and verse to verify what they have to say. That is all it means, but the Apostle John reminds us, in verse 3:

I John 3

3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

He has this hope in his heart, not in his head. This individual who has this hope purifieth himself even as he is pure.

Responsibility for Purification is Ours

Go back to Isaiah, chapter 56, as I remind you that the responsibility for purification is upon your shoulders. Recognize today that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. We recognize that the only way that men can be cleansed is through the blood of Christ, but we recognize as well that it is your responsibility and mine to purify our lives in the light of the Word of God. More particularly, we are talking about the immediate subject in the light of the coming of the Lord.

Listen carefully as I say to you that prophetic truth should be the greatest incentive for holy living that we could possibly have. If you live your life every day in the light of the fact that Jesus Christ might come within that period you call day, certainly there would be a difference in your life.

There are many of us among fundamental believers who say that we believe in the Second Coming of Christ, the eminency of the Lord's return, but I am not at all convinced that there are as many of us who believe it as say we do for I believe that if we did, there would be a difference in all of our actions.

I am going to let you make the application to your own life, because the applications could be varied and the applications are many, but the Spirit of God can minister this principle related to the study of the prophetic Word to your heart if you will let Him, and that is that you should live your life in the light of revealed truth concerning the future.

Another Message of Comfort

We want to get into the main body of this section, though we won't get all the way through it. Keep in mind that the theme is comfort. We have found it ever since chapter 40, where it began with the words, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people saith your God.” Here in the paragraph which begins with verse 3 and concludes with verse 8, there is another message of comfort. Someone has said that this is the most compassionate passage of Scripture in all the Word of God. That may be an awfully broad statement, but perhaps you will agree as we think about it:

Isaiah 56

3Neither 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.
4For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
5Even 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.
6Also 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;
7Even 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.
8The Lord GOD, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.

We will stop our reading right there, reminding you that we have been placing a very literal interpretation of our study of the book of Isaiah, so that when we read in verse 7 about God's holy mountain, we are not thinking of a figure of speech or a spiritual place of worship, we are thinking about the day when Mt. Moriah literally will be made the highest of all the mountains in the land of Palestine. We are thinking about the day when, during the millennial reign of Christ, a house, a temple, a place of worship will be built which will cause Solomon's temple, in all of its glory and splendor, to be beggarly by comparison. We are thinking, literally, about a day when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will return to this earth and set up His headquarters in that temple and all the nations of all the world will gather from year to year for annual pilgrimages of worship at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ as He sits upon the throne that will be established in Jerusalem.

One Central Place of Worship for All

We believe that this is speaking about those literal facts, and when we read in verse 7, “My house shall be called an house of prayer for all people,” we mean just that. There will be one central place of worship for all the peoples of the world, and that central place of worship will be God's holy mountain, Mt. Moriah, the temple that God will have built during the millennial reign of Christ.

This is the literal interpretation of the passage, and the Spirit of God is reminding us that in that day, all of the various restrictions which were placed upon the worship of today will be removed. Without entering into a discussion of rightness or wrongness of anything, we might as well recognize that in the Old Testament, there was segregated worship. Whether you like it or whether you don't, there was segregated worship in the Old Testament. For example, two kinds of people in this paragraph could not worship with the other folk. That doesn't mean that God didn't love them. We see in this paragraph that He very definitely did. It didn't mean that He wouldn't listen to their cry. He very definitely did, but there was segregated worship.

One class of people who was segregated were the strangers—that is, individuals who were not born of Jewish blood, because God was the God of Israel, and it was Israel's obligation to present Him to the rest of the world. If a stranger was attached to a Jewish household by way of visitation or by way of slavery, though he might have all the benefits and blessings of that household, there were certain things related to the worship of God which he could not do. They were segregated whether you like it or not.

Of course, if things were then like they are now, I suppose there would have been some kind of a sit-down strike or a boycott. The most ridiculous thing happened. I saw it in the newspaper, and I had been wondering when they would begin to boycott the conditions of the Gospel.

A rescue mission out in California was being boycotted by an Episcopal priest of the so-called “down and outers” or “bums” or “transients” attending the services at this mission—a rescue mission down in the Bowery section of Los Angeles. They had a rule that you must attend a Gospel service before you got your supper and a bed for the night. This Episcopal priest decided that it wasn't fair. He decided that if they were going to be given a meal and a bed, they should not be made to sing for their supper. It should just be given to them anyway. He got all of these bums, castaways, and transients and marched up and down in front of this mission with a sign saying, “This mission is unfair. They must listen to the Gospel before they get anything to eat.”

They rented the building next door, and this priest, who I suppose did not have anything better to do, stood out in front and said, “Fellows, come in here. We will give you something to eat; no need to go over there.” This mission, according to the papers, did not understand why they were doing it. The media puts it in a bad light, you know. They said, “The little mission is about to go out of business. They only served three meals over there tonight, and the Episcopal priest served 103 or something like that.”

It has happened. They are boycotting the Gospel. This priest said, “Not only should they not have to sing for their supper, they should not have to eat chicken every night. For six months they were being serving chicken, and that is not right. They ought to be served something else.” The fact that they don't deserve it doesn't matter, of course. It doesn't matter that nobody owes it to them. It doesn't matter that there is no reason in the world why they should have it.

Do you see what I am saying to you? Men are forgetting the vital principles of the Word of God, and I am quite sure that if the madness that has gripped our present generation was rampant in the day in which Isaiah wrote, they would be boycotting the temple in Jerusalem because they wouldn't let strangers worship at the same time others did and because they wouldn't let eunuchs go into the most holy part of the temple.

Somebody says, “But, why couldn't they?” Well, that is not my argument. My argument is that this is what God laid down, and God's Word teaches segregation in certain areas, and you might as well accept it as a fact.

Look at the compassion and the mercy that is manifested. When it is all over and God's final plan and purpose is accomplished, when righteousness covers the earth as waters cover the sea, when the Lord Jesus Christ is sitting on His throne, when sin is no more, when the Devil is bound, God can take off all of the restrictions. He said:

Isaiah 56

7Even 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.

There will be no more restrictions of any kind. People can come from all directions to His house of prayer and sit down in the house of God. That is the literal interpretation of the verse, but as I have reminded you any number of times, every passage of Scripture has one interpretation and as many applications as is consistent with the rest of the Word of God.

Jesus Christ made an application from this very passage. You will remember where He said, “My house shall be called an house of prayer.” He quoted this very passage of Scripture in the Gospel of Mark. He went into His temple and there they were buying and selling and whooping it up, and it was no more like a place of worship than a marketplace would be. The din was terrible, and in His righteous indignation, He drove them from the temple and said, “It is written. My house shall be a house of prayer.” This is where it is written. Actually, His house is not going to be called a house of prayer until the Millennium, but there is a sense in which it is a house of prayer in contrast to a marketplace.

Christ Never Knows a Stranger

I want to make an application that is precious. Notice what He says about the strangers. Let's refresh our memories again noticing verse 3:

Isaiah 56

3Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people…
6Also 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;
7Even 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.

How many strangers there are in our world today who have no one to stand by them and with them. Yet, the Lord has said, “There are no strangers in My circle of acquaintances. I am stranger to none; I am friend to all.” He is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother, as you well know. May I suggest to your hearts, Beloved, that if you are a stranger in His presence, you have left an unnecessary barrier between you and Him, and you ought to tear it down.

Haven't you heard it said, concerning little children who are really friendly with strangers, when their proud parents pick them up and say, “He never knows a stranger.”, they are so proud because their little one is so friendly. They never know a stranger. I say reverently, Beloved, that the Lord Jesus Christ never knows a stranger. You don't ever need to worry about not being received of Him.

Look at what He said about the eunuch in verse 3:

Isaiah 56

3…neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
4For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
5Even 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.

This, I say, is a compassionate portion of the Word of God. Eunuchs were men who would never have anybody to carry on their name, never anybody to follow after them. When they died, all died with them. You young people are so busy living now that you haven't thought about this, but you will think about it in time. All of us get to the place where we want to see something live after we are gone. We want to see something live after we leave this sphere of activity.

I am not talking about brick and mortar. I'm not interested in whether there is a monument of brick and mortar that has my name somewhere tacked on it, but I am grateful to God that, humanly speaking, He has given me seven lives who, if the Lord Jesus Christ tarries, I will be able to live through long after I have gone. I thank God for that. By His grace and by His mercy, through the ministry of the Word, He has given me innumerable lives through whom I will be able to live long after I am gone. To you young folk, that may not mean very much, but it will eventually—to know that you can live on.

Some of these eunuchs were not eunuchs by choice. The Bible says that there are three kinds of eunuchs. There are eunuchs who are born so, and the Bible says that there are eunuchs who are made so by men, and the Bible says there are eunuchs who are eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake. There are individuals who are so-born. There are some individuals who are forced into the position they are in through no choice of their own. Then there are some who choose to be eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake.

Have you ever noticed an unmarried man and wondered why he never married? Have you felt kind of sorry for him? Have you said to yourself, “I guess no girl ever looked at him.” Have you ever noticed an unmarried lady? Have you ever felt a little bit sorry and said, “I don't know why she couldn't have ever had a date. I don't know why she couldn't have ever married.” Have you ever felt that way?

Don't be too quick to jump to conclusions, and don't pass judgment too quickly, because, Beloved, you may be talking about an individual who came face-to-face with a decision, “Shall I satisfy my own inner desires? Shall I do what I want to do? Shall I sacrifice my own for His?” There are many dear people today who are eunuchs—using the term figuratively—both male and female for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. They didn't have to be, but they chose to be for the sake of the Gospel. They didn't have to be, but they chose to be for the sake of the good that they would be able to do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, how many people look upon them and talk about how lonely they are and how sorry they feel for them.

Did you notice what the Lord Jesus Christ said here? The Lord Jesus Christ said, in verse 5, “I'm going to give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”

All of this emphasizes a very simple principle in the Word of God and that is that God never remains in debt to any individual. He has a way of collecting what is His, but He never over-collects. He will never let you do too much for Him. He will always repay you greater than what you have given Him.

Condemnation of False Leaders of Israel

I want you to notice the last portion of this chapter with me. In it there is presented to us a condemnation of the false leaders of Israel at this particular time when Isaiah was thinking in the terms which we have been discussing. Notice verse 9:

Isaiah 56

9All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.

That is a rather strange thing to be saying, isn't it? But, you see, Isaiah was an eloquent preacher, and he continued in verse 10:

Isaiah 56

10His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
11Yea, 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.
12Come 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.

You see, everybody that wanted to do any evil to the nation of Israel at all was invited to come and do what they would, because nobody could stop them. The watchmen, the leaders of Israel, those who had the responsibility for the welfare of the nation of Israel were all like dumb dogs. They didn't bark when the robbers came. They were all men who not only slept but loved to sleep and were not willing to be awakened for any reason whatsoever. They were so careless.

Death is Sometimes a Blessing

A time arose in the life of the nation of Israel when it was a blessing to be dead, and that time is going to come again, according to the prophetic Word. Death sometimes is a blessing. Oh, the way we fear it! That is normal, and the way that we try to stave it off is natural. We would think that it is the enemy always, but the Bible declares that sometimes it is a blessing, and the day is coming when it will be so. Notice in verse 1 of chapter 57:

Isaiah 57

1The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
2He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

Look at what this passage of Scripture is saying. The righteous—that is, born-again people as we would describe them today—are dying. They are being taken away and no man taketh it to heart and no man is wondering why. Why are so many Christian people dying? That is the question. I don't know that the time has arrived when you need to ask that, but mark what I am saying to you, the time will come when you will need to ask it. Why are so many Christian people being taken?

We have found it within our hearts to ask, “Why are so many Christian people suffering as they are suffering,” but now, why are so many Christians dying? Why are they being taken away? Isaiah answers and says, “They are being taken away from evil.”

You will notice the words to come in the text, but you will notice they are in italics. That means they are not in the original text, so what he is saying is, “They are being taken away from evil.” Why does God take some people home to Heaven? To spare them the evil that remains yet in this world.

Before you go to pieces at the death of a loved one, before you throw up your hands in despair, before you say, “Why did this have to happen,” you might consider that God might be taking them away from the evil. You will notice in the first part of verse 2, the person that is taken away:

Isaiah 57

2He shall enter into peace…

Nothing could be better than that, but those who are left shall rest in their beds. They will have a false security, each one walking in his own uprightness. If he had been walking in the righteousness of God and Christ, it would have been different. But, he was walking in his own uprightness, resting in his own bed, oblivious to the demands and the calls of God, perfectly satisfied. This is God's mercy sometimes, to take people away from evil by taking them home to be with Himself.


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