Being part of the Levitical priesthood had stringent requirements. Like the animals they sacrificed, the Levitical priests had to be perfect physical specimens (See Leviticus 21). After a certain age a priest was not even allowed to participate in some aspects of worship. Why so stringent? Because the priests and the animals they sacrificed were supposed to be representations of the ultimate Sacrifice: Jesus Christ. Externally, they had to be without spot or blemish. According to other restrictions in the Mosaic Law, of those who were racially Israelite there were some of that number who for various reasons could not participate in religious ceremonies, hold public office or any positions of authority over their fellow Israelites. [Source: The Father’s Manifesto] Human nature being what it is, this led to feelings of superiority and inferiority.
Before we judge these restrictions as being cruel, unfeeling or even unchristian, let’s remember that the role of Old Testament Law was to be our schoolmaster. (See Galatians 3:24-25) The standard was set high so that God could prove to man beyond any shadow of doubt that no level of holiness that man could achieve would ever measure up to God’s standard of holiness. The Law had to be an impossible schoolmaster to get us to see our need of a Savior.
The verses in Isaiah 56:1-8 are addressed to those who had no hope of qualifying for the priesthood or any aspect of Temple worship and they go beyond those who are racially Israelite to all nations. To these former outcasts the Lord promises something extraordinary.
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. (Isaiah 56:5)
This open invitation to worship is extended to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, on only one condition: They must be people who “choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant” (Isaiah 56:4b). In Christ, all other restrictions are removed because in Christ all requirements are met. You and I need only to bow the knee to Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.
What the Lord promises those who humble themselves and follow Him is a personal relationship to Him that goes beyond that of son or daughter because it is not based on family blood, but Jesus’ blood. The apostle Paul explains it best:
Romans 9:6-8 (ESV)
(6) But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,
(7) and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
(8) This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
In other words, being able to trace your family tree back to Abraham does not get you into heaven. Having faith like Abraham does.
God is not impressed by our pedigree, our social standing or our appearance. At the same time, He is not put off by these things either. What God wants are people who know their standing before God, who understand that He is worthy of all worship, honor and praise. Isaiah sums it up for us beautifully:
“…[B]ut to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2b).
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