Also the sons of the stranger, who join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath and does not profane it, and all who hold fast to my covenant; Isaiah 56:6 (Hebrew World)
Sons of the stranger – Perhaps we should start with the next verse, Isaiah 56:7. God promises to bring all these people to His holy mountain, to make them joyful in the house of prayer, to accept their worship. In fact, this next verse contains the famous phrase, “My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all people.” We are familiar with this phrase on the lips of Yeshua as He disrupts the commercialism in the Temple. But maybe we’re not quite as familiar with the first part of this theme – the part that exhorts the sons of the stranger to join Israel in obedience to YHWH. If “My House shall be called a House of Prayer for all people,” then all people including those who are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel will need to take on the obligations of serving Him, loving Him and keeping the Sabbath.
“Sons of the stranger” is oov’nei ha-nekar. These are Gentiles who have become part of Israel, outsiders who have joined themselves to YHWH. Most of us are oov’nei ha-nekar. What characterizes the oov’nei ha-nekar? They serve YHWH. They love YHWH. And they honor the Sabbath. Isn’t it odd that this requirement is spelled out? Why didn’t YHWH say, “and they keep the ten commandments,” or “and they show love to each other,” or “and they love their neighbors as they love themselves”? Why emphasize the Sabbath? After all, it’s only a day.
If honoring the Sabbath is an essential part of participating in the House of Prayer for all nations, then most Christians have a problem. Most Christians do not honor the Sabbath. There are a myriad of excuses. “One day is as good as any other.” “Sunday is the Christian Sabbath.” “Jesus rose on the first day of the week.” I am sure you can add a few more. But how do we get past God’s statement in Isaiah? The sons of the strangers are accepted when they adopt the ways of Israel, including keeping the Sabbath. You might want to do a little research on Sunday worship. You might want to know when and how the Church became a Sunday community. One thing is clear. God established the Sabbath, the seventh day, not the first. The only way the Christian Church can circumvent this divine ordinance is to argue that the Sabbath is for Israel, not the Church. But then what do we do with oov’nei ha-nekar?
Christians love Matthew 21:13. They put emphasis on the fact that Yeshua declared God’s Temple open to Gentiles. Christians are adamant that Yeshua and Sha’ul had a message for foreigners, the oov’nei ha-nekar. But the message of Yeshua and Sha’ul is much older than the first century AD. God Himself proclaims this message at least as far back as Abraham. The sons of foreigners are welcome. Come and join the household of YHWH. Be absorbed into His kingdom. Serve Him. Love Him. Keep His Sabbath. And have peace.
Topical Index: oov’nei ha-nekar, sons of strangers, Sabbath, Isaiah 56:6, Matthew 21:13