Connections 08.20.2023: Salvation

Isaiah 56:1-8

When we see or hear the word “salvation,” we might think of Scriptures like John 3:16, John 14:6, and Romans 6:23. People from certain Christian traditions may remember sermons and lessons about “being saved,” “asking Jesus into your heart,” or “walking the aisle” to make a public profession of faith before the church. Most believers associate salvation with Jesus Christ—and for good reason.

But while the idea of salvation reached its pinnacle in Jesus, it was part of God’s plan from the beginning. People are saved throughout the Old Testament stories, often from deadly situations and struggles: Adam and Eve from death after their choice in the garden, Noah and his family from the devastating flood, Jacob from his deceit, Ruth and Naomi from their loneliness, Joseph from his malicious brothers, and Moses from his murderous intentions. God’s intervention usually inspires praise and renewed faithfulness.

In today’s text from Isaiah, the prophet shares a beautiful declaration from God about who is included in the salvation of the Lord. God particularly mentions “foreigners” and “eunuchs,” some of the most common outcasts of the day. The perception was that they didn’t belong as part of God’s people. The foreigners were not born into the faith and, worse, frequently engaged in worship of other gods and additional behaviors that clearly separated them from the people of God. The eunuchs were damaged, incapable of following God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply,” useful only as servants.

But God says of them what God always says about society’s outcasts: “If they choose me, I will give them the inheritance of God’s people” (see vv. 4-7). Yes, they are held to the same standards as anyone who would follow the Lord, but there is no extra condition for them to receive all of God’s blessings. No penance is needed for being a foreigner or a eunuch. As long as they choose to follow God, God welcomes them as God’s own.

This declaration was refreshing when the prophet shared it centuries ago, and it’s refreshing today as well. The Lord doesn’t require any of us to change who we are, to perfect our bodies or minds, to relocate, or to fit a certain ideal. We can look to another prophet, Micah, for a summary of God’s requirements: “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8). This is what makes God’s house a “house of prayer for all peoples” (Isa 56:7).

Discussion

• What does the word “salvation” bring to your mind?
• Do you believe that you are “saved”? If so, how did you get to that point?
• The people who originally heard these words from Isaiah were likely surprised by God’s acceptance of “outcasts.” Who are the “outcasts” today? How does God welcome them?
• What can our churches do better to reach “outcasts” and show them that God loves them as they are?
• What personal work do you need to do so that you see others not as outcasts but as God’s people?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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