The main passage for this week spotlights the purpose of singlehood in Scripture. Though the historical context addresses those who were normally excluded from being a part of God’s people, Isaiah 56 foresees a time when strangers, foreigners, and eunuchs are welcomed wholeheartedly. Verse 3 addresses foreigners who no longer have families. Verse 5 addresses those who no longer have children. Though an Old Testament historical fulfillment has occurred in Israel’s neighbors who were converted, the eschatological (or end-time) fulfillment has yet to occur, seeing as verse 7 speaks of a holy mountain and a house of prayer where all nations would convene.
What Isaiah alludes to is a promise that transcends the blessings of marriage and the blessings of descendants. Whereas ancient cultures found security in spouses (namely husbands) and in the number of offspring, God promises that those who remain single-minded for Him will receive a larger blessing: Himself. In other words, more than the pleasures of marriage, the joys of children, the security of status, and the reassurance of family, God gives Himself, His house (vv. 6–7), His mountain (v. 7), and His joy. Isaiah 56 is a call for singles to display their devotion to Him through piety, obedience, justice, and truth (vv. 1–3). This display would glorify God more than would marriage and/or childrearing. What is more amazing is that God grants them a name “better than that of sons or daughters,” namely His name (pun intended)!
The ultimate purpose of singles is found in verse 7’s “for all nations” and verse 8’s “yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.” In other words, God will use singles for discipleship and ministry to bring others to God. This means that the kingdom of God grows not biologically but through discipleship and relationships; through regeneration, not sexual procreation. Seeing as relationships in Christ transcend time and space, these connections transcend the boundaries of normal marital and familial relationships.
This promise is a paradigm shift, since the Jews built their nation through biological propagation. Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply. Abraham was focused on the biological son Isaac. Parents throughout the Old Testament had to continue their “line” and the genealogies to continue the legacy of Israel.
Deeper than just having children, Jesus had discipleship and conversions in mind when He quoted Isaiah 56 in Matthew 21:13. Instead of being a headquarters for discipleship, prayer, spirituality, and connecting the Gentiles to God, they made God’s “house of prayer” into a “den of thieves,” or, in other words, a for-profit organization for themselves! Jesus sees the fulfillment of this chapter in the last-day church of Philadelphia in Revelation: “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God. And I will write on him My new name” (3:12).
Sexuality, marriage, and family are not the end game, but only the means by which the kingdom of God is established. How often are these mixed up!