Introduction: How would you describe the primary focus of your
church? Is it focused inward or outward? How about you – are you
primarily focused on yourself or on others? This week we study a
huge shift in God’s work on earth. Instead of being focused on the
Jewish nation, the focus turns outward to the entire world. Let’s
plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about
our personal focus and that of our church!

  1. Change

    1. Read Deuteronomy 23:1-3. What three kinds of people were
      not allowed to “join the church” of God’s people?
      (Eunuchs, those of illegitimate birth, and those whose
      ancestors had been unhelpful to God’s people.)

    2. Read Isaiah 56:1-2. What is “close at hand?” (God’s
      salvation. His righteousness (Jesus) will soon be

    3. Read Isaiah 56:3. What have the foreigners and the eunuchs
      done that is unexpected? (Bound themselves to the Lord.)

      1. What does that mean? (They have decided to follow the
        true God.)

    4. Read Isaiah 56:4-5. Previously, eunuchs could not be a
      part of the church. What has changed? (They have a place
      within the temple. They have a “memorial and name better
      than sons and daughters.”)

      1. What kind of a memorial could a eunuch have that
        would be better than “sons and daughters?” (Recall
        that the eunuch said ( Isaiah 56:3) that he was a “dry
        tree?” He could not reproduce. When he becomes part
        of the “church” he produces followers of God – and
        thus he is more “fertile” than having sons and

    5. Read Isaiah 56:6-7. Who else is accepted into fellowship
      as part of God’s people? (The foreigners who were
      previously excluded.)

      1. Look again at Isaiah 56:7. Who will be welcome in
        God’s house? (All nations.”)

      2. What is significant about the reference to “burnt
        offerings and sacrifices” and “prayer” for these
        foreigners? (Not only can they converse with God, but
        they will be able to have their sins forgiven through
        the sanctuary service.)

    6. Notice that God lays some conditions on accepting those
      who were not previously acceptable. Re-read Isaiah 56:6.
      What is required? (They agree to serve, love and worship
      God. They keep the Sabbath and God’s covenant.)

      1. Sounds like righteousness by works! Is it? (Grace is
        available to all, but it is not accepted by strangers
        who don’t care. Those who were previously excluded
        want to have a relationship with God. The Sabbath
        acknowledges God as Creator and Redeemer. The
        covenant represents what God represents in the world
        – people who love God and their neighbor. Thus, these
        people worship, love and serve God.)

    7. As you consider this prophesy as a whole, how would you
      summarize this good news? (First, I suspect that most of
      those reading this are not Jewish. So, this is very good
      news for us. These texts mean that the gospel is available
      to all who seek it.)

    8. I recently heard a sermon in which the theme was that it
      was more important to love than to be right. I had two
      reactions as I sat there and listened: first, that I could
      learn something from this sermon; second, I thought this
      sermon is mostly wrong. Are love and having standards
      inconsistent? (That is the interesting thing going on in
      these verses in Isaiah. God says the old exclusionary
      standards are gone, but the formerly excluded need to have
      a commitment to obedience.)

  2. Short Change

    1. Read Luke 19:1-3. Wealthy people were respected in those
      days. Why is Zacchaeus climbing trees instead of standing
      in front where he can see and be seen? (The people hated
      him because he was the chief tax collector for the

    2. Read Luke 19:5-6. Is this an example of what was
      prophesied in Isaiah 56? (Yes. Those previously not
      welcomed are now welcome.)

    3. Read Luke 19:7. How did the people react to the idea of
      accepting Zacchaeus? (Not well.)

    4. Read Luke 19:8. Why did the people think Zacchaeus was a
      sinner? (No doubt they thought that he was cheating them
      in collecting taxes.)

      1. How does Zacchaeus fit the prophecy of Isaiah so
        well? (Zacchaeus understands perfectly the concern
        about his behavior. He immediately pledges to rectify

      2. What is the lesson for us today? (The doors of God’s
        fellowship are open to everyone – including sinners,
        but joining the fellowship means, as illustrated by
        Zacchaeus, a commitment to obedience. Love means
        having standards.)

  3. Bringing Change

    1. After Jesus rose from the dead, He visited His disciples.
      Let’s read Acts 1:4-5 to learn more about one of these
      visits. For what were the disciples to wait? (They were to
      wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the baptism of the Holy

    2. Read Acts 1:6. What different gift did the disciples have
      in mind? How did remaining in Jerusalem fit their plan?
      (They thought that Jesus was going to proclaim that He was
      King of Israel and throw off the Roman yoke. Power would
      be centered in Jerusalem. They would be at the center of

    3. Read Acts 1:7-8. It turns out the plan for them is much
      different. Notice that the center is still Jerusalem, but
      where does the work end? (They were to witness to the ends
      of the earth.)

      1. Explain why Jerusalem is the center for this? (Notice
        how this reflects what we are studying. God had a
        plan to share the gospel with the world, and His plan
        started with the Jews.)

      2. I have a close Jewish friend who told me that
        Christians “hijacked” his religion. How much truth
        is there in that? (Christianity certainly grew out of
        Judaism. But, Isaiah teaches us that God’s people
        abandoned His plan to reach out to the world.)

    4. Look at Acts 1:6 again. What was the focus of the
      disciples? (They were looking inward. They would have
      personal political power. Their nation would rule the

      1. We know that Jesus’ immediate plan was much
        different. How much of an issue is this for your
        church? Is your church primarily focused on restoring
        itself, or is it focused on witnessing to all of the

  4. The Power For Change

    1. If your honest answer to the prior question is, “Yes, we
      primarily have an inward focus,” how difficult do you
      think it would be to change? Where would you start?

    2. Read Acts 2:1. How much time do you think passed between
      Acts 1:6 and this event? (Read Acts 1:5 – it was at most a
      few days.)

    3. Read Acts 2:2-4. What do you think was the purpose of
      speaking in other tongues? (Read Acts 2:5-6. They had been
      instructed by Jesus to begin in Jerusalem and then spread
      the gospel to all of the earth. This was a huge step in
      that direction.)

    4. If you think that your church (and you) are primarily
      focused inward instead of outward, what does this story
      teach us? (The change can come very quickly.)

      1. What is essential to a quick change? (The outpouring
        of the Holy Spirit! Acts 1:4 calls the Holy Spirit a
        “gift.” That means God’s sovereign will is involved.
        Acts 1:14 shows that God’s people were in constant
        prayer for this gift. Joel 2:28-29 suggests that the
        intensity of the “pour” is also part of God’s
        sovereign will.)

    5. Friend, will you consider the focus of your life and the
      focus of your church? If you need to be refocused, why
      not, right now, pray for the Holy Spirit to come in power
      into your life and into your church?

  5. Next week: Discipling Spiritual Leaders.