For this is what the Lord says: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant – to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure for ever. And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’
There were strict rules about who could enter which parts of the temple in Jerusalem. Eunuchs and foreigners could not pass the gateway into the main temple precincts. Modern archaeologists have found a stone at the site of the temple, marked with the notice “No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows.” If you or I had visited Jerusalem in Jesus’ time, we would have been excluded, not allowed to go and worship God. Yet, because they were Jews, Matthew 21.12-13 tells us that merchants were making money by trading in the temple. What a contrast! – the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations, but godly foreigners were shut out, while grasping Jews interested only in their own prosperity were allowed in. Jesus quotes this verse from Isaiah and accuses them of making the temple a ‘den of thieves’ instead of the house of prayer that it was meant to be.
Let’s thank God that we are ‘no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household’ (Eph. 2:19)!