As we observe Houses of Prayer in the spirit of the tabernacle of David springing up across the globe it is wise to ground our understanding of this move of the Holy Spirit in scripture. One of the key passages to help us here is Isaiah 56:6-8. It’s the old testament passage that Jesus quotes as He storms through the temple court in Mark 11:17 overturning the money changer's tables and driving them out declaring, “My house will be called a House of Prayer for all nations…”. The Greek word for House here is 'Oikos' (transliteration) and it means household or family. Here Jesus declares that one of the core identities of those people who are part of His family will be that they are from every nation (ethnos) and that they are to pray.
At the same time He’s quoting Isaiah 56:6-8 which brings deeper meaning and explanation to what He means by this.
Isaiah 56:7 and 8 are remarkable verses. They are prophetic in nature and describe a coming time when God will gather a certain kind of people together and call them to be His family, a family made of every tribe and tongue and ethnic group, a family of Prayer. Isaiah 56:7, 8:
Verse 7: “Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Verse 8: “The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him Others besides those who are gathered to him.”
To find out what kind of people these are we need to look back at verse 6. Isaiah 56:6 says,
Verse 6: “Also, the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants – everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath and holds fast My covenant…”
Three key word explanations here are useful.
Firstly, 'sons of foreigners' is referring to gentiles, believers who are not Jews.
Secondly, the root Hebrew word for 'join' is lavah. It is the same root as that of Levi. In the Old Testament the sons of Levi were the priestly tribe of Israel.
Thirdly, the Hebrew word 'to serve' here means 'to minister'. It is the same word used 1 Chronicles 16:4 when David is described as giving Levites the job of ministering to the Lord in his tabernacle.
“He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel.”
Isaiah 56:6-8 prophesies a time when God will call gentiles to the same kind of lifestyle and work that the Levitical priests of David’s time did.
In 1 Peter 2: 4-5 the church of Jesus Christ is called a Kingdom of priests.
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The work of priests is to minister before God and people. As we watch Houses of Prayer in the Spirit of the Tabernacle of David rise up across the earth we must ask ourselves whether we are witnessing the full expression of this prophecy in Isaiah 56:6-8 coming to fruition. I believe Jesus is using this movement to call the church to mature in its core identity as a family who ministers to the Lord through prayer and worship.