Summary: What's the good news?
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
April 18, 2010
Series: Through the Bible in a Year
Occasionally, you come across a bit of Scripture that just captures the imagination and you aren’t quite sure why. There are a number of reasons the text might appeal to us – the image used by the writer, or maybe the words themselves. It may be something we heard about the text a long time ago that endears it to us. Our Scripture text this morning is one of those texts for me. I have always liked Isaiah 52 and for a long time I wasn’t sure why – but I think I understand now.
The truth of the matter is I was first captivated by this passage before I even knew it was part of Scripture, much less Isaiah 52. It began with the song “Our God Reigns”.
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him
Who brings good news, good news!
Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness,
Our God reigns, our God reigns!
I first heard this while still quite young in my faith – what we would call a baby Christian and I was fascinated by the message. It is not your typical gospel proclamation. Think about it moment, when we start sharing the gospel, where do we usually begin?
Sin. We begin with the problem that needs to be solved and then move to the solution God has provided in Jesus Christ. We begin with what’s wrong and move toward what’s right. But the song takes a different tack – it doesn’t begin with the problem or the solution, really. At least not explicitly. It begins with a worldview, with a picture of reality. Do you see what the song says is the good news? Our God reigns! Isn’t that something? The good news is just a bold admission of the true nature of existence; the feet that are being called beautiful are those of the messenger who brings this news from afar – our God reigns.
This is an incredible statement, especially when you consider what was happening at the time of this prophecy. As a prophet, Isaiah ministered for about sixty years during a time of great tumult for God’s people in Judah. They were being pressed from the north by the brutal empire of the Assyrians. Egypt’s attempts to halt the spread of the Assyrian Empire also caused trouble from the south for God’s people. They were a tiny nation caught in the conflict between a superpower and former-superpower. The future did not look very good – in fact, it looked like as a nation, God’s people were doomed to be annihilated.
The social conditions in Judah were not much better – idolatry, injustice, corruption. Occasionally, a king came along who tried to follow God and clean things up, but typically the reforms only lasted so long as the king was alive and his heirs would undo all the strides that had been made. If you read the prophets from this era – Amos, Hosea, and Micah – you will find that the activity of these conquering nations was God’s judgment against his rebellious people. The Assyrians were the lash of God’s discipline and if the people failed to repent, they would become the means for driving God’s people from the Promised Land, just as Israel had once driven out the Canaanites.
Isaiah also came preaching judgment against the many indiscretions of God’s people – of particular interest was the idolatry; the worshipping of the pagan gods of the Canaanite people. But the judgment Isaiah prophesied wasn’t to come through the Assyrians or the Egyptians – it was to come through another people, a superpower yet to be; this would turn out to be Babylonians. Isaiah spoke of the exile of God’s people from the land and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, a thought unfathomable to the Hebrew people. They could not conceive a reality where God allowed the place of his dwelling to be captured, much less destroyed. Yet this was the future Isaiah laid out for God’s people – a future that would come true in 585 B.C., some 100 after Isaiah’s death.
But Isaiah also spoke of deliverance. Although he prophesied the captivity of his people – what we know today as the Babylonian captivity – he also spoke of a day when God’s people would be delivered from their captivity. Isaiah spoke of a day when a servant of God would come who would secure the people’s release. In our text for this morning, Isaiah has begun turning his attention toward the time of deliverance for God’s people.
Prior to our text this morning, in Isaiah 51:9, Isaiah envisions a future day when the captivity of God’s people will begin to weigh so heavily on them that they will turn back toward the God they had forsaken in their idolatry and cry out for him to deliver them as he did for their fore bearers. “Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old.” It is to this cry of God’s people that v.1 in our text is in answer to. God calls his people to awake, shake off the chains of her captivity and prepare to be restored to the Promised Land.