WAITING FOR THE NEWS
We live in an age when people love to hear news. Perhaps it gives us a sense of community in this rapidly shrinking ‘global village’. It is something of a cliché amongst those of the news-gathering professions that ‘bad news is good news’ - but most people still yearn to hear good news.
Back in the days before cable television and the internet - before even radios and newspapers - the only source of news was through occasional travellers, and official messengers. So being a watchman on the wall of a great city like Jerusalem could be an interesting job. As long as you are not on the night shift, when all you are hoping for is morning (Psalm 130:6)!
Being a runner, too, might suit some people’s temperament. After the failure of Absalom’s rebellion, a young man named Ahimaaz outran the official messenger, Cushi, and took the edge off the bad news of Absalom’s death by - literally - pronouncing “Peace” (2 Samuel 18:28). Since King David had already executed two bearers of bad tidings, the young man did the Ethiopian messenger a great service!
What news could the watchmen on the waste places of Jerusalem, foretold by Isaiah, expect? Did they, like David, look at the running of the messenger and anticipate good news (2 Samuel 18:27)? Awaiting news is always an anxious time, and when it is slow in coming speculation abounds.
Certainly it was good news that was coming, for the running of the messenger was “beautiful” (Isaiah 52:7) - a poetic expression referring to the welcome of his arrival, and the agreeableness of his message. Prophetically, this first refers to the bearer of the news that God had proved His “reign” upon earth by providentially and miraculously moving the heart of the Persian Emperor to command the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Beyond that, it refers to John the Baptist, and all ministers and preachers of the church - and supremely to Jesus Christ Himself, who is both the messenger and the Message (Luke 1:68-70).
In that case the “good tidings” is, of course, the gospel. The “reign” is the reign of Christ - which was first ushered in when the Word became flesh (John 1:14), and the “kingdom of God” was manifested amongst us (Mark 1:15) - and will be consummated when He returns. In the meantime, “all power and authority” is given unto Him, and it is the church’s task to bear this message to all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
The news that came to Jerusalem’s walls in Isaiah’s vision caused the watchmen to rejoice (Isaiah 52:8) - and no wonder, for soon they would see their exiled brethren face to face (Isaiah 35:10). The news anticipated in the season of Advent is the news borne by the angels to the shepherds (Luke 2:10-11), and the news of our redemption through God’s Son (Galatians 4:4-5). Then a “mystery” - a hitherto hidden truth - began to be revealed (1 Timothy 3:16).
Even the waste places themselves were exhorted to rejoice at the redemption of Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:9). How much more should the Christian church rejoice in our comfort from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and in God’s gracious dealings with His ancient people Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).
The LORD flexed His holy arm to achieve the impossible, and all nations have seen His salvation (Isaiah 52:10). Not only did He turn back Zion’s bondage (Psalm 126:1), but also He has set men free from the bondage of sin and corruption. God bared His holy arm on Calvary, when our sins were borne away by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - and this “good news” continues to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.