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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:God sends a preacher to Zion
Text:Isaiah 52:7-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Preaching
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-09-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 93:1,4                                                                                

Ps 99:1,5,6                                                                                                     

Reading – Isaiah 52:1 - 53:6; Romans 10:14-21

Hy 12:1,14

Sermon – Isaiah 52:7-10

Hy 81:1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Hy 15:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, we’re about to do something very old-fashioned. It’s not often anymore that people will sit down for thirty or forty minutes, and listen to another person talking: without interruption, without visual aids, or any active engagement of the audience. But that’s what a sermon is. And so a sermon is an old-fashioned curiosity in the age of YouTube and social media, for those are the ways we get informed today—and entertained.

So the question is sometimes asked: Do sermons still matter? How can a preacher expect to get a message across in this way? If this sermon was a webpage, wouldn’t you be clicking or scrolling to get away as soon as it lost your interest?

Yet if have ears to hear, the LORD God has something to say. For He tells us that preaching has power. Through Isaiah, God says that He’ll use the spoken word to communicate good things to his people. And more than from any other source, the apostle Paul tells us in Romans, “Faith comes from hearing the Word.”

All that makes sense too, for God is a speaking God! Consider how God is speaking, right from the beginning of time—He calls all things into being: words with power. And how He speaks through every following century: talking to his friend Abraham, teaching Israel, warning through the prophets and apostles. It’s what God does, not just to make his point, but to communicate his love.

The humans who bring his message are always weak and ignorant, yet God will use their words. For if the text has been read clearly, if the text has been explained properly, if Christ has been lifted up, then the preacher’s words can be received as the Word of the living God.

This is what we see happening in our text. God sends a messenger to Zion, someone to announce glad tidings. It’s the same gospel message we need to listen to, and one that makes us think about how we receive the preaching each Sunday. What is the good news? And what does God what us to do with it? I preach God’s Word to you from Isaiah 52:7-10 on this theme,

God sends a preacher of his good news to Zion:

  1. the waiting people
  2. the reigning God
  3. the growing praise

 

1) the waiting people: Imagine for a moment that you’re living in a city under siege, like a city in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War 2. Under siege and under threat, you wait anxiously for any news of deliverance. You live for the day when you hear that a friendly army has broken through the ring of invaders to set you free. If they do, there is hope. If not, then all is lost.

It wasn’t long ago that Judah had endured a siege, one thrown up against Jerusalem by the Assyrians. The enemy came, they made a lot of noisy threats, and their armies looked ready to starve the city into submission. King Hezekiah and the rest of Jerusalem had good reason to be terrified. But then another army came passing through the area, the forces of the king of Ethiopia. The Assyrians withdrew from Jerusalem, and came to Libnah, a city not far from the capital. And there, while the Assyrians camped, waiting for battle, the angel of the Lord went out and killed 185,000 of the enemy. So ended the threat to Jerusalem.

Think of how that news would’ve come to Jerusalem. Messengers would’ve raced from Libnah to Jerusalem, carrying the astounding report: somehow the enemy has been destroyed, and the threat has disappeared! Hearing this message, you might’ve thought it was too good to be true. Yet it was true: God had delivered his people once again.

That’s the kind of scene unfolding in our text, as God sends a messenger to his people concerning a great victory: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news” (v 7). And what makes this news so good is how bad the situation has been. That’s what Isaiah describes in the first part of this chapter. Zion has been defiled by the uncircumcised and unclean (v 1). She has been enslaved, with chains around her neck (v 2). She has been sold for a pittance (v 3). She has been oppressed (v 4) and she has been mocked (v 5). Both Egypt and Assyria have treated Judah like she was worthless.            

But not for long. God cares too deeply for his people to ever leave us ruined and hopeless. God is the unfailing strength of the weak, the mighty Saviour of those who need rescuing. That is a message we need to hear, so God sends his preacher.

In our text, Isaiah pictures him as a lone runner, a man crossing the hills on his way toward Jerusalem. When there was going to be a battle nearby, that’s what people in the city under siege would’ve anxiously looked for afterwards: a sign of hope.

And if you looked out onto the hills and saw a bloodied gang of survivors, barely holding on until they reached safety, then you’d know the battle was lost. But if you saw a man running, and he’s got a spring in his step, and energy to keep going, even to speed up as he gets closer—that’d be the most beautiful sight, heartening and encouraging.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news.” This messenger is coming to announce God’s great victory. And for the people who are waiting, this messenger has beautiful feet—not because his ankles are especially attractive, or his toes so tantalizing, but because it’s his feet that have carried him to bring the amazing news of the Lord’s work. The people are so glad to receive him!

And the news quickly spreads. For men are standing ready on the city walls. In that time, watchmen were always patrolling: morning, noon and night. Scanning the horizon, they’d warn against approaching enemies, or welcome any allies. They were the front line of response.

The watchmen see God’s messenger, and what’s their response? The “watchmen…lift up their voices” (v 8). There’s a hopeful shout as the messenger draws closer. The people waiting down below know that something good is happening. There’s a definite buzz in the air, and it grows into a loud chorus: God has done something amazing! There is deliverance from evil and a new hope for tomorrow.

When he paints this picture, Isaiah wants us to think big. He tells Judah, ‘This is bigger than when God wiped out the Assyrian army at Libnah—this is a greater salvation.’ He tells us, ‘This is bigger than God helping you overcome your personal fears or family troubles—this is a greater salvation.’ It’s the salvation accomplished by the Servant of the LORD, the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. He has come to pull us out of our deepest misery, to lift the heaviest load from our backs: our sin, and the punishment that it deserves.

It’s the message God sends us in his Word, the good news of our salvation. We get to read this Word every day, and we get to listen to this Word every Sunday. For that solitary runner, moving with joy across the hills with good news to announce, is just like the preachers whom God sends today. This is what the Lord’s servants will do: they will bring glad tidings to God’s waiting people, to the church and to the world.

Think of how Paul portrays this ministry in Romans 10. He is speaking about how the Jews in his time needed to hear the true gospel of Christ. If they didn’t, they would never come faith, and they’d remain in their condemnation forever. Thinking about that need for preaching, Paul asks those tightly connected questions, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (vv 14-15). ‘So I need to preach,’ you hear Paul saying, ‘If I don’t tell the Jews about Christ, who will?’

Then Paul quotes our text, “As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (v 15). This was his privilege, to be a preacher of the good news, to tell great sinners about the great Saviour.

In Paul’s time, certainly the Jews didn’t all receive his message with faith. And in a few minutes, we’ll see how Isaiah’s audience reacted to the messenger. But this is a good time to think about our own response to the gospel, and how we answer the preaching.

Because God sends his messengers to us also. A preacher who comes to us with the true message of Christ is like that runner on the hills of Judah. A preacher comes to this pulpit every Sunday and he tells you the glad tidings of salvation. The Word of God is opened, his saving works are recounted, and God’s messenger speaks on behalf of the Lord himself. Do we see that the preacher has beautiful feet? It’s all in how we regard his message. Are we eager to hear it? Do we welcome it? And then what do we do with it? Make sure that you have open ears for the preaching!

And here I’d like to extend that message to include the work of the elders. For if the preacher is the ‘messenger on the mountains,’ then the elders are the watchmen on the walls. That’s what Scripture calls them: watchmen, standing guard, overseeing God’s people. They hear God’s message too, and they too, pass it on to the LORD’s church. They do that in their visits to you, and in their conversations with you.

So God is sharing his Word with us in generous ways. But the Word is only received well if the people are waiting for it. Isn’t that true? The best news is good news that you’ve been waiting for, preparing yourself for. Think of a time when you were waiting for news, and you desperately hoped it’d be good: news about a recent scan at the hospital, results from a big test, word on a new job. Then we’re so glad to hear something positive: good health, a blessed outcome.

But are we still waiting for the gospel, eager to hear it? Do we come to church hungry for the food of the Word? When we regard it as old news, something we’ve heard many times before, it’s hard to get excited. To you and me it will be good news only if we realize how much we need it—how much we need the Lord every day, every hour. So cherish what it means, the gift of God’s grace, entrusted to you, a sinner!

 

2) the reigning God: So God sends his preacher across the hills to Zion. He’s running swiftly, running gladly—and what’s his message? “He says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (v 7).  At first, that’s a surprising word. We expect God’s messenger to say something like, “Your enemies are toast! Your city is safe!” But instead, he tells us about the reign of God.

Reflect on why that is the best news, news worth celebrating. There are many moments in life when the only thing we can see is what’s directly in front of us. This trouble at home. This medical test. This disappointment. This anxiety. Or this sin. In those times, we haven’t rejected the idea of God’s sovereignty, denied that He’s involved in this moment. But somehow that truth doesn’t move us.

Same for Judah: harassed by your enemies, slated to go into exile, devoid of hope, God must have seemed a world away. And that’s exactly what Judah was saying. Think of Isaiah 40, where the prophet admonishes the people, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel? ‘My way is hidden from the LORD?’” (v 27). There’s nothing worse than feeling forgotten: forgotten by others, and forgotten by God.

But here comes God’s messenger, and this is his good news in a nutshell, “Your God reigns.” The LORD is still on his throne! Your king has not died and been replaced by someone else, but our God reigns. And that means God has established his kingship over all. When Judah was dreading Assyria, and then Babylon, and then the next enemy, they could know: “Your God reigns.” When we fear all manner of things in this life, from the uncertainties of our health, to the weight of our sin and guilt, the gospel tells us, “Your God reigns.”

Don’t forget it. Don’t think that this has changed when you weren’t paying attention. The Lord is still directing every event in your life—and in human history—by his perfect goodness and flawless wisdom. So you are secure, and you are free, through God’s power.

It’s only a three-word message—“Your God reigns”—but Isaiah works it out through describing the different parts of the message. God’s messenger comes flying over the hills, and as soon as he’s within earshot, he “proclaims peace” (v 7). This is one of Isaiah’s favourite words—peace—and it stands for the wholeness that God restores. There is the end of war, the removal of enemy threat and of internal strife.

But it is much more. Real peace goes deeper than surface realities. It is deeper than Judah’s politics, and deeper than your mental state. God’s peace, under God’s reign, means that He is putting all things right. Not just among the nations and not just in your head, but fundamentally: He is creating peace through Jesus Christ. Christ has reconciled us to God, so that He has become our Father.

God’s preacher comes proclaiming peace and bringing “glad tidings of good things” (v 7). ‘Glad tidings’ is a message that makes people glad, a word that people receive with joy. There’s nothing bad here to ruin the mood, but the preacher’s message is unmistakably good. “Your God reigns,” and He reigns for your benefit.

There have been many preachers of this good news, and Isaiah himself was one of the greatest. Isaiah might even be referring to himself in that final description of the preacher’s work, as one “who proclaims salvation” (v 7). That’s what the name Isaiah means: ‘God saves.’ What is happening in Judah is the work of God alone—what is happening in the church is the work of God alone: God saves.

A couple verses later, Isaiah says more about this saving work. Verse 10: “The LORD has made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” The phrase to highlight is about God “baring his arm.” In the Bible, someone’s arm often stands for their ability to get things done—even God, who saved his people “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Ps 136:12).

Now that picture gets even more vivid, because in verse 10, God “bares his holy arm” to save us. He makes a display of his strength, like He’s rolling up his sleeves to do something strenuous. God is getting to work for us! That’s good news, all on its own, to know that the Almighty Lord is active on our behalf. He’s not sitting still, idle on his throne, uninvolved. But He is stretching out his arm to save us, and to do so in the sight of all the nations.

This is the good news, says Isaiah, “Your God reigns.” Because it means there is going to be a homecoming in Zion, when the LORD returns in victory. That’s what is happening in verse 8, when it says, “The LORD brings back Zion.” Hearing that, we think of God one day ending the exile and  restoring his people to the land.

But there’s a better way to translate that phrase: not “when the LORD brings back Zion,” but “when the LORD returns to Zion.” A homecoming! Picture God himself returning to his holy city, the LORD coming near his people in peace.

That is the ultimate salvation: the LORD returns to his people. We were estranged from God, his enemies, separated by the bottomless pit of our guilt. We had no hope of rebuilding a fellowship with God. But the LORD “returns to Zion.” God draws near and puts things right.

In this chapter, Isaiah doesn’t tell us how such a marvelous thing can happen. But we just have to read one chapter further to know. Isaiah 53 tells the story of Christ, God’s servant, how He “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows,” how He “was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities” (vv 4-5). Here is the good news, the glad tidings of great joy—how peace is possible. Jesus came to comfort his people and to restore our hope.

And now Jesus reigns over all. We said there’s such a gospel message in those three words, “Your God reigns!” When we open the New Testament, we find the same gospel message in a nutshell. But now it has a new gloss. For it is this: “Jesus is Lord.” That’s the good news, the best news. Jesus is Lord of all, for He conquered all his enemies: He cast out Satan, He swallowed up death, and He destroyed the power of sin.

“Jesus is Lord” means that He is the Lord of all who believe in him. You belong to him, in body and soul, in life and death. So you are secure. He is on his throne, and you can trust in him with everything, and never fear those who stand against you. 

 

3) the growing praise: Maybe you’ve been in an audience before where’s a swelling reaction to the performance on stage. First a bit of tentative clapping, then some more, now some shouting, and suddenly people are on their feet and getting noisy. It’s ‘growing praise,’ and that’s what happens in our text.

As God’s messenger comes into view, the watchmen lift up their voices. They hear the glad tidings, and they rejoice, and then it grows: “With their voices they…sing together” (v 8). Isaiah says they see “eye to eye” (v 8), not in the sense of agreement, but in the sense of total clarity. They know what this means, that right behind the messenger comes the LORD himself, returning to Zion.

And so the joy spreads. From messenger, to watchmen on the walls, to the people of Zion: “Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem!” (v 9). You don’t expect a city to have a voice, let alone one that has been destroyed. But God restores the ruined places, and his people break forth in praise. The song spreads throughout the city, throughout the land, even to the nations. There is a mass choir, as people singing joyfully of God’s salvation.

That’s a good place to revisit the question of our response to the preaching. When God speaks, do we have ears to hear? We said that when we are a waiting people—eager to listen, hungry for spiritual food, deeply aware of our sin—then God’s message will be a great joy to us, every time. Then God’s preacher will have beautiful feet as he comes to us, because we’ll realize how much we need the message of Christ. And we’ll be so glad to hear it, Sunday by Sunday. When we have ears to hear, then we’ll have mouths to rejoice.

Isaiah preached for a long time, and he didn’t always get a good response. Paul too, preached a long time, yet many Jews rejected him, and many Gentiles too. That’s a sobering thought for any preacher, and for a congregation too: to realize that probably not everyone sitting here will combine the preaching with true faith.

So there’s a good reason that Isaiah starts this chapter with a call to wake up. In verse 1: “Awake, awake!” No more slumber, but time for revival. We as God’s people too, need to be roused from our sleep. Beloved, you’ve heard it many times, but are you awake to what God offers you in the gospel? Does it move you? Or are you bored, and do you live like you’re bored with God and Christ, doing your own thing, going your own way? It’s time to wake up!

May your life and my life be marked by growing praise, by a rejoicing in the Lord, by a slow but sure increase in love for God. Let your life be filled with an increase of worship, a rising trust, and a greater dedication to his Word. For this gospel shall always be true: “Your God reigns. And Jesus is Lord.”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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