Vol. IX — No. 14 April 7, 1968
How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath 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.
In Christ Jesus, who rules as King of His Kingdom, Fellow Redeemed:
Our text opens with an exclamation couched in divinely inspired poetic form: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings!” A messenger appears on the distant mountain. He may be breathing heavily. He may be weary. His feet may be covered with dust. Yet they appear to be beautiful! The viewer sees beauty because he hears good tidings. The messenger publishes peace. He brings an announcement of good things. He publishes salvation. He has a special message for Zion: “Thy God reigneth!”
“Thy God reigneth!” Here is one of the great themes of Scripture that threads its way from prophet to prophet, then from evangelist to evangelist. The prophets held aloft this glorious truth: God reigns. He is in complete charge of all things, and He is ruling all things in heaven and on earth in the interest of and for the benefit of His people. The psalmist taught God’s people to glory in that truth: “The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is established, that it cannot be moved.” Psalm 93:l. What security, what comfort, what certainty is there not in the knowledge that at all times and in all places and under all circumstances our God rules and reigns. If we become fearful and afraid, if we tend to want to cry out, our God says to us: “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Psalm 46:10-11.
Before our Lord ascended into heaven, He assured His disciples that all power had been given to Him in heaven and on earth. For us this is a matter of faith. One day the rule of our Lord shall become a matter of sight. The inhabitants of heaven behold it already for in heaven great voices are saying in anticipation, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” Rev. 11:15. At the end of time the multitudes of heaven shall shout the victory chant, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Rev. 19:6.
It’s a fact! Our God reigns! That message God wants Zion, His Church, to know and believe. That message God would also have Zion proclaim to her own and to all men. Let us this morning take a closer look at—
Let us realize first of all that this message is—
If we understand the setting of the words of our text, we can understand the comfort and joy that the message, “Thy God reigneth,” would bring to Zion. Isaiah lived and wrote before the catastrophe of the destruction of the temple and of the city of Jerusalem and the deportation of the people by the Babylonians occurred. But with prophetic vision he saw it all as though it had already happened. He knew that when these things came to pass, the God-fearing among the people would think and feel as though God had suddenly lost control of the situation or as though God had died, or worse yet as though God no longer cared enough for His people to aid and assist them against their enemies. The survivors in Babylon would need above all comfort, reassurance, hope. How better could they be supplied these things than by prophecy of the restoration of Jerusalem and the return of its people to their home land.
With poetic fervor Isaiah pictures these very things. A messenger appears on the mountain horizon. He has good tidings to proclaim. The messenger is seen by watchmen posted on the ruins of Jerusalem and the temple. “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.” Into the vision of the watchmen there comes the advance guard of the returning captives, released when God stirred up the heart of Cyrus to make proclamation that any and every Jew wishing to return to his native land would be free so to do. What a joyful day! The prophet bids the ruins of the temple and city to join in the celebration: “Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.” The restoration would be evidence that the Lord was, indeed, reigning: “The Lord hath 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.” That act of salvation had been recorded for all men of all time to see!
The message, “Thy God reigneth,” ever remains a comforting and joy-creating message for the Church. The Church today is not a national group of people with a capital city and a centralized temple as in the Old Testament days. The Church of the New Testament is a non-national people, consisting of many ethnic groups scattered over the face of the globe. Because the groups of believers are so small and so widely scattered and separated from one another, their weakness stands out all the more. It is so easy for a believer today to become discouraged, to begin to feel that His God has lost control of things or even worse that his God doesn’t care any longer. Historians are referring to the times in which we live as the post-Christian era. Men with the organizational church refer to our society and culture as The Secular City. When we look about us, we see that these observations are correct. The pace setter for Protestantism is the National Council of Churches. When one examines their interests, their concerns, the direction of their efforts, one finds that the NCC is concerned about almost every public issue before society and government today EXCEPT RELIGION! The chief concern of religion has always been and should be the relationship of man, the sinner, to his God, his Creator and Judge. Most churches today consider this to be a matter of minor importance or of no relevance to modern man at all. So it is that the sacred truths that proclaim God’s peace, God’s good, God’s salvation for man are being abandoned one after another by one group after another. In most places the truth that God has spoken through the mouths of His holy prophets and apostles in the Bible is rejected as a superstition handed down from the pre-scientific era. The truth that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin, who manifested His power by doing miracles and wonders, who died on the cross and arose again the third day, who ascended to heaven forty days later and who ten days thereafter sent His Spirit to earth—these truths are for the most part rejected as myths from the misty past. When one considers this almost wholesale apostasy not only in the world in general but within the churches and among the ranks of the church leaders, it almost seems as though our God doesn’t care or that He can no longer handle the Spirit of this modern age of unbelief. I say—it seems that way.
Because it seems that way, we need the eternal message, “Thy God reigneth!” The gates of hell shall not prevail against His little flock, Zion, the congregation of believers. Despite a falling away on all sides He shall preserve here and there the message of what He has done to bring peace and good and salvation to man. Our text is taken from the fifty-second chapter of Isaiah. In the fifty-third chapter Isaiah pictures the Suffering Servant of the Lord, who was wounded for our transgressions, who was bruised for our iniquities, who bore the punishment that we rightly deserve, who received stripes so that we could be healed. It cost God’s Son bitter suffering, yea the pouring out of His life’s blood upon the cross, to bring Zion peace with God, the good of justification, the salvation which shall blossom out in the world to come. But He did it. And He shall continue so to rule and order things that here and there, in this place and in that, His message of salvation shall be proclaimed and shall work faith in the hearts of men, women and children for the salvation of their souls. Be comforted! What cause have we not for rejoicing that our Lord has chosen us to be among those in whose midst His salvation is proclaimed.
“Thy God reigneth” is the message that God wants preached for the comfort and joy of Zion. But our God also wants that message preached as—
Ever since Eve took of the forbidden fruit and so rebelled against the Lord God, man has been in a state of rebellion against God. Man always tries to make himself believe that he can dethrone God and run matters the way he would like to. History has recorded one effort after another of men trying to destroy Christianity and proclaim the non-existence of God. Enemies of Zion have confidently proclaimed and prophesied the extinction and extermination of the Bible. But God rules. The Bible continues and there always remains that little flock of believers. But the enemies of Zion have fallen. How great their fall is won’t be revealed until the day when they are sentenced to eternal torment in hell.
We usually think of Zion’s enemies as being outside of the churches in the world. But let us realize that most within the organized church are sworn enemies of Zion. Scripture pictures the Church of Rome as a tool of the Great Antichrist, the Pope. That impressive church body has officially pronounced its curse upon the heart of the Gospel—salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. The living and reigning Lord of the Church has assured us that the pope and his slaves in error shall be smitten with His breath at His coming. Within Protestantism Satan has erected a veritable tower of Babel—the World Council of Churches. The leaders of this organization seem determined to dethrone Christ and rule the world according to their own grand designs. What they fail to realize is that they are but heaping up fuel for the final fire. Our God reigns. And He has assured us that judgment will begin at the House of God. Woe be to those in the churches who lift their voices against the living God, rejecting His salvation in Christ and replacing it with their wild dreams for a better tomorrow. That tomorrow will be God’s judgment upon their own apostasy. It is part of our duty to sound this warning, so that we may pluck as many brands as possible from the fires of judgment.
Zion has a message that needs to be preached to its own members. That message needs also to be proclaimed to its enemies. So it is that Zion always stands in need of messengers. Zion’s message, “Thy God reigneth,” is—
“How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.” The prophet has in mind especially the comforting and joy-inspiring part of Zion’s message. What greater message is there than the Good News that God and man have been reconciled by the blood of Christ, that the tyranny of Satan over man has been ended, that the guilt of man has been washed away by the blood of the Lamb, that the reign of death has been broken by the Lord of life. This is a message that should call forth eager messengers.
But what do we Find? We find a shortage of young men and women who are willing to go forth and preach and teach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. It is becoming more and more difficult for the churches to recruit workers. Statistics also show that it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit the more gifted sons for the ministry. The allurement of the world with its rewards in the forms of salary, social prestige, power and fame are so great that the church loses out. In our own little circles we experience a chronic shortage, especially of lady teachers for our Christian elementary schools. A shortage of candidates for the holy ministry is also a potential problem. To a great extent churches have relied on their clergy to provide sons for the preaching ministry and daughters for the teaching ministry. But what of the sons and daughters of families sitting in the pew? This congregation has had its difficulties securing men to occupy its pulpit. What provision, what efforts are being made to provide for the future? Let each family take this matter under advisement. Let the congregation seek ways and means for encouraging its youth to make the work of proclaiming God’s message a lifelong vocation.
To be God’s messenger unto His people and to the world is most difficult and frequently discouraging. But what more necessary work is there then calling sinners to repentance and warning rebellious man of judgment to come? What greater work is there than preaching the love of God in Christ Jesus? what more satisfying work is there than leading and guiding a sheep of the Good Shepherd through the valley of the shadow of death unto the arms of the Savior? May the Lord supply us with eager messengers! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.