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October 10, 2011 / Daniel

Beautiful Feet (Isaiah 52)

The last week Isaiah 52:7-10 has been on my mind.  This is a significant passage in Biblical theology, because Isaiah 52:7 is the origin of the word “gospel.”  The whole focus of Christianity is on the gospel.

Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).  In the gospel of Mark, when Jesus first steps on the scene in Galilee, Jesus comes “proclaiming the gospel of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled.  The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15).

Notice the progression in Isaiah 52:7-10.  What we have here is like a concert.  First, there is the soloist, a single solitary vocalist singing the melody.  Then after a few measures, another singer joins in and harmonizes with the first singer.  Now you have a duet.  And then finally, the whole choir joins in and begins to sing in four-part harmony.  And the song gets loud and full.  And you reach a crescendo.

First, we see a herald, an official messenger of the army (v. 7).  And this messenger is running as fast as he can.  He’s headed to the city of Jerusalem.  Why? Because he brings good news.

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

As the messenger approaches the city of Jerusalem, you can heard more and more of his message.   He starts by saying, “Good news!  Peace.”   Then he gets a little closer and he says, “Happiness.”  Then he runs some more and he says, “Salvation.” Finally he shouts, “Our God reigns!”

Just as the message expands and gets bigger, the number of voices grows.  Look at v. 8.

The voice of your watchmen–they lift up their voice;
Together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the LORD to Zion.

Here the picture shifts and the camera focuses on the watchmen who are standing on the city walls.   The watchmen see the messenger and begin to shout out his message.  But not only that, they can see behind the messenger.  They are look-outs.  So, in the distance, they have noticed something.  Behind the runner, someone is approaching.  The LORD is returning to Zion.  God is coming back to be with his people.

Now to understand the significance of this statement, you have to understand that in the OT the temple was the place where God’s presence resided.  Here was where God’s shekinah glory rested in the Most Holy Place of the temple.  Here was God’s dwelling place in the midst of his people.  But when Israel went into exile, God’s presence left the temple in Jerusalem.  Think Ezekiel 10.  The prophet  Ezekiel sees this vision of God’s glory exiting the temple and then moving out of the city of Jerusalem and heading off in the east.  The exile was the moment when God left Zion, because Israel had left God.

But now, Isaiah says, God is returning.  He’s coming back once more to live with his people.  This calls for rejoicing.  Look at v. 9.

Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.

Here the camera has shifted its focus once more.  In v. 7, the camera is on the herald.  In v. 8, the camera is on the watchmen.  Now in v. 9 its focuses on the ruins of Jerusalem.

In v. 9, the “waste places of Jerusalem” begin to sing.  The broken-down walls, the ashes of the buildings burnt down by enemy soldiers.  Isaiah commands the ruins of Jerusalem to rejoice.  (Here’s where you have to use your imagination.  This is poetry).   Isaiah is talking about singing walls.  And why are they singing?  Because the Lord has comforted his people.  God is going to rebuild and renew Jerusalem.

The tail-end of v. 9 is noteworthy.  “He has redeemed Jerusalem.”  The word “redeem” means to purchase.  “To buy back.”  This is a word that you use to describe the purchase of a slave.  This is Exodus language.  This is God taking his people who were enslaved, in bondage, and buying them back.  They are his now.  His possession.  God has purchased his people and set them free in order that they might now serve him.

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