Isaiah 52:1-12 - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Isaiah 52:1-12


"Your God Reigns"


This is an encouraging chapter that focuses upon God, his concern for his honour and his concern for his people. The chapter hinges on that well-known verse:

v.7 "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.""

The people that Isaiah was addressing needed to hear these words because they were in danger of taking their eyes off the LORD and seeing only the immediate circumstances in which they found themselves.

A Backward glance
Back in Is.51:9 the people of God in their desperation had started to call upon him. They knew all about his earlier interventions on behalf of his people in past history but as far as they could see he had "gone to sleep", he was unconscious of what was going on and he was inactive. In their plight they cried to him:

"Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. "

Now as we turn into ch.52 the LORD God reverses things and calls upon his people – indeed it is them not him who need to wake up!

They need to wake up to the spiritual realities of their situation and in particular they need to wake up to what their God has done for them. Given the salvation he was wrought on their behalf they really have no reason to languish in despair but they have every reason to joyously put their trust in him for he has secured a very bright future for them.

Yes, it was true that Zion/Jerusalem was existing in a parlous state. The majority of her rightful inhabitants had been transported in exile far away to Babylon and the city that was left was oppressed, downtrodden and defiled. The city was in bondage and that bondage was humiliating.

It can be tempting for us to imagine that the situation of the church in post-Christian Britain is similarly depressing and discouraging as it indeed is if we leave God out of the equation!

The cry went out to God's people then to take heart, to wake up. Why? Because God's salvation was on the way – it couldn't be stopped because God, their God, was on the throne!

A Picture of the Gospel
This chapter contains a wonderful picture of the gospel call coming to sinners. Sin leaves sinners languishing in their rebellion and suffering away from God but this same call of hope sounds forth that it does not have to be so! And it does not have to be so because God has not given up on his people but has provided salvation!

The gospel comes to men and women as a complete package. It doesn't tell men and women what they have to do in a desperate attempt to put themselves right with God but it calls them to rejoice in what God has done on their behalf.

God's people had often suffered oppression in their history as they repeatedly got themselves into trouble due to their wilful disobedience and determination to do things their way. It had led to an A – Z of oppression that Isaiah refers to in v.4 when he writes of Egypt and Assyria. But God's people needed to know that their God hadn't sold them – he hadn't needed to make profit for himself, no, they had brought their sufferings upon themselves due to their sin.

And yet the distress of God's people caused his name to be despised – those who suffered accused him and onlookers mocked that he couldn't take care of his own. This could not be allowed to continue endlessly – God would act/must act to uphold the honour of his own name and as he does so salvation and deliverance are the fruits for his people.
It is a telling phrase isn't it "sold for nothing". Sinners in their rebellion against God have done that repeatedly down through history, they have sold themselves for nothing. It all started with Adam and Eve if you remember: they listened to Satan's lies believing that they would be better off doing what he said rather than trusting God. And what did they find? Well they found that Satan promises a whole lot more than he delivers! Sadly even as Christians we can make the same mistakes and listen all too readily to his whisperings – when things are tough isn't it easy to begin to feel sorry for ourselves and to begin to think that God really is a very hard task-master when the truth of the matter is that he is good and Satan is the cruel one.

Even worse however is our human tendency to blame God for the problems we have brought upon ourselves – do you remember how Adam and Eve kept on trying to pass the buck. Adam tacitly blamed God – after all it was the woman God had given him who had led him astray! And so it goes on, until he grants us true repentance we simply continue blaming and despising the Lord of Glory.

A Promise of Redemption
Isaiah has already referred to God's people being sold into captivity in v.3 and in that same verse the problem is resolved by the people being redeemed. However there is something strange and unusual about this redemption.

Throughout the OT redemption signified the liberation of something (or someone) by the payment of a price. But now here Isaiah states that this redemption will be without money – how odd! For the moment that is all that Isaiah says; acting as something of a suspense writer, he leaves things hanging, having made his declarations but leaving the details to be filled in at a later stage.

A similar thing happens in v.6 where the LORD declares that his people will come to understand and know him – he is the One who will save them – "here am I" he says "look at me". This could be translated "Behold me!" Who is this Saviour who will deliver his people?

The answers will begin to made clear from v.13 onwards and into ch.53. That section opens not with "Behold me" but "Behold my servant" and continues with the most detailed description of the Messiah's salvation work contained anywhere in the OT.

We don't live in OT days and we know how Jesus came and fulfilled these prophesies. We know too what that redemption price was that was paid to set God's people free from their bondage – Peter made it crystal clear for the Christians of his day when he wrote:

1Pet.1:18-19 "knowing that you were ransomed (or redeemed) from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot."

Isaiah has not yet explained just how the LORD intends to secure salvation but the fact that he is at work is very good news indeed and should really serve to cheer up the people of God. No, God isn't asleep, he is at work and his people must wake up to what he is doing! They will hear his voice and they will know it is him at work!

Have you heard that voice? It can come through any one of a number of messengers – through Christian parents, a Christian friend, a Sunday School teacher or a preacher – it doesn't matter through whom the message comes but you must hear it. If you have heard it then you will readily concur with Isaiah's assessment that it is wonderful!

Good News!
To drive home what he means Isaiah uses an illustration that is easy to understand.

In the days before the radio and mobile phones news had to be carried by individual messengers. If one country was at war with another, those remaining at home would wait eagerly for a runner to appear on the horizon with news of how the latest battle had gone. You can imagine the nerves jangling as a messenger is seen approaching but what joy when as soon as he came into earshot they heard him crying out peace!!

Indeed Isaiah pictures this messenger, the herald of the gospel message, bringing very good news indeed. Peace, yes, but also happiness and salvation. Victory had been secured because God, their God, was reigning over the entire world!!

Some folk don't like talk about the reign of God, they don't like the idea of being subject to a great God who does whatsoever he pleases, they want to be on the throne themselves and they don't want God sitting there. But the fact that God does reign is at the very heart of the good news. Indeed if God did not reign there would be no good news at all as God's best efforts could be overturned by others more powerful than he and we would be left entirely to our own devices which means we would continue to be lost in our bondage! But if God, our God, does reign then what he says cannot be withstood and it cannot be overturned. If he offers a salvation that he himself has secured that salvation will prove to be 100% reliable and totally rock-solid!

As the message is declared the watchman waiting on the walls immediately burst into song – isn't interesting that the Christian faith has always been a religion full of singing and praise, how could it be otherwise when such a great salvation is properly understood! I wonder whether the remainder of Jerusalem really needed much encouraging then (v.8) to join in the celebrations? Salvation is further described as the LORD comforting and redeeming his people.

None of this had yet taken place as Isaiah prophesied what it was that the LORD had said he would do. But because God reigns none can stop him and it was as good as done! Therefore the people could trust him and in the midst still of disappointing circumstances they could be confident and full of joy.

God's reign is unlimited – his deeds he makes known throughout the entire world and he makes his salvation known to the nations of the world too. This was a staggering thing for Isaiah to declare. Judah was a small, pretty insignificant nation dominated by more potent regional powers. How could he declare that their God reigned and made himself known throughout the entire world? Appearances seemed right against it!

And here we are in the 21 st century and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is known and loved throughout the entire world – just as he said. Let me give you one very recent example. When I was a student some thirty years ago they used to say that there were no known Christians in Mauritania. Well this last week I heard that the authorities are once again clamping down on Christians in that country and stirring up persecution against them. A national Mauritanian newspaper listed many Mauritanian Christians by name several of whom have already seen in prison because of their faith in Jesus Christ. The article added that there were some 26 house countries functioning in their country. Here is an example of the truth that "our God reigns".

Isaiah declared that the Lord had bared his holy arm or, in other words, rolled his sleeves up, getting personally involved in securing salvation! What a lovely picture and so different from how many think of him as aloof and somehow distant.

We are the other side of Calvary and we understand so much more of just how God accomplished his purposes through the death of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ. However we don't yet enjoy the full fruits of the salvation that Jesus has secured for us and so we too must trust God. But the future is bright indeed for the believer, so bright indeed that it should transform our attitude in the present. Our well-being is not based upon our life circumstances but upon the sure promises of God.

If singing and rejoicing are totally appropriate responses to the wonderful salvation God has promised us they are not the only responses that we are offer.

As we near the end of the verses we're thinking about this evening we come across an exhortation to commit ourselves to living a new kind of life, a clean life, a pure life. The Christian word for this is sanctification and the apostle Paul took up v.11 and quoted it in his second letter to the Corinthians as he called upon the Christians there to live lives of whole-hearted commitment to Jesus Christ.

Have you ever thought seriously about this? When was the last time you gave genuine consideration to how well you were doing with regards to separating yourself from unclean things so that you might serve the LORD in an acceptable manner?

But the section doesn't end with a challenge but with some more tremendously encouraging promises. The way forward for the believer is not as a knee jerk reaction of panic as he is confronted by seemingly adverse circumstances, or disappointments and discouragements but he can go forward calmly and confidently because his God has made him wonderful promises:

v.12 "for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard."

Where is the need for fear, for panic, for discouragement if God leads the way and provides us with his full protection too!

Isn't it great to be a Christian and all because our God reigns!

To Him alone be all the glory.


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