The call goes out to the ends of the world! The banner has been raised for the people to see! The church of the Old Testament heard the proclamation that went out in all the earth. The church in the New hears the same proclamation. What is the cry that rings forth throughout the earth? “Your salvation is coming!” You who are burdened with sin and weary; you who are athirst and hungry; you who seek after righteousness—the Savior is coming!
The faithful in Israel who were languishing under the sins of the nation needed to hear what the prophet Isaiah spoke in the prophecy we examine in our broadcast today. It is found in Isaiah 62:10-12. These verses read, “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.”
When studying a passage of this length and the language of a prophecy, it is a good thing to have our Bibles open to that passage. If you have one available, I would suggest you do that: Isaiah 62:10-12. As I mentioned in our last broadcast, we are going to examine in this advent season a few passages out of Isaiah that herald the birth of Jesus Christ. It is not often that these prophecies are studied since they can be somewhat difficult to understand. It is simpler to pass over them quickly without fully appreciating the beautiful message they proclaimed to the saints of old. The words of the prophet Isaiah in the verses we read were of great comfort to them because they heralded the coming of their Savior. He is coming! This is the comfort given the church of today too as she considers the birth of Jesus Christ.
You see, the prophet Isaiah had just pronounced doom and destruction on the nation of Judah. Wicked king Ahaz had just died. His reign was that of sin and unbelief. The nation of Judah had forsaken the ways of Jehovah. Ahaz’s son, good king Hezekiah, now sat on the throne of Judah. He was a man after God’s own heart and served God as did David before him. During his reign Isaiah spoke the words we consider today—words of encouragement and hope. Though Isaiah had reminded Judah that God was going to punish her as a nation for her sin, now in Isaiah 62 he speaks to Hezekiah and the few who were yet faithful in Judah of the coming of their Savior. To these elect few the words are spoken: your salvation comes! The Messiah, your Savior, is coming! When He does, you will be known as a holy people, those redeemed. The church would then be called, “Sought out.” Let us examine this message of good news concerning the birth of Christ.
I. A Joyful Announcement
Imagine hearing the words of this chapter from the mouth of Isaiah! The nation of Judah had lost her power in the world. She was no longer a glorious kingdom. She had not been for a long, long time. She was, in fact, struggling to keep from being destroyed by the nations around her. The vast majority of the people in Judah had turned from the ways of Jehovah. Jehovah now, through the mouths of His prophets, proclaimed destruction. When God’s true people that yet remained in the nation of Judah looked upon the spiritual state of this nation, they knew that they were estranged from God. The names that described Judah at this point were those given in verse four of this chapter: Forsaken and Desolate. Yet, God now speaks to His faithful few in Judah and gives the most encouraging words. These were not words that came to all of Judah, remember. Those who had departed from Jehovah could not comfort themselves with these words. But to those who yet lived in faith God said, “You will no longer be termed Forsaken neither shall your land any more be termed Desolate.”
Why the change? Obviously, the faithful in Judah were only few in number. Why would God no longer call Judah Forsaken and Desolate? How would God accomplish this change? And when? That is where the message we are examining today comes in. In verse 11 we read, “Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh: behold, his reward is with him and his work before him!” With the coming of salvation, no longer would God’s people be forsaken and desolate! Notice to whom these words of joy and comfort are spoken: to the daughter of Zion. God uses this to describe His chosen people, His church—the nation of Judah represented by the elect believers in that nation. She is called the daughter of Zion. Of course, this terminology was probably more personal to the people of God then than it is today. You see, Zion was the hill of Jerusalem on which the temple of Solomon was built. As such, that mountain signified God’s presence. The temple was God’s house. That is where He dwelt among His people. The daughter of Zion has reference to the intimate relationship God had entered with His people. She was Beulah—married to Jehovah. God now addresses His bride—that one with whom He had entered into such intimate fellowship—as the daughter of Zion. So God is addressing true Israel—the faithful few in Judah who lived in His presence and whom He loved.
God gives to her this announcement: “your salvation comes!” Actually, literally God said this: “your Savior comes!” This becomes clear when in the sentence following we read, “behold, his reward is with him and his work before him.” The good news God now published through Isaiah to His church, the daughter of Zion is: your Savior is coming! God’s children in Judah understood exactly of whom Isaiah was now speaking: the Messiah. The Christ, the Messiah, had been promised since the time of the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. This Messiah therefore was the hope of Israel. Now we find that, during a time when Judah looked as if she was soon to perish in her sin, God renews His promise. The Messiah comes!
This Messiah will be your Savior! This was the good news to God’s people then. This is the good news of the gospel God’s people still hear today. Though your sin may be as scarlet, your Savior comes! Further, Isaiah says, his reward is with Him. That is to say, Christ, the Messiah, comes to reward every man according to his deeds. Those who despised God and His commandments and even now walked in sin and rebellion against God, worshiping the idol gods of the heathen, these will receive their reward! They will be punished, destroyed. The Messiah will do that when He comes. On the other hand, the Messiah will save His people. The work that He was appointed by God to perform He will perform.
What work is that? We as the church of Christ today know of Christ’s work, but the people of God then were not certain of the details. All they knew and believed was that the Messiah would be born to save them from the burden and guilt of sin. True Israel looked to Christ as the Savior—the one who would deliver them from the slavery of sin and into the fellowship of God. Today we know the work Christ performed was accomplished in the various steps of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation. All these center in the work Christ performed on the cross. But the word of hope and reassurance in this announcement is this: the Savior is coming! This word of Isaiah was spoken some 700 years before the birth of Christ! These saints to whom Isaiah spoke these words never saw that promise fulfilled. But they lived in faith. They knew Christ was coming. They believed that! They knew that for His sake their sins were forgiven. For that reason, these words were of great encouragement! They were renewed in their longing for that coming of their Savior.
The church of Christ today still needs these words of encouragement. Yes, Christ has already accomplished our salvation. Nevertheless, believers today still hear God’s Word say: Christ comes! “Behold, I come quickly,” Christ tells us. We today wait for the second coming of Christ when our salvation will be brought to its perfect end. But what makes us think we can apply this Word of God that came to God’s people in Judah to us today? Because, Isaiah informs us in verse 11 that the Lord proclaims the birth of Christ unto the end of the world. This prophesies of the truth that the gospel of salvation in Christ would be proclaimed to all peoples and nations of the earth. The great joy expressed here is not only that the Savior is to be born, but that He is born for a church gathered from the nations and peoples and races of the earth.
Jehovah announces the gospel of salvation far and wide—to the daughter of Zion who is scattered to the ends of the world. In other words, God sends forth ambassadors into all the earth and they are to proclaim to God’s church: your salvation comes! Yes, this message of salvation comes, first of all, to the Israelites, who were of the natural seed of Abraham. But it is to be proclaimed to all the seed of Abraham, that is, to all who are characterized by the faith of father Abraham. This is why I said earlier that the Israelites did not fully understand the announcement of Christ’s coming. They knew and believed that the Messiah had to come. But they did not understand that the Gentiles also had to be gathered into the church. This is why it took lots of signs and miracles at the time of Pentecost in order to prove that the Spirit of Christ was poured out on Gentiles as well as Jews. Yet, it is exactly this truth, believing friends, that gives you and me reason to rejoice in this time of the year. Christ was born for us! Christ is the promised Savior not only for Jews but for Gentiles too! We in faith look at the coming of Jesus Christ as our Savior. He has saved you and me from our sin too.
II. A New Name
When the Savior comes, Isaiah tells us, the church will at that time be given a new name! The name will be “Sought Out, a city not forsaken.” Ah, the future glory of the church—a glory that would come with the birth of the Savior. When Isaiah prophesied concerning the coming of Christ—he did not understand that there would be a period of time between Christ’s birth and His second coming. The Scriptures give the New Testament church, however, a knowledge of the various steps in Christ’s exaltation. We know that after Christ’s death and resurrection, there is the period of the New Testament when Christ rules from His throne in heaven at God’s right hand. At the end of this period Christ will come again and usher in the final state of glory for the church. The prophets did not understand all of this. When they prophesied, therefore, they saw the coming of Christ as one. For that reason they foretold of the full glory of the church that Christ will accomplish at His second coming.
The point is, since Christ’s first coming the church has been sought out! Out of the Jewish nation itself God has sought out His chosen people. He has brought them out of the darkness of unbelief. But the church, since the time of Pentecost and the missionary journeys of Paul, has been sought out of all the world. In this way the church is indeed gathered by God from the ends of the world. Nevertheless, it is always His chosen few that God seeks out of this world and brings them into the fold.
No, not into the fold—into the city! The name of the church is a city not forsaken. The church is a city. A city made up of citizens of God’s kingdom whom He has sought out of the earth and gathered together. Ah, it must have seemed at that time as if God had utterly forsaken His church and people. The people of God left in Judah must have about given up hope! The church in that day was church only in name but was really not the church of Jehovah anymore. Jehovah seemed to have forgotten her. Because of her unbelief, Jehovah had forsaken His church. But that was not true. God’s saints in Judah needed to hear that God never forsakes His church, but would indeed send forth the Messiah to accomplish His work. The church today as well as of old is never forsaken. Though in these last days it may seem as if the truth of God is rejected by most and that the faithful saints dwindle in number, we are not forsaken. The church is never forsaken! Christ, the Head of the church, will lead His church on to victory. We are “Sought out, a city not forsaken.”
Why? Because you and I are a holy people, the redeemed of the Lord! This is also what the church is called in Christ Jesus as Isaiah explains in verse 12. We are those washed and cleansed in the blood of Jesus Christ! This is how Christ has become unto His church the Savior—not just the Messiah but the Savior. Not just Christ, but Jesus! He has cleansed us in the blood that He shed on the cross. At the cross He washed us of all our iniquity and made us holy. To be made holy literally means to consecrate. This is what Christ has accomplished for His people. Having cleansed our hearts of the filth and depravity of sin, Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin. Having set us free, He consecrates us unto the service of Jehovah! We therefore are those dedicated to serving God in this world. As a people therefore we are become known as the holy people. This is what sets aside true Israel from those who only say they are Israel. God’s people are holy! They are consecrated to serving God in this world.
Furthermore, the church has been given a beautiful name when called “the city not forsaken” because we are those who are redeemed of Jehovah. That too is what we read in verse 12. We are redeemed, that is, we are bought with a price. We are ransomed from the guilt of our sin. Not only are we made holy in the blood of Christ, but we are made righteous too. Christ has entered into death in order to pay the price of sin. Christ suffered under God’s eternal wrath—the price that needed to be paid for sin. By doing so He redeemed His people. He paid the price for our sin and guilt and made us righteous before God. In fact, that we are cleansed and made holy cannot be separated from this righteousness Christ has earned for us. All that is seen in the Savior. All that was heralded by Isaiah in this Word of God that we consider. We are the city not forsaken.
III. A Zealous Preparation
The calling God now gives to the church is this: Get ready! That is the interpretation of the symbolism of verse 10, “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.” Prepare ye the way of the people, Isaiah declares! The Savior comes. When He does, the church will be gathered from every nation of the earth. So the church is admonished to prepare for this event in every way possible. Do not stay within the gates of the city and pine away in your sin. Do not hoard the blessed gospel of salvation to yourselves. Go through the gates, Isaiah says. Go out of the gates. Throw them wide open because when Christ comes, the nations of the earth will flock to Zion. Prepare the way. Go out into the roads outside of Jerusalem and pick up the stones that may hinder others from coming in. Level the roads. Make them broad and smooth. The Savior comes.
That is always the calling of the church: preach the gospel, and by it prepare the way. The church must be gathered in. We are not an exclusive city. We must gather in all those in whose heart God has chosen to work by His grace. The church must declare to them the good news of salvation. Christ is coming. The One who has redeemed His people comes—He comes again! Preach the gospel in season and out of season. Be zealous in the proclamation of the Word. With this Word of God we raise the standard. We fly the banner, the flag of the city, high so all can see it. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the standard. It is the banner of the church. That Word speaks of the birth of our Savior, the death and resurrection of our Savior, and the truth that He comes again to receive His church unto Himself. That banner we raise high to let everyone see it.
We are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Christ comes and His reward is with Him. His work of salvation is before Him. This is the Word of truth we declare. Come hear it! Such joy we experience as we muse on the mercy and faithfulness of our God. The heralding of the birth of Christ in the Old Testament is the same gospel we hear today. It gives us great reason to rejoice in this time of year as we commemorate the birth of Christ. Christ our Savior is born, and He comes again. Let the whole world know.