The Word of God comes to us today from Isaiah 40:9: “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”
When this charge comes, when God comes to Isaiah, there is a voice that says, “Cry.” And Isaiah answers, “What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
The church’s calling is to bring the Word of God. It is a message that proclaims redemption and salvation—something impossible for us. But there is salvation for all of God’s people. We know that because the Word of our God shall stand forever. Zion, the church, can be certain that the Lord will redeem His people.
Isaiah speaks those predictive words to Israel when they are going to be taken into captivity, and he sees into the future. Chapter 40 begins with those beautiful words: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” We must, in faith, proclaim the message to Zion’s children. We must be the bearers of good tidings to Zion’s children, wherever they are found.
So, my theme is: “O Zion, That Bringest Good Tidings.” Notice: What is proclaimed, who proclaims it, and then, thirdly, how it is to be proclaimed.
Our text speaks of good tidings. We read: “O thou that bringest good tidings”—the gospel. They bring comfort to the heart. They bring rejoicing in the midst of misery and trouble. The necessity of bringing good tidings presupposes that there is a sort of difficulty. The people need comfort. It was necessary because Judah would go into Babylon. And Judah, being in Babylon, would be a type of the church today as she is in the world. It is a world opposed to God and, therefore, opposed to the church, seeking to destroy her. The world has no regard for God. The world has no interest in beholding God. The world in its advertisements says, “Behold this car—it will make you happy. Behold this product, behold this restaurant, behold this kind of clothing, behold this kind of immorality.” Yes, it is in this sinful society that it is necessary to proclaim the words: Behold God.
A second reason for the necessity is that Judah will go into Babylon because of her own sin and idolatry. You see, God’s people, by nature, are prone to forsake God. There are so many temptations. We are so busy in earthly things that we do not take time to contemplate God, to pray to Him, to read His Word. While we confess God with our lips, with our hearts we do not think about Him.
Behold your God! There is a third reason for the necessity of bringing this good news. There is fear in God’s people. Judah in Babylon was afraid of being in that wicked city. We are afraid of being in the wicked world. What will they do to us? There is a fear of God in God’s people in Babylon because of their own sin and idolatry. Is God going to destroy us? Is God against us? Will He cause His face to shine no more? What can rejoice or comfort our hearts in such a situation? And the answer is: There is redemption. There is salvation. There is deliverance. There is life. There is a comfort with the tidings of redemption out of the world, deliverance out of the suffering and misery of sin and death—the wonderful inheritance of heaven and perfect and everlasting salvation and life.
The summary of the glad tidings is: Behold your God! What a proclamation. Not man. It is not a message about God and man. Behold your God! God alone. The proclamation is theocentric. As Reformed churches, we are thankful for Luther, who brought Christ-centered preaching back into the church. We are thankful for John Calvin who had theocentric preaching. Behold! Stop! Listen! Give attention! Actively behold your God! You see, you and I are created, not to be happy, but to behold and to love and to glorify God.
Behold your God. How beautifully chapter forty of Isaiah brings forth our mighty God! Verse 10: He is a mighty one: “Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.” He is the transcendent one, so that we read in verses 12 and 13: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” He is the all-knowing and wise God, verse 14: “With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” Oh, behold God. He is the incomparable One, verse 18: “To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” He is the caring and tender One. We read in verse 11: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” There especially our God is revealed is He not, in our Lord Jesus Christ, the good shepherd.
Now the message to be proclaimed is “Behold your God!” It is not merely that there is a God, but He is your God by sovereign election, for He says, “I am your God and ye are my sons and daughters.” Not because we chose Him, not because we acknowledged Him. But He is your God. The origin is in His eternal counsel or good pleasure. Sovereign election. What a unique relationship of eternal love—He loved you from before the foundation of the earth, out of His pure, sovereign grace. “Your God” speaks of a gracious, covenant friendship and fellowship with God in Christ Jesus. “Your God” speaks of His purchase of you—a costly purchase, His own beloved Son.
Behold your God! He is yours. How personal that is. The gospel, good tidings. He comes not to destroy but to deliver and to save. He is the God of your salvation. Isaiah must get up into the mountain of God’s revelation himself: Get up into the high mountain, Mount Zion. Even as Moses climbed Mount Sinai, where God revealed Himself in His law to Israel, so now Isaiah must get into the high mountain, Mount Zion, to receive God’s revelation of Himself—His names, attributes, and His works. Does He not redeem and deliver His people out of Babylon? Shall He not redeem and deliver His people out of the power and guilt of sin, out of corruption, out of their suffering and death? Shall He not bring us into the everlasting glory of the new Jerusalem? And the answer is: He surely will.
That is the joyful message for the elect sinner. God is pleased to set Himself forth, to present Himself, to reveal Himself in His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. So the proclamation is by God and the proclamation is about God. It is God’s Word about Himself. Always God manifests Himself to His people and says, “Behold your God.” How He did that to Adam and Eve before their fall and how He did it after they fell into sin and they were hiding and God sought them out. Behold your God. To Noah and his family living in a wicked world, He says, “I’m going to save you by means of the waters of the flood.” Behold your God. To Abraham, He says, “I’m going to show you a new land.” Behold your God—when his hand is raised to sacrifice his son Isaac, his hand is stopped and there is provision given, a ram in a thicket. Behold your God there on Mount Sinai when God spoke and there was thunder and lightning. Behold your God, beloved, especially in the birth, the suffering, the death on the cross, the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. Behold your God!
So, in the deepest sense, in the preaching of the gospel, behold your God in Christ Jesus, your Savior. Behold Him. Look at Him. Pay attention. Contemplate. Embrace. Worship. Live in and live for Jesus Christ. Behold your God in the face of the crucified Savior.
Who is commanded to proclaim those good tidings? In our text, it is Zion, it is Jerusalem. “O Zion, that bringest good tidings…O Jerusalem that bringest good tidings.” Zion, in the Old Testament, or Jerusalem, is that mountain where God has His throne. And there is the throne of David. There is the temple with the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat, where sacrifices were made, where God was pleased to dwell with His people. Jerusalem is the city of God because Zion is at the center of it. Those are Old Testament types of the New Testament church. The literal place called Jerusalem no longer is important. It is the church that must bring the Word of her God. The church speaks by Christ, by the Spirit of Christ, by the Word of Christ. The church must hear Christ, who speaks through the ministry of His Word and by the Spirit. Even as we read in the Old Testament that they saw Christ from afar, so centrally, the messenger, the one proclaiming, is Jesus Christ Himself. The church hears Christ’s Word in Scripture. Christ proclaimed out of heaven, to all the saved in Judah, the blessed message of salvation: Behold your God. The church institute, in her office of the ministry of the Word, the ministry of the missionaries, but the church also in the office of believer, each one of us giving a testimony of the hope that is within us. Christ is proclaiming His gospel.
What a glorious calling the church has. What glad tidings we have to bring. Jehovah God is coming to save, to deliver, to give life. Yes, behold your God in His Son Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who feeds His flock, who gathers the lambs with His strong hands and arms, who carries them in His bosom, and gently leads those with young.
That is why the proclamation of the church is so powerful and effective. It is God’s Word. We must diligently listen and hear the Word of Christ as it is preached because it is good tidings of great joy. We hear the voice of Jesus Christ Himself.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings. O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings. Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold thy God!
How are those tidings to be proclaimed? Not with a well-meant offer. The church must not say, “God would like to save you if only you are willing.” It is a command: “Behold your God. Repent and believe. Bow down before God and acknowledge Him as God alone.” That message must be proclaimed. It must be preached. Christ, set forth as the God of your salvation. Behold Him.
The church must herald the good news. That means we speak with a message that God Himself gives. There are several things that we can say about that preaching or that proclamation.
First of all, it must be spoken. In our text: “Lift up your voice. Say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God.” The tongue must be used. Not Jesus films, not dramas, not songs, not dance. But the Bible says, “Say unto the cities of Judah.” That is not popular today in the churches where the preaching is replaced with all kinds of things to entertain the people. If you belong to such a church that is replacing the preaching with dances, with songs, with films, you need to speak to your elders or you need to find a church where there is a proper preaching of the Word. The gospel must be preached. We read in Romans 10:14, 15: “How shall they believe on him whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher? How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things.” God is pleased to save by the foolishness of preaching. It is called “foolishness,” not because it is that, but because it is seen by many to be that. So the Word must be preached.
Second, we must speak it with dignity. We read in our text: “Get thee up into a high mountain.” It is the high mountain of God’s own revelation of Himself. So the preaching must be a lofty delivery, not using ordinary speech or street speech or jokes, but heavenly speech, mountaintop speech.
Third, that Word must be brought with fervor, with passion, with excitement, with energy. Notice the passage: “Lift up your voice with strength.” When you have been on that mountaintop, when Moses went up to the mountain and he talked with God, he came down with his face glowing with the glory of God. If the preaching in your church is cold or lifeless or dry, then the minister has not been in his study in the high mountain, has not seen God, your God, in His virtues or works. For if your pastor has beheld God in his study, then he will lift up his voice with strength, with excitement, with energy.
Fourth, that Word has to be brought with boldness. Again, our text: “Lift it up, be not afraid.” As I said twice, it is repeated. Do not be afraid. Do not doubt. Do not be afraid of what you bring when those around us hate and oppose it and will try to silence it. Do not be afraid to bring the Word of God when there are the critics in the pew who always think they could say it better. Be bold. Raise up your voice so that all may hear. Not an unsure voice, but declare the Word of God in a clear, firm, and positive voice: Behold your God!
Fifth. That Word must be proclaimed far and wide so that all will know that there is a God in heaven. It must be brought, as the Canons say, promiscuously, that is, in a world that hates God, to a church that is by nature sinful, weak, and afraid. What comfort. What comfort to God’s elect sinner. Behold your God, who forgives you your sins, who delivers you from the bondage of sin, who will bring you into a glorious inheritance.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings. O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings. Lift up thy voice with strength. Lift it up, be not afraid. Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Amen.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we are thankful for Thy precious Word. We are thankful that it is good tidings. We are thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, that He suffered and died in our place, so that we might have life. Bless, O Lord, the preaching of the gospel each Sunday as it goes forth. Amen.