Apr 18, 2013

The Good News of God's Reign

Isaiah 52:1–12

"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'" (v. 7).

We have often commented on how hard it must have been for the Jews in exile to believe that God would and could save them. If the Lord had let them go into the exile in the first place, how could they be sure that God would rescue them? Though we might sympathize with them to a point, we must not forget that this doubt was birthed in sin, the same sin of not believing God's warning that there would be dreadful consequences for idolatry, which prompted the exile in the first place (2 Chron. 36:15–21).

That salvation was long in coming for the exiles was not the Lord's fault but theirs. God had no need to believe His own words promising restoration for it to finally come, but the exiles did. Their lack of trust in His Word got them into their mess, so the only way they could get out was to believe the Lord. (Note how this historical reality pictures what it takes for us to be reconciled to our Creator. Our failure to believe God's Word in Adam got us into sin. Believing His Word for our justification is what gets us out; Rom. 5:12–21). Consequently, Isaiah calls the exiles to faith in today's passage. His declaration that the people need to wake up and loosen their bonds is a metaphor for developing a strong belief in the Lord and His willingness to save (52:1–2). After all, it took a particularly strong faith to persevere in believing that God could take that which was downtrodden and powerless—the exiles themselves—and effect restoration.

The persistent doubts of the exiles meant that the Lord would have to intervene despite their failures if they were ever to be rescued from exile. He would have to provide an atonement for even the sin of unbelief so that His elect could be released from its bondage and be awakened to faith. He would have to establish His reign for all to see, His blessed presence among His people. The good news for the Jewish exiles and, indeed, for the whole world is that our Creator was willing to do this. Despite the unbelief of the people, Isaiah heard a voice crying, "God reigns" (v. 7). The establishment of God's blessed kingdom was sure because it was grounded in the Lord's intent and actions, not the will of men. Faith gets a person into this kingdom, and even this faith is God's gift (Eph. 2:8–10), but faith does not establish the kingdom. God establishes the kingdom, and in the results of this work He enables His elect to become kingdom citizens by faith alone. Tomorrow we will see how God finally established this kingdom.

Coram Deo

Restoration requires faith in the Lord, but we are not able to muster up in ourselves faith that will persevere to the end. We need an atonement that covers even our unbelief, and God must create in us new hearts, granting us the faith He demands (Eph. 2:8–10). When the Lord changes a person's heart, that person puts his faith in Him, for this is the natural response of a new heart that is inclined toward Him. But that heart—and thus the faith that springs from it—is the gift of God.

For Further Study