“Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:9–11).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
What do you do when you have good news? You tell everyone you can. And this text is full of good news. The best news ever! It’s full of Gospel and promise and hope! The kind of good news that makes you want to climb a high mountain and shout at the top of your lungs so that everyone hears.
Of course, this passage should be filled with good news. It follows the verses that announce the comfort of God. You know: “Comfort, comfort My people… Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-3).
Immediately following our text, the prophet goes on to describe God in the most majestic terms, describing His wisdom, power, and might. He talks about God measuring the waters in the hollow of His hand and weighing the mountains and hills with His scales. The nations are like a drop from a bucket compared to His vastness. He is beyond all human understanding, a craftsman, par excellence. The prophet’s point is that however you might think of God, He is bigger, greater, and more powerful. And it is this incomprehensible God who makes the promises of care and blessings that we hear in our text. This is very good news!
This is great news for every herald of good news!
And that would include you and me. We are the ones that the prophet calls “Jerusalem” and “Zion.” We are all heralds of this good news. We are charged with announcing the good news that the God of all creation is coming, and that when He comes, He is coming to rescue us and bless us and take care of us with tenderness and compassion. That’s it! That’s our task! We are charged with telling others, this good news. But we are not responsible for their responses to it. We are not to try to argue them into faith or force the world to live as though it believed. We are to herald the good news and let others know about it. To go tell it on a mountain, to broadcast it so that all may hear. That is our assigned task.
We are tasked with telling about the coming of God. That first means we are called on to speak the uncomfortable and unwelcome message of the coming of the end, and that when it comes, the end will bring with it Judgment Day. The world doesn’t like that proclamation—at least not when it’s taken seriously. It’s fine with make-believe catastrophes like zombie apocalypses, Q-anon conspiracies, artificial intelligence takeover, and global warming theories, or the oddball with a long beard and prophet-sort-of-robe who stands on the street corner with a sign that declares, “The end is near!” But it’s never comfortable with serious talk about being prepared for Judgment Day. It will ridicule the message and the messenger, try to paint you as a kook, someone who should not be taken seriously at best—or someone who is dangerous and must be silenced at worst.
Of course, we are not to go about looking weird, and carrying placards, necessarily. We are called to herald the good news. We are not charged with telling horror stories or threatening people. We must tell them the truth about the coming judgment and the end of days, but we are to bring it with the good news that the God who created all, and who is inconceivably great and powerful, is coming to rescue us and to gather His people together like a shepherd gathers his sheep.
In other words, we have the Gospel to proclaim. We have the love of God to tell others about. We are to speak of and about Christ. We are to tell this good news loudly—lift up your voice with strength—and we are instructed not be afraid but to speak boldly and publicly. And we do. This worship service is part of the speaking we do. We advertise. We invite neighbors. We boldly and publicly proclaim God’s goodness and righteousness and truth at every service through Word and Sacrament, liturgy, and hymns. We also proclaim by how we live, and we proclaim by actually speaking to others about God and our hope and faith in Jesus Christ as we go about our daily vocations.
We have good news to share: God took on human flesh and blood and became one of us for our salvation. The story is old by now, but that is part of the reason that Isaiah continues after our text to tell of the greatness and immensity and the power of God. The wonder of it never fades. The God who measures the dust is the God who stepped down in humility to become the Babe at Bethlehem and the One crucified on Golgotha, all in the pursuit of our salvation. He died for us to redeem us from death and hell, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.
The task before us is tell the world “Behold your God!” This powerful and incomprehensible God loved you so much that He did this for you—He gave His only-begotten Son as the perfect sacrifice for sin that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. You needed the impossible, and the almighty God did the impossible to redeem you and save you from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. Behold your God!
At no time in human history have people needed that message more than they do today! Things are troubling and dangerous and downright depressing in the world these days. We need comfort. We need hope. And here it is!
The Lord is coming! Even though it seems that He delays, He is coming, and coming soon.
He is coming with might. No one can snatch you out of His hands. No danger can threaten you that He cannot manage and rescue you from. No temptation will confront you that is not common to men and women, particularly those who serve the Lord, and He will provide the way of escape that you may endure! That is His promise, and that is our proclamation.
Being the sort of God He is, He is in control of world events. When it seems like things are out of control, it is not because it so. It is because we cannot see them rightly. Our perspective is skewed by our flesh and by sin. Some things we might view with horror are actually good things in the hands of God—we just cannot see past our pain and fear to His blessings and promise of good.
Take death, for an example. It is, for the child of God, the door to life everlasting. No more pain or sorrow or sickness or grief will follow but only joy and peace. But in this world, we experience the human, emotional response to death and to the other hard-to-endure, hard-to-understand things. We see in a mirror dimly; we know only in part. We do not see the heavenly purpose or the blessings that attend those difficult things, nor do we see the bigger picture of what God is working through them. So they tend to frighten us, worry us, and confuse us. But God assures us in His Word that even though such a thing seems difficult and disastrous, in His hand, it is good and a blessing.
Our God is coming, and He is bringing salvation and the rewards of grace. He is coming to give us that abundant life in glory with Him that He has promised throughout the Old and New Testament. Once we are His children, the gifts of God are assured. He allows us to continue here because He would have us tell others. He would have us get up on that mountain, lift up our voices with strength, and proclaim Him! This is our God! Behold Him!
The world is filled with lies and distortions about God, but we know Him. We know the truth. And it is this truth of His love and grace and salvation He has worked for us that He would have us proclaim so boldly, so that the people of the world around us would come to know Him and trust in Him and share in His grace. What greater joy, higher privilege, can there be than to be called by the Lord to be a herald of such good news?
Of course, there is the other part of the reality of His return. He is also bringing judgment and “recompense” with Him. I would not be surprised if perhaps God tells us about the condemnation of sinners who reject Him and His forgiveness as much to motivate us to share the comforts of the Gospel with them, as to paint a picture of damnation to encourage them to repent.
I suspect both are part of the motivation of God in telling us: That we may rejoice and praise Him for such a magnificent salvation. And that knowing what lies ahead for the ones that do not know Him, we would be moved to share the truth of God’s goodness and grace and love with them, so that they might not be destroyed. One would need a heart of stone to know what is coming and not speak a word of warning—and not tell them about God and His great rescue for us!
So we tell them. God is coming, and He is bringing His reward and His recompense with Him. He comes with might and rules over all. But for His people He will be like a tender Shepherd. He will be gentle and compassionate. He will lead us to the heavenly pastures and feed us with His heavenly banquet for eternity.
We have the first course here, a foretaste of the feast to come, in the Lord’s Supper, His body, once given for us, and His blood once shed for us, both hidden beneath the humble elements of bread and wine—but truly present and filled with heavenly blessings for all those who eat in faith, believing the Word of Christ, and hungering for forgiveness and God’s blessings.
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. Everyone who eats and drinks, receives the body and blood of Christ and are offered the benefits He has promised. But it is only through faith in Christ’s words that we receive the benefits as a blessing. When one partakes in unbelief, it is an act of blasphemy, and while they receive the body and blood of Christ, it works judgment and condemnation in them for their hard-heartedness and unbelief. That’s why we are so careful about who comes to the Lord’s Supper, that they would recognize Christ’s body and blood and be able to properly examine themselves. It’s not that we think we are any better than anyone else, but we don’t want guests to unknowingly receive the Sacrament to their harm.
We should eat Christ’s body and drink His blood confidently believing that He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification. Trusting in His saving work, we receive His body and blood, given to us under bread and wine, as the guarantee of our forgiveness. When one eats believing, it is the bread of life and the medicine of immortality they we eat. It is a participation in the body and blood of Christ, who gave Himself up for as the sacrifice for our sins.
He is our Shepherd. He gently cares for us and guides us and tend to us and feeds us. One day, He will return for us. And He will gather us in His arms and carry us home in His bosom to be with Him forever.
Go tell it on the mountain! Herald the Good News! Behold your God! Christ the Savior comes with might. His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. For His sake, you are forgiven for all your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.