News We Can Trust
Topic: Dudley's Monthly Message Passage: Isaiah 52:7
NEWS WE CAN TRUST
News today is suspect. We aren’t sure there is any source we can trust. What we hear is mostly bad news and it comes with such a spin, we can barely get hold of it. We know that the American dollar bears the weight of such debt that it is threatened by currencies of other national economies along with multiplying crypto-currencies. The American dream has dimmed in the eyes of a young generation realizing they probably won’t even have the prosperity of their parents. They cringe at the debt they have been left with and sneer at the premise of the baby boomers who believed riches can make you happy. The American destiny is being reinterpreted through the eyes of secularism. And though we used to snicker at the obvious spin of the used car salesman, it has been adopted and honed to a new luster. The Media, the Congress, the Presidency, and even the pulpit have bought in.
We could use some good news!
Israel had a time when it seemed all the news was bad. A casual look at circumstances would not have produced good news. Assyria had ruthlessly captured the northern tribes. Babylon was even more ruthless and had defeated Assyria as well as the southern tribe of Judah. The people of God were under pagan powers and were treated as less than human. The Babylonians told them each day that they were the lowest class possible in society. On top of that, the Israelites were aware that they were in captivity because they had abandoned their covenant with God. Their guilt and shame were daily burdens they carried, convinced that God had washed his hands of them; divorced them; and sold them into slavery. They could use some good news. And they got it. It was so startling they had a hard time believing it. It seemed so contrary to what was apparent.
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.”
Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)
Looking through only natural eyes, this was preposterous. Babylon reigns! But God’s good news comes from his perspective. The heart of the gospel (good news) is always: OUR GOD REIGNS! It was true for Israel in the midst of exile. It was true of the early Christians at Pentecost. When Peter explained what to the natural eye looked like a group of drunk believers, he declared:
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
Acts 2:36 (ESV)
It is still too good to be true—but it is reality. Israel would come to see that Assyria was simply a rod in the hand of God to judge Israel. Babylon was God’s sword to defeat Assyria, and Cyrus as king of Persia was the one God used to send the Jews back to their homeland—all according to plan. He reigns over history. It moves along on a purposeful journey to reveal the magnificent grace of God toward his creation. Without interfering with the dignity he granted to humans, God works all things to fulfill his plan. When Jesus first came forth preaching, he declared that time was fulfilled in his appearance.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
Mark 1:14-15 (ESV)
It should be no surprise to us if we have read Isaiah, that the good news was about the goodness and sovereignty of God. In his first encounter with God, he saw the hem of his garment fill the whole temple. The Seraphim declared that his glory filled the whole earth. In chapter 40 God told him to speak words of comfort to his people because God had taken their case as his own and would bring about justice for them. Though they didn’t deserve it, God promised to act in their behalf for the sake of his own name. Isaiah was preaching the heart of the good news then, and it was fulfilled finally in Jesus who is the ultimate Israelite. God reigns. Later in his book, Isaiah tells of the servant of the Lord who will come and deliver them (Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12):
- He will be a man because God will work through humans to save humans.
- He will be an Israelite, because God chose to bless the world through his agent, Israel, and he would fulfill his plan through the one Israelite who qualified.
- He would obey the covenant and thus receive all the blessings promised to the obedient man. He would present himself as a vicarious sacrifice to condemn sin in his flesh to set captive people free.
- He would defeat death through his own resurrection and be exalted to rule as the complete and obedient man at the right hand of God.
- He would rule over everything his sacrifice paid for. The devil’s tools were rendered ineffective in condemnation.
- He would start a new race of people characterized by the new Adam’s life, rather than solidarity with the old Adam.
Jesus is obviously the Servant Isaiah spoke of. Only he qualifies. He has done all that was promised. Now he rules from his exalted throne through the word of the gospel by the Spirit who raised him from the dead. He does not exert his authority through swords of steel and human might. He destroys the strongholds of deception by the truth of his word in the mouth of his people. We have the distinct privilege of reigning in life “in him.”
When through eyes of faith we see him ruling over all, we place our own lives under his control. To do anything else would be most unwise. If he controls the universe, he can and must control our lives. When his order is in place, we return in spirit to the Garden of Eden where peace with God reigns and we are glorified as humans who partner with God.
James Leo Green closes his excellent book on Isaiah entitled God Reigns, with the story of George Fredrick Handel. At 60 years of age, Handel was broken and broke. He was partially paralyzed and facing bankruptcy. In the middle of pain and loss, he despaired even of life. A package came to him from his friend, Charles Jennens, that contained an oratorio Jennens had written to defend the faith against the Deists of the day. He wanted Handel to write the music to it. It was estimated to take over a year. Handel began to read and write. For 24 days he read, wrote, walked, and wept, often saying, “Hallelujah.” Finally, he fell into bed exhausted, but on his desk was the 260-page finished work of Messiah. When it was first performed in London in 1743, the audience was so moved that when it reached the “Hallelujah” chorus the king and the people stood to their feet starting a custom that is still carried on when it is performed today.
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and shall reign, King of kings and Lord of lords. Forever and ever. Hallelujah
Handel later became blind but never gave in to despair. He held to his conviction that regardless of the circumstances, Our God Reigns. That is some good news we can trust.