Isaiah 52:7-10 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, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen – they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. Break forth into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Theme: SING FOR JOY!
Your God reigns!
The LORD has come!
The LORD has comforted and redeemed us!
This Savior is for all nations!
SING FOR JOY! YOUR GOD REIGNS! (v7)
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have come to see those things which the Lord has made known to us. Grace and peace to you.
Singing. Some people like it, some people feel uncomfortable doing it, and other people SHOULD feel uncomfortable doing it. Singing is usually something we associate with being joyful. That is why we sing when it is someone's birthday – it is a joyous occasion. As far as the Church is concerned, singing has always been a part of the Church's worship activities. And that fits perfectly with the idea of singing being associated with joy because above and beyond all others, the Church has much to be joyful about! And fewer times are more joyful for us than when we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus. Some of our most beloved hymns were written to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
As we consider the reasons we sing for joy, we turn to our text from Isaiah 52. In both verses 8 and 9 he writes of singing. The immediate reason for signing for joy be the return of the Children of Israel from their 70 year captivity in Babylon. Listen to verse 7 once again, 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.” It would be a beautiful thing to see a messenger arriving with the good news that the captives were free and were on their way home. Loved ones that had been gone from their childhood, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, brothers and sisters that may have never met would be reunited when the captives returned. This would be evidence that God was still reigning in favor of His people. Do you think the people would sing for joy on an occasion like this? Most certainly!
While the immediate fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesy would be when the captives returned to Jerusalem, there is a greater fulfillment of these words. We heard them last night from the mouths of our children. Verse seven of our text has so many striking parallels to the Luke 2 account. Consider how Isaiah writes of the feet of the messengers are beautiful because they bring “good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'” What was it that the angel announced to the shepherds? It not good tidings of great joy or as Isaiah says, “Good news of happiness.” The angel published salvation when he told the shepherds that a Savior had been born unto them. The multitude of the heavenly host also published peace when they sang their glory. The angels came to announce to the shepherds that their God reigns. Every promise God had made about the Messiah, He had kept. Christ the Lord was born in the city of David! What a reason to sing for joy!
What did the shepherds do once they saw the Christ-child? We heard last night, “When they saw it, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” They took the place of the angels and themselves became the messengers with beautiful feet. They brought the good news of happiness that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem. They published the peace and salvation that the Christ-child would bring. They announced to all who heard it, “Your God reigns!” Certainly the shepherds had every reason to sing for joy as they returned glorifying and praising God for all the things which they had heard and seen as it was told unto them.
Our children last night had beautiful feet as well because of the message that they carried. Those heralds of the Gospel announced the very thing Isaiah writes of in our text. They brought to us the good news about the birth of our Savior from sin, Jesus. The published the peace and salvation that Jesus brings us through His life, death, and resurrection. We heard them sing for joy because our God reigns – Christ the Lord is born!
We have been reconciled unto God through Jesus. We are at peace with God through Jesus. His birth means our salvation. May our feet likewise be beautiful as we announce to the world the good news that our God reigns! Let us sing for joy!
The book of Psalms is basically the hymnal of the Old Testament. Though there are some significant differences between our hymnals and this one. The book of Psalms has no melodies preserved for us today – we can set them to any melody we want or simply speak them. But the biggest difference is that the words are not written by an earthly author, but God Himself is the author of these hymns. Let us then turn to one of these psalms, Psalm number 99, and read responsively how the LORD our God reigns!
“Go Tell It on the Mountain” - SS Choir
SING FOR JOY! THE LORD HAS COME! (v8)
Last night we sang what is for many, their favorite Christmas song, “Joy to the World!” The hymn writer, Isaac Watts, captured some of the thoughts found in the first verse of our text. Consider the second verse, “Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!” This is a great joy to know that our Savior God reigns. How does He reign? Isaac Watts answers that in verse four of “Joy to the World,” “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.”
But the beginning of verse one of Joy to the World seems to fit quite well with verse 8 of Isaiah 5. Verse one begins, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” In verse 8 of our text we read, The voice of your watchmen – they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. God had forsaken, Zion, after the Children of Israel had forsaken Him. They had pursued false idols and turned their back on God. So God gave them over to the hands of the heathen Babylonians who utterly defeated the Children of Israel and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. These events would take place about 150 years after Isaiah wrote these words.
But Isaiah says that the Lord will return to Zion. 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar took captives from Judah to Babylon, the people would return. The watchmen of Judah would be the first to see this return. The watchmen's job was to be constantly on the look out for any approaching threat on the city he was watching. He might be in a tower or in a field, but his only job was to be a look-out for the people of the city. Isaiah speaks of the watchmen lifting up their voice and together signing for joy, because they see the return of the LORD to Zion. “Eye to eye,” Isaiah says they see the return. They see the return of the LORD to Zion as He keeps His promise to free the people from captivity and return them to the Promised Land. The watchmen sing for joy because they see that the LORD has come.
The night Jesus was born, a group of shepherds thought was a night like every other in the country-side around Bethlehem. A night of watching over their flocks to protect them from thieves and predators, like wolves and bears. But God had selected them to be a very special watchmen – not just over sheep. To those shepherds God revealed that His Son, their Savior had been born in Bethlehem. When they heard what had happened, they came with haste – speedily to Bethlehem to see this thing that the Lord had made known to them. And they found it just as the angel had said. They saw the Son of God, their Savior from sin, the baby Jesus with their own eyes. “Eye to eye” they saw the return of the LORD to Zion!
How do you think the shepherds reacted to being able to look into the eyes of the “Ancient of Days,” “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” their Savior, who is Christ the Lord? How do you think you would have reacted? Observe and then return to your sheep in the field, like we do after looking at Christmas lights? “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Lk 2:20) They lifted their voices in singing, singing together for joy, for the LORD has come in the flesh to save them!
We have seen the return of the LORD, eye to eye, haven't we. Not with our physical eyes, but with our eyes of faith. Last night our children took our eyes of faith to see the birth of our Savior. With our eyes of faith we saw Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. With our eyes of faith we have seen our Savior Jesus be crucified for all of our sins and raised from the dead to give us life. And we know that the LORD will return yet again. He will come again in glory on the last day and we will see His return eye to eye. We have every reason to sing for joy, for our LORD has come!
Let us sing for joy by making use of Psalm 96 set to music in our Worship Supplements, page 26. The congregation is invited to join in singing the antiphon, which the organist will introduce and then is repeated 3 times throughout the psalm and the Gloria at the end of the psalm. You are encouraged to follow along as the verses of the psalm will be sung responsively between myself and the choir.
Hymn 96 - “Oh, Rejoice, Ye Christians Loudly”
SING FOR JOY! THE LORD HAS COMFORTED AND REDEEMED US!
Why is it that people who may otherwise not set foot in a church, suddenly appear in Christmas time? One is only left to speculate, but it seems people are willing to come to church on Christmas because it seems so un-threatening. It is a happy time. A baby is born. Angels are singing. Shepherds are abiding. Wise men are traveling from afar. Maybe they remember going as a kid and it makes them feel better to relive it in that way.
But how innocent and un-threatening is Christmas? True there is a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, but why is that Child there? Why was that Child born? What was that Child's purpose in life? While we may not like to think about it, that Baby was born to die! From Jesus' earliest days, people were trying to kill Him. Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem in search of the Christ-child, seeking to kill Him. When Simeon rejoiced to hold the Christ-child in his arms, he told Mary, “A sword will pierce through your own soul also.” (Lk 2:35) 33 years later, Mary would see her baby Boy nailed to a cross, bleeding a dying. Certainly soul-piercing sight for any mother.
It may be a soul-piercing thought for us too, to think that this Baby, of whom our young children sang last night, was “Away in a manger,” will some day be bleeding and dying on a cross. But we need to remember that Good Friday is the reason Christmas is worth celebrating. If there is no whipping, no bruising, no bleeding, and no dying there is no reason to celebrate this season. We must view the cross if we are going to view the manger. This Baby would have to be come a curse for us, that we might be freed from the curse of the law. This Baby would have to suffer for us, that we would be freed from an eternity of suffering for our sins. This Baby has to die that we might live.
What were the good tidings of great joy that the angels had? Just that a baby had been born? That this Baby was Christ the Lord? While the birth of a baby is a reason to rejoice, and the fact that this Baby was Christ the Lord was all the more reason to rejoice, the truly good tidings of great joy was that Christ the Lord came to be our Savior!
Verse 9 of our text, “Break forth into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.” Jesus came to comfort us and redeem us. Actually this is one and the same thing, isn't it. We can't be comforted if we aren't redeemed. If we have not been bought back from our slave owners of sin, death, and the devil, then there is no comfort for us. But the LORD has comforted His people. He has redeemed us! That Baby in the manger would go on to give His Holy precious blood and His innocent sufferings and death to redeem us unto God. There is our comfort! We are God's own possession. We belong to Him. He purchased us by the death of His Son. Sing for joy! The LORD has comforted and redeemed us!
Let us join in confessing our faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, by using the words of Martin Luther's explanation to the 2nd Article of the Apostle's Creed. This can be found on page 5 of your bulletins. Please rise.
HYMN: 709 – God Loves Me Dearly
SING FOR JOY! CHRIST IS THE SAVIOR OF ALL!
Imagine being left out of Christmas! Imagine that Christmas was for everybody else, but you. How would that feel? But how could you be left out of Christmas? Christmas is for everybody. And not like the “Christmas for Everyone” that I saw on TV last night – where a Jewish Rabbi and a Muslim Imam participated in a Christmas service at some church in New York City. That was a sham and almost blasphemous as those who reject Christ as their Savior were invited to give a Christmas message.
No one is to be left out of Christmas, because Christ was born to be the Savior of all. Remember what the angels told the shepherds? Who were the glad tidings of great joy to be for? "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Lk 2:10) This was good news for ALL PEOPLE because Christ the Lord had been born for ALL PEOPLE. What joyous news this is!
This is exactly what Isaiah wrote of in verse 10 of our text, “The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” The redemptive work of Christ was not hidden, it was revealed to all the nations as the Gospel was spread into all the World. God wants all the world to know why His Son was born. He wants the ends of the earth to hear of salvation of our God. This is why He has commissioned His followers to preach the Gospel throughout all the world.
Christmas is for everyone because Jesus came to save everyone. He wants everyone to hear that He came to be their Savior. He wants all the world to be comforted in the news that He has redeemed them unto God. He wants everyone to believe on Him and be saved. “God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (Jn 3:16-17) Therefore only those who reject Christ should be left out of Christmas. And they are left out because they do not want Jesus as their Savior. But for every sinner who desires to forgiven and comforted, Christmas is for you! For Christ came to save you! What greater reason to sing for joy!
Let us sing this new song to the LORD for the marvelous things which has done, by reading responsively selected verses of psalm 98 on page 6 of your bulletins.
HYMN 106: “The People that in Darkness Sat”