“Thy God Reigneth”
It was to a people drifting further and further from God that Isaiah was sent with his prophecies. And, as they gave themselves more and more to sin – idolatry and Sabbath breaking and much more – the fulfilment of those prophecies which spoke of captivity loomed ever closer. Yet the captivity was by no means a final judgement; there was to be a return. How wonderful would be the message that the Persian King Cyrus, the new ruler of Babylon, had decreed to set the captives free! How welcome the messenger that would come over the mountains around Jerusalem with news of the wonderful deliverance! This seems to be the picture drawn in the words: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Is 52:7). Good tidings indeed! It was most certainly a message of deliverance, which indicated that the God of Zion was ruling over everything. Notwithstanding the pain of all that had happened, events had never run out of His control.
Yet the return from the captivity is not so much in view in this prophecy as what was revealed long afterwards, in the skies over Bethlehem, when the angel declared: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11). Then a multitude of the heavenly host joined in the praise to add: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”. In David’s city of Bethlehem, One had been born to sit on his throne who had already been revealed in another of Isaiah’s prophecies: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called…The mighty God…The Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6). And as Calvin indicates in his commentary, son here “can mean none else than the Son of God“.
The One born in Bethlehem is indeed the Son of God, who came to bring peace, to reconcile sinners to the God against whom they have sinned. Thus Paul declared that He “made peace through the blood of His cross”; He died as a propitiation, to take away what would cause the anger of God to go out against sinners. He endured that wrath and, in doing so, made it possible for sin to be forgiven. So, when sinners believe in Christ, there is peace between them and their Creator; they will never be condemned.
In Christ’s sufferings, it may have seemed that evil was triumphing and that the devil was getting the victory. But, even then, it could emphatically be said to Zion: “Thy God reigneth”. “Though He was crucified through weakness” (2 Cor 13:4), He continued to reign as king. So He fulfilled what He said about His life: “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). It was the eternal King who died on the cross and rose on the third day triumphant over death; in it all He was acting for His Church. And they will all rise again on the last day when He will call them from their graves. Then they will enjoy their eternal reward as the loyal subjects of King Jesus.
During that whole period from Christ’s resurrection till the general resurrection at the end of time, the Church’s King reigns. Time and again it may seem that everything is spiralling out of control. Today, for instance, Christ’s kingdom seems to be fighting a losing battle against the forces of the kingdom of darkness, when evil is so often declared to be good, and good evil. Iniquity abounds and unbelief is rampant, as almost everyone within the professing Church and in the wider world does what is right in their own eyes. Yet, whatever the spiritual state of the Church, the message rings clearly through the ages: “Thy God reigneth”.
Christ Himself is the Messenger, the One who could say, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Is 61:1,2). Thus He came to that immoral woman in Sychar, one who was very willingly being led captive by Satan; He declared to her the glad tidings of salvation; He revealed Himself to her. She was then reconciled to God; she submitted to King Jesus; she was set free to obey His commandments. Then she could say indeed, as she worshipped the Messenger who had revealed Himself to her: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation”.
It was indeed a day of Christ’s power when He made the woman of Samaria willing to enter His kingdom. And, though now exalted to heaven, Christ still makes sinners willing to submit to Him. The main means He uses is the proclamation of the good tidings of salvation by His messengers. He sent forth the first generation of preachers with the words: “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt 28:18). The King has promised to be with His messengers – always.
Ministers of the gospel in every generation have behind them the authority of the great King; they are His ambassadors. Through them, the King is putting His purposes into effect. As they proclaim the good news of salvation – that Christ Jesus came into the world to bear the sins of many and thus to reconcile sinners to Himself – and as these truths are applied by the Holy Spirit, so sinners are made true subjects of this King. The assurance, “Thy God reigneth”, was intended to encourage the Church both in Isaiah’s time and during the captivity. But not only in biblical times. The Church in every generation, right down to the end of time, is to receive consolation from these very words. She is to believe that her King will always continue to use, to a greater or lesser extent, the preaching of the gospel to bring sinners “from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18).
In the apostolic age “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor 1:21), and the Church today is to expect her King to make faithful preaching a means of accomplishing His purposes. The world, educated and uneducated, may despise preaching; it may despise the Bible, God’s messengers and the King Himself. But the King’s purposes will without question be fulfilled, and these purposes include the bringing of multitudes of sinners into His kingdom through the preaching of the gospel – making known that there is peace through the blood of the cross. And every such sinner may say, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings” – speaking not merely of the divine Messenger, but also His ambassadors. But it might seem unreasonable to refer Isaiah’s words to these ambassadors if Paul had not thus quoted them: “How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:14,15).
Yet, while that is so, all the praise and thanks and honour are to be given to the King Himself. But what need to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out many more men to proclaim the message of peace to a lost world! And what need also to plead that the preaching of Christ’s ambassadors everywhere would be so blessed to the hearts of multitudes of sinners that they would yield allegiance to the King of Kings! Then Satan’s kingdom would be seriously weakened; unbelief would retreat; iniquity would hide its face for shame; and Christ would be acknowledged in all parts of the world as the King He indeed is. But in the meantime let the children of God not despair; let them take a firm, trustful grasp of the fact: “Thy God reigneth”.
Every Christian a Publisher! February 27, 2024
The following article appeared in Issue 291 of the Banner Magazine, dated December 1987. ‘The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those that published it’ (Psalm 68.11) THE NEED FOR TRUTH I would like to speak to you today about the importance of the use of literature in the church, for evangelism, […]
Truth’s Defenders Vindicated February 26, 2024
The following words, so contemporary in their feeling and import, come from John Kennedy (presumably of Dingwall), and were published in the 6th Issue of the Banner of Truth Magazine (May, 1957). In times such as ours it is easy to seem a bigot, if one keeps a firm hold of truth, and is careful […]