You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40.9)
Digging Through the Archives
Advent brings the beauty of God’s promises to life more than any other season. From this side of the Nativity, we read the Old Testament’s Messianic passages as established fact. But the prophets dispatched God’s promises much like p.r. agents publish press releases. Here’s what God intends to do. This is what’s going to happen. They weren’t privy to all of the details, though—certainly not as clued into the specifics as we are today. We know precisely why, when, where, and how God makes good on God's pledge to redeem humanity.
So this season of anticipation invites us to dig through the archives, pull out the promises, compare them to the facts, and marvel at how exquisitely God’s plan plays out. While Israel searches high and low for signals to shore up trust in God's promises, we know what God had in mind all along. As we read God's covenant to send the world a Savior and Redeemer, we know everything goes according to plan. We see and comprehend it all from the get-go, just as God envisioned and intended. And nothing I know competes with the plan’s audacious, impeccable beauty.
Placed and Prepped
Isaiah’s job as the Messiah’s advance man hampers his view of the why, when, where, and how of God’s plan. At best, he’s been briefed on incredible events in the making since time began. Revelation 13.8 refers to Jesus as “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of world,” indicating God formulated a strategy for our redemption before God formed us. Isaiah gets this. He also gets the gist of how things will pan out. What he’s missing are answers to questions that automatically surface any time something major is expected to occur. Even as Isaiah relays all he’s told, he’s also acutely aware it’s less than Israel wants to know.
In Isaiah 40.9, he handles this more like a p.r. maven than a prophet or a tight-lipped spokesperson. He ensures Israel’s top reporters are placed and prepped to broadcast the big news when it breaks. Isaiah tells them to “go up on a high mountain,” where they can observe all that happens, as well as command audience attention. Recognizing the story’s controversial angles, he urges them to tell it like it is without reservation. “Lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, and do not be afraid,” he says. Finally, he offers a headline: Here Is Your God.
Discovering how God’s promises work and learning how to treat them are two of Advent’s most glorious lessons. Because Messianic prophecy’s scale assumes such epic, historically seismic proportions, we’re tempted to consider it a thing unto itself, unlike any other promise God makes. This holds true on many levels, of course. In terms of principles and methods, however, all God's promises operate identically. They constitute God's Word. None is any more or less significant than another. When we search Scripture for reassurance, we confidently expect God to honor promises to us with the same power, passion, and attention God invested in fulfilling the covenant with Israel. Numbers 23.19 says, “God is not a man, that God should lie… Does God promise and not fulfill?” And 2 Corinthians 1.20 confirms this: “No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes.’” Every pledge God ever made to love, accept, forgive, heal, intervene, and care for us is unquestionably true.
Our challenges to believe God’s promises rest in our inability to see and understand the why’s, when’s, where’s, and how’s of God's plan. We’re where Israel was in Isaiah’s day—pensively wondering about the logistics and overall approach. And since we’re in Israel’s shoes, let’s imagine its curiosity did move God to reveal the details of God's strategy. Would any of it have made sense to them? Absolutely not. Advent teaches us God always delivers on God's promises, but God does it in highly unexpected ways—“more than all we ask or imagine” is how Ephesians 3.20 describes it. Therefore, Advent also teaches while waiting on God’s promises, the best thing we can do is go up. We rise above our problems so we can place and prep ourselves to watch God work. When God does precisely what God promised to do, we treat God's faithfulness like breaking news. We lift our voices and tell it like it is. Our stories may stir controversy; many will doubt. Still, we can’t be afraid to broadcast them. And we report them under Isaiah’s banner headline: HERE IS YOUR GOD.
Originally posted November 29, 2009.
While we wait on God’s promises, we position ourselves to watch God work and broadcast breaking news of God's faithfulness.