How Lovely on the Mountains
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news, who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
Isaiah 52 : 7 -9
In the year 587 BC Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon laid siege to and destroyed Jerusalem. He took huge numbers of prisoners back to Babylon as slaves where they were described as weeping by the banks of the rivers.
Prophets such as Jeremiah declared this calamity to be a judgement on the Israelites for failing to obey the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac - they had allowed the poor to be exploited and had worshipped false gods and so the Presence of God had left the Temple and Jerusalem had fallen.
Nebuchadnezzar had scribes who kept records of his successes and his earlier victory over Jerusalem was recorded on this Babylonian clay tablet.
Later prophets such as Ezekiel and Isaiah declared that the One God will be gracious to his people and return to Jerusalem and there reign as their new King. He will gather his scattered people, take them back to Jerusalem, give them a new heart, and restore Israel.
Isaiah wrote a song of gladness about this new hope -
How beautiful upon the mountains The Proclamation
are the feet of the messenger ... 'the good news'
who brings good news...
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns...
”Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, God's Reign
together they sing for joy; 'God's will'
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break...into singing you ruins of Jerusalem; The Restoration
for the Lord has comforted his people, 'healing'
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
Hills near Jerusalem
After the fall of Babylon the Persian King Cyrus allowed the Israelite slaves to return to Jerusalem where they rebuilt the city and temple. While initially a cause of national celebration the reality was that the land and economy had been devastated and the restored Jerusalem was a shadow of it's former self. The Israelites had been freed from slavery for a second time, they were back in their own land, but they were still overshadowed - first by the Persians, then the Egyptians, and by Jesus' day, the Romans. The hope that God would return to restore Israel and reign as King passed from generation to generation. It was a very powerful political and religious hope in Jesus' day; several 'messiah' figures arose and gathered followers but they were all killed by the Romans.
An image of Cyrus the Great (?)
from his tomb in Pasargadae
When John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness a few miles outside Jerusalem he started baptising the crowds who came to hear him in the River Jordan. Dressed in camel skins to evoke the memory of the prophet Elijah and thus presenting himself as a 'messenger' his proclamation was that One Greater than He was coming to baptise with Fire. After John was arrested and executed the crowds looked to Jesus.
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, God's Reign
teaching in their synagogues,
and proclaiming the good news Proclamation
of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and every sickness. Restoration
A stream running into the River Jordan
When Jesus of Nazareth began his missionary journeys around the towns and villages of Galilee he was seen as a fulfilment of the centuries old hopes that were part of the religious and social culture of the Jewish nation. His mission was one of Proclamation, Teaching and Healing.
He had a message to proclaim - the Kingdom of God, or God's 'reign' was near therefore now was the time to believe this message and now was the time to 'turn around', to repent, and to receive the Good News.
He had a message to teach. Jesus revealed in his parables and promises what it is God want us to do and to be - God's will, his reign, and his Kingdom.
Jesus also sought out those who needed God's love most - the poor, the downtrodden, the worried and the helpless. Among them he brought healing, comfort and reassurance thus restoring them into lives worth living.
Thus the Lord Jesus was messenger, teacher and healer.
These three roles he continues to fulfil today.
May you be blessed by hearing, believing and receiving.