8:18

The watchers

The watchers

Imagine something with me.

Picture yourself waiting out the pandemic in a remote town, ringed by mountains.  Because of a forest fire or ice storm (depending on what coast you conceive this to be), land lines are down.  So are cell phones.  (Okay, throw in a solar flare.)  Roads are closed.

You’re anxious for word of a vaccine.  But the only way to hear is if a hardy adventurer is willing to hike in to bring the good news.

Now, wouldn’t you be scanning the hills for any sign of that messenger?

That’s the right lens to understand the sense of the anticipation of these verses in Isaiah 52:

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
    together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
    they will see it with their own eyes.

“Those” in verse 7 is singular in the Hebrew, so it is similar to the picture we just made: a solitary runner, joyfully bringing the announcement.  The text literally reads “good news of good,” which is Scripture’s way of doubling up the emotion.  It’s incredible news for a waiting people!

As I meditate on these verses, I begin to realize all the people in the story of Christ’s birth who were watching and waiting.  Of course, Mary and Joseph anticipated the arrival of this mysterious, blessed child. (Giving extra weight to the word, expectancy.) The Magi, astrologers from another country, watched the stars.  Simeon, the aged believer, having been told to watch for the coming “consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25) waited for Spirit to point him out.

In fact, the whole nation waited and watched for the coming Messiah – “all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)

In the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, I hear the same language as Isaiah’s prophecy: “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today… a Savior has been born to you.” (Luke 2:10-11)

There’s the doubling up of good.  The announcement of coming salvation.  And then, the chorus of angels rounds out the message, singing of God’s glory and the peace now available to men through this newborn Savior.  Again, like Isaiah’s verses.

So, I’ll add my binoculars to my growing nativity collection.  For this year, I understand the concept of waiting and watching better than ever.  What relief and release a vaccine will bring when it comes.

But the real “good news of good” has already arrived.  The Savior has come!  And that abiding peace of God, available only because Jesus purchased for me peace with God, is what gives purpose and joy even to these trying days of expectancy.

Our God reigns!  And he has sent an antidote for our sinful nature through his Son, born as a helpless baby.

Imagine that.

Lord, we wait in expectancy for a resolution to this pandemic.  And we wait for a fresh movement of your Spirit among us.  But help us to fully realize the truth of the precious salvation we have.  Give us the joy of the watchmen!

Reader: Tell me about a memory you have of watching for something to arrive.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.