Ps. 85; Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8
Voice, Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength… say, “Behold your God!” (v. 9)
God directs three “voices” for speaking his double “comfort” (Isa. 40:1, 2). Isaiah is first, announcing God’s grace by his “Ruling Arm” (v. 10); JB, from the wilderness is second, heralding the imminence of God’s comfort toward sinful men; and finally, new Zion, knowing the Lord in her midst is third to lend her voice, directing the nations, to God’s Lamb for sin, her Warrior-Shepherd, and Ruling Arm with the proclamation, “Behold your God!”
Israel was “servant of God” for bringing knowledge of salvation to the nations. Instead, through evil kings and idolatrous hearts, Israel egregiously disobeyed. God consigned the northern kingdom to oblivion, and Judah into the belly the Babylonian beast. Yet Isaiah’s “voice” promised God’s double “comfort” for Zion by a new exodus and return to God.
If Israel was faithless servant, God is nevertheless faithful and strong to save. God would send another “savior” like Moses to Israel. First, Cyrus, a Gentile king, to deliver Israel out of Babylonian capture.
JB is God’s second “voice” for Zion’s “comfort”. Jesus comes to John for Baptism, obedient Son for anointing into the Servant office of failed Israel; to be Zion’s new Israel in one Man. Our “comfort” is that in Christ our warfare with God is ended for Zion’s last days heralding exodus.
By his word God judged man’s warfare worthy of death and earth’s curse; heaven’s rebellion too would suffer loss. Death and curse resolve nothing; and so, mankind still awaits the dénouement of a new heaven and earth on the Last Day.
That Jesus is new Israel gives pause to “behold [our] God”; to grasp Jesus born Son of God and Son of man the Ruling Arm of God; that in innocence and humility to the Father’s will he is Suffering Servant (Isa. 53) on account of sin, manifesting his saving power hidden in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) approachable by faith alone.
From the literal and figurative wilderness that is sin, JB proclaimed a baptism of repentance to prepare hearts in the humility of the coming Lamb of God. Yet self-generated repentance is impossible for sinful men; repentant faith is gift by the preached word.
John’s preaching associated his baptism with a heart-felt turning from sin’s thralldom and desire for trusting God’s promise of forgiveness (Zech. 12:10-13:1) by his Comforter.
Again, Jesus was born to suffer and die God’s Servant for sin and unbelief. By his Passion, his people receive double “comfort” of God’s grace. At Jesus’ Baptism from JB in sin-laden water, Jesus received the HS to be the world’s sin-bearer imputing our sin, destining him to a righteous death on the cross.
In exchange, those Baptized into Christ’s death respond to the grace of repentant faith. The HS’s gift is not a faith generated of ourselves; rather the gift is of Christ’s own faith, absolute trust in the Father’s word and integrity. As Abram was accounted righteous by faith Gen. 15:6); so, we baptized into Christ we are imputed, not only with Jesus’ faith for repentance, but Christ’s own righteousness and holiness for participation in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
God called Isaiah, JB, and Zion, to be his “voice” for the world’s sight. By the HS’s enlightenment we discern God’s double “comfort”: Christ’s Righteousness, and Truth for proclamation to faithful administration and reception of new Zion’s sacraments (Isa. 40:8b).
The church is new Zion. She is the third “voice” to preach heaven’s double “comfort” in these final days, “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength… say to the cities… ‘Behold your God!’”
What “comfort” does Zion say to, “prepare the way of the Lord?” St. Peter explains the Lord is patient; not wishing that any should perish as in the day of the Flood; Jesus being our saving ark. God desires all come to repentance before the sudden, unknown Great Day (2 Peter 3:8-14).
For those anticipating “the Day”, Jesus’ final coming seems delayed; yet as men count time that Day has the certainty of God’s word. On that Day the heavens and the elements of the earth will be undone, purified by fire for the coming of the new creation begun from Jesus’ nativity, passion, resurrection, and procession of the HS to his new Zion.
From Zion the Baptized live in the double “comfort” of God’s promises: Christ present in word and Sacrament, possessing the Spirit for knowing the Father’s heart by his crucified Servant-Son. In knowledge, we are God’s “voice” in the world, explicating his word in strength, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, “Behold your God!”
Isaiah’s “voice” revealed the coming Christmas Babe to be the mighty Arm of Him who Rules (cf. Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7), the One who brings with him both reward and recompense; tenderly shepherding his lambs and holding them to his breast that none who trust his word fear (Isa. 40:9c-11) his hot Breath on the re-creation of the Last Day.
With St. Peter we trust in the Word to maintain us in God’s grace, a life of baptismal repentance, that receives Christ’s holiness and godliness by word and Sacrament.
In faith we reflect on the Way of the Babe’s singular devotion to his cross for Life in him alone. By the church’s Way, we proclaim knowledge of God in Christ with us. We anticipate, and by eager prayer advance that which the world fears most; but does not know, the Day of the Lord for making all things new and holy. Amen.