In the days of the Old Testament, there were no satellites, radar, Internet, or cell phones. People were dependent on one another to relay the news of the day. As for the more momentous news, they relied on “watchmen.” From a high tower or a mountain top, these watchmen would be on the lookout for friend or foe. They would then call out good news or bad news, a cry of warning or a shout of celebration.
In Isaiah 52, the Holy Spirit speaks of a watchman with a shout of celebration. It has nothing to do with war or peace among the kingdoms of men, but of a celebration of peace in the Kingdom of God. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord brings back Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (verses 7-10)
We see the watchmen on the walls of Zion, staring intently toward the mountains, waiting . . . watching. Suddenly, they see a runner coming over the mountains, cheering and waving his arms. “Peace!” he shouts. “Good news! Salvation! Your God reigns!” How beautiful in the eyes of the watchmen are the feet that carry this messenger. From eye to eye, they see. The Lord Christ is coming to Zion. They turn and shout the good news to the people. Their voices are as one, lifted up in a joyful song of praise. The people join the celebration. Even in the desolate wilderness the strain echoes: “The Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.” Not only in the land of Judah, but through all the nations the anthems reverberate. “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
On the hills of Bethlehem, those watching the sheep little know that they are appointed to be the Lord’s watchmen. Then, suddenly, the beautiful feet of angels appear and announce: “Good news of great joy for all people. Unto you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord! Peace on earth; good will toward men.” These new watchmen, in turn, make known abroad the saying which was told to them concerning this child. Then, an evangelist records the Christmas Gospel. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers hear the words and become new watchmen for future generations and many nations. Behold how “their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18)
Even to this very day, from the mountains of Nepal to the valleys of India, from the desolate places of Africa to the wilds of Myanmar, from Australia to Mexico, from Germany to Bangladesh, from Canada to the United States the voices of the watchmen call out: “Good news of great joy for all people. Unto you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord! Peace on earth; good will toward men!” In the lowliest huts of third world countries to the mansions of America, the alleluias resound as the Gospel tidings of watchmen are proclaimed.
But it doesn’t end there, for the Lord’s watchmen are still watching, looking for signs that the Lord Christ is returning. The signs are here for them to see: nation rising up against nation, kingdom against kingdom, lawlessness, lovelessness, famines, pestilences (pandemics), earthquakes in various places, apostasy and false prophets abounding, the Gospel reaching all nations, “and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Christ’s second coming is imminent. The watchmen of today are calling out: “Look up; lift up your head! Your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:28)
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
John Pfeiffer is retired from the pastoral and teaching ministry. He is a former president of Immanuel Lutheran College.