GEMS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
“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!’”
In the hierarchy of human body parts, feet don’t get a lot of love. Gallons of poetic ink have been spilled in praise of eyes. Stacks of sonnets have been written about the comeliness of lips, hair, form and figure. Hands can be graceful. Ears can at least be “shell-like.” But when it comes to feet, few favorable adjectives suggest themselves. Especially with advancing age, one is more likely to associate feet with corns, callouses, swelling, and fungus. All things considered, feet would seem to be the human appendages that have the least going for them.
Yet feet are important, as you’ll quickly discover if you’re ever laid up with a foot or ankle injury. Feet are the unsung heroes that allow us to get around, accomplish our tasks, deliver the goods. And nowhere is this more important, says the prophet Isaiah, than when the message you’re delivering is the Gospel. “How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news!”
The Hebrew word for beautiful in this passage is rare; one of the few other times it occurs is in the description of the bride in Song of Solomon 1:10, “Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels.” (NIV) It’s easy to imagine the face of a bride as beautiful. But beautiful feet?
Certainly! Isaiah predicted the joy that would be felt in Jerusalem when the messengers of the returning exiles crested the surrounding mountains on their way to the holy city. “God has kept His promise!” the heralds would proclaim. “The remnant are returning! Zion is restored!” The message would be so heartening that even the feet of the messengers—the part for the whole—would be considered beautiful.
What is the joyful content of the message borne upon these beautiful feet? “Peace,” “glad tidings of good things,” and “salvation.” You will probably not be surprised to learn that the Hebrew term for salvation is nearly identical to the name of Jesus. For the prophecy of Isaiah finds its ultimate fulfilment in the preaching of the Gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim that Good News! Every Christian, of course, has such beautiful feet, insofar as he fulfills his commission to proclaim the one way of salvation. But in Romans Chapter 10 the Apostle Paul quotes this verse and applies it specifically to the public ministry: “How shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!’”(v. 15)
This is why we prepare, train, and call our young men into the preaching ministry. For what job could be more vital? Is President of the United States more important than a preacher of the Gospel? Could any vocation be more beautiful, any calling more to be desired than that of the public ministry? Flawed and fragile vessels of clay our pastors may be (II Corinthians 4:7), yet theirs is the joyful task (as Isaiah put it in an earlier chapter) of speaking “comfort to Jerusalem,” of crying out to her that “her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.” The Apostle John puts it even more simply; Christian pastors get to spend their lives telling people that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
How beautiful are their feet!
Paul Naumann is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and editor of the Lutheran Spokesman.