The removal of the Jews from Babylon to their own land again is here spoken of both as a mercy and as a duty; and the application of Isa. 52:7 to the preaching of the gospel (by the apostle, Rom. 10:15) plainly intimates that that deliverance was a type and figure of the redemption of mankind by Jesus Christ, to which what is here said of their redemption out of Babylon ought to be accommodated.
I. It is here spoken of as a great blessing, which ought to be welcomed with abundance of joy and thankfulness. 1. Those that bring the tidings of their release shall be very acceptable (Isa. 52:7): “How beautiful upon the mountains, the mountains round about Jerusalem, over which these messengers are seen coming at a distance, how beautiful are their feet, when it is known what tidings they bring!” It is not meant so much of the common posts, or the messengers sent express by the government to disperse the proclamation, but rather of some of the Jews themselves, who, being at the fountain-head of intelligence, had early notice of it, and immediately went themselves, or sent their own messengers, to all parts, to disperse the news, and even to Jerusalem itself, to tell the few who remained there that their brethren would be with them shortly; for it is published not merely as matter of news, but as a proof that Zion’s God reigns, for in that language it is published: they say unto Zion, Thy God reigns. Those who bring the tidings of peace and salvation, that Cyrus has given orders for the release of the Jews, tidings which were so long expected by those that waited for the consolation of Israel, those good tidings (so the original reads it, without the tautology of our translation, good tidings of good), put this construction upon it, O Zion! thy God reigns. Note, When bad news is abroad this is good news, and when good news is abroad this is the best news, that Zion’s God reigns, that God is Zion’s God, in covenant with her, and as such he reigns, Ps. 146:10; Zech. 9:9. The Lord has founded Zion, Isa. 14:32. All events have their rise in the disposals of the kingdom of his providence and their tendency to the advancement of the kingdom of his grace. This must be applied to the preaching of the gospel, which is a proclamation of peace and salvation; it is gospel indeed, good news, glad tidings, tidings of victory over our spiritual enemies and liberty from our spiritual bondage. The good news is that the Lord Jesus reigns and all power is given to him. Christ himself brought these tidings first (Luke 4:18; Heb. 2:3), and of him the text speaks: How beautiful are his feet! his feet that were nailed to the cross, how beautiful upon Mount Calvary! his feet when he came leaping upon the mountains (Song 2:8), how beautiful were they to those who knew his voice and knew it to be the voice of their beloved! His ministers proclaim these good tidings; they ought to keep their feet clean from the pollutions of the world, and then they ought to be beautiful in the eyes of those to whom they are sent, who sit at their feet, or rather at Christ’s in them, to hear his word. They must be esteemed in love for their work’s sake (1 Thess. 5:13), for their message sake, which is well worthy of all acceptation. 2. Those to whom the tidings are brought shall be put thereby into a transport of joy. (1.) Zion’s watchmen shall then rejoice because they are surprisingly illuminated, Isa. 52:8. The watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls shall lead the chorus in this triumph. Who they were we are told, Isa. 62:6. They were such as God set on the walls of Jerusalem, to make mention of his name, and to continue instant in prayer to him, till he again made Jerusalem a praise in the earth. These watchmen stand upon their watch-tower, waiting for an answer to their prayers (Hab. 2:1); and therefore when the good news comes they have it first, and the longer they have continued and the more importunate they have been in praying for it the more will they be elevated when it comes: They shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing in concert, to invite others to join with them in their praises. And that which above all things will transport them with pleasure is that they shall see eye to eye, that is, face to face. Whereas God had been a God hiding himself, and they could scarcely discern any thing of his favour through the dark cloud of their afflictions, now that the cloud is scattered they shall plainly see it. They shall see Zion’s king eye to eye; so it was fulfilled when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and there were those that saw his glory (John 1:14) and looked upon it, 1 John 1:1. They shall see an exact agreement and correspondence between the prophecy and the event, the promise and the performance; they shall see how they look one upon another eye to eye, and be satisfied that the same God spoke the one and did the other. When the Lord shall bring again Zion out of her captivity the prophets shall thence receive and give fuller discoveries than ever of God’s good-will to his people. Applying this also, as the Isa. 52:8; to gospel times, it is a promise of the pouring out of the Spirit upon gospel ministers, as a spirit of wisdom and revelation, to lead them into all truth, so that they shall see eye to eye, shall see God’s grace more clearly than the Old-Testament saints could see it: and they shall herein be unanimous; in these great things concerning the common salvation they shall concur in their sentiments as well as their songs. Nay, St. Paul seems to allude to this when he makes it the privilege of our future state that we shall see face to face. (2.) Zion’s waste places shall then rejoice because they shall be surprisingly comforted (Isa. 52:9): Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem; that is, all parts of Jerusalem, for it was all in ruins, and even those parts that seemed to lie most desolate shall share in the joy; and they, having little expected it, shall break forth into joy, as men that dream, Ps. 126:1, 2. Let them sing together. Note, Those that share in mercies ought to join in praises. Here is matter for joy and praise. [1.] God’s people will have the comfort of this salvation; and what is the matter of our rejoicing ought to be the matter of our thanksgiving. He has redeemed Jerusalem (the inhabitants of Jerusalem that were sold into the hands of their enemies) and thereby he has comforted his people that were in sorrow. The redemption of Jerusalem is the joy of all God’s people, whose character it is that they look for that redemption, Luke 2:38. [2.] God will have the glory of it, Isa. 52:10. He has made bare his holy arm (manifested and displayed his power) in the eyes of all the nations. God’s arm is a holy arm, stretched out in purity and justice, in defence of holiness and in pursuance of his promise. [3.] All the world will have the benefit of it. In the great salvation wrought out by our Lord Jesus the arm of the Lord was revealed and all the ends of the earth were made to see the great salvation, not as spectators of it only, as they saw the deliverance of the Jews out of Babylon, but as sharers in it; some of all nations, the most remote, shall partake of the benefits of the redemption. This is applied to our salvation by Christ. Luke 3:6; All flesh shall see the salvation of God, that great salvation.
II. It is here spoken of as a great business, which ought to be managed with abundance of care and circumcision. When the liberty is proclaimed, 1. Let the people of God hasten out of Babylon with all convenient speed; though they are ever so well settled there, let them not think of taking root in Babylon, but Depart, depart (Isa. 52:11), go out from the midst of her; not only those that are in the borders, but those that are in the midst, in the heart of the country, let them be gone. Babylon is no place for Israelites. As soon as they have leave to let go, let them lose no time. With this word God stirred up the spirits of those that were moved to go up, Ezra 1:5. And it is a call to all those who are yet in the bondage of sin and Satan to make use of the liberty which Christ has proclaimed to them. And, if the Son make them free, they shall be free indeed. 2. Let them take heed of carrying away with them any of the pollutions of Babylon: Touch no unclean thing. Now that God makes bare his holy arm for you, be you holy as he is, and keep yourselves from every wicked thing. When they came out of Egypt they brought with them the idolatrous customs of Egypt (Ezek. 23:3), which were their ruin; let them take heed of doing so now that they come out of Babylon. Note, When we are receiving any special mercy from God we ought more carefully than ever to watch against all impurity. But especially let those be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord, that is, the priests, who had the charge of the vessels of the sanctuary (when they were restored by a particular grant) to carry them to Jerusalem, Ezra 1:7; 8:23 Let them not only avoid touching any unclean thing, but be very careful to cleanse themselves according to the purification of the sanctuary. Christians are made to our God spiritual priests, Rev. 1:6. They are to bear the vessels of the Lord, are entrusted to keep the ordinances of God pure and entire; it is a good thing that is committed to them, and they ought to be clean, to wash their hands in innocency and so to compass God’s altars and carry his vessels, and keep themselves pure. 3. Let them depend upon the presence of God with them and his protection in their removal (Isa. 52:12): You shall not go out with haste. They were to go with a diligent haste, not to lose time nor linger as Lot in Sodom, but they were not to go with a diffident distrustful haste, as if they were afraid of being pursued (as when they came out of Egypt) or of having the orders for their release recalled and countermanded: no, they shall find that, as for God, his work is perfect, and therefore they need not make more haste than good speed. Cyrus shall give them an honourable discharge, and they shall have an honourable return, and not steal away; for the Lord will go before them as their general and commander-in-chief, and the God of Israel will be their rearward, or he that will gather up those that are left behind. God will both lead their van and bring up their rear; he will secure them from enemies that either meet them or follow them, for with his favour will he compass them. The pillar of cloud and fire, when they came out of Egypt, sometimes went behind them, to secure their rear (Exod. 14:19), and God’s presence with them would now be that to them which that pillar was a visible token of. Those that are in the way of their duty are under God’s special protection; and he that believes this will not make haste.