The Message and the Mission
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The Message and the Mission

Isaiah 40:6–11  (ID: 3472)

“Behold your God!” On the heels of the announcement of Jerusalem’s impending doom and exile, Isaiah’s exhortation was startling. How could God’s people find comfort after such a calamitous prediction? As Alistair Begg points out, to truly appreciate the Lord’s assurance of salvation, we must first understand the reality of His judgment. Although life is frail and brief, God’s provision in Christ is eternal and infallible. Even after thousands of years and significant world changes, proclaiming God’s Word remains every Christian’s mission.

Series Containing This Sermon

Behold Your God!

Isaiah 40:1–31 Series ID: 12340

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to Isaiah and chapter 40, and we’re going to read from verse 1 to verse 11. Isaiah 40:1–11. It may be that on your screens at home you only get verses 6–11, which is a good argument for not using the screen but having a Bible of your own. But I didn’t plan it in that way.

Isaiah 40:1:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
 and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
 that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand[s]
 double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
 make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
 and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
 and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
 and all flesh shall see it together,
 for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry!”
 And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
 and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
 when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
 surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
 but the word of our God will stand forever.

Go on up to a high mountain,
 O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
 O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
 lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
  “Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
 and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
 and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
 he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
 and gently lead those that are with young.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Father, thank you that your Word is fixed in the heavens.[1] Thank you that all that was written in the past was written so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Bible we might have hope.[2] Grant to us, then, an understanding of your Word and a willingness to see it applied to our lives this day, both individually and as a church family. And we ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, I turned somewhat arbitrarily last Sunday to Isaiah 40, and having done that and having begun to read it and read on through the chapter, which is a familiar chapter to many of us, I said to myself, “I think, actually, verses 6 through to 11 provide us with a very helpful passage for this first Sunday of the new year,” insofar as it provides us with an opportunity to receive a clear reminder of the message that we are to proclaim and of the mission that we are to fulfill. So our title would simply then be “The Message and the Mission.”

We should remind ourselves that this prophecy of Isaiah, written a long, long time ago, first for the people who were its initial readers and pointing ultimately to its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus and yet written also for those of us who live now post–ascension of Jesus and in anticipation of the return of Jesus, so that as we’ve often said in reading the prophets, it’s a bit like hill walking in the Lake District of England: you come to what would appear to be the summit only to reach it and find that there is another vista that takes you on beyond. And so it is in light of that—and I won’t say more than that—it’s in light of that, that we look at this passage, if you like, in the understanding of that more comprehensive element.

Now, I find myself in these days—and I assume that I am not unusual, at least in this respect—with time for reflection. You sit and you think. If you’re traveling in the car, people start on New Year’s resolutions and so on. And it would be unusual if we didn’t ponder where we’ve been and where we’re going. And as I was chewing on some of these things during the week, I had a fairly vivid recollection of a friend of mine, back in the year 2000, saying to me one day, “Alistair, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Now, the fact that I was forty-eight years of age at the time took me back just a little bit. But what he then went on to say was “No, what I’m asking is this: What do you see yourself doing, let’s say, ten years or twenty years from now?” And I replied with words largely to this effect: “Well, I see myself doing what I’m presently doing, but hopefully more effectively.” Although he didn’t say it, I could tell that he was unimpressed by that response. After all, at that moment, in May of 2000, we were just on the threshold of a new millennium. And there I sat, and in response to his question, all I was able to come up with was essentially the same message and the same mission.

And even today, it happens all the time, not just to me but to any who fulfill a role similar to my own. People will come and they’ll say, “So, what’s new? What’s the plan? What do you have for us? After all, Apple is going to build a car. Elon Musk is going to take you to Mars in 2026. Are you really going to tell us, Alistair, that in light of all of this, in the vast development of our world, that you’re really prepared to stand there and say, ‘Yes, same message, same mission’?” Answer: absolutely.

And as I was thinking about this, I had another vivid recollection. You’d be amazed at how many vivid recollections I have, but—and it’s absolutely true. But I had to go find the exact quote, but I knew it. And that is in Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Jane Eyre, in that movie, in the Jane Eyre movie, at one point Jane Eyre is putting her charge—her pupil, if you like—to bed. And as they are getting ready for bed, the little girl, Adele, says to Jane Eyre, “What’s going to happen tomorrow?” And Jane Eyre says, “Well, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.” And she says, “Mademoiselle, will we be very happy?” And Jane Eyre says, “Adele, we will work hard, and we will be content.” Well, that doesn’t sound like much, does it? I think it’s pretty good! There’s a difference between contentment and complacency. Contentment is not the absence of ambition, and ambition still exists side by side with contentment.

The Message

So with all of that in mind, look then at why I say it’s a reminder of the message, first of all: “A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’” Remember we said last time that the voice of God says to his messengers, “I want you to declare comfort to my people.” The people have received this tender message of comfort. And now the voice comes again, calling out the messenger: “What is it that I’m supposed to say?”

Now, the message that is to be conveyed, let me just give you two observations on it.

First of all, it is quite startling. It is quite startling. Last time, I hope we realized the speed with which God’s word of comfort followed upon the pronouncement of doom that was represented back in chapter 39. If your Bible is open, I could just point it out to you: Isaiah 39, and Isaiah is speaking to Hezekiah, and he tells him, “[Listen,] the days are coming,” Isaiah 39:6, “when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.” And then he goes on to describe the significance of what’s going to happen in the exile. That’s chapter 39. When you read 39 straight into 40 without a break—because, after all, there were no breaks in the original text—you realize how startling it is. The word of the prophet in relationship to the exile of the people, the word that has declared their great difficulty and the darkness that will befall them, is immediately followed up by the story of God’s comfort.

Now, if you like, the story of the Old Testament could be encapsulated in relationship to the people of God by a consideration of just two elements. One would be the exodus from Egypt, where God comes and redeems his people and brings them out, and then the restoration from the exile in which they found themselves. Salvation and restoration. The intentions of God for his people triumphed over their rebellions. Notice that: the intentions of God for his people triumphed over their rebellions, and the intentions of God for us, his people, triumph over our frailties. The people who have known struggles in their lives, who have strayed from God’s ways in perhaps a singular fashion, those individuals, within the arena of salvation, within the context of God’s comforting love, are the ones who are able to speak most directly and fondly of the wonder of God’s embrace, of this amazing transition from the wilderness wanderings and the darkness of the heart and the rebellion that has marked us and to be caught up in his amazing love.

So, that’s the first observation: it is quite startling, this message. And it is also a serious message. And that is, as you will see back in verse 5, on account of the fact that “the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” “The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Calvin, in his Institutes, has a wonderful sentence when he says, “God deigns to consecrate to himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that his voice may resound in them.”[3] “God deigns to consecrate to himself the mouths and [the] tongues of [mere] men in order that his voice may resound in them.” That is the significance of it. That is why it is so unbelievably significant and why it is so serious. We’re not simply dealing here with just any old piece of material. The infallibility of Scripture… We don’t believe that Scripture is infallible because we can prove it to be infallible. We can’t prove it to be infallible. On what basis, then, do we declare the infallibility of the Bible? The answer is that the only ground of witness to the infallibility of Scripture is Scripture itself. Scripture testifies to its own origin, to its own power, to its own character, and to its own authority, for there is nothing higher or stronger than Scripture itself. You can think that out on your own. But we must proceed.

Sticking with that, notice, then, the source of the message is here before us:

All flesh is grass,
 … all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
 when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
 surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
 but the word of our God will stand forever.

So the Bible is no ordinary book. The Bible is breathed out by God. In Hebrews we read that it is “living and active.”[4] It discerns the thoughts of people’s hearts and minds and the intentions of people’s lives. We don’t actually come, as I say to you, to understand the Bible, we don’t come to submit to the authority of the Bible, by simply human logic or by compelling arguments. You will never, ever come to believe the Bible savingly, you will never, ever come to trust the Bible unreservedly, as a result of someone giving you compelling logical arguments that come from outside the Scriptures themselves. I guarantee you, it will never happen. The only way that a man or a woman will ever come to a convinced view of the Word of God is by the persuasive influence of God himself—that God the Holy Spirit brings God’s Word to bear upon one of God’s creatures in such a way that they say, “I believe it.”

Now, the Bible makes this clear. The natural person does not receive the things of the spirit, because they’re foolishness to them. You go back to work tomorrow and tell people, “Well, we had a bit of a talk yesterday concerning the message we’re supposed to proclaim to the world.” “Oh,” says the friend, “and what was that?” “Well, it’s the message about God coming in Jesus and Jesus providing a sacrifice for sin.” “Oh,” the person says, “please, we’re done with that in this age. Don’t you know that Apple’s going to have an electric car? Don’t you know that you can go to Mars? Don’t you realize the world has moved on?” And well, you’re just left saying, “Well, what in the world happened to me? What happened to me?”

The only way that a man or a woman will ever come to a convinced view of the Word of God is by the persuasive influence of God himself.

Well, the Scriptures made you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.[5] You started to read the Bible, and the Bible pointed you to Jesus. And as it pointed you to Jesus, you discovered that life is found in Jesus. And having discovered that life is found in Jesus, you came to invite Christ to be your life, that his life might be lived in and through you.

Now, that just to say a word concerning the source of this message. The source of the message is Scripture itself.

What is the substance of the message? Well, I’m not going to reread it, but it is there in these verses before you. What is the messenger to cry?—coming back to where I was a little earlier. I mean, this is a question I get all the time. People say to me—and I’m sure they say to my colleagues the same thing—“How do you come up with something every Sunday? There’s so many Sundays in a year. What do you do? You go away, and you have to stay all by yourself, and then you come back? How do you come up with something?” And I always say, “You should be very glad that I can’t ‘come up something,’ that I don’t ‘come up with something.’” God actually warns his people about prophets who “come up with something.” You can read this in Jeremiah 23: “Thus says the Lord of hosts,” verse 16: “‘Do[n’t] listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes.’”

“It’s going to be a great year! Believe it. Believe it! Are you believing it?” People say, “What’s he talking about?” I was getting a coffee three weeks ago, and there was a sign in the window that just said, “Believe.” I wanted to smash the window. Because the shop was closed, I wanted to go in and put next to it “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”[6] But “Believe” doesn’t work. That’s what God says: “Don’t listen to the words of the prophets who tell you ‘Believe!’ and fill you with vain hopes.”

“They speak visions of their own minds, [they’re] not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It [will] be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say [to them], ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” Well, they haven’t gone very far beyond Genesis 3, have they? And the devil says, “No, it’s not a problem. It’s not a problem. Go ahead.” “In the day that you eat of it you [will] surely die.”[7] And the Evil One comes and says, “You’ll never die. Don’t worry about that. Of course not!”[8] Who are you gonna listen to? What’s the basis of the message? Later on in the same chapter he says, “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream,” if that’s what he wants to do, “but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord.”

Now, what you have here is not simply the contrast between the frailty and brevity of life. You do have that contrast. It is there, isn’t it? The “flesh is [like] grass,” the “beauty is like the flower of the field.” There are very few flowers out there at the moment. But I want you to notice that you can get this truth somewhere other than the Bible. I mean, you can get this truth just by existing. If your children are here this morning, you say, “Goodness, my dad’s starting to look a little old. My papa, he looks really old, and my grandmother, what’s happening?” And then suddenly it dawns on the child: you know, as you progress, you begin to fade. Your mental powers fade, your abilities, your physical frame, and everything else that goes along with it. Anybody that just exists can understand that. Everybody in the world knows that. One out of one dies.

But you see, there’s a phrase here that is easily passed over, and it’s the key phrase, I suggest to you. “The grass withers, the flower fades.” Why does the grass wither and the flower fade? Well, “when the breath of the Lord blows on it.” It’s the metaphor here, isn’t it? You think of the winds in California, and in the morning you get up, and your yard looks very, very nice, and they start to blow, blow through the whole day and the night and into the next day, and before you know where you are, all the beauty has been actually devastated.

Now, let me just pause with you on this for a moment, as I think I must. Turn, if you have a Bible there, to Psalm 90 for a moment to cross-reference this. The flower fades, the grass withers, because the breath of the Lord blows on it. In other words, you see, the expression of the frailty and brevity of life is in the context of God’s judgment. In the context of God’s judgment.

Now, Psalm 90 is usually regarded as the funeral psalm. That’s what people say: “Well, they read this psalm at funerals.” And you will have been at funerals where they do read it. But as I’ve pointed out to you before, almost inevitability they skip verses 7–12, which, of course, explains the human predicament.

Look at verse 7. You won’t get this at most funerals: “For we are brought to an end by your anger.” Now, we’re going to have to do something with that then, aren’t we? We said, “‘Lord, you have been our dwelling place [through] all generations.’[9] It’s been a wonderful time. Oh, Bill was a fine fellow. I remember we golfed frequently and so on. And in the run of events, eventually it all comes to an end, and here we are today to celebrate his life.” Not a word given to why in the world it was he died in the first place, or why anybody dies!

“We are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.” Death is not the intended lot of God’s creation. Death is God’s judgment upon sin: “In the day that you shall eat of this you will surely die.” And so verses 9 and 10, if your Bible is open:

All our days pass away under your wrath;
 we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
 or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
 they are soon gone, and we [all] fly away.
[But] who considers the power of your anger,
 and your wrath according to [their] fear of you?

You see, verses 9 and 10, that experience of the demise of our lives, we will never come to without the revealing power of God the Holy Spirit. We are resistant to this. Romans chapter 8 says that the natural mind is at enmity with God.[10] It’s actually opposed to God. The idea that as we go amongst our friends, they’re all living in some neutral zone—if they want to opt into the believing idea of the Bible, that’s possible, but if they want just to remain in the neutral zone in which they find themselves, that is equally possible—the Bible says you’re not in a neutral zone. By nature, we have no interest in God. By nature, we are at enmity with God, and we’re hastening towards the judgment of God.

You see, sin has affected our thinking, all of our thinking, in such a way that we are unwilling to or unable to acknowledge the truth that is plain to see both in creation and in Scripture. You’ve thought about this, haven’t you? I know you have, because people say to me all the time, “But I told my friend, and they just don’t see it! I mean, this is obvious as the nose on your face.” People will say things like that. Why is it, then, that things that are so obvious in creation…? I just said as a joke to my son the other day as he nursed our latest little grandchild—and his first son, he was pointing something out about the nature of the event, and I said as I was just doing something else in passing, I said, “Yes, it’s a wonderful thing, evolution, isn’t it?” And he said, “Dad, you mean creation?” I said, “Of course I mean creation. I was just testing you.”

Now, why is that? Romans 1 explains it. The things that are obvious, that God has revealed—put conscience in the human heart, revealed himself in this way—why is it that that which is straightforward is then rebelled against, that is denied? Well, you see, although it is plain—plain enough to make us accountable—the message never registers until God brings it home to us. You say, “Well, that would take a miracle, wouldn’t it?” That’s exactly right.

You see, one of the ways you can learn how to teach passages of the Old Testament is to find out what people have done with it in the New Testament. And we’re wonderfully helped in this regard, because Peter quotes this exact section when in his first chapter he goes on to say, “‘The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”[11] “The good news that was preached to you.” The Word of God is not simply there as the contrast to human brevity and frailty but as the cure to our brevity and our frailty. You go back and read 1 Peter yourself. He says, “I’ve been born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And this has been brought about not by perishable seed but by imperishable seed.”[12] This, my friends, was the message then, and it is the message now.

The Mission

Now, we spent fairly long on that. Let’s turn quickly and say something about the mission.

Without a message, there is no mission. That should be fairly straightforward. Everybody that I see, all the advertisements on the television, are all there: they have a message, and then they have a mission to convey it. And that’s what is told here. They are heralds of good news: “Zion,” a “herald of good news,” “Jerusalem, herald of good news.” I take it that the word of comfort and tenderness that has come by the prophet to the people is then to be taken by those same people to, if you like, the outlying cities and territories of Judah. If you’re perceptive—which includes many of you—you will realize what is happening here. He says to Jerusalem, “Now you go and take this to Judah.” Sounds a lot like the word of Jesus a little later on: “And you shall take this from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, to the very ends of the earth.”[13] This is the mission. This is the mission.

And you say, “Well, I’ve been tracking with you fairly well. I don’t like the stuff about the anger of God,” some of you are saying. “I don’t like the notion of the judgment of God and so on.” Well, let me suggest to you that there is absolutely no benefit in hearing good news unless we have first understood the nature of the bad news. For the news that comes of salvation is because of the reality of sin. The news that comes of life, and life eternal, is because of the reality of death. The news that comes of a miraculous intervention is on account of the fact that we can’t fix ourselves. And so, once you have received the message, then you’ll want to do what we’re told to do here.

The Word of God is not simply there as the contrast to human brevity and frailty but as the cure.

And look at what we’re told to do. First of all, “Go up on a high mountain.” “Go up on a high mountain.” Well, are you supposed to go up on a high mountain? I love it when people say, “Well, I just like to take the Bible literally.” I say, “Okay, so where are you heading for, Everest? Or what’s your plan? You could go to Ben Nevis. That’s a smaller one. I can point you in that direction.” No, obviously, although the literal possibilities of a vantage point on a hillside are clear, it’s straightforward: “Make sure that you put yourself in a position where the message can be heard.” Well, why don’t you broadcast on the radio? That’s quite a mountaintop! Why don’t you take it on the internet? That’s quite a mountaintop! And so on. “Go up.”

And then “Lift up.” “Lift up your voice.” “Lift up your voice.” Well, now don’t be going around just mumbling in your beard and whispering and saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t really like to mention this, but…” No, no, no! It doesn’t mean bravado. It doesn’t mean shouting at people. It doesn’t mean calling people down. It doesn’t mean anything like that at all. It means, like, it’s a very, very hot day, and you found a van that was moving through the neighborhood, but its bell wasn’t working, and you discovered that it was selling ice cream, and you got an ice cream, and you said, “I gotta let the people know: there’s a van around here that has ice cream! You’ll love this ice cream. Trust me. I’ve already had two.” That’s the spirit of it: “I have discovered that there is comfort, there is joy, there is peace, there is salvation, there is restoration. And I want you to know that there is, and I’d love for you to hear about it.” That’s the mission: “Lift up your voice.”

And look: “Fear not.” “Fear not.” Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Proclaim it fearlessly! We need in our day what was needed in Isaiah’s day: people who were prepared to declare the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God without fear. And part of the problem is that there is a loss of confidence in the pulpits of our churches, where the trumpet sounds somewhat uncertainly, and as a result, very few go out to battle.

Now, you see, we don’t look like much this morning. We don’t look like much on any morning—not compared to the vast area of Cleveland-Akron-Canton. How many out of a thousand are concerned about the Word of God, the gospel of God, the Son of God in comparison to whether the Browns will beat the Steelers starting at twelve or one o’clock? There’s no judgment in that. It makes perfect sense: “Well, what am I living for? Let’s watch the game.” Of course! It’s fun! Then what?

No, you see, we’ve gotta realize that the message we have to proclaim is a straightforward message. Look: “Behold your God!” This is what you’re to say: “Behold your God!”—in contrast to the gods of the nations, which were absolutely hopeless, as we saw last time. It’s an old chestnut, but I like it, where the curate in the Anglican Church is now going to be given the opportunity to preach for the first occasion in the absence of the vicar, and he’s somewhat unsettled by it, and he sends a postcard to the local bishop, and he says to him, “Dear Bishop: What shall I preach about?” And the bishop sent him a one-sentence reply: “Dear Curate: Preach about God, and preach about twenty minutes.”

In other words, this is the message: “Tell them about God. Tell them two things about God.”

Number one, his greatness. His greatness:

Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
 and his arm rules for him;
… his reward is with him,
 … his recompense [is with] him.

He brings his children with him. He brings the fruits of his labors with him. He comes, and the redeemed of the Lord return and come with singing into Zion—the rewards of his work. He’s great. He has no need of support. The flock that he tends he has worked for and he now holds in his care.

Well, so it goes from his greatness to his gentleness. And there you have it in verse 11. The same arm that rules is the arm that carries: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd.”

Now, if we continue next week in this—and we might—I want you to notice, in case we don’t, that verses 12 and following save verse 11 (this is gonna sound strange) from itself, and verse 11 saves the sort of transcendent view of God from making us think only of a God who is so far removed and is not involved with us at all. In the one respect, what happens is it all becomes very cozy, and we forget the greatness of God, that he presides over the nations of the world, that the nations of the world are like a drop in a bucket to him. That’s the same thing. You have to keep these two things in tension: “God is great, and here is his gentleness.”

Look how he deals with us: He “tend[s] his flock like a shepherd.” He “gather[s] the lambs in his arms.” He actually “carr[ies] them in his bosom,” all wrapped up and close to his heart. And those who are fragile he doesn’t drive but he “lead[s].” Well, of course, it’s impossible to read this without coming immediately to Jesus as the Good Shepherd, as the one who seeks us in tenderness, as the one who puts us on his shoulders. Remember, he puts it on his shoulders. He found the sheep that was lost, and he came back, and there was great rejoicing.[14] What a wonder!

So in actual fact, from verse 1 to verse 11, you get to verse 11, and you’ve gone full circle: “Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God,” all the way through that, and here we come back, and what is this picture we have of him? Looking upon his people and tending them in this way.

Well, the message is God’s Word and not our word. The substance of it is the frailty of our lives, God’s penalty for sin, and his provision for us in that predicament. Our mission is to go up, to lift up, don’t fold up, and be bold, and seize the opportunity of our day in a way that many of us are increasingly fearful to do.

Let me just tell you of part of my reading this week. I was reading again J. C. Ryle in his book on what happened in eighteenth-century England when England was at its absolute lowest point. And, of course, it’s the story of the people that God raised up—Whitefield and Wesley and so on. And J. C. Ryle, the bishop of Liverpool, is then writing in 1868. And in 1868, he’s saying, “Now, what are we going to do now? Is there any hope for us now?” And then, essentially, his thesis is straightforward: “Yes. The remedy that was there in the eighteenth century is the remedy for us in the nineteenth.” And he actually says, “We want nothing new—no new systems, no new [symbols] of teaching, … no new gospel. We want nothing but the old truths [mightily] preached and rightly brought home to consciences, minds, and wills. … There never has been good done [to] the world [except] by the … preaching of evangelical truth.”[15]

So what has happened? Well, he says, “[I’m sad to announce that the preachers of our day]”—now, this is nineteenth-century England—“[the preachers of our day] are neither so full nor so distinct, nor so bold, nor so uncompromising. They are afraid of strong statements.”[16] “Let us [then],” he says, “lay hold … [of the] evangelical … truth of God, and never[, never] be ashamed to confess it.”[17]

That is the message, and this is the mission. And tomorrow is the future.

Father, thank you that in many ways, what we’re doing now is putting our foot in the door in order that the young men that come behind us will be so gripped by these truths, so convinced of the authority and sufficiency of the Bible, so stirred by the message of comfort in a world of weakness and of majesty in a world of individualism, so convinced that they are prepared to take this mission out, up onto the mountains, out onto the airwaves, lifting up their voices, fearing not, being bold. O raise them up, Lord, we pray, in our generation, in order that the children that sit around us now may be under the tutelage of such men and that we will understand why it is that Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”[18] Hear us, O God, as we cry to you. In Christ’s name. Amen.

[1] See Psalm 119:89.

[2] See Romans 15:4.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 2:1018.

[4] Hebrews 4:12 (ESV).

[5] See 2 Timothy 3:15.

[6] See Acts 16:31.

[7] Genesis 2:17 (ESV).

[8] Genesis 3:4 (paraphrased).

[9] Psalm 90:1 (ESV).

[10] See Romans 8:7.

[11] 1 Peter 1:24–25 (ESV).

[12] 1 Peter 1:3, 23 (paraphrased).

[13] Acts 1:8 (paraphrased).

[14] See Luke 15:3–7.

[15] J. C. Ryle, The Christian Leaders of the Last Century; or, England a Hundred Years Ago (London, 1869), 428–29.

[16] Ryle, 430.

[17] Ryle, 431.

[18] Matthew 24:35; Luke 21:33 (NIV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.