Where We Hear God’s Name
“‘…continually all the day my name is despised. Therefore, my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.'”
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'”
– Isaiah 52:5-6
How God Responds to the Belittling of His Name
In this passage of Isaiah, God’s name is being belittled among the nations because of the oppression of His people. “Therefore” He will make His name known. The response to the defaming of God’s name is the declaration of His name, not only to His people, but to all nations (52:10,15). The great work of God in history and the purpose for reality itself is described in this passage: that the name (character, nature, glory) of God be known. The communication of Himself to what is not Himself is what God is ultimately “up to” in all of His doings in this world. So, in this passage, what will the manifestation of His name look like?
Verses 7-12 explain that the revealing of YHWH’s name will take the form of/result in the salvation of His people. He will take His rightful place as the reigning king of the world (v.7), will return to Zion in glory (v.8), and, by the working of His Holy arm, He will draw His people out of captivity and to Himself while displaying His saving power before all nations (v.10).
The great work of verses 7-12 is both the self-revelation of YHWH and the salvation of His people. The Lord has so bound His people to Himself (and this includes you if you are in Christ), that to save them is to make Himself known. To flex His steadfast love in the sovereign service of those whom He has covenanted to Himself, to lift them out of captivity and bring them to Himself, they being His people and He being their God, is to declare His name and to reveal his heart. When God saves His people, he manifests His name, and when He manifests His name, He saves His people.
How God Declares His Name and Saves His Own
Now, the question is what form does this salvation take? How will God save His people and make Himself known? Those familiar with the New Testament will find a hint in v.7:
“how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…”
This is a gospel verse. Paul quotes it in Romans 10:15 in reference to those who proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. This means that we are invited to understand the message of salvation from Isaiah 52:7-12 (summarized in the statement, “your God reigns”) as a prophetic proclamation of the gospel of Christ.
So, back to our question: How does YHWH make His name known to His people? How does He save His own out of captivity? Verses 7-12 tell us that He will do it, ultimately, through the gospel of Jesus Christ. But there is more….
The prophecy of salvation in verses 7-12 moves – without note of transition – into a description of the person and work of the Suffering Servant beginning in 52:13. The good news of “your God reigns” (52:7) becomes the astonishing image of a man exalted even as he is “marred beyond human semblance.” The promise that, eye to eye, God’s people will see Him returning to Zion morphs into the account of a “man of sorrows” from whom men “hide their faces.” And yet Isaiah tells us that this marred and rejected Servant is the “arm of the YHWH” (53:1) by whom YHWH works His salvific purposes in the world. What are we to make of this seemingly dissonant transition?
We are Saved and YHWH is Manifested in the Marring of the Servant.
This is where the apostle John helps us. In John’s gospel, like nowhere else, the sufferings of Christ, the manifestation of God’s name, and the salvation of God’s people are beautifully intertwined. What we learn from the beloved apostle is that the crucifixion of Jesus was actually the work in which He most revealed Himself to be the God of Israel (John 8:28). It was when Jesus was lifted up on the cross, when He was pouring Himself out in love for His people, when He was trampling sin, Satan, and death into the mire of Golgotha under His nail-pierced feet, when He was bearing the transgressions and punishment of His people, it was when the Suffering Servant was given over wholly to destruction for love’s sake that He most manifested the heart, the nature, the NAME of YHWH our God.
YHWH will save His people and this salvation will be a making known of His name. What we find, however, is that this salvific communication of God’s name comes to us through the gospel of the Suffering Servant. We are saved and God is revealed when the Servant is “high and lifted up, and…exalted” (Isaiah 52:13), and this form-marring, sin-bearing, soul-outpouring, Name-communicating, world-saving work of YHWH will happen at the cross.
Thoughts for Today
When the name of YHWH is belittled, He makes it known, and in making it known, He saves captives. We live in a world where the name of the one true God is being defamed every moment of the day, and we live in a world where billions are still bound in the captivity of sin and hatred……and according to Isaiah 52, these two realities are both remedied by the person of Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant exalted on the Cross.
If we would see God’s name declared to the Church and the world with king-silencing, nation-winning power and beauty, then let us speak out of an overflowing heart that has been soaked in the person of Christ as revealed at the cross….And if we would see captives come home, let our mouths be filled with the good news that “our God reigns,” and that, from Calvary’s tree, He reigns as a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness for any who would receive Him.