Scottish Summer Swamps
Mairi has got a very low tolerance to cold feet; I could happily wear flip-flops all year round. Mairi is genuinely upset if the temperature of her feet drops by even a fraction of a degree below the average temperature of ‘slipper heaven’ whereas I couldn’t care less.
We were wandering around a Christian Festival several years ago. It was a summer festival but it was a summer festival in Scotland and no-one had told us to bring Wellington Boots. It had been very wet, annoyingly wet, and the grassy fields had morphed into muddy swamps with the heavily-milling footfall.
Earlier in the afternoon we were in St Andrews and we’d popped in to Jack Wills where Mairi had bought some pristinely-white flip flops (or, for my Aussie readers, thongs…chortle). Soon enough, pristinely-white met muddy-brown and it was quickly apparent that bare-foot was the way forward. We looked silly walking through fields with mud oozing through our toes but there wasn’t much choice.
Metaphorically speaking, did Mairi and I have what it takes to walk obediently with God in gospel-fruitfulnes?
The Context of Sennacherib
The notion of having beautiful feet is lost on us when we don’t contextualise the passage of Isaiah’s prophecy. So, remember last Friday when I pulled a yellow highlighter pen out of my back pocket and focused on verse 1? This week we need to look at verse 2 with an equally vibrant colour.
God is speaking to His captive people. Unlike the conversations He shared with Adam in Eden as they walked together in a garden, just as things were supposed to be, here He is talking to His battered, oppressed and fearful family under a type of Assyrian Satan. Things had gone very wrong and the heart of God was grieved.
Earlier in Isaiah 37, Israel and her Yahweh are mocked by this Assyrian Tyrant, Sennacherib, during the righteous rule of King Hezekiah. And, as though still echoing intimidatingly fifteen chapters later, we’re reminded that this is the context in which God proclaims the beauty of our redeemed feet.
Believing our beauty to God is the key to our deliverance from fear.
What Happens When We Think Our Feet Are Ugly
When we think our feet are ugly we get timid.
When we think it’s about our grip on Him rather than His on us, we get timid. This is exactly what Sennacherib wanted for Israel and Hezekiah and what Satan wants for the church corporately and you and I individually.
In verse 2 of our advent passage (Isa.52:1-8), God is countering the lie of Israel’s enemy and, simultaneously, announcing the beauty of our mountainous impact on a lost world when we share the gospel today – even in our weakness.
Satan suggests our timid ugliness; God roars our beautiful boldness in the Holy Spirit.
We have received, as Timothy learnt, a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7) and yet Satan will behave towards us as though we were grasshoppers in the hope that we’ll believe that we are. (See Numbers 13:33).
Beautiful Bold – Inward Appearances
I wish I had a photo to show you of our feet at that Summer Festival in muddy St Andrews.
We were being prayed for at the front of a meeting later that day as I looked down on our disgraceful feet when this same courage-giving Spirit reminded me that, despite outward appearances, Mairi and I have beautiful feet because we have been redeemed at a price. More than that, we have been redeemed and sent to take our redemption to others.
Let ‘gospel boldness’ arise this advent.
When a person has been with the King, it takes more effort not to witness than it does to witness. The courage of the early church was a direct outgrowth of her prayer life. Acts 4:31 says, “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness”.
Sammy Tippit – Fire In Your Heart, page 49.