How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (verses 14-16)
Paul has been talking about faith, the simple but necessary step that brings us into the righteousness of salvation. Now he lays out the chain of causation that leads to that faith.
Paul says saving faith is expressed by calling on the name of the Lord, using a quotation from the Old Testament: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (verse 13). But a number of steps lead up to this point. You won’t ever get around to calling on the name of the Lord unless you’ve believed, which you cannot do unless you’ve heard, which won’t happen if no one’s spoken the message, which won’t be the case if no one has been sent as a messenger. One thing is dependent on another. The chain doesn’t even start until someone is sent.
We played a fantastic game as kids called “Mousetrap.” Maybe you did, too. Fun, wasn’t it? A long, intricate series of mechanisms would get built on the game board, piece by piece, each mechanism connecting to the next. We’d be on the edge of our seats, waiting for the contraption to be complete. Then, some lucky player would get to set it all in motion. I clearly remember a boot on a long lever, swinging to connect with a bucket that would tip, releasing a ball that would run down a long flight of steps, leading to several more connections, finally releasing a trap that would fall on the plastic mouse-shaped game piece sitting defenselessly on the board. Amazing!
One thing leads to another. So, when it comes to faith, is everything in place? Paul quotes again from the Old Testament, this time from Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” The implication is clear – these messengers have indeed been sent. This is the starting point. The whole series is capped off. Everything is in place.
So, applying it to the Jewish people, with whom Paul is so concerned in these chapters, why do so few have faith? Paul gives the answer: “not all the Israelites accepted the good news”(verse 16). The chain of causation has been short-circuited by the willful rejection of the message. The messengers were sent. The message has been heard, indeed understood (verses 19-21 imply as much). But the message wasn’t accepted. Ouch.
We see the same today, don’t we? Indeed, Jesus prepared us for the fact with the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. Good seed requires good soil, namely receptive hearts. Yet, even so, the farmer doesn’t stop. Sowing is what farmers do, because when good seed finally connects with good soil, the harvest is amazing.
We, too, like good farmers, need to keep sowing, because we are a crucial part of the chain of causation. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing requires the message, and messengers need to be sent. We are those messengers. We have indeed been sent. Some are wonderfully gifted. Others, less so. But, there’s no question, each of us is sent.
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:20). “Go into all the world and preach the good news” (Mark 16:15). “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). “Always be prepared to give an answer … for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
Enter the anticipation. The Lord has given you a key role in his purposes – to see faith birthed in someone’s heart. “How beautiful …”
Lord, use even me. Give me eyes to see those to whom I am sent. Give me boldness and joy to share good news. Let faith spring forth.
Pray: Ask the Lord for an opportunity this week to share good news. Be open to however he chooses to do it. Watch. Pray.