I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix is, in many ways, a beautiful place. It is also a desert. Dry and arid, it boasts a rather monochromatic landscape dotted with black asphalt and grey-green cacti. A number of homes bear green, grassy lawns, but more still choose to decorate their yards with a rocky collection of quartz and granite stones gathered together in ways that are both beautiful and, more importantly, easily cared for in a region with very little rain.
It is this lack of rain that draws my attention. Phoenix is a valley, surrounded on all sides by towering mountains which present a natural barrier to incoming storms. Outside of monsoon season, most storm clouds find themselves halted as they encounter the elevations surrounding the city, with the high peaks enticing them to release their moisture before they ever reach the valley below.
Water is central to life, and the foliage of these mountain passes stands in pronounced contrast to the packed soil of the underlying metropolis. From within the city, one can also look up at the surrounding range and be inspired by their majesty and beauty, especially in the early evening as the sun sets behind the rocky horizon.
It comes as no surprise to me, therefore, that so much of scripture places the incredible, majestic works of God within a mountain setting. God settled on Mount Sinai to deliver the covenant to a fledgling Israelite nation.
The Israelite Temple, center of worship in the life of the children of God, was built upon the Temple Mount. Jesus delivered his famous “Sermon On The Mount” from a mountainside, and likewise called forth his disciples from a mountain. It was at the top of a mountain that the closest disciples of Jesus experienced the marvel of the transfiguration.
To me, however, one of the most beautiful mountaintop expressions in scripture is found in Isaiah 52. Here, the prophet speaks to a captive nation, declaring “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” (Isaiah 52:7)
This verse is often viewed as the mantra of the evangelist (“evangelism” comes from the Greek euangelion, meaning “good news”), yet in today’s culture the feet of the evangelist are rarely considered beautiful.
Often, even the term “evangelist” has come to carry a negative connotation. For those of us who know the peace of God, who have encountered the Good News, who have experienced salvation and who have entered into the reign of God, there is an innate desire to share the same freedom we have come to know with others. So, how do we do it in ways that are still beautiful? Here are three secrets to becoming a messenger with “beautiful feet.”
Three Secrets to Sharing Your Faith in Beautiful Ways
1) Pay Attention
The very next verse in Isaiah begins with the emphatic instruction to listen. At least, this is the best word we have in English to capture the idea. The Hebrew literally translates to “pay close attention to the voice.” I think a better translation would simply be “shut up and pay attention.”
Why is this important? Because good communication always begins with listening. More importantly, however, sharing one’s faith is never a matter of manipulation or debate, it is always a matter of love. The decision to love people honestly and without agenda means we begin by listening, not by speaking.
2) Know That God Is Already at Work
It fascinates me that the prophet in this passage is speaking to a people in captivity, a people whose temple lies in ruins in a city far away from where they have been taken. Despite this, Isaiah proclaims the redemption of God as if it has already happened, identifying both ruins and reconciliation when he says “break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 52:9)
This reveals something very important: God is already at work before we ever get involved. If we begin by loving people honestly and without agenda, we continue by loving God and trusting His work.
3) Participate Where God Is
If God is at work, and we are paying attention, then at some point we will come to identify where God is at work and where He is inviting us to join Him. The cry of the prophet in Isaiah 52 reaches its climax in a call for response, a call to “depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of it, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.” (Isaiah 52:11)
The vessels of the Lord were very special, for they inhabited the temple where God was to be worshipped. The most important vessel was the Ark of the Covenant, upon which the presence of God was believed to dwell.
Those of us who are His children are called to participate in two very important ways: through personal holiness we reveal the beauty of our God (“purify yourselves!”), and as emissaries we display the revealed God to the world (“you who carry the vessels of the Lord”). The principal work of evangelism is simply this: reveal to the world where God is already at work.
This is the heart of evangelism: to love God with everything that you are, and love people with everything that you are. Evangelism happens in the overlap.
… And that makes for some beautiful feet.