Long ago, God spoke to Israel through the prophet Isaiah spoke when Israel was in trouble. They were in trouble because the Egyptians and the Assyrians were oppressing them, this was the trouble outside and around them. But they were also in trouble because of what was going on within them. Idolatry was rampant among them. Much of the people was looking to all kinds of things other than God for rescue, relief, and rest. But, not all the people had given themselves over to such idolatry, there was a faithful few, a remnant. Yet this remnant despaired over of the state and condition of the people. Into their despair came the prophet’s word. Through Isaiah God spoke of a coming day when things would be different. A day when God’s people would no longer be discouraged, dismayed, and downtrodden. A day when God’s people would no longer be oppressed by enemies. And a day when God’s people would no longer be plagued by the sin within them. No, in this day God will cause a great rejoicing in His people because He will save His people from their enemies and from themselves. And when He does this He’ll send forth messengers with the announcement of good news. News of peace, of happiness, and of salvation. Isaiah says these messengers will come over the mountains proclaiming, “Your God reigns!” And because of how beautiful their message is, Isaiah says the feet of these messengers are beautiful.
Feet. Curious huh? Is that what you think of when you hear the word beautiful? Feet? No. When I think of feet there isn’t too much beauty that comes to my mind. And I venture to guess that many of you would say the same. Most people today wouldn’t even put ‘feet’ in the category of beautiful. But, and what a lesson there is for us in this (!), Paul did. He knew that Israel of old, oppressed by the nations and troubled by their own sin, would’ve been thrilled to hear the message of God’s coming salvation. Paul knew they concluded the feet of those bringing such a message to be simply beautiful. He knew that was true back in Isaiah’s day. But now, as Paul reflects on his own time and on the state of these Christians in Rome, he uses this very passage from Isaiah 52 to show us the beauty of gospel preaching. But not only so. Because the message is so beautiful and wonderful, Paul also shows us what a tragedy it is to be blind to such beauty.
So, beauty and blindness is what’s before us today. This is where we’re headed as we continue on in Romans 10:14-21. But briefly, allow me to show you how this passage fits into the whole of Romans. (show this on the board: how v13 leads to v14-17 and how v14-17 then lead to v18-21, which in turn leads to all of chapter 11.)
Abundant Beauty (v14-17)
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
As we’ve seen, v13 is the immediate point of connection with the passage we examined last week. v13 quoting Joel 2 states, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This then naturally brings up certain questions. Questions that are like a kind of staircase, where one question creates another, which in turn creates another and another. This is what’s happening before us here in v14-15. v13 gives us the grand truth: all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. But… people can’t call on Him if they don’t believe in Him, and they can’t believe in Him if they’ve never heard of Him, and they can’t hear of Him unless someone is preaching, and no one will preach of Him unless they’re sent by Him. This is good to see, these questions press home within us a great sense of gospel spreading urgency. Which, we’re ever in need of as we rise and fall in our missionary and evangelistic zeal.
But if we turn these questions around, work backward from v15-14, and put them in a more positive sense I think we see something of glory. God truly does send out preachers to herald and proclaim His gospel grace. And by them, insofar as they’re faithful in their preaching, people truly do hear the gospel. And when people truly hear the gospel, some people truly do believe in this message. And when people truly believe in this message, they will call out to the Lord, and when one calls out to the Lord, they will be saved! Amen and amen!
So this staircase of questions then, both forward and backward presses an urgency on us and gives us a glimpse of glory. After this staircase of questions comes Paul’s use of Isaiah 52, “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” Why does he do this? Simply put we could say, as beautiful as the message of salvation was to OT Israel back then in their own context, so too is the message of the gospel today in our context. There are still enemies surrounding God’s people today, and there’s still sin troubling God’s people within. Into our discouragement, dismay, and downtrodden state comes beautiful feet bearing a message from God. These feet aren’t beautiful because they’re feet. These feet aren’t beautiful because of the person they belong to. These feet are beautiful because of the beautiful message they bring. A message announcing that God has broken in to this dark and world and brought light in the Person of His Son and in Him God has done the impossible and brought salvation to all who believe in Him. Yes!
But, my goodness, Paul wants us to be aware that though God has done this work and though God sends out preachers to preach this great message, not everyone who hears it, believes it. And remember, Paul has reminded us of this before. His great concern and great heart for his own people was birthed and has grown because they rejected this very message. Chapter 9 began like this, chapter 10 began like this, and Lord willing next week we’ll see chapter 11 begin like this. See it in v16. Paul once again goes back quotes Isaiah (from the very same context he just quoted before), making it clear that this rejection was true in Isaiah’s day as well. Messengers went out with their beautiful message, they proclaimed it, some responded to it in belief, but not all Israel believed. The same is true today. Grief over rejection remains. Perhaps we can say, Isaiah’s grief has become Paul’s grief, and Paul’s grief has in a sense become our grief. Notice though how v16 puts it? It doesn’t say ‘But they have not all rejected, disbelieved, or denied the gospel’ it doesn’t say that does it? No, it says “…not all have obeyed the gospel.” It puts this in terms of obedience. Why so? I think Paul puts it in terms of obedience to make it plain that those who reject the gospel are not just refusing to believe a message, as if it’s optional or one path out of many we can choose in this life. No, all who reject the gospel are being disobedient to God. Or, at the root of all unbelief, is a heart that doesn’t just say no to the gospel, but a heart that refuses to submit to God because self is king. Sad indeed.
But we do not lose heart when we read v16, why? Because of v17! It ought to grieve us when we read v16, that not everyone calls on, hears about, believes in, or is obedient to the Lord. But, faith, belief, salvation truly does happen! How? Through hearing the Word of Christ. v16 ought to lay us low in sadness over the lostness of man, but v17 ought to lift us high in the knowledge that through the proclamation of Christ and His gospel, sinners truly have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved!
There’s so much to glean in this. Allow me to just state three implications here that flow directly out from this:
First, these verses are part of the foundation and fuel for all the missionary might we can muster. Yes, God is sovereign over all things as chapter 9 states He is, but we as the Church aren’t mere spectators in the grand plan of God in the world. We’re active participants in it locally and globally, and therefore we ought to be zealously laboring and working to do all we can do to get the gospel out to as many as we can. Sin is too strong, hell is too horrible, Christ is too precious, and heaven is too beautiful to keep this message to ourselves.
There really are only three options when it comes to ‘gospel sending’ work in the world for Christians.
Option one, we could go. We all could go, anyone can go, and (I pray you hear this) Church, some of us must go to get this message out. The great commission of Matthew 28 will not be completed if no one goes. v14-17 demands that some of us go. Is God asking you to go today? What else is He asking you to do? Grow and content with a secure pension? In the end of all things, pensions, homes, vacations, all our stuff won’t matter. This message will. We need goers! That’s the first option, we could go.
Option two, we could send. Everyone who does go needs help, needs training, needs partnerships, needs funds, needs support, needs prayer, needs all kinds of things! William Carey, missionary to India in the late 1790’s, once told friend and fellow laborer Andrew Fuller, “I’ll go down to India, if you hold the rope.” All who go, need rope holders. Maybe God is calling you to go. But maybe God is calling you to stay and give the needed support. Or I could say, the some who go can’t go without the support of those who stay behind. Those are the first two options: go or send.
Option three, we could disobey. These really are the options. God calls people to go and He calls people to send. God never calls us to disobey Him in this. May we be found faithful in this, may we be zealous for this, may we be eager to diligent in this.
Second, these verses remind us of where preachers come from. This past week I was at one of Jack’s baseball practices. I’m one of the assistant coaches so I’m often talking to the head coach about this and that regarding our team. Well, the coach knows what I do, that I’m a pastor, and I think it confuses him as to why I would choose to do this. Well, this past week he just walks up to me at practice and says, ‘Adam, why did you become a pastor.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Because God interrupted my plans, saved me, and put a great desire in me to preach the gospel.’ He was still confused, because I think he believed that at a certain time I was thinking about what career to pursue and that I happened to think ‘pastor’ looked better to me than the other options, as if preaching was something I chose to do. No way. God is the One who sends preachers out. And He sends them to do what? To build his own kingdom? To do his own thing? To gain a following for his own ideas? No. The preachers send by God are sent to preach the message of God. What kind of message though? That brings us to the third implication here in v14-17…
Third, these verses display to us how the gospel is just that, good news. I say this because many have throughout the ages exchanged the true gospel for false gospels and yet they’ve still called it gospel. Church, the gospel is not merely a message about morality. The gospel is not merely a message intended to help people. The gospel is not merely a message about political matters. The gospel is not merely a message about social matters. The gospel is not merely a message about being like Jesus and doing what He did. The gospel is a message about Christ! Colossians 1:28 puts it perfectly, “Him we proclaim…” His work, His Person, His redemption is what makes the good news good! Any other ‘gospel’ isn’t truly the gospel, or good news to any sinner. The gospel is and must always be proclaimed and received by us as glad tidings of great joy. If any preacher’s manner of preaching the gospel makes the gospel seem boring or dull, he’s doing a great disservice to the Church. And if any Christian’s life or speech makes the gospel seem to be anything less than centrally important to them, they do the world a great disservice. May our speech and may our life, ever reflect the great goodness of the good news of the gospel.
Church, v14-17 is simply beautiful…but it is part of a larger context and Paul’s up to something in it. So see our second and last heading this morning…
Tragic Blindness (v18-21)
“But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for, “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek Me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for Me.” But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Whiplash, might be the word best suited to explain the feel of soul when we turn to this section after lingering on v14-17. To reject, to turn away from, or to entirely miss the great beauty of Christ and His gospel is simply tragic. And yet, this is what has happened to the majority of Israel. In v18-20 Paul tells us of this with a series of questions.
In v18 he asks, “Have they not heard?” Since faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (v17), maybe Israel didn’t believe because they didn’t hear? Paul rejects this saying, “Indeed they have heard…” and then proceeds to quote Psalm 19. Now, the beginning of Psalm 19 is about the heavens and the starry host day by day declaring the glories of God throughout all the earth. Paul uses that language to speak about the same is true of the gospel. That it is now being spread throughout all the earth. So has Israel heard the gospel? Indeed they have.
In v19 he asks another question, “But I ask, did Israel not understand?” We know they heard the truth, but maybe they didn’t get it when they heard it. Again, Paul rejects this, and proceeds to quote Moses and Isaiah to prove his point. Specifically Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah 65. Both of which, prove the point that God had clearly told Israel that He would one day draw in the Gentiles. A people who weren’t interested is seeking God or knowing God. And that when He drew them in, it would make Israel jealous and angry. Israel’s own prophets told them this is how God was at work in the gospel. So, they cannot plead ignorance.
What’s the conclusion? v21, “All day long I have held out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” This is yet another quote from Isaiah, and it describes the condition of Israel today perfectly. They are indeed a disobedient and contrary people. But is the last word on Israel? Has God’s everlasting and earnest loving arms spread open to Israel ceased? Well, chapter 11 will answer this question for us. Lord willing we’ll see this over the next few weeks.
For us now thought. Return to the two large themes of this text. Beauty and blindness. The great beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ, His gospel, and its spread across the world. And the tragic blindness of those who refuse to see it.
Do you know such beauty? Or are you blind to it? That’s the question as we end today. And it’s one I’d urge you to answer. Do you know the beauty of Christ, or are you blind to it?
I would just say this. We all instinctively know beauty. And more so, we’re all hard wired to be moved by beauty. Whether it’s beauty in art, music, poetry, or novels. Or beauty in breath taking scenery like a sunrise at the beach or a sunset over the Grand Canyon. Or even beauty in the expression of truth and goodness and the courage of holding fast to such reality.
Beauty is indeed all around us, and we all know it. Have you ever wondered why that is and why we’re so taken with all that is beautiful? Because we were made for it! We were made to recognize all the beauty here below, to prepare us for the beauty of Christ see above. In the preaching of the gospel we have a foretaste of it, in the believing of the gospel we have actual enjoyment of it, and one day, for those who believe, we’ll drink in the fullness of it.
May we see it, savor it, and spread it!
 J. V. Fesko, Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018), 295–296.
 Douglas Moo, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2018), 680–681.
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans – Saving Faith (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 1985), 299–307.
 Moo, Romans, 685.
 John Murray, Romans, NICNT, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1968), 64.