Feet. Some are calloused and gnarled. Some are corn- and bunion prone. Some have crooked toes and ingrown toenails. Some are flat. They have been called the ugliest part of the human body. Yet when Isaiah wrote about feet, he stated that some are beautiful! "How beautiful," he exclaimed, "upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings" (Isa. 52:7). Feet upon mountains? Beautiful feet at that? Whatever was Isaiah talking about? To understand we must for a moment picture ourselves in the time Isaiah lived. News traveled slowly back then. There was no such thing as instant satellite communication. Television, radio, telephones - electronic marvels we so much take for granted - did not exist. They didn't even have the telegraph. Nor did they have newspapers, magazines, air mail and other such means for rapidly spreading news. Instead, the most direct and swiftest way to send news was by personal courier - a messenger who, mounted or on foot, carried the communique to its destination. Uphill and downhill, over hot plains and dusty roads, through rain and snow the news must get through. And get through it did, thanks to the fleet-footed messengers. The news itself was not always good, though. Sometimes the messenger had the distasteful task of delivering bad news. And various potentates were known to react to bad news by beheading the hapless messenger who brought it. A definite occupational hazard in those days. On the other hand, when the news was good, it was especially thrilling to be the bearer of it, for "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (Prov. 25:25). The receiving of good news is so exhilarating that Isaiah praised the determined, tired, soiled feet, running for all they are worth, carrying a message of good news over the rugged mountains. "How beautiful," he said, "upon the mountains are the, feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good." The specific good news Isaiah was referring to is that brought from the supreme God. Isaiah praised the feet of the messenger who "publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (Isa. 52:7). God rules! That is the best news there is. That is the Gospel. The apostle Paul quoted Isaiah this way: "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10: 15). This sin-sick, war-weary, crime-crazed world desperately needs good news. Miserable, frustrated, suffering humanity needs to receive the incredibly wonderful message that the almighty, sovereign God rules and that His rule is good. We in the Church of God have that message of good news to bring to the world! While the Church as one body carries that message through its spokesman and apostle, Herbert W. Armstrong, the part in the Work each of us as individuals has may also be compared to runners carrying news. Thus each of us should periodically examine himself to see if he is enthusiastically fulfilling his part in the Work - to see if he (or she) is running with the news. "Ponder the path of thy feet," the Bible tells us, "and let all thy ways be established" (Prov. 4:26). Let us do some pondering.
As we run with the news that has been committed to us, we must face some of the same problems encountered by the messengers of old: robbers, wild animals, distractions, fatigue, the elements. There are other human beings who lie in wait to steal from us that which is most valuable: our salvation. Their chief weapon is persecution, although they have other weapons such as falsehoods, rumors, gossip, clever arguments and deceitful teachings. "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown" (Rev. 3:11). We must be careful not to be like some in the Church at Galatia. They listened to deceitful, seductive voices and got waylaid. The apostle Paul lamented: "You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who called you" (Gal. 5:7-8, Revised Standard Version). Jesus said His sheep do not listen to thieves and robbers (John 10:8). So close your ears and keep running! Not only do thieves lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce, but so do wild animals. "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8). What can we do to protect ourselves? Three things are mentioned by Peter in verses 8 and 9: "Be sober, be vigilant" ("Keep cool, keep awake" - Moffatt Version; "Be self-controlled and alert" - New International Version) and "resist [him] stedfast in the faith." "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (Jas. 4:7). This is a promise we should claim. All along the route we travel, there are tempting distractions. Bright lights and the tinsel of the world beckon us to stop for a while and indulge ourselves. But we must not do so: "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away" (Prov. 4:14-15). Don't get sidetracked; you have a message that must get through now. "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee … Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil" (verses 25, 27). Fatigue can be a problem. If our spiritual health is poor, we will not have the stamina to run the full distance. An adequate diet of God's Word and His Spirit is essential to avoid fatigue. A fatigued runner gets nowhere. That's why we are admonished to "lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed" (Heb. 12:12-13). Spiritual fatigue is healed by drawing closer to God. Like the washed-out roads, adverse weather and other elements many couriers encountered, we, too, come up against difficult obstacles. But God permits those obstacles to be there so we can grow stronger by overcoming them. We must not allow them to slow us down or stop us. We must keep on running! "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). By ourselves we would not know to keep our feet on the path - how to find our way. "0 Lord," Jeremiah exclaimed, "I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). No, it is just not "in" him. Without God we would be like all the rest of humanity whose "feet run to evil" (Prov. 1:16) and whose "feet stumble upon the dark mountains" (Jer. 13:16). But we have a light. "Thy word," David declared, "is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). We need to be spending more time studying that Word. "Let thine heart retain my words," God says. "Keep my commandments, and live .... When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened [hampered]; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble" (Prov. 4:4, 12).
Carrying a message
The single most important reason for which each of us has been called into the Church today is to back up and support the Work of God as it bears to the world the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul described the armor a Christian must wear. Notice the interesting way he makes a connection between a Christian's feet and the Gospel: We are to have our "feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (verse 15). We have been commissioned to carry a message. "Go ye into all the world," Jesus ordered, "and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Everything in our lives ought to revolve around that great commission. Consider Mr. Armstrong. His feet have been bringing good news for some 50 years, starting on the back roads of rural Oregon. Today his feet go into king's palaces, presidential residences, governmental buildings, prime ministers' offices, before gatherings of hundreds and thousands. They carry him before radio and TV facilities and to his typewriter, bringing the Gospel God has sent. (The word apostle means "one who is sent.") Our feet should run with the message, too. They should take us to our prayer closets where we can pray for the success of the Work. They should carry us to our jobs so we can help the Work financially. And just as important, they ought to travel in the paths of righteousness so our prayers for the Work are more effective. It is the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man that avails much (Jas. 5:16).
The right way
David often examined the paths his feet were following. Sometimes he found they were not going the right way. What did he do then? He got back on course - quickly! "I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments" (Ps. 119:59-60). Throughout Jesus' whole life He set an example for us that we "should follow his steps" (I Pet. 2:21). Those are some mighty big steps to follow, but with God's help we can do it. The Bible has some interesting things to say about the future of the feet of the saints. God states that "you that fear my name ... shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet" (Mal. 4:2-3). "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Rom. 16:20). One day soon the rest of the world will understand how really good is the message that we are carrying. They will praise our feet, as Isaiah prophesied. John also wrote of such an occasion: "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee" (Rev. 3:9). The awesome destiny God has promised for any human who yields to Him is contained in the ultimate fulfillment of Hebrews 2:8: God will "put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him"! That awesome destiny is part of the good news we have been given to carry. Are your feet headed in that direction?