Isaiah 12:1-6: Jesus is Our Salvation

Jesus on The Cross2 (610x351)The Old Testament isn’t easy to read. It has so much killing in it, people rebelling against God, and more history than most of us can handle. It’s also hard to understand. But don’t let that keep you from the Old Testament.

If you have the patience to take in what God has for you, our Old-Testament reading for today is not that hard to understand. For example, it starts out, “On that day you will say.” And right there, at the start, we can get lost. If we don’t know when or what that day is, the rest of our Old-Testament reading makes no sense.

But, if we patiently go back one chapter, in Isaiah 11, we find out what that “day” is. “A shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch will sprout from his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). That day is when the prophesied Messiah will come to save His people!

Knowing that, it’s then that we learn what God’s people say when He comes. What will be the content of our words when the long-promised Messiah comes to save us? We will praise God—but not without first recognizing that He is displeased with us. As Isaiah says, referring to God, “You were angry with me.”

Anger isn’t hard to understand. We’ve all been angry, and we’ve all been on the receiving end of someone’s fury. And Isaiah says that we are on the receiving end of God’s anger. This anger isn’t just because sin has taken us hostage; it’s also because we have willfully engaged in it.

In Isaiah 5, the prophet wrote down God’s warnings to His people, all sin-related. Here’s a couple of them. “How terrible it will be for those who string people along with lies and empty promises” (Isaiah 5:18). “How terrible it will be for those who call evil good and good evil, who present darkness as light and light as darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).

That’s the danger of our sinful nature, isn’t it? We want to take evil and say that it’s good. Now, that evil may differ for each of us, for we have different sins that we want to keep doing, in one way or another. And so, we’ve worked out all the rationalizations to justify our actions. That’s how you “call evil good and good evil.”

And, yet, Isaiah still says, “Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away.” “Has turned away”: God’s anger is now in the past. He is no longer angry with you. If the day of which Isaiah spoke was Jesus becoming incarnate to save us (and it was), then Jesus takes God’s anger away and turns it into a past event. God was angry with you, but in Christ Jesus, He no longer is.

But why? Did God just decide to overlook sin? No! It’s because, in Christ Jesus, God’s “anger has turned away.” You see, it’s Jesus’ doing. As the promised Messiah, Jesus became flesh and, as Isaiah also wrote, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul tells us, “God condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh” (Romans 8:3). “So now, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

No mere person could turn away God’s righteous anger. No one’s powerful enough to do that. Only God is strong enough to turn away God’s anger. But, Jesus wasn’t just a man, He was also God. And that’s what He did—He turned away God’s anger.

Listen to how the New Testament describes it: “In Christ, God was making peace with the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Elsewhere, it tells us: “We have someone who speaks on our behalf to the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2).

The Greek word for “atoning sacrifice” is hilasmos. Hilasmos is the Greek word from which we get our English word “hilarious.” Now, Jesus isn’t the hilariousness of our sins. But it does express that God is no longer angry with you. Instead, He now delights in you because of Jesus! But note that it’s by being in Jesus. “So now, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

So, being in Jesus is important. But how does God the Holy Spirit bring you to be “in Christ”? First, He connects you to Jesus, by connecting you to Him in His death and resurrection. That happens in baptism (Romans 6:3-5). After that, the Holy Spirit brings you into a communion with Jesus’ divine nature. That happens in the Lord’s Supper (2 Peter 1:4). In Christ, God is no longer angry with you.

It’s as Isaiah says, “Look! God is my salvation!” Literally, God is my Jesus, for the name Jesus literally means, “God saves.” That’s why Isaiah could write, “I will trust and not be afraid,” that is, I believe in Him, and I know that He will deliver me.

In Christ Jesus, we need not fear God—at least in the sense of fearing the terrors of what we deserve. But Scripture does still tell us to fear God. But this a different fear. It’s a fear that recognizes who we are apart from God’s salvation for us, apart from Jesus. But why is this fear helpful to us? It’s so we are always eager to delight in, and be where, God gives us Jesus, the One who saves.

It’s as Isaiah writes: “The Lord, is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation”; He is my Jesus. Isaiah even tells us that this promised Messiah will be God: “The Lord… He [not someone else] has become my salvation.”

Only God is strong enough to turn away God’s wrath. Only God is strong enough to protect us from the devil and every evil. And Jesus is that God for us. He is our salvation and our song. That’s why Christian hymns are about Jesus and His salvation for us—if they are to be Christian hymns.

And Isaiah goes on to reveal what it means that God is your salvation: “You will draw water joyfully from the wells of salvation.” It’s with joy that God’s people go to the wells of salvation. Isaiah wrote his message in beautiful Hebrew poetry. “The wells of salvation” are the ways that God gives us His salvation, which is Jesus, for us.

In the same way that we cannot live without water, we cannot spiritually live without God’s “wells of salvation” for us. The most obvious connection for us in the New Covenant is baptism. As God uses water to give us physical life, so He uses water to give us spiritual life. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born of water and Spirit, He cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

But it’s more than that. As God uses physical food and drink to keep us physically alive, so He uses bread and wine to keep us spiritually alive. Now, at first, that just sounds stupid. But, if Jesus is in the bread and wine (remember Jesus means, “God saves”), just like He says, then God is spiritually keeping us alive through such a meal.

Isaiah continues: “And on that day you will say: Give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name. Make known among the nations what he has done. Declare that his name is exalted.” Notice where Isaiah places the emphasis. It’s in God’s name and what He has done. It’s not about us or what we are doing.

We don’t preach or sing about ourselves—that won’t save us! Instead, we sing and preach Jesus in this place, where He comes to us to give us His life and salvation.

And so, Isaiah waxed poetically: “Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things, being made known to all the world.” Who’s doing the doing? Who’s saving us, turning away God’s wrath, and making God the Father delighted in us? Only Jesus! And Isaiah says that this is “being made known to all the world.” The promised Messiah will bust open salvation for all people, not for just the Jew, but also the Gentile.

Isaiah continues: “Shout aloud, and sing for joy, inhabitant of Zion.” Those of you familiar with foreign languages know that most other languages have a gender associated with a word. The word Isaiah uses for “inhabitant” has a feminine gender. That isn’t coincidence. Doesn’t God call His Church “the bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5:25-27)? Yes! So Isaiah is extolling those brought into the Church of Christ to “shout aloud and sing for joy.”

But why? Isaiah goes on to say: It’s because “the Holy One of Israel … is among you.” That’s why. To Christ’s Bride, the Church, God’s salvation, Jesus, is with us. This isn’t just the Holy One of Israel being among because Jesus became incarnate; it’s that He is with His people when they gather as His Church. In the New Covenant, that’s Jesus coming to us in His body and blood. “Great is the Holy One of Israel.” Why is He great? It’s because he is among you.”

That’s why Isaiah says that we can, “Shout aloud, and sing for joy.” We have a Savior from sin who turns away God’s anger, so in Him, God delights in you. And He comes to us, here and now, giving us that salvation.

But this Salvation, this Jesus, isn’t just abstract information that your intellect can understand in some way. He’s more than that. This Salvation, this Jesus, isn’t just something that causes us to sing for joy. He’s more than that. He is also with His Bride, the Church, here, bringing to you the “wells of salvation.”

And because Jesus comes to us intellectually, emotionally, and physically, that’s also how we worship Him. We don’t just worship Him intellectually, understanding what He did and does to save us. We don’t just worship Him emotionally, singing hymns about Jesus that may make us happy. We don’t just worship Him physically, receiving Jesus when He physically comes to us in His Supper. It’s more than all that!

We worship God with our entire being, which includes our intellect, emotions, and bodies. That’s why we listen and ponder the sermon. That’s why we respond with wholehearted thanks back to God for His gifts of salvation. That’s why we bow and kneel with our bodies before God. And why not? For Jesus saves all of you, not just part of you! That’s the God you have.  Indeed, great is the Holy One of Israel. Amen.