Isaiah 12:1-6: Worshiping the Lord in Spirit and Truth

Fresh Water (610x351)How should Christians worship? Many are the wounds over this issue within our lifetimes. Long before that, however, even 700 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah points us in the right way.

Our Old-Testament reading for today comes right before the prophet speaks of the Messiah’s coming and His kingdom of peace and righteousness. People assemble from all over the world by the preached Word of the Gospel. Then Isaiah tells us: “You will say on that day: I thank you, Lord.”



On that day, when the Word of God first comes to you, making you a believer and heir of salvation, you then praise and thank God. All Christians experience this. Later, when your intellect better understands the gift of faith, a sense of your sinfulness also grows deeper.

Fear enters every Christian’s life when he realizes he is too evil to earn salvation and only deserves God’s anger. Your gut even constricts into a tighter knot when you realize such a horrible, eternal reality won’t undo your sins.

The life-giving Gospel, however, is different. “Though you [God] were angry with me, your anger turned away.” God now saves me into eternity. He turns His anger away from me. Where did His anger go? For God earlier directed it at me! Why would He even direct His anger somewhere else?

The answer, of course, is in Christ Jesus, the Son of God. He became flesh; in my place, He stood to receive God’s anger. Jesus, the Shepherd, lays down His life so the sheep can escape and live. Jesus diverted the anger of God to Himself, changing God’s disposition toward us.

Isaiah continues: “you [God] comforted me.” Because of Christ, God’s righteous anger is no longer burning against you—but you still need more. God wants you to be unshakable, knowing His anger at you is no more. He comforts you with this reality through His Word, with the Gospel.

God’s Word comes to us and declares that He forgives and accepts us. Your slate is now clean, and you need not fear anything, for you are now His adopted child. In baptism, God washes you clean of your guilt. Just as you cannot bring about your physical birth, you likewise cannot bring about your spiritual birth. “Unless one is BORN of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives you His body and blood. You need real food to stay alive after your physical birth. So also do you need spiritual food to remain alive. Baptism is your birth from above (John3:3). Jesus’ body and blood, His life-giving meal, is His food for you, as He also spoke. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).

God gives us spiritual birth where only death once ruled (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13). Later, when desperation comes to suffocate, when you feel lost and afraid, our Lord’s preached Word enters your ears. He also feeds you in His Supper, strengthening you in body and soul, giving you God’s mercy. Word and Sacrament are at the core of Christian worship.

We praise God, but not only because He is our Creator. God as the creator doesn’t move us, sinful beings that we are, to bow before Him in spirit and truth. Creation is not the most significant act of God. The greatest work of God is Him redeeming us.

So the word from Isaiah proclaims: “God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. For the Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Now, you can trust in Him—He is your salvation and strength. He is even your song, as He should be. For only He saves you from your sins.

What would happen if God held your sins against you? How then could you sing of anything? How could any part of life not fill you with terror? Consider the thoughts of your heart, your lust, temper, or pride. They all threaten you because each sin points you to your deserved, eternal wrath. Knowing this, the book of Proverbs tells us: Even “the wicked flee [from God] when no one is chasing them” (Proverbs 28:1). In Christ, God holds no sin against you; you can “trust and not be afraid.”

What are we doing when we worship the Lord? We praise and thank Him because He frees us from fear, the most frightening being the fear of eternal wrath and death. In our worship of God, we are grateful to Him, not only for the Gospel but also for confronting us with His unmovable Law. For His Law directs us to His mercy and grace.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “You used to be servants of sin… [but] having been freed from sin, you became servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). God did this for, and in, you. Christ is your strength and your song. You sing of Him—and it is by Him you sing, for He lives within you and moves you to sing of Him.

Why else do we worship? “With joy, you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” In His Word is salvation. The Word and Sacraments then become wells, overflowing with this water of life.

Prophet Ezekiel described the spiritual Jerusalem, the Church. Of the people’s sins, God spoke: “I will give them one heart and put a new spirit within them. I will remove their stony hearts and put within them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). Ezekiel also saw a river of water flowing from the foundation of the Temple (Ezekiel 47:1-2). For wherever the Church is, there is the water of life.

Prophet Zechariah tells us of that water and its value: “On that day, a fountain will open for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to wash away sin and impurity” (Zechariah 13:1). So the water of life takes away sin, as the waters of baptism also remove sin’s uncleanness. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!” our Lord spoke (John 7:37). For only in Christ do we find cleansing from sin.

So, what takes place during worship? We receive living water from our Lord’s saving well, His fountain of salvation. Through those waters, God gives us eternal life. Jesus Christ and His atonement underpin our worship, by which He saves us from our sins and makes us His own. We receive His salvation for us as His living water quenches our spiritual thirst, as we worship Him in spirit and truth.

Isaiah tells us of our worship: “You will say on that day: Thank the Lord; proclaim his name!” In our prayers, sermons, and hymns, we thank and praise God for what He did and does. We “proclaim his name,” we use and invoke His Word, letting it be the focal point of our service.

The prophet’s words still tell us more: “Celebrate his works among the peoples.” Ah, now Isaiah gets to the root: Declare His doings! Yes, we praise and thank God—but worship is first what He does—His works! “Declare HIS doings!” God is the doer; we respond. We first receive what He does—the start of God-centered worship. Otherwise, our worship all becomes man-centered, all about us and what we’re doing.

Isaiah writes, “Declare that his name is exalted.” We speak the one name above every name, the one we know and call on for our salvation—the name of Christ Jesus. He is the Son of God and Son of man, the Redeemer and only mediator between God and us fallen creatures.

What other words does Isaiah speak? “Sing to the Lord, for he has done marvelous deeds. Let this be known throughout the earth.” Sing to the Lord. Our singing is not a performance, for the praises of others. We sing to God, which is why the choir doesn’t face the congregation but faces the altar when it sings. For that’s where Jesus comes to us in His body and blood.

“Cry out and sing, O citizens of Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in his greatness.” Open your mouth and sing. Praise Him with your whole heart, not just because it’s a habit or routine. Let your praise flow from you with Holy-Spirited breath. The God of our salvation is with us, right here and now!

The world doesn’t accept the real and living God. Not so with us: Here, in this place, we see what a magnificent God He is. In Christ, God forgives us, bringing us eternal peace, bequeathing us with His Spirit. By faith, we know He, not someone else, He is the Holy One of Israel.

God is not only without sin, but He does His saving work of delivering us from every evil. He is with us as we struggle against sin and every weakness of our flesh. Here, among us, God promises to be—and so, here we praise Him.

Cry out and shout for joy, not only because God commands it, but because He came and made you His own. He did all that, for you. Our worship is about the works He did—and does—that’s worship originating from God-given faith. God is the source and receiver. Even our faith itself is a worship of Him.

Our worship and offering to God are this: we first receive what God does for us. Faith’s first act is to receive. Whoever relies on himself or what he does is not worshiping the true God. Only those who look to God for their righteousness, and find it in Christ Jesus, worship the real God.

That is worship—and such faith-filled worship cannot help but spring forth from your heart in words and works of praise. “Let whoever is wise pay heed to this and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43). Amen.