Isaiah 12:1-6: Drinking From the Wells of Salvation

Refreshing waterWith faces still wet from the mist of the Sea, the Israelites sing out, celebrating their deliverance from Egypt.  So momentous the event, their tongues cannot stay silent, their melodic praise becoming the first song recorded in Scripture (Exodus 15).  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob remained faithful to His pledge, not forgetting His oath spoken long ago.

The Almighty delivers His people from bondage, bringing them through the drowning waters on dry ground, leading them back to their home.  All with lungs and breath give voice in music.  Gifted in singing, or with only an off-key intonation, matters little.  The many sounds now merge into one, thanking and admiring the One who remembers them in His kindness and compassion.

Though Moses, whom God used to rescue His people, recalls the past, Isaiah’s song stretches forward to our redemption.  For the Lord “is not a man who speaks lies or a son of a man who changes his mind.  Once, he speaks, he will act.  Once, he promises, he will fulfill” (Numbers 23:19).  So, with God’s kindness and compassion still strong as always, the prophet’s words of old can also become our words of praise.

“A day is coming,” Isaiah foretells (Isaiah 12:1).  What day?  Earlier, in chapter 11, he pointed to the time of the Messiah’s arrival.  “A day is coming when the root of Jesse [a descendant of King David’s father] will stand as a banner for the peoples.  The Gentiles will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).

The Christ to come is now the melody of prophecy.  “A day is coming when people will say: ‘To you, Yahweh, I will give thanks.  Though your anger burned against me, your fury turned away’” (Isaiah 12:1).  A day will come when we will thank our Crucified and Risen One for sending away the Father’s wrath, who will comfort and keep us, instead.

Now, some may think, “I don’t need saving from anything!”  A while ago, with many hours together in the car, I talked with a co-worker about Jesus as we traveled.  The response?  “Hey, I’m not interested in what Christianity is trying to sell me.”

Ah, our mindset, which views so much of our life as buying and selling.  “Talk about your faith all you want, but I don’t need saving.  So far, life is going well!  Why change—I’m doing fine.  Don’t bother me with talk about something I don’t need.”

So typical is this attitude.  Many people will tell you they are where they are without involving the help of someone else.  The last person they need—so they say—is for someone to save them from some imagined threat or worry.

The Scriptures tell us otherwise.  “To you, Yahweh, I will give thanks.  Though your anger burned against me, your fury turned away, and you consoled me.”  So, everyone needs a Savior.  Sin-infected creatures we are, we need someone to spare us from the Almighty’s cleansing purity and holiness.

Why would His wrath blaze hot against us?  One word: Sin!  One reason many don’t recognize their need for redemption is their misunderstanding of sin.  The word translated as “sin” means “to fail at meeting the standard.”  So, what measure do we miss when we go astray?  This: The holiness of sheer perfection.  Can anyone achieve this?  No, no created creature can.

Sin is failing to meet the standard of sacred purity.  Whatever is less than perfect, bars us from fellowship with the Holy One from all eternity.  The harsh sounds inside us scrape against His divine harmony, which will not and cannot survive in His presence.

The Old Testament reading depicted this in terms we can recognize.  Earlier, in chapter 9, Isaiah wrote, “Everyone is a godless evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly.  In all this, God’s anger does not subside, and his hand is still ready to strike” (Isaiah 9:17).

The brokenness inside us is not how our Creator made us, or what He intends us to be.  This corruption touches and changes who we are, contaminating everything we do.  So, in place of joining in the harmonious chorus of honoring God for His grace and saving work, we celebrate ourselves instead.

Each fixates on himself, making others less valuable.  Oh, we’ll go out of our way to defend our reputation.  Not so with another’s, which we will slander as fits our agenda.  Is our behavior toward the Lord of heaven and earth much different?  To make our wishes the central song of our lives, we shove Him aside whenever convenient.

All too often find ourselves screeching, unable to savor the beautiful music of our Redeemer’s forgiveness.  The destructive ways of our inner being still subdue us, with the Almighty’s divine perfection scorching hot against our defiance.

Still, we are not bereft of hope, for the Son turns the Father away from our failings!  “Indeed, God is my salvation.  In him, I will trust and not be afraid.  For Yahweh is my strength and my song” (Isaiah 12:2).

Though your fallen flesh is feeble, the Almighty is your power.  Though your voice may be droning noises, disgraced by the discordant chaos within, Your Father in heaven is your forgiving music.  Though in the servitude to Satan, the Son is your salvation.  Though dead in your trespasses, the Spirit brings you life in Christ Jesus.

“With joy, you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  Without water, no one can live.  So, should we find as strange our Life-Giver using what we need for physical life to bring us spiritual life?  No.  The connection is clear as water, which is the point.

Remember Jesus’ words to the thirsty woman at the well.  “Now, if you understood the gift of God, and who is asking you for a drink, you would ask him, and he would give you living water” (John 4:10).  So, the incarnate Christ is referring to Himself as living water, the Water of life!

The woman responded.  “The well is deep, and you lack a bucket to pull up the water” (John 4:11).  Ah, trying to understand eternal realities with our clouded minds.  Now, we would need a bucket, but not so for the Giver of this Water.  For He is the water, with life within, and only He can quench our spiritual thirst.

Remember Joseph, who wore the coat of many colors.  An old, dried-up well became his prison after his brothers threw him in.  The prophet Jeremiah also found himself in such a place, tossed in by those who didn’t like his preaching.  So with us.  The sins infused to our fallen flesh take us hostage, imprisoning us in a spiritual pit of despair.

Into this damp and musty hole, our Messiah descends, trading places with us, enabling us to rejoice.  For He is the Water flowing with immortality, coming with forgiveness, the “grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  The old Adam drowns, but the new self, given us in Christ, becomes alive, satisfying our thirst within.

How should we respond?  Listen to how the Old Testament reading for today finishes.

Give thanks to Yahweh; proclaim his name!  Speak of his deeds among the peoples.  Declare how exalted is his name, sing to Yahweh, for he is triumphant.  Proclaim this throughout all the earth.  Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for majestic among you is the Holy One of Israel! [Isaiah 12:4-6]

So, we’re back where we began, exalting the One who remembers and delivers on the vows He makes.  Now, if Moses and the Israelites sang of their Liberator’s rescue for unshackling them from captivity, so can we!  The heavenly Father does more than free us from our human enemies.  For He sends us His Firstborn, divinity wearing the robe of our human frame, to save us from our eternal enemies.

The droplets of the Red Sea did not wet your hair.  No, the waters of Baptism poured down on you, drowning your old, sinful man, giving you new life in the Spirit.  An earthly Passover Lamb does not pass over your lips.  No, you receive the human-born Passover Lamb, in His Body and Blood, crucified and risen, given and shed for you.

In every way, something much fuller comes to you than what took place with the Israelites of long ago.  For they lived in the promise to be, while we live in the promise fulfilled.  A more vigorous joy can now fill you, where you can unleash a fuller-throated response of unfettered praise.  For the promised Son Himself breaks the enslaving bonds of sin and now leads You to His Promised Land in eternity.

Forget about wanting to sing a bunch of me-centered refrains, about what stirs inside you or what you want to do.  Why?  Such navel gazing distracts you from your Savior.  For He is your song, not you.  Uplift your voices and make melody about the marvelous works He did and does to make you His own.  For, in the end, nothing else matters.

Now, as we await our resurrection, we worship the Lord who saves.  Only He is your strength and your song.  For if earthly music can move us to hum a tune without a worry or care, how much more should our tongues delight in acclaiming Christ?

Listen to how the Apostle Paul directs us.

Let the Word of Christ inhabit you well.  In all wisdom, teach and correct one another through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him [Colossians 3:16-17].

May the Father grant this to you all your days, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit.  Amen.