I Will Praise You, Lord
You can’t take it back. As humans grow, how they act changes. When we were in Psychology class in college we learned about this concept called, “object permanence.” When a child is tiny “peek-a-boo” is a great game. The parent disappears from reality and ceases to exist. And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, the parent comes back. But eventually the child thinks to himself or herself, “wait a minute. What if the person continues to exist but I just can’t see mommy or daddy.’” And when the child figures this out, “peek-a-boo” is no longer a fun game anymore. At every stage of life of a person’s growth there are these changes. At the Junior High stage, the child begins to figure out that authority figures don’t always practice what they preach. Years ago there was a young man in the eighth grade who was at this stage. And on that day his teacher told him that his habit of not paying attention was getting in the way of his grades. The teacher said this in front of everyone. And the young man, without thinking, said in front of the other students, “It could be worse. I could be a teacher.” And as soon as he said it, he realized he could not take those words back. The teacher was so angry that he took the young man outside the class into a separate room and asked him one question: “why?” Why would you say words those only purpose was to hurt and harm? The young man was silent for a while. But finally he apologized for what he said and was ashamed of what he said. The teacher accepted his apology. And in the next days, the young man discovered that the teacher was not at all angry with him at all. The teacher even went out during recess and played basketball with him and his friends. Who would have thought that words that demanded anger in response could be forgiven and finally forgotten? But it happened. That’s the picture that Isaiah paints for us this morning. In Isaiah 12, we read, “In that day you will say: “I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.” (Isaiah 12:1 NIV11-GKE)
The people of Israel had, as a people, abandoned the Lord. They had followed other gods. They had abandoned the real and true God they had, the Lord. They could not take back their actions. And the results of their actions were so real that they as a people went off into exile. But yet, these words begin with praise. The Lord invites Israel to praise the Lord. The Lord invites every one of them to use that first person pronoun, “I.” I will praise, you Lord. And what follows it two reasons why they are invited to praise the Lord. First, each of them can say, “I will praise you, Lord” because the Lord pays for their salvation. We read: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”” (Isaiah 12:2 NIV11-GKE)
Notice how strong these words are. The Lord doesn’t just have salvation. The Lord is salvation. But my dear friends in Christ, salvation is not this empty idea and a word without meaning. They had committed real sins against their real God. How can God so suddenly go from extreme anger to real comfort and compassion? The answer to that question is the word, “context.” The Lord doesn’t want us to read Isaiah 12 by itself. We read Isaiah 12 in the full context of Isaiah 53. The Lord can say, “I am not angry anymore.” The Lord can say, “I am your salvation” for one real reason: the Lord pays for our salvation. When we read, “Surely God is my salvation;” (Isaiah 12:2 NIV11-GKE), we should understand, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4 NIV) The Israelites could know that their rebellions were paid for because blood, innocent blood was spilled. Every sacrifice pointed forward to that once sacrifice that would pay for sin forever. Salvation was not just an idea. It was also an action.
The same is true for us. Each of us, whether it’s our terrible two’s or our Junior High years, each of us has not just questioned authority, but even rebelled against it. And if this is true about our earthly authorities, how much more is it true for our God above? And yet, each of us can say “Surely God is my salvation;” (Isaiah 12:2 NIV11-GKE) because all those Old Testament sacrifices pointed ahead to Jesus who would bleed and die for me. Salvation isn’t just an idea. It’s also an action. And with that action God’s anger is taken away. And for that reason, God invites us to say, “I will praise you, Lord.” But he also gives us another reason: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3 NIV11-GKE)
Salvation isn’t just an idea. It’s also an action. Good Friday is all about action. There, on that cross, we see the tears in Jesus’ body. And we see the tears that stain his face. That’s where salvation is paid. But how is it provided? In other words, what good is Jesus’ salvation if it stays there on the cross? The tool, the vehicle that the Lord uses to deliver this forgiveness to us is his word. And there’s this beautiful picture in these words. It’s the picture of a well. How often do we need water? The answer is: “a number of times each day.” And to have a well right next to you in the Old Testament where there is no indoor plumbing—that’s an amazing picture. But my dear friends in Christ, the Lord is not speaking about water here. He’s talking about salvation. He’s talking about the Holy Spirit working through God’s word.1 He’s talking about the fact that when you were two years old or twelve years old was not the only time you have rebelled against the Lord. We continue to do this. And as we sin, see our sin, and repent, there is God’s word, like a well. And we go to it again and again to receive forgiveness and salvation.
And now we see how real this invitation is. The Lord invites us to say, “I will praise you, Lord.” For the Lord pays for my salvation. And the Lord also provides my salvation every day in his word. But how these words end is very beautiful: “4 In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”” (Isaiah 12:4–6 NIV11-GKE)
This chapter starts out with the word, “I.” The words end with the words, “us” and “You” (plural). I remember years ago I was on vacation and went to a busy church. And there was a mom with her little boy. And the boy had this book that he loved. And in the middle of the service he would walk around and turn around, letting everyone know how amazing this book was. The mom tried to calm him down, especially during the sermon. But this book was just that awesome, he had to share it with all those around him.
We find the same picture in these words in Isaiah. The Lord invites us to share this with the world. He invites us to invite others to praise the Lord. But the why is the real issue. We invite all those around us to say, “I will praise the Lord” because he pays for my salvation on the cross and because he provides my salvation in his word. Amen.
1 John 7:37-39