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The Isaiah Project: Chapter 12, or, Make Music for God

Hello again. We took a pass last week because I was preparing and giving a sermon. Here it is, if you're interested — it's not primarily about Isaiah, but the prophet does make a cameo appearance at the end.

We'll have another quick break next week while I head out of town. But in the interim I thought I'd send by Chapter 12 which, appropriately enough, is something like a final coda to this particular section of the prophecy.

The Vision Isaiah Saw: Chapter 12

1. Then you'll speak out, On That Day:
‘I praise you, God, with hands outstretched.
You burned with rage against me;
Your rage has turned aside,
And you soothe me.

2. Look: this god is my deliverance —
I will trust;
I won’t fear,
For my strength and my music is God, the GOD,
And for me he is deliverance.

3. Then you’ll draw water in jubilation
From the wellsprings of deliverance.

4. Then you’ll all speak out, On That Day:
‘Give praise to God, with hands outstretched.
Call on his name;
Make every nation know the things he does;
Make everyone remember:
His name is lifted high.

5. Make music for God, because he does high and mighty things.
This is made known over all the Earth.

6. Burst into whooping and cheers of triumph, you who live on Zion,
Because of him, great in your midst — Israel’s Sacred One.

-- -- --

This chapter ends a section which began with Chapter 6. Before that, in Chapters 1-5, we had a series of introductory songs and speeches — messages which Isaiah would have preached in Jerusalem to warn his people that injustice and debauchery were alienating them from God. Then in 6, Isaiah received his call to prophecy upon the death of Southern Israel's King Uzziah. Chapter 7 told the story of Uzziah's grandson, Ahaz, who faced an assault from the neighbouring states of Aram and Ephraim. Ahaz refused Isaiah's invitation to trust God's providence, attemtping instead to engineer his own security and victory.

This final rejection of God set in motion a disastrous subjugation of Jerusalem, Aram, and Ephraim by the relentless kings of Assyria and Babylon. Beginning with Chapter 8, then, Isaiah proclaims his vision of the horrors to come even as, in Chapter 9, he assures Israel that God will send an anointed saviour to rescue those who keep the faith. Chapter 10 predicts how this Messiah will ultimately thwart even the might of Assyria. And Chapter 11 points beyond the calamitous present towards a final salvation which will gather to Zion all those from within and without the Jewish nation who trust in God's goodness despite tragedy and pain.

So this last chapter is a good opportunity to take stock of what we've seen so far. It's a song, to be sung on that last day of which we've been catching glimpses for weeks now. The next section, beginning with Chapter 13, will paint a picture of the new world to come in far more detail. But this song is simply a celebration of that world: a joyous, already-not-yet hymn of praise to the God whose final triumph is just as certain as if it had already happened.

Over the past several weeks the brokenness of our present age has been keenly felt. Antisemitism, that ancient poison in the blood of the human race, made itself known yet again when an atrocious shooting claimed the lives of eleven worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. And in response we have seen exemplified across the world the age-old answer which God's people give to sin: in grief and in sorrow, in courage despite nightmarish circumstances, the Jewish people have continued to worship their God.

Isaiah, too, lived under threat of violence and would see his people hideously persecuted. And he, too, though he cried out in deep anguish, also sang hymns of praise in defiant joy. I was deeply moved last week to read about the Jewish doctor who operated on the Tree of Life shooter even while the shooter hurled venomous slurs at him. That doctor is a man whose life sings the ceaseless music of God's selfless love even under the shadow of death and in the valley of darkness. We Christians, who worship a saviour from the tribe of Judah and learn daily from the prophet of Jerusalem, must surely sing with our Jewish neighbours in the same strains which run through Isaiah's song of Chapter 12: 'Look: this god is my deliverance — I will trust; I won’t fear, for my strength and my music is God, the GOD, and for me he is deliverance.'

In mournful but unyielding worship, I say to you as always,

Rejoice evermore.