“Worship with Thanksgiving”
Lesson Text: Isaiah 12:1-6
Background Scripture: Isaiah 12
Devotional Reading: Psalm 92:1-8
Isaiah 12:1-6 (KJV)
1 And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.
2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
4 And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.
5 Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.
6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.
To understand that salvation comes from the Lord.
To encourage ways to express thanks to the Lord.
To write out a personal tribute or testimony of praise to encourage others.
The Many Reasons to Say “Thank You”
A gentleman mentioned that his wife’s mother and father both celebrated their eightieth birthdays in 2010. When his wife prepared cards to send them, she included with each card 80 memories that she recalled about each. Needless to say, her parents were quite touched to read the lists and to consider all that his wife remembered about what each had done for her. Her father was especially amazed and surprised at all the seemingly insignificant actions that she recalled.
Gratitude to our heavenly Father should be one of the distinctives of the Christian life. Paul encourages his readers to be “giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). In addition to “always,” some days may provide special opportunities to reflect on and remember our Father’s goodness and faithfulness to us.
In today’s passage, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a day when praise will be the common language of God’s people—a message so strong and clear that the world will not be able to ignore it. Isaiah’s words remind us that our praise is not meant to be hoarded, but to be proclaimed to the world.
Time: 735 B.C.
Today’s text, Isaiah 12, reads like a psalm. With only six verses, Isaiah 12 is rather brief, as are many of the psalms. It concludes a series of messages by the prophet that have been characterized by both judgment and hope.
Last week’s lesson text recorded Isaiah’s eager response to the Lord’s call for someone to go on His behalf (Isaiah 6:1-8). However, when we read Isaiah’s “job description” that follows in 6:9-13, it seems that he was in for an extremely discouraging ministry! Essentially Isaiah was called by God to confirm His judgment upon His people (vv. 9, 10). When Isaiah inquired, “How long?” the response was, “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate” (v. 11). A remnant, however, would be preserved, indicating that the “holy seed” would not be destroyed completely (v. 13).
If Isaiah entertained any reservations about having been so eager to answer the Lord’s call, we are not told. The Scriptures indicate that he proceeded to carry out his commission, starting with an encounter with obstinate, rebellious King Ahaz of the southern kingdom of Judah. Faced with an invasion from the combined forces of the northern kingdom of Israel and Syria (Aram), Ahaz refused to heed Isaiah’s plea to trust the Lord.
That king’s lack of faith was just one illustration of why both northern and southern kingdoms were in such a low spiritual condition. Isaiah 9 and 10 include a series of indictments against the people, punctuated with this repeated refrain: “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still” (Isaiah 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4).
But these chapters are not limited to proclamations of gloom and doom. Within them we find some of the most stunning prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. Isaiah 7:14 prophesies His virgin birth. Isaiah 9:6 begins, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,” and declares some of the magnificent titles that this child will wear.
Isaiah 11:1 predicts the coming of “a rod out of the stem of Jesse” and a “Branch” that “shall grow out of his roots.” On this special individual will rest the Spirit of the Lord, empowering Him in all of the areas necessary for godly and competent leadership (11:1-5). The impact of this coming one is described in language that portrays natural enemies living at peace with one another (11:6-9). Verse 10 then labels the one to come as “an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek.” This verse is quoted in Romans 15:12 as fulfilled in Jesus.
The last six verses of Isaiah 11, just before today’s lesson text, describe an event reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt. This wording might be understood to depict God’s people returning from captivity in Babylon (which Isaiah later predicts to happen; see 39:5-7). But the scope of the return (involving even “the islands of the sea,” 11:11) appears to point to something far more significant. The New Testament, particularly the previously mentioned quotation in Romans 15:12, leads one to consider Isaiah’s language as pointing forward to the worldwide impact of Jesus’ Great Commission. No wonder the prophet burst forth in the words of praise in today’s text!
Praise for God’s Salvation (Isaiah 12:1-3)
1. What does the phrase “in that day” refer to (Isaiah 6:1)?
The phrase in that day is most likely linked to the identical wording in Isaiah 11:10. There that day refers to the day of Israel's regathering and reunion and the righteous reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, the dazzling promise of the Messiah’s coming extends beyond Israel to shine upon all the nations of the world. The Savior Himself stood as a banner to which the nations rallied in Him, they would find glorious rest from strife. Moreover, God would gather the exiles of Israel and Judah from every geographical direction (v. 12). This prophecy goes beyond the return of Jews from Babylonian captivity in 536 B.C., or the establishment of a new Jewish state in 1948. Isaiah’s words again would find their fulfillment in the ultimate regathering of the Jewish people to Israel in the future kingdom of the Jesus. In fact, the Lord would remove all obstacles to His people’s regathering (v. 16),
In light of these glorious promises, there was no better way to respond than through songs of praise. After all, the future time of hope would be a “day” (12:1) of victory and joy, especially as the Lord defeated Israel’s foes and restored the chosen people to the promised land. Isaiah, in using the personal pronoun rendered “I,” spoke as a representative for all the faithful remnant. Centuries earlier, Moses followed a similar approach as he and the Israelites stood on the shoreline of the Red Sea (see Exod. 15:1): For them, it was a moment to celebrate the Lord’s vanquishing of Pharaoh and his army. For a future generation of Israelites, the occasion for praise would be God’s freeing them from such oppressors as Assyria and Babylon. Today, it is because of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross that God’s anger is “turned away” from sinners. This is at the heart of what the New Testament calls reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
In verse 1 of today’s lesson, the chosen people acknowledged that they did not deserve to experience deliverance from the Lord. After all, for many years they refused to heed His commands, as recorded in the Mosaic law (see Isa. 1:4). Understandably, God was “angry” (12:1) with His people and allowed them to be overrun by foreign powers (see 5:25; 9: 12). Eventually, the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Then, in 586 B.C., the southern kingdom of Judah ended at the hands of the Babylonians. Amazingly, though, the Lord “turned away” (12:1) from His “anger and once again “comforted” the faithful remnant (see 40:1-2). God’s consolation and compassion were the basis for His people giving Him thanks.
What Do You Think?
From what source do you most often experience God’s comfort? Why is that?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Comfort through Scripture | Comfort through prayer | Comfort from fellow believers | Other
2. In what ways can we trust God for our salvation (Isaiah 12:2)?
“God is my salvation” is an appropriate declaration for Isaiah to make since the name Isaiah means “The Lord is salvation.” The Lord does not merely provide salvation or strength or a song—He himself is all of these. Only by means of a personal relationship with such a God can these blessings be known. Paul makes similar claims of Jesus when he writes that “he is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14) and “for to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).
Isaiah has experienced the Lord’s salvation in a very personal way through his earlier call to service (see last week’s study). Isaiah recognized how separated he was from a holy God, but Isaiah received a divine purging that cleansed him and prepared him for service (Isaiah 6:6-8).
The title “Lord Jehovah” translates two Hebrew words that are very closely related. The word Lord is a translation of Hebrew Yah, which is a shortened version of Yahweh; that is how the divine name is often rendered. We see the shortened form appearing as the last three letters in the word Hallelujah (with j substituted for y), which is a literal exhortation to “praise the Lord.” The word Jehovah, for its part, is the word Yahweh in its full form.
The declaration I will trust, and not be afraid provides a stark contrast with the attitude of King Ahaz as seen in Isaiah 7. That king was told by Isaiah not to fear the threats to him and his people (7:3, 4), but the weak king refused Isaiah’s counsel (7:12). The alternative to fear is always to trust in the Lord and in His sovereign purposes.
What Do You Think?
What common fears can result in a lack of trust in God? What attitudes and actions can we take to demonstrate our trust in Him?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
At the personal level | At the family level | At the congregational level | At the national level | Other
3. What does water symbolize in Scripture (v. 3)?
The image of drawing water out of the wells is in keeping with the exodus language that is seen at the conclusion of Isaiah 11. After the Israelites left Egypt, they proceeded to the wilderness of Shur, where the only available water was too bitter to drink. When the people complained, the Lord enabled Moses to make the water drinkable (Exodus 15:22-25). Not long afterward the people reached another site, Elim, where there were 12 wells of water (v. 27). On a later occasion still, God again provided water by means of a well (Numbers 21:16-18).
Water becomes a symbol in Scripture for spiritual refreshment and renewal (Psalm 23:2; Isaiah 49:10; 58:11). Jesus describes himself to the Samaritan woman at the well as the source of living water (John 4:10-14). He describes the Holy Spirit in terms of “rivers of living water” that will flow from within anyone who believes in Jesus (John 7:37-39). Joy is just one of the blessings that a person experiences when he or she, like the woman at the well, embraces Jesus as “the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42).
Proclaiming God’s Mighty Acts (Isaiah 12:4-6)
4. How does the last three verses of our passage differ in emphasis from the first three?
The second half of our passage is organized in a similar way as the first half, and it again begins with “in that day.” This section, however, has a different focus. Whereas in the first the people were thanking God among themselves for their salvation, here they are publicizing His mighty deeds to all peoples of the earth.
5. What did Isaiah say that the remnant would do in public (v. 4)?
Verse 4 is a call to praise “the Lord:” those who voice their praise are to declare His doings among the people. The blessing of salvation is not to be hoarded; salvation is a message for everyone, not just the people of Israel since the Hebrew word translated people is plural, literally “peoples.” This too points to the impact of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and to the worldwide declaration of those events. The apostle John was told, “Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” (Revelation 10:11; compare 17:15).
Thus Isaiah’s experience of a personal call (Isaiah 6:1-8, last week’s lesson) is to be reproduced, in a sense, in the lives of all faithful servants of the Lord. Isaiah is eager to go forth in response to God’s call for workers (6:8). But the message Isaiah is to bring, as found in 6:9-13, is primarily one of judgment and devastation. How much more should we be willing to make mention that his name is exalted as we take the gospel of Christ to the world!
6. What great deeds of God will redeemed Israel declare to the world (v. 5)?
Isaiah 12:5 directs the redeemed Israel to “sing” praises to God. The reason calls to mind the statement made in verse 4 about God’s mighty acts. In verse 5, they are referred to as “excellent things.” Put another way, the Lord had acted marvelously in delivering His beleaguered people from their foes. While the covenant community was to encourage one another with this truth, they were not to keep it to themselves. Instead, they were to publicize God’s tremendous deeds to “all the earth.” In other words, even Gentiles needed to know what the Lord had done so that they too could come to saving faith in Him. The implication is that the benefits of God’s plan of redemption went beyond Israel to include all the inhabitants of the earth (see 11:10).
Those who have experienced the Lord’s salvation from spiritual bondage to sin have their own excellent things for which to give thanks. Isaiah can only prophesy of these blessings and view them from a distance; we are privileged to live in the era of fulfillment.
What Do You Think?
What should your own “life’s song” say about the “excellent things” of God in your life?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Personal victories | Victories that blessed your family or community | Victories that blessed your church family
7. Why did Isaiah refer to God’s people as citizens of “Zion?” Why were they to “cry out and shout” (v. 6)?
In verse 6, God’s people are referred as citizens of “Zion.” The latter is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7 as a Jebusite fortress on a hill. After being captured by David, this fortress was called the City of David. Here Israel’s king brought the ark of the covenant, thereby making the hill a sacred site (see 6:10-12). In the Old Testament, Zion is also called the “city of God” (Ps. 46:4), God’s “rest for ever” (132:14), God’s “holy hill” (2:6), the “holy city” (Isa. 48:2), and the “glorious holy mountain” (Dan. 11:45). Eventually, Zion came to stand for the entire city of Jerusalem. Moreover, in early Christian thought, Zion represented the “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22).
Isaiah 12:6 instructed the covenant community to cry out and “sing for joy.” The reason is that the “Holy One of Israel” was in their midst and acted mightily among them, particularly by setting them free. As 40:1 makes clear, the news of Israel’s deliverance was to be a source of comfort to His chosen people. Verse 9 describes it as “good tidings” that were to be proclaimed to “Zion” and “Jerusalem.” In view of what the Lord planned to do on behalf of the covenant community, verse 25 asked to whom could anyone “liken” Him? Likewise, who could be His “equal?” The obvious answer is that there was no one like the Lord. After all, He alone was the “Holy One.” As such, He ruled unchallenged over the faithful remnant and exercised supreme authority over all the earth. Consequently, there was no power in the entire cosmos that could prevent the Lord from fulfilling His promises of deliverance to His people.
What Do You Think?
What are some ways that we can remind ourselves that God is indeed “in the midst” of us today? Why is it important to do so?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Scripture passages |Personal experience | Other
Make Some Noise!
When was the last time you were so happy you screamed your head off? All sorts of things can make us yell with joy: our team scores, a loved one returns from war, we receive a special gift, we ride a roller coaster, we find out a new baby is on the way, etc. Some of us are pretty reserved and express ourselves this freely only on rare occasions. But at some point each of us has been so happy about something that we literally screamed.
When was the last time you were so happy in church that you shouted? Some churches feature exuberant worship every Sunday. In other churches, a tentative “amen” from the back pew would surprise everyone, including the preacher. Yet even in these congregations, some of the most placid pew-sitters transform into maniacs in the bleachers of a high school basketball game.
So it’s not a matter of cultural differences in general, it’s a matter of church culture. This is not a criticism of churches that have subdued, reflective worship services; there is indeed great value in times of quiet worship when we can be undisturbed as we contemplate our relationship with God. But the salvation we have really is something to yell about! Isaiah reminds us it is perfectly appropriate to praise God with shouting—even, at times, in church.—A. W.
POINTS TO PONDER
1. God’s grace is in our lives is one of many reasons why we offer praise! (Isaiah 12:1-3).
2. Therefore, we should be excited to proclaim God’s mighty acts to the world! (Isaiah 12:4-6).
Alone or with Someone
Among the thoughts drawn from today’s study is that worship is to be both “alone or with someone.” Some pronouns used by Isaiah in today’s passage are singular (which is the focus of the first two verses- “I will praise,” and “I will trust”), while others are plural. There is certainly a place for “closet praise,” where one can give thanks in private (Matthew 6:6). When someone has gone through an especially dark, difficult “valley” and has emerged from it with God’s help, then his or her praise may be far too personal to share in public. The tears that can erupt in the midst of such praise may be something best shared between only the worshipper and God.
On the other hand, public (corporate) worship also has a vital role in the Christian’s life. Hebrews 10:25 is frequently quoted in this regard: “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” This bears repeating (and memorizing). Faithful and meaningful personal worship should drive us to seek worship with others. Meaningful corporate worship should result in a renewed commitment to maintaining our private fellowship with the Lord between Sundays.
The encouragement that comes from worship with others makes us realize that no one is ever alone in his or her walk with God. This gives the worshipper a renewed perspective for encountering a lost world. It is a world where many voices clamor to be heard—some worthwhile and others completely worthless. We have been placed in the midst of that noisy din to bear witness to the Holy One of Israel—to “declare his doings among the people” and make known the “excellent things” that He has done.
Heavenly Father, whether we worship in the quietness of our homes or amidst the songs of a congregation, may we, like Isaiah, refuse to be silenced in our thanksgiving. You have done and will do excellent things! In Jesus’ name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Praise is not just part of our worship,
it is also our witness to the world.
ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON
Our next lesson "Worship with Meaning," teaches us the importance inner worship from the heart, and not outward observances. Study Isaiah 29:9-16.