Text: Isaiah 12
“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things! His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him.” (Psalm 98:1-2, English Standard Version) We sang these words in the Introit today. They come from Psalm 98 and give us our Latin title Cantate, “sing.” Although they come from the Psalm, these words sound a lot like the song Moses sang after the crossing of the Red Sea, a song of deliverance. The Lord God with His right hand and mighty arm provided salvation for His people by bringing them across the Red Sea on dry ground; He delivered them from the Egyptians by turning the waters back on Pharaoh and his chariots. How can the Lord’s people not sing for joy after having received rescue from all their enemies?
Our text from Isaiah is also a song of deliverance, though it is wider in scope and scale than the Psalm or even the song of Moses. The song in our text is what will be sung by the children of God in the new heavens and new earth. We will sing for joy both as individuals who have been redeemed and as the collective, living body of Christ, the Church. Although this song has yet to be sung, we get a preview of it here in the text, and we celebrate today that two of our own will soon get to participate in the foretaste of this feast in the Lord’s Supper. With St. Isaiah, with saints of old and those yet to come, we sing to the Lord today for He has had mercy on us, become our salvation, and brought us into the fellowship of His Son.
The song in Isaiah begins by looking back at that from which the Lord has saved us – His righteous anger and the fury of His wrath. It does this by way of confession, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away.” (v. 1) With these words, let us explore what condition so many people live in, what were ourselves were conceived and born into: sin. Although all creation was created perfect, including our parents Adam and Eve, that perfection was shattered. Our parents used the free will they were given by God – including the ability to not sin – and, instead, grasped after being God. They created idols of themselves in their hearts and reached out to eat the fruit in worship of those idols. By their disobedience, they brought into the world the corruption of sin. In time, that corruption spread to all, all who were and have been born of natural human seed.
The Scriptures tell us how God feels about this – and about all sin – it angers Him. He hates sin, as the Scriptures say. (Mal. 2:16) Sin and its activity is no minor infraction; it is not something that prompts just a slap on the hand. Instead, it stokes God’s righteous fury and He demands its punishment saying, “The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezek. 18:4) At the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai, God said, “The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (Ex. 20:7) This wrath of God is not just against a world of sinners, but us as individuals. If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves. As we have been born of human seed, we also were born into sin and have lived in it. We also have built idols in our own image and reached out to the tree of sin. Therefore, we must also confess, as Isaiah, that the Lord was angry with us, “You were angry with me,” the song goes.
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away, that You might comfort me.” In the ancient translation it says, “You had mercy on me.” It is true that we are sinners, that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed. It is also true that, for our sins, we had brought upon ourselves God’s righteous anger and the punishment due. But, it says, the Lord turned His anger away from us. The song continues that the Lord “is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” (v. 2) Whence this change? The Lord was angry with us because of our many sins, but now His anger is turned away. How? A little while back, we read through the Book of Hebrews in our evening devotions. It was a little hard to follow, but the point of the book is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices and the payment for our sins.
St. John phrases it differently, but he might be easier to understand. He says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins;” the payment for our sins. (1 Jn. 4:10) Although God would have been just in punishing us for our sins, He took a different path; a harder one. Rather than pour out His wrath on us, He put forth His own Son in our place. In obedience to the Father, out of His own love, our Lord Jesus took our sins into Himself. On the cross, He bore all of God’s anger against our sin and died. As the Baptist proclaimed, Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away sin of the world. That is what that word propiate means. Jesus paid for our sins, He atoned for them. Because He is not just fully man, but fully God at the same time, His death is able to pay for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world. In His death, God became our salvation.
By His death, Jesus removed the wrath that stood between the Father and us. His cross bridges the great chasm between us and brings us back into fellowship with the Father. By Jesus’ death, through the faith created in you by the Holy Spirit, you were brought back into fellowship with the Father. You singular were brought back into fellowship when you were joined to Christ; together we are His body, the Church. Not only were you saved by His death, but we all have been saved and brought into fellowship. That’s the way the song goes in our text. In verse one, the “you” there is singular. In verse 3, the “you” there is plural. The Lord has turned away His anger toward us as individuals. He had mercy and sent His Son to die for you and me. He became our salvation and brought us together in fellowship. The life of a Christian is not lived in isolation, but in fellowship with God and each other. This is something we get to celebrate today.
Today, two of our own get the opportunity to confess their faith in Christ. They get to acknowledge publicly that God’s wrath was turned away from them when Christ died, and that they received the forgiveness of sins and the gift of faith in their Baptisms. Upon this confession, as well-catechized members of the Body of Christ, they soon will join our fellowship in receiving the Lord’s Supper together. In the Supper, we see not only a picture of the Lord’s love for us but a demonstration of the unity that He creates through His Word. And that gives us, as a parish, a very good reason to sing.
It says in Isaiah, “I will give thanks to You, O Lord, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away, that You might comfort Me. Behold, God is My salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” (vv. 1-2) Today we give thanks and sing praise for the salvation of God. Though He was angry with us, He has turned His anger aside and brought us together into the fellowship of His Son. Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Alleluia.