Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 12

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-3

Isaiah 12:1-3

And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise Thee.

Praise for redemption

As the Israel that was redeemed from Egypt raised songs of praise on the other side of the Red Sea, so likewise does the Israel of the second redemption when brought not less miraculously over the Red Sea and Euphrates. (F. Delitzsch.)

A song in the night

It is time we had a hymn in this prophecy of Isaiah, for the reading has been like a succession of thunderstorms and earthquakes. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Did Isaiah write this song?

Some say Isaiah did not write this song. It is of no consequence to us who wrote it: here it is, and it is in the right place, and it expresses the right thought, and there is probably more evidence for the authorship of Isaiah than for the authorship of any other man. Some have said it is not like his style: but what is his style? What is the style of the sky? Is it for two days alike? Who could write the history of the sky simply as it appears to the vision of man? The accounts would seem to contradict one another, for the sky passes through panoramic changes innumerable, infinite, and all beautiful where they are not grand. So with the style of this great statesman Isaiah. He handles things with the infinite ease of conscious power; he is as strong in his music as he is in his prophecy. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Praise for redemption by the individual and by the Church

In that day--

EVERY PARTICULAR BELIEVER shall sing a song of praise for his own interest in that salvation (Isaiah 12:1-3). “Thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise Thee.” Thanksgiving work shall be closet work.

MANY IN CONCERT. shall join in praising God for the common benefit arising from this salvation (Isaiah 12:4-6). “Ye shall say, Praise the Lord.” Thanksgiving work shall be congregation work. (M. Henry.)

A new song for new hearts

The text is many sided. We shall find out the very soul of the passage if we consider it as an illustration of what occurs to every one of God’s people when he is brought out of darkness into God’s marvellous light.

THE PRELUDE of this song. Here are certain preliminaries to the music. “In that day thou shalt say.” Here we have the tuning of the harps, the notes of the music follow after in the succeeding sentences.

1. There is a time for that joyous song which is here recorded. The term, “that day,” is sometimes used for a day of terror, and often for a period of blessing. The common term to both is this, they were days of the manifestation of Divine power. “That day,” a day of terrible confusion to God’s enemies; “that day,” a day of great comfort to God’s friends. Now, the day in which a man rejoices in Christ, is the day in which God’s power is revealed on his behalf in his heart and conscience.

2. A word indicates the singer. “Thou.” It is a singular pronoun, and points out one individual. One by one we receive eternal life and peace. You fancy that it is all right with you because you live in a Christian nation; it is woe unto you, if having outward privileges, they involve you in responsibilities, but bring you no saving grace. Perhaps you fancy that your family religion may somewhat help you, but it is not so; there is no birthright godliness: “Ye must be born again.” Still, I know ye fancy that if ye mingle in godly congregations, and sing as they sing, and pray as they pray, it shall go well with you, but it is not so; the wicket gate of eternal life admits but one at a time. This word, “thou,” is spoken to those who have been by sorrow brought into the last degree of despair.

3. The next thing to be noted in the preliminaries is the Teacher. It is God alone who can so positively declare, “thou Shalt say.” If any man presumes to say, “God has turned His anger away from me,” without a warrant from the Most High, that man lies to his own confusion; but when it is written. “Thou shalt say,” it is as though God had said, “I will matte it true, so that you shall be fully justified in the declaration.”

4. Here is another preliminary of the song, namely, the tone of it. “Thou shalt say.” The song is to be an open one, avowed, vocally uttered, heard of men, and published abroad. It is not to be a silent feeling, a kind of soft music whose sweetness is spent within the spirit.

IN THE SONG ITSELF, I would call to your notice--

1. The fact that all of it is concerning the Lord. It is all addressed to Him. “O Lord, I will praise Thee: though Thou wast angry, Thine anger is turned away.” When a soul escapes from the bondage of sin, and becomes consciously pardoned, it resembles the apostles on the Mount Tabor--it sees no man, save Jesus only. God will be all in all when iniquity is pardoned.

2. The next thing in this song is, that it includes repentant memories. “Though Thou wast angry with me.” There was a time when God was to our consciousness angry with us. In the Hebrew the wording of our text is slightly different from what we get in the English. Our English translators have very wisely put in the word “though,” a little earlier than it occurs in the Hebrew. The Hebrew would run something like this, “O Lord, I will praise Thee; Thou wast angry with me.” Now we do this day praise God that He made us feel His anger.

3. The song of our text contains in itself blessed certainties. “Thine anger is turned away.” Can a man know that? can a man be quite sure that he is forgiven? Ay, that he can; he can be as sure of pardon as he is of his existence.

4. Our song includes holy resolutions. “I will praise Thee.” I will do it with my heart in secret. I will praise Thee in the Church of God, for I will search out other beliers, and I will tell them what God has done for me. I will cast in my lot with Thy people. I will praise Thee in my life. I will make my business praise Thee; I will make my parlour and my drawing room, I will make my kitchen and my field praise Thee. I will not be content unless all I am and all I have shall praise Thee. I will make a harp of the whole universe; I will make earth and heaven, space and time, to be but strings upon which my joyful fingers shall play lofty tunes of thankfulness.

5. This is a song which is peculiar in its character, and appropriate only to the people of God. I may say of it, “no man could learn this song but the redeemed.” It is not a Pharisee’s song--it has no likeness to “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men”; it confesses, “Thou wast angry with me,” and therein owns that the singer was even as others; but it glories that through infinite mercy, the Divine anger is turned away, and herein it leans on the appointed Saviour. It is not a Sadducean song; no doubt mingles with the strain. It is not the philosopher’s query, “There may be a God, or there may not be”; it is the voice of a believing worshipper. It is not, “I may be guilty, or I may not be.” It is all positive, every note of it. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The heart’s diapason

It is a full song--the swell of the diapason of the heart. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Grace upon grace

“Thou comfortedst me.” Persons may be liberated from slavery by the arm of power; they may be rescued from oppression by the exercise of justice; they may be relieved from want by the hand of bounty; but to pour reviving consolation into the dejected mind is the kind office of pure affection and pity (Isaiah 66:13). (R. Macculloch.)

The song of the ransomed

Such will one day be the song of a ransomed nation, and such is even now the song of the ransomed soul. Until we can sing this song we do not know what praise really means. It is a striking contrast indeed.

(1) It is a stern and terrible fact that there are some persons on whom the wrath of God does rest (John 3:36). There are few more startling expressions in the whole Bible than this. Think of the wrath of God abiding on you! You rise up in the morning, and there it is--hanging over you. You go forth to your work, the sun is shining in the outer world, making all nature jubilant, and over you this dark funereal pall is still hanging. You surround yourselves with all the pleasing scenes of a comfortable home. In the very midst of your comfort and prosperity still that cloud is there. You lay your head upon your pillow at night, and if you should think at all, your last thoughts might well be: If I never wake again here on earth, I must certainly wake to find the wrath of God abiding on me. This is not the only passage in which such an affirmation is made.

(2) How did this great change indicated here take place? If you refer to the immediate context, you will learn a valuable lesson. In the previous chapters we meet with a very mournful refrain: “For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.” These sorrowful words come after a description of terrible and overwhelming judgment. This points to the solemn conclusion that, although it is perfectly true that sin always brings punishment in its train, the punishment which we endure, as the result of our sin, does not expiate its guilt. What was it that turned away the anger of God from Israel? The tenth chapter is merely a parenthesis. It is when the Rod of the stem of Jesse has appeared, and the eye of God, looking down upon His own nation, sees something within that nation that He is well pleased with, that a complete change comes over the aspect of things. The anger of God disappears, the sunlight of Divine pleasure bursts upon a rejoicing nation, and the next moment we are introduced to this song of triumphant praise. The moment that the eye of

God, gazing down upon you, sees in your nature that which He beheld of old in the sacred land, and which He will behold again one day on a consecrated earth, the Plant of renown--Christ received into your nature, Christ growing in the thirsty, barren soil of your fallen humanity, like a root in a dry ground, and making all things fertile and fruitful by His presence--when God, gazing down, sees within you a received Christ, He has noanger, no judgment for that. You will be able to say, “Thou wast angry; Thine anger is turned away: Thou comfortedst me.”

In reaching this point the soul proceeds to make the most astonishing and glorious discovery it is possible for us to make. “Behold, God is my SALVATION.” I suddenly discover that I have no longer anything to fear in God. He bridges over in His own blessed Person the vast chasm between my sin and His purity, and as I step upon this wondrous bridge I find that it will bear my weight. God Himself brings me to God. This salvation is offered to us for nothing. But it cost the Son of God something. This salvation is to be appropriated by simple trust. “I will trust, and not be afraid.”

But not only does the happy soul find out that God is his salvation; he goes on to find out that the Lord Jehovah is his STRENGTH. The very title which the prophet gives to God suggests the eternal immutability of the great “I Am.” As we obtain salvation by taking God for our salvation, so we obtain strength by taking God for our strength with equally simple, childlike faith.

When you have made the discovery that the Lord Jehovah is your strength, no wonder if you go on to make yet a third. He is our SONG. God designs that from this time forth you shall be perfectly happy; but, if you want to be really happy, God must be your song. When we think upon God there is always something to sing about. His faithfulness and truth; His unchanging love; His readiness to be to us all that we want; the hope that He holds out to us, blooming with immortality.

And, as the result of this, we shall “WITH JOY DRAW WATER OUT OF THE WELLS OF SALVATION.” Some have sat beside the wells of salvation, from time to time, as a matter of custom and habit, and yet have never known what it was to draw water out of the wells with joy. You have come to church on Sunday because it happened to be Sunday. You were expected to be there, and there you were. Some of you have read your Bible because it is a proper thing to do. Your life has been a life of legal performances. Your prayers have been little better than superstitious incantations. Now all that is changed. It is with joy, and not with murmuring, that we are to find our wells. On more than one occasion the Israelites applied for water in this spirit, and found a curse mingled with their blessing. Let us dig our wells as they dug the well of old at Beer, when, though they lacked water, they were wise enough to leave the matter in the Lord’s hands. Then it was God undertook for them. (Anon.)

The present happiness of God’s people set before the unconverted

God, in His infinite mercy, has addressed the most various motives to sinners in general, to induce them to turn to Him. He has been pleased to set before sinners in His Word the immediate happiness that they may enjoy in His service, as incomparably greater than any they can hope to have in this world while absent and alienated from Him And this truth is not before us most strikingly in these words.


1. The first thing here declared to us is, that God does pardon the penitent believer. He was originally angry with him. God is, and must be, according to His Divine perfections, angry with those who are living in a state of rebellion against Him. But when a person is brought to believe in Christ that anger is gone.

2. And as this is the blessing itself, so is the believer, when faith is strong, assured of that blessing. But when I speak of this as a constraining motive why sinners in general should turn to God, they may feel that ungodly persons have no such burden. Yet though now the sinner may not feel his need of such a consolation, he may be assured that it is a consolation surpassing in value and in peace and in joy all that he has ever experienced in a life of indifference and ungodliness.


1. God is become the “salvation” of a penitent believer. That is, He accomplishes His entire deliverance from sin and its consequences.

2. God is his “salvation” from all present evil, and introduces him to the possession of all real good (Psalms 121:7; Psalms 84:11; Romans 8:28). Hence, then, the Lord does not reserve all the blessings of His people for the eternal world, but pours out His treasures of mercy upon them even now. And as God bestows upon His people this assurance that He is “their strength and their salvation,” it must fill them with abiding joy. (B. W. Noel, M. A.)

The joy of salvation

At the Southport Convention, 1901, the Rev.
W.Y. Fullerton told an amusing incident of a friend of his, not a Methodist,but with enough fire for two, who wrote a post card to a friend, and having filled up the back, wrote a closing message on the front of the card, “Be of good cheer, brother.” And the Post Office authorities not only surcharged the recipient, but stamped beneath the message, “Contrary to regulations.” Christian joy is legitimate, and not opposed to the regulations of heaven. (Methodist Times.)

Assurance of salvation

Assurance of salvation makes the firmest, the most active, the most useful, the holiest, the happiest, the most even and regular Christians. (John Bate.)

Verse 2

Isaiah 12:2

Behold, God is my salvation

Rejoicing in God

These words are used by the prophet, in the name of the Church, to set forth the happiness and salvation of the Jews when they shall be gathered in with the fulness of the Gentiles.

They also express the experience of a believer--

WITH RESPECT TO HIS MORAL STATE. “God is my salvation.” Some would have the aid, the consolation, and the favour of God, but refuse His salvation, and remain in sin. This, however, is vain and impossible. The privileges of a believer are unspeakably great, but they all are founded on that change which the grace of God makes in his nature, here called salvation. Salvation is deliverance, and how does this show itself in a believer? He is delivered from darkness (2 Corinthians 4:6). From insensibility (Ezekiel 36:26). From pride. From creaturely dependence. From a sense of condemnation (Romans 8:1). From slavery (JohnRo 6:22). He is delivered from misery, into union with God, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost; no longer a stranger and foreigner, but a fellow heir, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and in the hope of His glory. Observe, to whom the believer refers us as the Author of this salvation--“God.”

WITH RESPECT TO HIS AID. “The Lord Jehovah is my strength.” If we have not yet learned that our own strength is weakness, and that we shall never be sufficiently strong until the Lord Jehovah Himself strengthens with ‘all might in our inner man, we have learnt little of Christianity. But he who knows that God is his salvation, knows also that God is his strength.

Dost thou fall? “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” Art thou faint? “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” Art thou wounded? A touch of the Divine hand shall heal thee. Art thou buffeted by Satan? God shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. In one word, behold a Divine and almighty power everywhere, and always surrounding you, sufficient for all purposes to bless, support, deliver.

WITH RESPECT TO HIS CONSOLATIONS. “And my song.” Here is an allusion to the ancient custom of composing and singing sacred odes or songs upon occasions of any signal deliverance, or the communication of any peculiar blessing. Such were the songs of Moses and Miriam, when Pharaoh and his host were swallowed up in the Red Sea; of Moses, after he had brought the Israelites to the borders of the promised land; of many of the Psalms of David, etc. Observe, the subject of his song, “the Lord Jehovah.” His nature; His dispensations.

WITH RESPECT TO HIS CONFIDENCE. “I will trust, and not be afraid.” (J. Walker, D. D.)

Salvation of the Lord

The physician may be the means of restoring to health, but it is God who performs the cure. The counsellor may give good advice, but it is God who guides by His counsel and conducts to glory. Soldiers may fight our battles, but it is God who crowns them with victory. Friends may try to assist, relieve, and comfort us, but their success depends entirely upon God. From providences and ordinances we may derive much benefit, but for this purpose it is absolutely requisite that they be accompanied with the Divine blessing. In this manner we are taught that salvation is of the Lord. (R. Macculloch.)


The word “salvation” is too narrowly defined in many instances. People suppose that it means a kind of spiritual selfishness which, being expressed in more words, would run in some such fashion as this: Thank God I am safe, whatever may become of anybody else! Any man who can say that, or mean that, or be in any way under such a delusion, simply knows nothing whatever about the spirit of the Gospel. “Salvation” is one of the largest terms in human speech. Emancipation does not mean--you are now no longer under obligation to serve your old tyrant or your old master. That is but a negative aspect of emancipation. The true meaning is--you are invested with all the responsibilities of organised liberty; you have conferred upon you an opportunity of developing your whole manhood; you may now show the very best aspect of your character, and unless you do it, then slavery were for you better than freedom. It is so with the fullest meaning of this word salvation. Saved people are generous people, beneficent, charitable, anxious about others; nay, the only explanation of their anxiety about others is that they themselves are conscious of having been saved--not saved from fear only, but saved into life, liberty, and conscious possibility of doing great and small things. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The Old Testament interpreted by the New

“Behold, God is my salvation.” Jerome translates this, “Behold, God is my Jesus.” Jerome was right in going back to the Old Testament with the key of the New. In fact, we are entitled to begin at Genesis after we have perused the whole Gospel story with the profoundest interest and have received its spirit into our heart. The Gospels explain the Pentateuch. There are arithmetics which are awful in their initial hardness. They are all questions. Arithmetic is the most audacious interrogator I ever knew. But at the end of the arithmetic, in some cases, there is a key. What different reading! There is not a question in the whole key unless it be at the beginning of an answer, and who, having read the answer, does not feel how easy it was to have worked out the sum after all if one had only taken pains enough at the beginning? At the same time there is a strong disposition just to appropriate what the key says, and then, perhaps, to appear before the spectacled master as if we had never heard of such a thing as a key. That would be illegitimate in arithmetic. There have been young arithmeticians who have been guilty of that meanness. But we are called to look at the key in open day; we are referred to the key; we are invited and challenged to peruse it, and then to go back with the key in our hand to work out all the mystery of the lock. This is what Jerome did; so he did not hesitate to take out the word “salvation” in the second, verse and put in the word “Jesus,” and say with unction and thankfulness, Behold, God is my Jesus.” “His name shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” (J. Parker, D. D.)

Salvation, the possession of God

If there is a man or a woman that thinks of salvation as if it were merely a shutting up of some material hell, or the dodging round a corner, so as to escape some external consequence of transgression, let him or her learn this the possession of God is salvation; that and nothing else. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

God our salvation

The prophet has been looking forward through times of darkness and captivity to the coming day of light and freedom; and in the hymn of which our text is the keynote he shows what will be the spirit of the new age, what the prevailing thoughts and emotions of the time. It is an exultant song, but without a word of self-congratulation. It is the keynote of the kingdom of heaven; and the regeneration of society for which ardent spirits long will not be reached until this old song become again a voice of the time.

1. We are far enough from it now. We have the song in our Bibles, we quote it in our pulpits, we sing it in our church services, but it is not in our modern life. There is nothing of it in the current literature. It is the function of the poet to give voice to the nobler thoughts and emotions of his time. Now can you imagine a poet of our times bursting out into a song like that; and if he did, would the editors of our first-class reviews be eager to glorify their pages with it? Instead of exultation in the name of God, there is all eagerness to avoid it. It is not that the age is indifferent: there is much real earnestness. The word “salvation” is not much in vogue; but the thing meant is by no means despised. If the spirit of earnestness now abroad had been foreseen fifty years ago, men would have thought that the kingdom of heaven was verily at hand at last. But now, here all around us, is the earnestness--philanthropic, moral, even spiritual, earnestness to a considerable extent; but where is the kingdom? Alas, it still seems very far away!

2. We are better than we were. Year by year there is some improvement. But not nearly enough. The end will not be brought within sight till the spirit of this old song comes back to us; till the nation as a nation, not one here and there among the people, but the people as a people, look upwards to the hills from whence cometh their aid; till the inhabitant on every side cries out, “Behold, God is my salvation.”

3. Let it be remembered that trust in God does not mean neglect of ordinary means. We who believe in God are thoroughly with the humanitarians so far as they go. We believe with them in heredity and in its power for evil and for good; only we do not believe that there is any inheritance of evil so terrible that the grace of God cannot reach and save its victim, nor any inheritance of ancestral nobleness so excellent that the grace of God is not needed to make and keep pure, and to raise to still higher things. We believe in education, in refinement, in progress of all kinds, in all processes of evolution which are moving in the right direction, onwards and upwards; only we recognise that none of these, nor all of them together, quite meet the case, or mean salvation. There remain with us mystery, unsolved; sin, crying for forgiveness and cleansing; sorrow, scarce abated or diminished; death, with all its victory--mystery, sin, sorrow, death: all present, patent facts, not to be disputed, not to be conquered by the freest education, or the highest culture; and then there is judgment to come, to which the con science is a witness not in any case to be forever silenced, though it may be hushed and quieted for a time; and there is the great eternity, the thought of which God has put into our hearts. When we look at these things we see our need, not of education merely, but of salvation, and heart and flesh cry out for God.

4. But is not this the watchword of the Churches? Do not they sufficiently represent the Divine factor in the world’s salvation? Would that they did. Look, first, at the national Church. What is its great message? Is it, “Behold, God is thy salvation”? What we all want is to be so filled with the Spirit of God, and so thoroughly saved ourselves, that the keynote of every minister’s sermon, and of every Christian’s life shall be, “Behold, God is my salvation.”

5. There is, indeed, a human side of Divine truth which is of very great importance. If God is to be my salvation, He must be in touch with me. If He show Himself to me, it must be in my likeness; if He speak to me, it must be in my language; if He act on me, it must be through my faculties and in accordance with the laws of my being. He is the God of nature as well as of grace. But important as it is to show the Gospel natural, it is far more important to hold fast to the supernatural. (J. Monte Gibson, D. D.)

God the soul’s salvation

A character in a modern book says, “I said I would leave the saving of my soul to Him that made my soul; it was in right good keeping there I’d warrant.”

Man’s Saviour Divine

Dr. Mason of America said--“I need such a Saviour; for I would not trust my soul to the hands or heart of the brightest seraph that burns before the eternal throne.”

Full assurance of salvation

Mrs. Edwards, wife of President Edwards, says, “In 1742 I sought and obtained the full assurance of faith. I cannot find language to express how certain the everlasting love of God appeared; the everlasting mountains and hills were but shadows to it. My safety and happiness and eternal enjoyment of God’s immutable love, seemed as durable and unchangeable as God Himself. Melted and overcome by the sweetness of this assurance, I fell into a great flood of tears, and could not forbear weeping aloud. The presence of God was so near and so real that I seemed scarcely conscious of anything else. My soul was filled and overwhelmed with light and love and joy in the Holy Ghost, and seemed just ready to go away from the body. This exaltation of soul subsided into a heavenly calm and rest of soul in God, which was even sweeter than what preceded it.”

I will trust, and not be afraid

Our liability to fear, and the power of faith to overcome it

Naturally any creature must be liable to fear. The finite nature, however exalted, must always feel itself transcended and surrounded by the infinite Unknown. There can be only one Being in the universe absolutely and forever free from that liability--He who knows everything, and who controls everything--who knows all beings, agents, facts, possibilities, and rules them. We are manifestly far more liable to the inroads of this fear than those creatures who have never fallen.

THE GREAT MYSTERIES OF EXISTENCE HAVE A TENDENCY TO PRODUCE FEAR. Something depends, of course, on the susceptibility of the individual; a strong practical nature is not so much affected by mysteries; but there are few thoughtful persons who do not sometimes feel the shadow of them on the path; and the continual contemplation of them does not irradiate or dissolve them; they become only more impenetrable and more densely dark, and then comes the fear lest this aspect of them should never be relieved, lest they should be unfathomable and unconquerable forever.

1. Has not every thoughtful mind bowed and almost trembled before the great mystery into which so many others may be resolved--the existence of evil in the universe, under the government of an infinitely powerful and infinitely benevolent Being? We have, indeed, to consider that along with sin was introduced the Gospel--the glorious, all-sufficient remedy, by which sin is to be taken away and purity restored; but they exist together. The remedy, although we have the utmost confidence in its perfect sufficiency, does not destroy the disease in a moment; it struggles with it, and overcomes it only by slow degrees, and in some instances the disease seems to return with increasing virulence, and to reassert its supremacy after the cure has been more than half effected; while, in a multitude of other instances, the remedy never takes effect; at all, and whole generations of human beings are swept away by death, in a moral condition that augurs ill for any future happiness. He who can say that he has had no difficulties with such a subject, only shows that he has had no thoughts about it. And yet it is not at all desirable to be under the influence of this oppression of evil; it is very desirable, and quite possible, to rise superior to it. But how? “I will trust, and not be afraid.” Many have tried to reach the ground of satisfaction by knowledge. They have said, “I will know, and not be afraid”; but they have had no success.

2. There is great mystery also about the plan of Divine providence in this world. We see glimpses of Divine meaning shining out of the plan at intervals, and we make our way with certainty to some of the leading principles of that providence. We are sure, e.g., that God is the friend and protector of the righteous man, and yet, see how some righteous men are tried! And see, on the other hand, how ungodly men rise into influence sometimes. If we gaze upon God’s great providence in the hope of being able to scan its parts and explain all its movements, we shall be sadly disappointed. But if we cease from the vain attempt to understand the complexities of providence and, looking above all its visible movements, rest our faith on Him who conducts them all, we shall begin to have peace. It would be easy to mention many other providential mysteries which are very appalling and perplexing to the natural understanding. Do you say, It is all according to law? But are you not afraid as you see how stern and unrelenting law is? Where is your relief? Will you try to vanquish nature and providence by thought? Will you resist and seek deliverance by strength? Will you be wiser and trust? Ah, that is relief!

THERE ARE CERTAIN POSSIBILITIES, THE THOUGHT OF WHICH HAS A TENDENCY TO DARKEN THE SPIRIT WITH FEAR. Unsatisfied with past and present, we cast our hopes always within the veil of the great tomorrow; but our fears go with our hopes. And it is not merely that there are such bare possibilities in every man’s future, but these are always shaping themselves into probabilities. Perhaps there is no one person who cannot fancy, and who is not sometimes almost compelled to expect, some particular form of ill, something which he shrinks from. What is the remedy? “I will trust, and not be afraid.” There is yet one dread possibility, the contemplation of which is more appalling than the very worst of earthly calamities--the possibility of spiritual failure, ending in a final exclusion from the presence of God and the joys of the blessed. There is but one way of grappling with and overcoming this great fear. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Trust in relation to the will

A Christian lady of my acquaintance was at one time in her life an apparently hopeless victim of doubts and fears. She knew she ought to trust the Lord, and longed to do it, but she seemed utterly unable. After a long period of suffering from this cause, she finally con tided her difficulties to a friend, who, as it mercifully happened, understood this secret concerning the will, and who told her that if in her will she would decide to trust, and, putting all her will power into trusting, would utterly ignore her feelings, she would sooner or later get the victory over all her doubts. The poor doubter listened in silence for a few minutes, and then, drawing a long breath, said with emphasis, “Yes, I see it. If I choose in my will to trust, I really am trusting, even though all my feelings say contrary. I do choose to trust now. I will trust; I will not be afraid again.” As she came to this decision, and thus deliberately put her will on the side of God’s will, all the darkness vanished, and her soul was brought out into the glorious light of the Gospel; a light which was never dimmed again, until her eyes were opened in the presence of the King. (Mrs. H. W. Smith.)

Trust in God

“How do you know that you are ready to appear before God?” was once asked of one dying; and the answer was, ‘ Sir, God knows that I have taken Him at His word.” (Prof. Laidlaw, D. D.)


I once illustrated the act of faith by the experience of a friend who was in an upper room of a hotel at night when the building took fire. He seized the escape rope that was in his room, swung out of the window, and lowered himself in safety to the sidewalk. He had a good opinion of that rope during the day when he saw it coiled up by his bedside, but it was only an opinion; when he believed on the rope, and trusted himself to the rope, it saved his life. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

A definition of faith

An intensely interesting incident was related lately by Dr. J.G. Paten of a discovery of a term in the language of Aniwa for “Faith.” It seems that for a long time no equivalent could be found, and the work of Bible translation was paralysed for want of so fundamental and oft recurring a term. The natives apparently regarded the verb “to hear” as equivalent to belief. For instance, suppose a native were asked whether he heard a certain statement. Should he credit the statement he would reply, “Yes, I heard it,” but should he disbelieve it, he would answer, “No, I did not hear it,” meaning not that his ears had failed to catch the words, but that he did not regard them as true. This definition of faith was obviously insufficient--many passages, such as “faith cometh by hearing,” would be impossible of translation through so meagre a channel; and prayer was made continually that God would supply the missing link. No effort had been spared in interrogating the most intelligent native pundits, but all in vain; none caught the hidden meaning of the word sought by the missionary. One day Dr. Paten was sitting in his room anxiously pondering. He sat on an ordinary chair, his feet resting on the floor; just then an intelligent native entered the room, and the thought flashed to the missionary to ask the all-absorbing question yet once again in a new light. Was he not resting on that chair? Would that attitude lend itself to the discovery? “Taea,” said Dr. Paten, “what am I doing now?” “Koihae ana, Misi” (“You’re sitting down. Misi”), the native replied. Then the missionary drew up his feet and placed them upon the bar of the chair just above the floor, and, leaning back upon the chair in an attitude of repose, asked, “What am I doing now? Fakarongrongo, Misi” (“You are leaning wholly,” or, “You have lifted yourself from every other support”). “That’s it,” shouted the missionary, with an exultant cry; and a sense of holy joy awed him as he realised that his prayer had been so fully answered. To lean on Jesus wholly and only is surely the true meaning of appropriating or saving faith. And now, “Fakarongrongo Iesu ea anea moure” (“Leaning on Jesus unto eternal life,” or, “for all the things of eternal life”), is the happy experience of those Christian islanders, as it is of all who thus cast themselves unreservedly on the Saviour of the world for salvation.

The Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song

Jehovah the strength of His people

1. He is the strength of my understanding, whereby I discern and acknowledge the great mysteries of salvation, and am enabled to perceive the way in which I ought to go.

2. He is the strength of my heart, of which He takes the direction, working in me to will and to do of His good pleasure; giving the willing mind, which makes His work go forward with alacrity and cheerfulness.

3. He is the strength of my affections, which tie preserves from becoming languid and feeble, and fixes them upon the proper objects on which they ought to terminate.

4. He is the strength of my graces, who establisheth my faith, enliveneth my love, animateth my hope and patience; who enableth me to resist my spiritual enemies, to vanquish temptations, to mortify corruptions, to perform duties, to sustain afflictions, and to surmount all the obstacles that lie in the way to the kingdom of God. (R. Macculloch.)

The joy of the Gospel

At least twenty-one times in his letter to the Philippians, written in prison, does St. Paul use such words as joy, rejoice, gladness, while the whole letter is charged with the spirit of joy. This is the real spirit of the Gospel. (Great Thoughts.)

Rejoicing in God

When the poet Carpani asked his friend Haydn how it happened that his church music was so cheerful, the beautiful answer was: “I cannot make it otherwise; I write according to the thoughts I feel. When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen; and since God has given me a cheerful heart, it will be pardoned me that I serve Him with a cheerful spirit.” (Great Thoughts.)

Jehovah His people’s song

The wife of Hawthorne, the American writer, said in a letter to her mother: “Sunday afternoon the birds were sweetly mad, and the lovely rage of song drove them hither and thither, and swelled their breasts amain. I kept saying, ‘Yes, yes, I know it, dear little maniacs, I know it! There never was such an air, such a day, such a God! I know it! I know it.’ But they would not be pacified. Their throats must have been made of fine gold, or they would have been rent with such rapture quakes.” Human beings are compelled to declare in song the ecstasy which is at times in their souls because of the goodness of God. They cannot help being tunefully demonstrative when the Infinite Being comes into their souls, and makes Himself known as a gracious visitant by the plenitude of blessing He bestows. If the great visitation be to them on the week day, they give praise for it in the music which attested their jubilant enthusiasm on the Sabbath. If the great visitation comes to them on the Sabbath, they can scarcely tell whether they belong to earth or to the paradise never darkened by evening shadows, and in their singing they endeavour to emulate “the voice of harpers, harping with their harps.” (Gates of Imagery.)

Verse 3

Isaiah 12:3

Therefore with Joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation

Drawing water from the wells of salvation

The Talmudists refer the words, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation,” to the custom of making an oblation of water on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

But as it is not prescribed in the law of Moses, it has been doubted whether it dates back earlier than the times of the Maccabees. It is, however, at least as probable that the Asmonean princes should have restored an ancient as ordained a new rite; such a rite, to acknowledge God’s gift of the water without which harvest and vintage must have failed, would always have been a likely accompaniment of the feast in which these were celebrated; and the like acts of Samuel and Elijah, though for different purposes, perhaps go in confirmation of the ancient existence of such a practice. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)

The prophecy and its fulfilment

Two events, separated from each other by fifteen hundred years, bear upon these words. One was the origin of the peculiar form of this prophecy, the other contains its interpretation and claims to be its fulfilment.

1. The wandering march of the children of Israel had brought them to Rephidim, where there was no water. Their parched lips opened to murmur and rebel against their unseen Leader and His visible lieutenant. At his wits’ end, Moses cried to God, and the answer is the command to take with him the elders of Israel, and with his rod in his hand to go up to Horeb; and then come grand words, “Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock, and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it.” It is not the rock, nor the rod, nor the uplifted hand, but it is the presence of God which makes the sparkling streams pour out. How the thirsty men would drink, how gladly they would fling themselves on the ground and glue their lips to the glancing blessing, or dip their cups and skins into it, as it flashed along! Many a psalm and prophecy refer to this old story, and clearly Isaiah had it in his mind here, for the whole context is full of allusions to the history of the Exodus, as a symbol of the better deliverance from a worse bondage, which the “Root of Jesse” was to effect. The lyric burst of praise, of which the text is part, carries on the same allusion. The joyful band of pilgrims returning from this captivity sing the “Song of Moses,” chanted first by the banks of the Red Sea, “The Lord is my strength and song and He is become my salvation.” This distinct quotation, which immediately precedes our text, makes the reference in it which we have pointed out, most probable and natural. The connection of these words with the story in the Exodus was recognised by the Jews at a very early period, as is plain from their use in the remarkable ritual of the Feast of Tabernacles. That festival was originally appointed to preserve the remembrance of Israel’s nomad life in the wilderness. In the later days of the nation, a number of symbolical observances were added to those of the original institution. Daily, amidst loud jubilations, the priests wound in long procession down the slope from the temple to the fountain of Siloam in the valley beneath, and there drew water in golden urns. They bore it back, the crowd surging around them, and then amidst the blast of trumpets, and a tumult of rejoicing, they poured it on the altar, while thousands of voices chanted Isaiah’s words, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”

2. So much for the occasion of the prophecy; now for its meaning and fulfilment. Nearly eight hundred years have passed. Again the festival has come round. For seven days the glad ceremonial has been performed. For the last time the priestly procession has gone down the rocky road; for the last time the vases have been filled at the cool fountain below; for the last time the bright water has been poured out sparkling in the sunlight; for the last time the shout of joy has risen and fallen, and as the words of the ancient chant were dying on the ear, a sudden stir began among the crowd, and from the midst of them, as they parted for his passage, came a young man, rustic in appearance, and there, before all the silence-stricken multitude, and priests with their empty urns, “in the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” Surely such words, in such a connection, at such a time, from such lips, are meant to point the path to the true understanding of the text. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The wells of salvation

Consider what we have to understand by THE WELLS OF SALVATION.

1. We are not to be content with any shallow and narrow interpretation of either idea in that phrase. No doubt “salvation” in the Old Testament often means merely outward deliverance from material peril. We shall not strain the meaning here, if we take salvation almost in the fully developed New Testament sense, as including, negatively, the deliverance from all evil, both evil of sin and evil of sorrow, and, positively, the endowment with all good, good both of holiness and happiness, which God can bestow or man receive.

2. Then if so, God Himself is, in the deepest truth, the Well of Salvation. The figure of our text does not point to a well so much as to a spring. It is a source, not a reservoir. So we have but to recall, the deep and wonderful words of the psalmist”: “With Thee is the fountain of life, and others not less profound of the prophet: “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,” in order to be led up to the essential meaning of this text. Salvation has its origin in the depths of God’s own nature. It wells up as of itself, not drawn forth by anything in us, but pouring out as from an inner impulse in His own deep heart. Surely, too, if God be the fountain of salvation, the essence of salvation must be His communication of Himself. The water is the same in the fountain as in the pitcher. But, God being the true fountain of salvation, notice that Jesus Christ plainly and decisively puts Himself in the place that belongs to God: “If any man thirst,” etc. Think of the extraordinary claims involved in that invitation. Every craving of heart and mind, all longings for love and wisdom, for purity and joy, for strength and guidance, He assumes to be able to slake by the gift of Himself.

3. One other remark may be made on this part of our subject. The first word of our text carries us back to something preceding, on which the drawing water with joy is founded. That something is expressed immediately before: “The Lord Jehovah is my strength and song,” etc. These words are quoted from Moses’ song at the Red Sea, and there point to the one definite act by which God had saved the people from their pursuers. In like manner, we have to look to a definite historical act by which the fountain of salvation has been opened for us, and our glad drawing therefrom has been made possible. The mission and work of Jesus Christ, His incarnation, passion and death, are the means by which the sealed fountain has been opened. For men, Jesus Christ is as the river which flows from the closed and land-locked sea of the infinite Divine nature. He is for us the only source, the inexhaustible, the perennial source--like some spring never hot or muddy, never frozen, never walled in,never sinking one hairbreadth in its basin, though armies drink, and ages pass.

Consider again, what is THE WAY OF DRAWING from the wells of salvation.

1. Christ has taught us what “drawing” is. To the Samaritan woman He said, “Thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” So then Drawing is Asking. To the crowds in the temple courts He said, “Let him come unto Me and drink.” So, then, Drawing is Coming. To the listeners by the Sea of Galilee He said, “He that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” So Coming, Asking, Drawing, are all explained by Believing.

2. Now that faith which is thus powerful, must fasten on a definite historical fact. The faith which draws from the fountain of salvation is not a vague faith in generalities about God’s goodness and the like, but it grasps God as revealed and becoming our salvation in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

3. The words preceding our text suggest another characteristic of the faith which really draws water from the fountain: “He is become my salvation.” That is to say, this believing grasp of Christ manifested in a definite historical act is an intensely personal thing,

3. Consider, too, THE JOY OF THE WATER DRAWERS. The well is the meeting place in these hot lands, where the solitary shepherds from the pastures and the maidens from the black camels’ hair tents meet in the cool evening, and ringing laughter and cheery talk go round. Or the allusion may be rather to the joy, as of escape from death, with which some exhausted travellers press towards the palm trees on the horizon that tell of a spring in the desert, and when they have reached it, crowd to the fountain and drink greedily, no matter how hot and muddy it may be. So jubilant is the heart of the man whose soul is filled and feasted with the God of his salvation, and the salvation of his God. Such a man has all the sources and motives for joy which the heart can ask. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Salvation: how to get it

People have given many answers to the question, If God be the fountain of salvation, how are we to get the water? if I may say so, pumps of all sorts have been tried, and there has been much weary working of arms at the handles, and much jangling of buckets and nothing brought up. The old word is true, with a new application to all who try in any shape to procure salvation by any work of their own: “Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.” But there is no need for all this profitless work. It is as foolish as it would be to spend money and pains in sinking a well in some mountainous country, where every hillside is seamed with watercourses, and all that is needed is to put one end of any kind of wooden spout into the “burn” and your vessels under the other. The well of salvation is an artesian well that needs no machinery to raise the water, but only pitchers to receive it as it rises. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Christ’s ordinances

WHAT IS UNDERSTOOD BY A MEANS OF SALVATION. It is that by and through which the Lord Jesus doth by His spirit convey grace and salvation into a soul. These means are some outward, some inward; some ordinary, others extraordinary.


1. The inward means is faith (Hebrews 4:2). This ordinarily requires an outward means to work it by. But being wrought, it is the great inward means of communication betwixt Christ and the soul.

2. Extraordinary means are whatsoever the Lord in His sovereign wisdom is pleased to make use of extraordinarily for conveying grace into the hearts of His elect, as He did a voice from heaven for the conversion of Paul.

3. The outward and ordinary means are the Lord’s own ordinances Romans 10:14-15).

(1) In general, all the ordinances of God without exception, which He has set up in His Church for that end.

(2) The most special means of grace and salvation are the Word, sacraments, and prayer.

WHAT MAKES ANY ORDINANCE A MEANS OF GRACE, a well of salvation, out of which one may in faith look to draw water for his soul, or get spiritual good by.

1. No ordinance whatsoever can avail without a particular blessing; for the efficacy of ordinances is not natural, or from themselves.

2. Men’s institutions or ordinances, in respect of God, are forbidden, and condemned by the Lord’s word, namely, in the second commandment.

3. Men’s use of them is not only useless, but worse, not only to no good purpose, but to ill purpose. That which makes any ordinance a means of grace or salvation, is Divine institution only (Matthew 28:20). Therefore the first question in all ordinances ought to be, Whose is this image and superscription?


1. Not to all who partake of them. “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Many come to these wells who never taste of the water. I think it an unwarrantable expression, that all God’s ordinances do attain their end, in the salvation or damnation of all that come under them; for damnation is not the end of any of God’s ordinances, but salvation.

2. But to all the elect they are effectual, unto whom they come (Acts John 10:26).

WHENCE THE EFFICACY OF ORDINANCES PROCEEDS. It does not proceed from any virtue in themselves, or in him that administers them, but from the Spirit of the Lord working in them and by them (1 Corinthians 3:7). (T. Boston, D. D.)

The wells of salvation

THE WATER. The entire text refers to the great work of God in saving sinners by the obedience and death of His Son.

1. Water is essential to life.

2. Water is purifying in its influence.

3. It has refreshing and fertilising properties. In this country where water abounds we can hardly appreciate this. In the East a draught of cold water was frequently invaluable. It was not only valuable to the body of man, but fertilising to the earth. In this part of the world we have too much water, and our ingenuity is taxed to drain the land, but in the East ingenuity would be stretched to irrigate it.

4. It is a thing of universal adaptation. There are some persons who cannot take milk, others cannot take different kinds of food, and some cannot take vegetables to any amount; and so on. But you never found anyone who could do without water. It is a fact that not only can none of the human race do without it, but all the human race can take it. In like manner, the Gospel is for every class and condition of men.

THE WELLS OF SALVATION. Wherever the pure Gospel is preached, it may be considered one of the wells of salvation.

1. Properly speaking, the Deity is the well of salvation. Christ is the great medium, the great procuring cause, the great efficient cause, and the Holy Ghost is the water of life.

2. Again, the Scriptures of truth may be considered wells of salvation. We moreover observe that in an emphatic manner, all through the Holy Scriptures of revealed truth, Christ is preached, and they are thus wells of salvation.

3. Further, Christ is essentially and emphatically the well of salvation.


1. If you want to draw water, you must come near to the well. If you want to understand something about Christ, you must come to the Bible; you must listen to the Gospel faithfully preached, or, rather, you must come to Christ Jesus Himself.

2. There must be a personal application.

3. This drawing of the water must be continuous. That is a remarkable passage in 1 Peter 2:4 --“To whom coming.” “Coming” denotes continued application. We must not only come for justification and sanctification to Christ, but we must continue to come.

THE JOY. “With joy,” etc. No wonder when you consider--

1. The unrestricted freeness of the Gospel.

2. The gratuitousness of this great blessing.

3. That this joy inspires a glorious hope of eternal bliss. (Hugh Allen, M. A.)

A discovery of God's mercy in Christ

Let us consider the feelings which a discovery of God’s mercy in Christ awakens in the breasts of believers.



Wells of salvation

THE METAPHOR BY WHICH SALVATION IS HERE DESCRIBED. “Wells of salvation.” Water is a favourite emblem in the sacred Scriptures for setting forth the blessings of salvation, especially in the writings of the Old Testament prophets. Salvation, like a well, is--

1. Invisible in its source. God prepares the water for the wells in hidden springs. Man can make a well, but he cannot make a spring; so men may form systems of religion of their own, but they are only wells without water. Salvation is a well of God’s own construction, and He alone from His own hidden resources can supply the life-giving water. There is much mystery in the source of an ordinary well of water, yet we do not allow our inability to fully understand it to present an insuperable barrier in the way of accepting its great blessings; let us exercise the same common sense in our treatment of the wells of salvation.

2. Inexhaustible in its supply. A stream may be dried up, a river may fail to flow, a cistern may be exhausted, but a well is fed from hidden deep springs. In the Gospel of Christ there is enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore.

3. Inestimable in its service.

THE MEANS BY WHICH SALVATION IS TO BE OBTAINED. “With joy shall ye draw,” etc. It is not enough for the thirsty to draw near to a well, not enough to look into it, and listen to the music of its waters--an effort must be made, it must be appropriated.

1. We must “draw.” God provides the well, but we must use the hand of faith; by the rope of effort we must let down the pitcher of desire--and as we draw the blessing up, we shall not thank the instruments by which we obtain the water, but we shall thank Him who provided it so freely for us.

2. We must drink. Not enough to draw the water to the edge of the well, not enough to lift it to the lips, the water must be drunk as well as drawn.

THE SPIRIT IN WHICH SALVATION IS TO BE RECEIVED. “With joy,” etc. The teaching of our text harmonises with the inductions of reason, and with the dictates of common sense. For how else could we draw water out of the wells of salvation? Will not the sufferer go gladly to the physician who has the ability and willingness to heal? Will not the fainting traveller go with joy to the well he discovers close by? (F. W. Brown.)

Drawing water from the wells of salvation

The question naturally arising from these words is, What will make us draw water with joy from these wells? In general we might remark, that these being styled the wells of salvation is a sufficient reason for this joy, provided it is kept properly in view. But more particularly, I remark--

That these wells must be KEPT OPEN for this purpose. The Church of Christ, because devoted to Him, and accessible to none other, is like a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Not so the ordinances of grace: they are accessible to all. To keep these open, ministers must labour, travail as in birth, preach the Word, be instant in season, out of season. Pointed careful attention on the part of the hearers, accompanied with fervent prayer, must keep them open.

They must be KEPT PURE, living, running clear from the throne, No admixture to foul them must be allowed. No addition of ours, nothing kept back.

These waters must be TASTED.

We must HIGHLY VALUE these wells, if we would draw water from them with joy.

A REWARD APPLICATION to these wells is necessary to our spiritual comfort. We must continue hungering and thirsting after righteousness. This application may be made at all times, and in every state. In the public and private and secret exercises of religion, in health and sickness, in the prison or the palace, wherever God is, public ordinances must be preferred. Application:

(1) To those who are employed in drawing water for others; and who, in order to this, should draw for themselves, that they may be successful in their work. Do we make it our study to speak from the heart to the heart?

(2) To those who think these wells are dry to them. What is the reason of this? Has it proceeded from the ministry? Have you expected from them what you should have from their Master? Have you never thought on your own misimprovement? Have you prayed that these wells might be opened to you?

(3) To those who have drawn, or think they have with joy drawn water from the wells of salvation. How ardent will your desires be. He that drinks of this water will not thirst again. Inordinate desires after the world will be quenched--they will be subdued. And here the fullest satisfaction will be obtained. (A. Brown.)

The wells of salvation

THE WELLS OF SALVATION. The value of the water yielded by these wells is found in the saving effects to be met with in those who come hither to draw and to drink. These waters impart strength to the worker, courage to the timid, joy to the mourner, refreshment to the weary, and satisfaction to the dry, and the thirsty. There is no evil in the spirit that this water will not cure. It would be a world’s wonder if God’s own Spirit could not make man’s spirit as lively and happy as its inherent limits will allow; as happy for man as God, as been happy in Himself from eternity. Observe now that the great salvation which is in God--nay, which is God in us by His Spirit--finds its way outwards to thirsty drinkers through many outlets and notthrough one only. There are as many of these precious wells as there are distinctly revealed truths on the page of Scripture. Every promise of blessing, every call to duty, every story of God’s dealings with Israel and the nations, every prediction, every verse of sacred song, every miracle and parable of Christ, every word, indeed, that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, is, through the Spirit, a well of salvation. In a transferred sense, there are as many wells of salvation as there are living Christians on earth at a given time. The heart that draws water from the wells above mentioned, becomes itself a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Every Christian worker is, in an especial sense, a well of this kind.

THE JOYFUL DRINKING OF THE WATER found in these wells.

1. The drawer of water from any well of salvation is anyone anywhere who chooses. “Whosoever will, let, him take the water of life freely.”

2. The drawing and drinking impulse is the inward thirst of spirit, which, in a general form, characterises all mankind, and shows itself in spiritual minds in the form of thirst for this water in particular. “Let him that is athirst come.”

3. The drawing power is communicated by the Holy Spirit acting in His character as the promised Comforter and helper of our infirmities. In one point of view He is the power through which we draw and drink, as in another aspect He is the water we work with in this way for the refreshment of our souls and their true life.

4. The drawing apparatus includes all outward means available for help in our endeavours after the truth expressed in this or in that part of revelation, parallel passages containing like ideas or identical expressions, sound and able expositions, and along with these the lives and deeds of our Lord’s faithful and enlightened followers. The intimation in hand lays special stress upon the joy with which the drawing of this water is begun and kept up. This joy comes of the thought that the water is pure, life giving, and refreshing; of the ease with which the drawing machinery is used when all is right with the man who works it, and when the hallowed practice is maintained; of the fulness and constancy of the stream which flows toward us, after it has been drawn up from the depths of the well that is being worked at the time; and of the exhilarating effects of the water when taken freely. The joy prompts and helps the work of drawing. The drawing enlarges and maintains the joy. (David Lowe.)

The wells of salvation

THE PREPARED WELLS. A well differs from a spring in this: a spring is a natural outlet for the waters in the earth; a well is an artificial one made by man. The well is the result of design. So the wells of salvation represent a Divine design. These wells are the varied “means of grace” provided by God for our highest welfare. Two cautions deserve our serious thought.

1. We must not ignore, or neglect, any of these wells, for God in wisdom has caused them to be dug.

2. We must not substitute for these wells any cisterns of mere human digging.

THE REFRESHING WATERS of these wells of salvation. Jesus Himself called it “living water.” It is elsewhere called “the water of life”--a very expressive way of representing that salvation which one receives through the appointed means of grace. For--

1. Like living water, this salvation is very refreshing to the thirsty soul.

2. Like water, this salvation cleanses.

3. Like water, this salvation is free.

4. And this water is inexhaustible.


The wells of salvation

THE WELLS. God, in carrying on His government, has seen it wise to act usually through agencies and means. He has provided means for carrying out His great and gracious purposes in redemption. These are here presented to us as “wells.”


1. The existence of the means of grace is not enough.

2. We never will appropriate those blessings until impelled by a sense of need.

THE JOY. There are many things in Christ fitted to inspire joy.

1. His adaptation to the wants of the sinner.

2. His fulness.

3. He is an eternal Christ.

4. There is cause of rejoicing in the terms on which He is tendered.

The Gospel is brought within the reach of the poorest, the most abject, the most hopeless. Its language is not “Do,” or “Give,” but “Take.” And if Christ be so free, is it any wonder if the sinner should appropriate Him with joy? Application:

(1) What a wilderness this land would be without its Sabbaths, its Bibles, its sermons, its communions!

(2) The danger of polluted wells. We dare not mingle anything with Christ.

(3) If we have Christ in the ordinances, let us strive to partake of His fulness. (T. Maclauchlan, LL. D.)

The means of grace to be diligently used

Drawing water is an employment which requires strength, labour, and diligence, to which some means or instruments of conveyance are indispensably requisite. From these and other circumstances attending this operation we learn the import of the spiritual exercise here intended. The blessings communicated by the Holy Ghost are obtained by diligent application of the mind to prayer, attentive reading, hearing, and meditation; and by rightly disposing and digesting the subjects read, heard, and contemplated, so as believingly to apply them for the great purposes of spiritual improvement. (R. Macculloch.)

The wells of salvation

The plural is used because God is as many wells, inexhaustible. (W. Day, M. A.)

Wells of salvation: the Word of God

A young girl, going to be servant in a grand house, was discovered one day in the servants hall reading her Bible. Her mistress, richly attired in satin, with dazzling jewels, stood amazed at the sight of her poor domestic, who had but one spare evening a month, employing it in the study of Scripture. “Maggie,” she said, “what are you doing with that Book? It is not right that you should read it tonight. You should be out, girl.” The mistress, though thoroughly worldly, yet had a kind heart, and put her hand on the shrinking girl. Maggie looked up with sweet and steadfast eyes. “This is enjoyment, ma’am,” she said timidly.

Wells of salvation: the house of God

The camel, weary with his hundred miles’ travel across the burning sands, eats a few dried leaves, drinks at the well, lies down on the hot earth, and rolls about awhile, and is ready for another dash across the arid plain. So the tired burden bearer comes to the house of God, drinks from the fountain of life, and is renewed in soul and body too. (Kings Highway.)

Verses 4-6

Isaiah 12:4-6

And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord

Congregational praise


WHO ARE HERE CALLED UPON TO PRAISE GOD. The inhabitants of Zion and Jerusalem, whom God had in a peculiar manner protected from Sennacherib’s violence (Isaiah 12:6). Those that have received distinguishing favours from God ought to be most forward and zealous in praising Him. The Gospel Church is Zion; Christ is Zion’s King; those that have a place and name in that should lay out themselves to diffuse the knowledge of Christ, and to bring many to Him.


1. By prayer. “Call upon His name.” As giving thanks for former mercy is a decent way of begging further mercy, so begging further mercy is graciously accepted as a thankful acknowledgment of the mercies we have received.

2. By preaching and writing we must speak to others concerning Him--not only “call upon His name,” but (as the margin reads it) “proclaim His name”; let others know something more from us than they did before concerning God, and those things whereby He has made Himself known. “Declare His doings”--His “counsels,” so some read it. The work of redemption is according to the counsel of His will and in that and other wonderful works that He hath done, we must take notice of His “thoughts which are to usward.” Declare these “among the people”--among the heathen, that they may be brought into communion with Israel, and the God of Israel. When the apostles preached the Gospel to “all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” then this Scripture was fulfilled, that His doings should be declared among the people, and that what He hath done should be known in all the earth.

3. By a holy exultation and transport of joy. “Cry out and shout.”


1. Because He hath glorified Himself. “His name is exalted,” is become more illustrious and conspicuous, and every good man rejoiceth in that.

2. Because He hath magnified His people. He “hath done excellent things” for them, which makes them look great and considerable.

3. Because He is, and will be, great among them. (M. Henry.)

Verse 6

Isaiah 12:6

Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion

Rapturous enthusiasm should characterise religion

Here is a call for enthusiasm, rapture, and what would generally be denominated madness.

Still, the words are here, and they are perfectly clear as to their meaning and purpose, and a reason is given for the cry and for the shout; that reason is--“for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” Men have been infuriated by earthly deliverances, and rightly so, and brought into paroxysms of thankfulness and joy why not so in their religious natures? It is recorded by Plutarch that when the Romans delivered a certain people from the tyranny of the Macedonians and the Spartans, the cry of the delivered men was so great that it dissipated the very air, and birds flying across that plane of the hemisphere fell down amazed. Have we ever rent the air with our cries and shouts of delight and thankfulness? Our Christianity may have been formal, and our atheism may have been the atheism of respectability. Respectability can never be earnest. It is limited by a smaller word. If Sydney Smith said the Church is dying of dignity, we may apply the rebuke to ourselves, and ask if we are not falling into torpor through the opiate of respectability. Are we called to silence? Who can describe the feeling of those who were imprisoned during the Indian Mutiny? Is there not a page in the history of that rebellion which makes every human heart thrill with excitement? We remember how the Europeans were shut up, being beleaguered and invested, and within a hand breadth of extinction; and we remember hearing of the deliverers’ approach, and of those who were suffering catching the strains of music; they heard the pibroch and the slogan, and their hearts came again, and every soldier was a hero, and every woman a saint, and as the deliverers came on could you have said to those who had been shut up in terror and darkness, Now restrain yourselves; avoid everything sensational, and maintain a decorous and proper attitude in all things--what answer would they have returned to your inane and unseasonable address? We must pass through a certain class of circumstances before we can understand the feelings of those who express gratitude for deliverance. The singing of the Church should be loud, joyous, and sweet; all instruments should accompany it now the clash of bells, now the blare of trumpets, now the lilt of lutes, and now the throb of drums; strong men, gentle women, merry children should unite their voices in one glad burst of religious joy. Thank God for music. That will unite the Church when theology will divide it. There is no disputable argument in music. The vanity of opinion is not touched by music. The demon of heresy is left without a chance in music. Pedantic criticism is ignored. The heart has it all its own way. All is harmony. All is praise. All is love. If ever preaching be displaced or superseded, may it be by music! (J. Parker, D. D.)

“Thou inhabitant of Zion”

The Hebrew is feminine: the appeal is to a woman’s heart--Cry out and shout, thou daughter of Zion! Without the womanly element the Church is without charm, and without the Divinest passion. The woman must lead us, in song, in music, in praise, and by the contagion of her enthusiasm must warm others into responsive and cooperative zeal. (J. Parker, D. D.)

God’s precede with His people

Among the ancient people of God, Jehovah vouchsafed His immediate and manifest presence, both in the continuance of His visible glory between the cherubim, and, upon extraordinary occasions, in an extraordinary manner. Such miraculous indications of the Divine presence are not to be expected in these latter days. Now that God has blessed us with a revelation, so clear, so completely suited to our necessities, and in all its doctrines and precepts so manifestly Divine, that our own consciences cannot but acknowledge it as the truth, He has withdrawn those miraculous tokens of His favour by which He upheld the confidence of His ancient people, requiring us to walk by faith and not by sight. The glory of the spiritual Zion does not consist in outward manifestations of the Godhead, but in the real though invisible presence of the King of Zion, according to His gracious promise, “Lo, I am with you alway.” He is present by His Spirit in the hearts of all His faithful followers. What is implied in this promise of the Holy One of Israel in the midst of Zion?

1. That God is ever with His people to strengthen and sustain them.

2. God, through Christ, is ever present with His people, to succour and defend them.

3. Jehovah is ever present with His people to lead and direct them.

4. God is ever with His people to comfort them.

5. Jehovah is ever present with His people to command a blessing upon the appointed means of His grace. Without this, the Scriptures are a dead letter. (W. Ramsay.)

The Church of the living God

Civilised countries have many institutions of a voluntary kind for useful purposes. There is, however, an institution in the world, where men are laid under direct obligation to Him who has established the institution, namely, the Church of God, in relation to which the earnest appeal in the text is made.

THIS CHURCH PRESENTS TO US THE WAY, UNDER GOD’S HAND, TO TRUE PERSONAL GOODNESS. Men devise many recipes to correct evils and excite to virtue. But Zion accomplishes all these results by one simple method. To be in the Church of God is to be in the way of all goodness. Well may the inhabitants of Zion rejoice, for all spiritual blessings of God’s kingdom are given to it.

Another logical conclusion follows, namely, that ALL OF US OUGHT TO BE IN THAT ZION. We are to be in it, not because the Church itself demands it; not because the minister calls for it; not because the influences around us have inculcated it. We are to belong to the Church because God, who founded the Church and created us, has laid this obligation upon us. And we are not to be simply visitors to His Church, or occasional attendants, and especially not to be patrons. We are to be inhabitants, dwelling in it; being in it with our whole souls, and complying with the obligations that are incumbent upon its inhabitants, if we would be pure men. And this is no unreasonable command.

1. The way in which the word came is both significant and instructive.

2. Another consideration is that, “Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of her.” That is the culminating and crowning glory of God’s Zion.

Practical reflections--

1. We must see that this Zion is a home of great dignity. It is more than a home, it is God’s kingdom.

2. If this be God’s Zion, then what have we to do to be in His Zion and to feel the pleasures incumbent upon members of His Zion? We are to obey Him. It is His presence, His power, His relation to us, that give sanctity to God’s house and service.

3. Let me speak a word to any who are without God and without hope of eternal life. This King summons you from rebellion; He summons you to peace and goodwill to Him. (J. Hall, D. D.)

The character, privilege, and duty of the people of God

THE CHARACTER here given of the people of God, couched in Old Testament language, in that they are called inhabitants of Zion. To understand the meaning of the words, “inhabitant of Zion,” as describing the people of God in every age, we should first remember that Zion was literally a hill in the land of Judea. There was a hill in the southern part of the promised land, on which, or on part of which, the city of Jerusalem was built, and this hill had two peaks, the one called Zion proper, and the other called Mount Moriah, and while Jerusalem stood on one of these peaks, or Zion proper, the temple was built by appointment on the other of these peaks, or Mount Moriah, but the whole together was called the hill of Zion, of Mount Zion, and accordingly in the 2 nd Psalm we read, “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion,” and again, “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth; is Mount Zion,” plainly showing that this was a hill in the land of Judea. But, as I have said, on one peak or top of this hill the temple of Solomon was placed, and hence the word “Zion” came by a common figure of speech to be transferred from the mountain to the temple, the most prominent feature on the mountain, and in this sense I think we have it in the 87 th Psalm, “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” Understanding, then, by the word “Zion” the temple, an “inhabitant of Zion” now calls up the idea of a person who lives in and about the temple; and, indeed, the will of God was, that all His ancient people should live as much as may be in and about the temple. But we must remember that the temple was intended to be a type of the human nature of our Lord, or of God in our nature (John 2:19-21). An inhabitant of Zion is one who is much versant with Christ.

THE PRIVILEGE connected with this character. “Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” The Holy One of Israel, or the God that went out and in among the people of Israel, the God that brought them out of the land of Egypt, and through a variety of vicissitudes landed them at last in the Canaan of promise, was no other than the Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 10:9). But it is particularly the privilege of all the inhabitants of Zion, that they have the protection of Him at all times who is the Almighty, and who is, “therefore, able to prevail against all opposition.” Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee. These last words convey the idea of a garrison, which, being in the very centre of a place fortified, contains armed men ready to run out from this central point, whenever they are called or required. So Christ, the Holy One, is in the midst of the Church, in the midst of the believer individually, because quite prepared to run out to any point where His people are weak and unprotected. If any of God’s people be poor in this world, they need not have recourse to unlawful methods to secure for them and their families bread to eat, and raiment to put on, for their Heavenly Father knows they need these things, and He will give them to them, in the use of the lawful means put in their power. It intimates God reconciled in Christ to provide for their souls. He will provide for them the means of grace. But once more, it makes part of the privilege of God’s people, that they are to see the greatness of the glory of God ultimately. Now God says that the very greatness of His glory shines out in the work of redemption--that there is more of that great invisible God brought out to intelligent creatures, by the work of redemption, than by any work which God created.

THE DUTY that God expects of His people, in consequence of their understanding this. “Cry out and shout.” And here we are taught--

1. That courage is our duty--boldness. “Cry out and shout.” Why? Because there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.

2. Cheerfulness.

3. Holding forth the Word of life.

Concluding remarks--

1. How very far below their privilege do some professing Christians live!

2. Privilege always goes before duty.

3. The words are spoken to individuals. (J. Muir, D. D.)

Loyal joy

Speaking of the early days of Queen Mary’s reign, Mr. Froude says: “When the lords with the mayor and heralds went to the Cross at Cheapside to proclaim Mary as Queen, there was no reason to complain of a silent audience. Pembroke stood out to read, and could but utter one sentence before his voice was lost in the shout of joy which thundered into the air. ‘God save the Queen,’ rang out from ten thousands of throats. ‘God save the Queen,’ cried Pembroke himself when he had done, and flung up his jewelled cap and tossed his purse among the crowd. The glad news spread like lightning through London, and the pent up hearts of the citizens poured themselves out in a torrent of exultation. Above the human cries, the long silent church bells clashed again into life: first began St. Paul’s, where happy chance had saved them from destruction; then, one by one, every peal which had been spared caught up the sound; and through the summer evening and night, and all the next day, the metal tongues from tower and steeple gave voice to England’s gladness.”

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 12". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.