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THE SONG OF THANKSGIVING OF THE UNITED CHURCH. On each of her deliverances the Church is hound to praise God. In some parts of the Church it is customary on every such occasion to sing a "Te Deum." The ordinary Israelite hymn of praise appears to have been the hundred and thirty-sixth psalm (1 Chronicles 16:34, 1 Chronicles 16:41; 2Ch 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3; Ezra 3:11; Jeremiah 33:11; Jeremiah 1:0 Macc. 4:24); but on extraordinary occasions special thanksgivings were sung (Exodus 15:1-2.15.21; 1 Samuel 7:1-9.17.18-29, etc.). Isaiah is now inspired to give a pattern song, suitable for the Church to sing when she is reunited, enlarged, and restored to favor.
In that day. In the day of deliverance and restoration. Though thou wast angry; literally, because thou wast angry. Kay understands an actual hank-fullness for the severe discipline, which had checked them, and not allowed them to glide on smoothly to ruin. But perhaps the idiom is rather that of the passage, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes" (Matthew 11:25), where it is only the last clause that expresses the true object of the thanksgiving. Comfortedst; rather, hast comforted, since the effect continued.
God is my salvation (comp. Psalms 27:1; Psalms 38:22, etc.). The employment of the abstract "salvation" for the concrete "Savior" is extremely common. The Lord Jehovah; literally, Jah Jehovah—a combination which occurs only here and in Isaiah 26:4, where it is again used as an encouragement to perfect confidence and trust. Is my strength … salvation. This is quoted from the song of Moses (Exodus 15:2), which the prophet has throughout in his thoughts.
With joy shall ye draw water. The prophet interrupts the song to give a comforting promise. The "salvation" granted to the Church shall be as an inexhaustible well, from which all comers may draw continually. Compare our Lord's promise to the woman of Samaria in John 4:14.
Declare his doings among the people; literally, among the peoples (comp. Psalms 9:11; Psalms 77:12; Psalms 107:22; Psalms 118:17). It is always regarded as one of man's chief duties to testify of God's goodness to others. Here Israel is called upon to publish God's mercies and great deeds to the Gentiles. His name is exalted. God is in his Name, and his Name expresses his nature. As there is nothing so exalted in all the universe as God, so there is no name so exalted as his Name. Hence his Name is protected by an express commandment.
Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things. This is another quotation, very slightly modified, from the song of Moses, in which these words were part of the refrain (Exodus 15:1, Exodus 15:21). This is known; rather, let this be known; i.e. publish it—noise it abroad.
Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; i.e. raise a "cry" that may be heard far and wide—a cry that shall be a "shout" of rejoicing. The wool translated "inhabitant" is feminine, and designates the entire community or Church that dwells on the holy hill. For great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee. The crowning glory of the Church is the presence of her Lord in the midst of her a presence continuous ("I am with you always"), efficacious (John 15:4-43.15.6), yet invisible (1 Peter 1:8). The Church is ever to proclaim this presence and rejoice in it.
Christian thanksgiving - its principal characteristics.
There is so much allusion in this thanksgiving song to the "song of Moses," that Isaiah cannot but be supposed to intend some comparison between the two. The occasion, however, of their utterance is so different, and their scale and method of construction so far apart, that it is difficult to draw out in detail any comparison between the two that would not appear forced and unnatural. Moses' song is a burst of gratitude for a particular temporal mercy; the Church's thanksgiving is a constant outpour of thanks and praise for continuous spiritual benefits. The song may, therefore, better be considered in itself, as a model to be borne in mind, and in its main points followed, by the Church in all ages. We may regard separately
(1) its form;
(2) its matter;
(3) its tone and spirit.
I. THE FORM APPROPRIATE FOR THANKSGIVING. The form employed by Isaiah is poetical. His song consists of two stanzas—one of six, the other of seven lines. The lines are of nearly equal length, varying, however, between three and four feet. The predominant foot is the iambic; but there is an admixture of anapaests and trochees. The details of the form are unimportant, and not readily transferable from poetry so peculiar as the Hebrew to the poetry of modern times and countries. What is mainly important is the simple fact of the thanksgiving being a poem. It does not, of course, bind the Church to express thanksgiving in no other way, but it is a strong argument for the predominant use of poetry for such expression. And the instinct of the Church, has been in accordance. From the first she has made the Psalms of David her especial "book of praise." She has found in other parts of Scripture a number of canticles framed upon the same Hebrew model, and has adopted them into her services. She has accepted from one of her noblest saints the glorious poem of the "Te Deum." She has found one hymn of praise, worthy of frequent use, in the Apocrypha. And further, she has been prolific herself of hundreds and thousands of sacred songs, written in a score of languages, and in more varieties of meter than can be counted, with which her members delight to praise God in the congregation.
II. THE MATTER APPROPRIATE FOR THANKSGIVING. Thanksgiving is for blessings or benefits received; and the main matter for thanksgiving must always be a mention, more or less full, of the particular blessings or benefits for which the thankfulness is felt. Moses in his "song" dwells at some length on the passage of the Red Sea by Israel, and the destruction of Pharaoh's host which followed (Exodus 15:1, Exodus 15:4-2.15.10, Exodus 15:12). The Church, according to Isaiah, commemorates her deliverance from the wrath of God (verse 1), her possession of salvation (verse 2), and the presence of the Holy One of Israel in her midst (verse 6). In her deliverance are included all the spiritual benefits of the past, in her salvation all the joys and blessings of the future; in the presence of the Holy One is her continual actual delight and happiness—a delight and happiness that words are feeble to paint. What is most remarkable in Isaiah's representation is the absence of all reference to temporal blessings. The spiritual benefits absorb all the thought and attention of the Church's members, and are alone celebrated in their song of rejoicing.
III. THE TONE AND SPIRIT REFER FOR THANKSGIVING. Thanksgiving may be formal, cold, and perfunctory, or it may be heartfelt, warm, and full of earnestness. Isaiah's thanksgiving song is a model of hearty, zealous, earnest praise. It expresses
(1) gratitude for past favors;
(2) joy in present salvation;
(3) confidence and trust in God's protecting care for the future;
(4) anxiety to make known his mercies and cause his Name to be praised more widely;
(5) admiration of his works;
(6) adoration of his majesty.
The abruptness that characterizes it is a sign of vehemence; the repeated calls upon others to join in indicate a strong craving for sympathy. Altogether the tone resembles that of some of the later psalms, which were, perhaps, written about the same period (see Psalms 113:1-19.113.9; Psalms 117:1-19.117.2; Psalms 134:1-19.134.3; Psalms 149:1-19.149.9).
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
A hymn of praise.
Some critics say that the language and the tone of thought are so different here from that of Isaiah, that the hymn cannot be from his pen. The theory seems probable enough that a copyist or reader, who beheld with joy a fulfillment of the words in Isaiah 11:15, Isaiah 11:16, on the deliverance from the Babylonian exile, supplemented the oracle with these jubilant words."
I. THE FULL HEART SEEKS RELIEF IN RELIGIOUS SONG. If burdened with the sense of guilt, it must have its litany of grief and deprecation. Pain in the mind, the sense of lonely suffering, readily translates itself into the image of the anger of God. As Madame de Stael justly remarks, "When we suffer, we easily persuade ourselves that we are guilty, and violent griefs carry trouble even into the conscience." And when the suffering ceases, it seems as if a cloud had passed from the sky, and the anger of God were allayed. He who had been the Judge now appears as the Savior; the heart that had been trembling as the bruised reed is now strong as if the feet were based on eternal rock. Awhile dejected in the extreme, "writing bitter things against itself," presently it is filled with boasting and triumph in the sense of possessing God, nay, of being possessed by God. There is a long gamut of religious feeling; in critical moments the heart may run through every tone in the scale. In the simple life of feeling the religious spirit expatiates. The habit of flower, of bird, of child, opening to the sun, singing in the spring-time, is the reflection of that of the soul. We do not suffer our memories of a long and dreary winter to mar our enjoyment of the genial breath, the odors, sights, and sounds of spring-time. Nor should the sense of the long struggles, doubly wintry seasons of the hiding of God's face from the soul, linger in those moments when the Sun of righteousness returns with healing in his wings, and salvation is for the present a fact, no longer a hope.
II. THE FITNESS AND BEAUTY OF THANKSGIVING. To withhold thanks from an earthly benefactor, whose hand has extracted us from a state of peril or need, is to show a deformed soul. To seal the fount of joyous religious expression, is the way to have presently nothing to express. For if expression follows naturally on feeling, so the cultivation of religious expression tends to form and to enrich the feeling itself. Nothing artificial is recommended; but it is well to recognize that sentiment, no less than thought, remains poorer than it need be without training and tillage. This psalm probably belongs to the period to which the last section of the psalter belongs; they are songs of deliverance, songs of return from exile, as those which immediately precede them refer to the dispersion. If the latter soothe us by the profound insight into suffering and sympathy with the soul in its seeming loneliness and exile from God, no less, maybe, the psalms of the return educate us in hope, reminding us that we are on our way to God, that our spiritual exile draws to its close, and "every winter yields to spring."—J.
HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM
A religion of blessedness.
"Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." Religion is not only safety, it is blessedness—the very highest blessedness. We are not to be ever in fear and trembling about "our state," but to remember that "perfect love casteth out fear." A really religious man finds that he cannot do without the gospel as satisfying his entire being. He is not religious because he "ought to be," or must be, to be saved; he is religious because also it is truest joy.
I. WATER MUST BE DRAWN. Certainly. The wells of truth are deep and clear, but we must come hither in one sense to draw. It is quite true that the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well said to the Savior, "Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw," and that Jesus told her the water he should give her should be in her "a well of water springing up into everlasting life." But at the same time, we must remember that Jesus spake a parable about "the treasure hid in a field." The ideas are both true. For the Christian there is a hidden blessedness, but it needs discovering by the Word and the Spirit of God. Every quiet meditation, every prayerful perusal of the sacred page,—this is a drawing of water out of the wells of salvation.
II. WATER WILL BE JOYFULLY DRAWN. Not "must be," but "will be." You cannot command "pleasure;" you can "duty." You can make the child or the man read Scripture, but only life within will lead them to draw water "with joy." The art-student loves to wander in the foreign galleries and to gaze upon the highest ideals of art. We listen to music so differently when we love and delight in it. And a quickened soul loves religion for its own sake.
III. WATER MUST BE DISTRIBUTED WHEN DRAWN. We can "give" the cup as well as drink of the cup. It is the water that is so precious, not the wooden cup or the golden chalice that contains it. It is not new "theories" and "views" and "opinions" that are precious, but the Word of the living God, which is the pure water of life, and of which whoso drink shall live; for the written Word all leads to the living Word—Jesus Christ, the Savior of men.
IV. THE MANY WELLS ARE FED BY ONE FOUNTAIN. History or prophecy; Gospel or Epistle; precept or promise; the record of Paradise lost, in Genesis; or the story of Paradise regained, in the Apocalypse;—all these are filled from the same Divine fountain. It is the Spirit that testifies of Christ; for "the testimony of Jesus" is the theme of history and "the spirit of prophecy." Many wells! Yes; but "all my springs are in thee."—W.M.S.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Reconciliation with God.
These words may have—
I. A NATIONAL FULFILMENT. The Jews might have taken these words into their lips after the discomfiture of Sennacherib, or, with fuller meaning later on, after the return from captivity and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 6:15, Nehemiah 6:16). Other nations, after retributive sufferings and signal deliverances or restorations, may appropriately use this reverent language.
II. THE FULFILMENT IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MANY AN INDIVIDUAL LIFE.
1. There is spiritual declension. A man has been living professedly in the service of God, but his devotion has been dying down, his obedience has been growing lax, his usefulness has been diminishing and may have come down to nothing.
2. Then comes Divine correction. God speaks to him in chastening love; he sends the affliction that is intended to awaken him from his half-heartedness in the service and cause of Christ.
3. Then comes conviction and amendment on his part; a return to the higher and worthier life he lived before.
4. And then the chastisement is removed. (Psalms 103:8, Psalms 103:9.) God's anger is visibly, sensibly, consciously "turned away;" the heavenly Father "comforts" him with his loving favor; and there follows:
5. The grateful and joyous song of praise.
III. THEIR FULFILMENT IN THE EXPERIENCE OF EVERY GOOD MAN. In the case of every one who enters into the full heritage of those Messianic blessings which are the subject of prophecy in this chapter, there will be found:
1. A sense of Divine displeasure; reason enough for saying, "O Lord, thou art angry with me." The word "anger' in its honorable sense is certainly referable to the Divine mind. We are not to identify the faulty irritation of which we are too often conscious with the "anger" which is here and elsewhere applied to the Supreme. That feeling, at once holy and painful, which a faithful father feels towards his son when he has done something which is shamefully wrong, is the feeling, deepened, refined, ennobled by divinity, which the heavenly Father and righteous Ruler feels toward us when we sin against him and against his holy Law. We may call it by that name which is most significant or appropriate to our own thought, but, however it may be denoted, it becomes us to recognize the fact, to be affected and to be afflicted by the fact, that God, the holy and loving One, feels towards those who have willfully broken his laws or who deliberately reject his overtures of mercy, a serious Divine displeasure. He is pained, grieved, angry. He blames us, he condemns us, he holds us to be deserving of retribution.
2. The removal of God's wrath. Two things are needed for this:
(1) repentance and
(2) faith (see Acts 20:21);
the turning of the heart, and therefore of the life, from selfishness and sin; and the cordial acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Propitiation for our sin and the Sovereign of our soul. Without these we have no right to look for the turning away of God's anger; with these we may be perfectly assured of it.
3. An abiding sense of the Divine favor. "Thou comfortedst me." God's "comfort" is not always simultaneous with the exercise of his mercy; there may be an interval of no short duration between the act of Divine forgiveness and that blessed sense of reconciliation which we call "assurance of salvation" (Psalms 32:1, Psalms 32:2, Psalms 32:7, Psalms 32:11). Let no one despond because he does not find himself possessed of inward peace and sacred joy as soon as his heart turns to God and to his salvation. Let such a one continue to ask, to seek, to trust, to hope, and in due time the light will shine into the soul. It does not always come as the lightning-flash—one moment the blackness of darkness and the next a dazzling light—but often as comes the returning day; first a few streaks of morning, then the darkness turning into gray, then the deepening light as the hours advance, at length the full brilliancy of noon.
4. A life of songful gratitude. "At that day," and through all remaining days, until the night of death shall usher in the endless morning of immortality, the comforted heart will say, "O Lord, I will praise thee."—C.
The greatness of God's goodness.
We have in these words the very exuberance of holy feeling. They refer us to—
I. THE SUPREME ACT OF GOD'S GOODNESS. "God is my Salvation." He has been wonderfully gracious to us in bestowal—in the gifts of our being, of our spiritual nature with its varied capacities, of our physical nature with all its organs of activity and enjoyment, of our human relationships, of a rich and beautiful dwelling-place, etc. But his greatest kindness is felt by us to be in deliverance, in that which is called "salvation." Here, again, there is an ascent in the scale of Divine goodness; for higher than salvation from trouble, from sickness, from death, from personal captivity or political servitude, stands salvation from sin; and in the Messianic era this spiritual deliverance reaches its highest point; for it includes not only the negative side of rescue from present evil, but also the positive side of enrichment with corresponding good. It embraces:
1. Redemption from sin—its penalty and its power (its thraldom and its defilement).
2. Restoration to God—to his favor and to his likeness.
3. The hope of a higher and endless life in another world.
II. THE CONTINUANCE OF HIS GREATEST GIFT IN IMPARTING SPIRITUAL STRENGTH.
He "forsakes not the work of his own hands." Having redeemed us from the power and condemnation of sin, and lifted us up into the state of sonship and heirship, he sustains us in our new and blessed life. "The Lord Jehovah is our Strength." He imparts the needful strength for maintenance in our course by
(1) the privileges of the gospel;
(2) the discipline of his holy providence;
(3) the direct influences of his own Spirit.
III. THE RESPONSE OF OUR HEARTS TO THE DIVINE LOVE.
1. The gratitude which finds utterance in sacred song. "The Lord … is my Song" (see Psalms 119:54). The Christian man should carry in his heart such a sense of God's redeeming love that he should be always ready to break forth into praise; his life should be a song of gratitude for the salvation of the Lord.
2. The confidence which excludes anxiety. "I will trust, and not be afraid."
(1) Many are the occasions of human fear and anxiety—the honorable maintenance of the family; the preservation of our personal integrity, both moral and spiritual; the faithful discharge of duty in the post we have undertaken to fill; the adorning of our Christian profession; our passage through the gateway of death, etc.
(2) We are wholly insufficient of ourselves to meet these, and to triumph over them (2 Corinthians 3:5).
(3) But, confiding in God, we may go forth without anxiety, assured of his Divine help (Psalms 27:1; Psalms 56:11-19.56.13; Psalms 118:6-19.118.8; Hebrews 13:5, Hebrews 13:6).—C.
The joy of Christ's salvation.
These words of prophecy must have been peculiarly precious to those who first heard them. They sound very musical to us, but they must seem more melodious still to the Oriental ear. We know that water is an invaluable thing, but it is only they who have lived or traveled in tropical countries that appreciate all that is meant by burning drought or by refreshing streams. And as words gather sweetness and excellency to the ear as they become associated with that which we most prize, so we may be sure that the words "water" and "wells" had a most inviting sound to the people of Palestine, and that this passage had (as we should say) a "golden ring" in the hearing of the Jews. It may bring before us the joy which springs from the salvation of Jesus Christ in the several stages of our experience.
I. PROFOUND AND MOST BLESSED PEACE. It is said that the most exquisite sensation that mortal man enjoys is experienced in the sudden cessation of excruciating pain. Similarly we may truly say that the most profound satisfaction of the soul is felt in a blessed consciousness of the removal of Divine condemnation; in other words, in a sense of forgiven sin. The "peace of God" not only "passeth understanding," but it is a truer and a deeper calm than any other which is born of outward circumstance or human favor. This frequently passes into—
II. THE JOY WHICH RISES INTO HOLY RAPTURE. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God … and not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1, Romans 5:11). The sense of God's fatherly love, the conviction that sin, condemnation, death, hell—all the really evil and harmful things—are left behind forever, and that before us is an ever-ascending path of wisdom, righteousness, and joy, will awaken in the soul a rapturous delight compared with which the excitements and delectations of earth are very poor affairs.
III. THE JOYOUS ACTIVITIES OF THE SOUL THROUGHOUT ALL ITS CHRISTIAN COURSE. With joy we "draw water." In the activities that are distinctively Christian we find a positive delight—a source of satisfaction which does not injure, but ennoble; which does not pall and fade, but abide and deepen. In the course of our Christian experience we have:
1. The joy of praise; of pouring forth our trust and gratitude in strains of sacred song, "singing and making melody in the heart."
2. The joy of fellowship; holding glad communion with the heavenly Father, with the Divine Friend of our spirits; holding reverent and rejoicing intercourse with him both in social worship and in the hour of solitude; having, also, happy and heart-gladdening "fellowship one with another."
3. The joy of hope; the eager anticipation of a blessedness and glory which will follow the strife and suffering of this present time. Learn
(1) the folly of refusing this heritage of joy;
(2) the serious and mischievous mistake of giving a joyless impression of Christian service.—C.
Exultation and activity.
There is a jubilant strain throughout these verses; not, however, without a sense of some sacred duty to be performed. We learn—
I. THAT THE CHURCH OF CHRIST MAY WELL SPEAK IN THE ACCENTS OF EXULTATION. The terms of the prophecy do not seem to be satisfied with anything less than Messianic blessings; they fit perfectly the estate to which Christ has called us; they belong to that "kingdom of heaven" of which the Son of man had so much to say (see Matthew 13:1-40.13.58.). The Church may exult in that:
1. God has done such great things for her, in
(1) the large and long preparation, through many ages, for her redemption;
(2) the supreme act of Divine revelation in the person of his Son;
(3) the wonderful sacrifice of himself he made on its behalf (2 Corinthians 8:9);
(4) the lofty privileges to which he has summoned it—holy service, affectionate sonship, eager-hearted heirship.
2. God himself, the mighty and victorious One, is dwelling in the midst of it. "Great is the Holy One." If the family is proud of its honored father, the army of its invincible captain, the nation of its illustrious sovereign, how much more shall the Church exult in its almighty and victorious Lord! He is great in all the elements of greatness—in external majesty, in intrinsic excellency, in overcoming energy, in transcendent beauty, in the everlasting character of his kingdom.
II. THAT EXULTATION DOES WELL TO PASS SOON INTO HOLY AND BENEFICENT ACTIVITY. Blending with these accents of triumph, and harmonizing with them, is the voice of exhortation,' the summons to useful activity "Praise the Lord;" "Call upon his Name;" "Declare his doings;" "Be this known [let this be known] in all the earth." Jehovah s greatness could only be known among the nations by the united and continuous testimony of the people of God. The glories of his grace, as they shine in the face of Jesus Christ, are to be beheld by all peoples; but they must be reflected from the lives and published by the lips of his faithful servants. It is the privilege and the duty of the Church to carry the knowledge of his Name and truth to the utmost ends of the earth. It is well to rejoice, "to sing for joy," to indulge in pious exultation; it is better to act in such a way that neighboring nations (cities, districts, streets, homes) shall draw from the wells of this great salvation the waters of eternal life; better, both because
(1) we communicate blessing thereby, and because
(2) we gain increase of spiritual worth by so doing.—C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Holy joy in God.
In each national history there is some one surpassingly great event. A Thermopylae for Greece; a Leipsic for Germany; a Moscow for Russia; a Waterloo for England. The Jews had one great event, supreme in its influence on their national life. By his relation to that event God would even be known. "I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." All other deliverances, accomplished afterwards, were treated but as reminders of this. All songs of thanksgiving, sung over subsequent redemptions, were modeled after the "song of Moses," of which the chorus was sung by tens of thousands, led by the timbrels and dances of the women, on the further shores of the sea. And there was much in that event which fitted it to hold such a place in the thoughts of generations. It was the deliverance which, once and forever, assured the world of the fact that God—the One, living, and true God—was the God of the Jewish race. One can hardly imagine the excitement and the triumph of that time. The mightiest nation of that day roused itself, in a paroxysm of furious revenge, to pursue and to destroy what it regarded as a crowd of fleeing slaves. What hope could there be for such a multitude, when the king himself, a host of armed warriors, prancing horses, mighty chariots, pressed on after them; when the pathless waters of a great sea waved and rolled before them, and the mountains hemmed them in on the further side? If we were reading common human history, such a story could only have ended somewhat in this way: "And the frightened crowds of fugitives were pressed on and on into the pitiless waters, or were ruthlessly cut down and slain by the advancing hosts." But we are reading a page out of sacred history. There are the words, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God;" and, behold, those waters are arrested in their flowing; they roll back in swelling heaps; the ocean bed lies bare; and those "slaves" step steadily across the strangest pathway ever made for mortal feet to tread. Pharaoh's chariots and horsemen dash boldly forward into the way that was not made for them. The Red Sea was bright with the banners, and flashed with the shields of warriors; and then—dragging wheels, softening sands, hurrying waves, and the pride of Egypt is broken: "Pharaoh's chariots and horsemen hath he cast into the sea." God was magnified that day, magnified in deliverance, and magnified in judgment. He was that day the Salvation of his people, and they stood upon the shores of that flood, uniting in one triumphant shout, and saying, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously." The verses preceding the text allude to this scene. The spiritual blessings of Messiah's reign are described under the figure of this passage of the sea. From all spiritual scatterings and bondages and captivities, Messiah shall bring his people. The text is part of a song to be sung by the spiritually ransomed—a song formed, partly, upon the model of that older song of Moses. We gather from it that a spirit of humble and trustful joy in God is the proper spirit for redeemed souls to cherish.
I. REASONS FOR MAINTAINING A SPIRIT OF HOLY JOY IN GOD. Too often the somber sides of Christian experience are dwelt on, and young people take needlessly dark notions of the pious life. The model of the Christliness is not the calm sister of mercy, but the self-denying mother, the gentle, thoughtful, active elder sister, the strong man, whose bright face and cheery words and sinless laugh can kindle the gladness of those around him. The Bible is full of song. Its face can, indeed, settle into the severest gravity, into the sternness of righteous indignation, into a tenderness of sympathy; but the face of the Bible can also break into smiles. Ripples cross ripples, and waves leap over waves, on the surface of its sea; it can waken our faculty of song, it can fill our life with its joy in God. It is well, however, for us to distinguish between "happiness" and "joy." It would be true to say that religion does not promise happiness, it promises joy. It would even be true to say, that religion does not promise happiness because it promises joy. "Joy" is so much deeper, so much more satisfying and blessed, that he who has it will never ask for happiness. Observe the distinction in the meaning of the words. "Happiness" is pleasure in something that may "hap," or "happen;" pleasure in things outside us—in circumstances, in excitements-and so it cannot be abiding and unchanging. All days cannot be sunny. All lives cannot be painless and sorrowless. All circumstances cannot please. He who wants happiness has to depend on the variable conditions of a sin-stricken and, therefore, sorrow-filled earth. Mere happiness too often proves only "as the crackling of thorns under a pot." But "joy" means "leaping out," pleasure that gushes forth from a fountain within us, in streams ever refreshing the desert circumstances around us, and making them "blossom as a rose." Pleasure that beams out its holy rays, as from a central sun of bliss dwelling in our heart, and gilding everything about us, making the very light brighter, the clouds to scatter, or to be flushed with crimson glories, and turning even the night to day. The Christian man has no security of mere happiness. He must share the common mingled heritage of sunshine and shadow, health and sickness, friendship and loss, pleasures and disappointments, success and failure. But he may be secure of joy. "He that believeth on me," said the Lord Jesus, "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." And close by our text we read, "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." The one great reason for joy is stated to be that "God is become our Salvation." We joy in God
(1) as the unchanging One;
(2) as the almighty One;
(3) as the all-loving One;
(4) as the redeeming One.
It is, we have seen, a memory of deliverances which calls forth into expression the trustful joy of our text. And what have we to say of gifts bestowed, sicknesses healed, broken hearts comforted, bondages of evil broken up? We keep the word "salvation" too exclusively for the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God; we want it to include all the multiplied and ever-repeated deliverances and rescuings and recoverings of God. Matthew Henry says, "God is my Salvation; not my Savior only, by whom I am saved, but my 'Salvation,' in whom I am safe. He shall have the glory of all the salvations which have been wrought in me, and from him only will I expect all the future salvations I may need." The salvation of God's ancient people was not the deliverance from Egypt only, but that together with a thousand other deliverances scattered over their history. And so we joy in God because he saves us from all our bondages. He saves us from pride, from inward lusts, from outward evils. He saves us from greed, and covetousness, and clinging to the world, and envyings, and backbitings, and unforgivings, and failing charity. Souls can never sing that have such fetters on them; but he proclaims "liberty to the captive, and opening of the prison to them that are bound."
II. THE HALLOWING INFLUENCE WHICH A SPIRIT OF HOLY JOY IN GOD WOULD EXERT ON OURSELVES, AND ON THOSE AROUND US. In ordinary life the men of sanguine, hopeful temperament are usually the successful men. Despondent, doubting men accomplish but little. The invigorating of hope makes men mightier than their difficulties. It is the same in Christian life. Doubt and fear hinder. Hope cheers. Joy puts song into work. Ought a Christian to live in a minor key? Songs pitched thus will never cheer himself, or any one about him. Joyful Christians are a joy to themselves, and to all around them. The homes are brightened by them; the children learn to watch their faces, and to listen for their words; our Churches rejoice in the sunny-souled members. Everybody is glad in the man whose very presence seems to say, "Sing unto the Lord a new song." Such Christians let us all seek to be.
"Ye pilgrims on the road
To Zion's city, sing;
Sing on, rejoicing every day
In Christ th' eternal King."
Faith and fear.
"I will trust, and not be afraid," in this expression reminds us
(1) of our liability to fear, and
(2) of the power of faith to overcome fear.
I. OUR LIABILITY TO FEAR.
1. As dependent creatures.
2. Because of the great mysteries of existence that are around us—mysteries of God; of self; of sin; of providence; of judgment; of the future.
3. In view of the possibility of our own failure from goodness.
II. THE POWER OF FAITH TO OVERCOME FEAR. Trust can
(1) keep hold of the promises;
(2) see satisfying visions or God himself.
He who is "for us is more than all they that can be against us." "This faith—this simple believing trust in God—will keep the soul in quietness in view of all the mysteries, and of all the dark possibilities of life and death. When reason is at fault, when wisdom gropes for the way and falls into the ditch, when strength trembles and sinks into feebleness, faith keeps the heart in quietness and confidence. Whence has it this power? Because it rests on Divine declarations, deeper and wider than natural laws; on Divine promises, surer than the hills; on Divine power, stronger than gravitation and the sweep of ten thousand worlds; nay, on a Divine Person, in whom all faithfulness, power, and love forever dwell" (Dr. A. Raleigh).—R.T.
The wells of salvation
A very expressive image in a hot country. Wells are treated in contrast with cisterns, which only store the drainage of the ground. Wells are fed from springs and storehouses treasured in the heart of the earth. Inside Carisbrooke Castle is a deep well, which ensured constant supply for the garrison, however closely the castle might be besieged. Salvation is like a well; forth from it ever comes "living water." It is not like a man-made cistern, which only holds a limited quantity, and is apt to fail in the supreme hour of need. There may be a reference to the custom associated with one of the great feasts. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles—some say on each day—the Jews used to bring water in a golden pitcher from the fountain of Siloam, and pour it, mingled with wine, on the sacrifice on the altar, with great rejoicing. Illustrating the joy of finding fresh and living water in hot countries, "it is said that while the French engineers were boring for water in the African desert, the Arabs looked on in silent wonder, until they saw the precious stream actually gushing forth, and then their joy knew no bounds; and sweet and precious as the cooling waters are now to the weary laboring child of the desert, so precious were they to the people to whom the words of the prophet were originally addressed; and the promise to them of an indefinite supply of that element would be highly appreciated by them, and well calculated to inspire their gratitude and joy." The idea of the text may be thus given: Out of the wells of salvation in God, who is the Fountain of all good to his people, you shall draw water with joy. Matthew Henry suggests three good topics for meditation.
1. God's promises, revealed, ratified, and given out to us in his ordinances, are wells of salvation; wells of the Savior (so some read it), for in them the Savior and salvation are made known to us and made over to us.
2. It is our duty by faith to draw water out of these wells, to take to ourselves the benefit and comfort that are treasured up for us in them, as those that acknowledge all our fresh springs to be there, and all our fresh streams to be thence (Psalms 87:7).
3. Water is to be drawn out of the wells of salvation with a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction. It is the will of God that we should rejoice before him, and rejoice in him (Deuteronomy 26:11); be joyful in his house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7), and keep his feasts with gladness (Acts 2:46)." Like well-water, salvation is—
I. EVER FRESH. And so ever pleasant.
II. EVER ABUNDANT. Fullness for whosoever will. Compare cisterns, or wadys of deserts. Salvation is a perennial fount, a "perpetual tide; it flows for you, for me, for all."
III. EVER FREE. Nobody can seal up this fountain.
IV. EVER HEALTH-GIVING. Restoring, requickening. It is healing for the sick, strength for the disabled, life for those "dead in trespasses and sins." What can surpass in power to bring us joy our sense of the fitness and the fullness of the "great," the "common" salvation?—R.T.
God's new name the old one glorified.
"Call upon his Name," which is, in Messiah, "Jehovah Jesus," "Immanuel Jesus," or "God with us saving us from our sins." To call upon God's Name is to publicly give him the glory that is his duo.
I. THE OLD NAME IS GOD THE PROVIDER. The God who meets and supplies all ordinary human wants. "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." The God or whom Jacob could say, "He fed me all my life long." The God "in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways." "Who giveth to each his meat in due season." "Who crowneth us with loving-kindnesses and tender mercies: who satisfieth our mouth with good things."
II. THE NEW NAME IS GOD THE SAVIOR. Who "redeemeth our life from destruction." Who "delivers from going down to the pit." Who "gave himself a Ransom for us." Who brought "deliverance for the captives, and opening of the prison to them that are bound." Who is "able to save unto the uttermost." Who is "exalted a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance unto Israel, and remission of sins."
III. THE NEW NAME ONLY TELLS OF GOD PROVIDING FOR MAN'S SOREST NEED AND SADDEST CONDITION. He is not just in trouble; he is in sin. Stained with it, bruised with it, degraded by it, in peril through it, made helpless by it. The man in sin cannot save himself; no fellow-mart can save him. The Hero from Bozrah, who speaks in righteousness, alone is "mighty to save" (Isaiah 63:1).—R.T.
God honored through his mercies.
"Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things." A comprehensive term, summing up all that God had done for his people through the long ages, The Hebrew indicates an echo from Exodus 15:1, "He hath triumphed gloriously." Reviewing God's wondrous workings, we may regard them from three points of view.
I. THEY ARE THINGS WHICH WE OUGHT TO ADMIRE.
II. THEY ARE THINGS WHICH WE OUGHT TO STUDY.
III. THEY ARE THINGS WHICH WE OUGHT TO FEEL. Because of their graciousness to us as frail, and their mercifulness to us as sinners. The great glory of God is his mercy. Christ is the embodiment of mercy. "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works towards the sons of men!" Thy mercy "endureth forever."—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent