"Make Known His Deeds Among the Peoples" - Part 1

(based on a sermon from Isaiah 12:1-2)

Where shall we find joy to sustain us beyond the excitement of the New Year or any special occasion such as birthday or wedding anniversary?

In Isaiah 12:1-6, we will find reasons to be joyful and sing praises to the Lord our God. The passage discloses the joyful response of the faithful remnant of Israel to God’s promised salvation. As an individual and a congregation, we sing the glory of our God regardless of our situation. He preserves us through many dangers and threats in life. And through all the difficulties we don’t stop praising Him.

That’s the message we get from this. The chastised people of God sing the glories of the Lord. Yes, Isaiah 12 is Israel’s response song to God’s promised salvation. Here, the saved community of God, although suffering the rod of His chastisement, proclaims to one another, and to the world, the wonders of God.

Here in Isaiah 12, we are given three important truths of God that we shall sing about to one another and proclaim to the ends of the earth. First, we ought to sing His Gracious Salvation; second, we sing His Great Commission; and third, we sing His Glorious Presence.

His Gracious Salvation (v.1-2)

When Isaiah wrote this prophecy the people of Jerusalem and the whole kingdom of Judah were sinning against God. In fact, Isaiah started his prophecy with a series of accusations of the people of Judah (Isa. 1:2-4). Isaiah accuses them of rebellion (1:2), ungratefulness (1:3-4), false worship (1:13-15), hypocrisy (1:15), and many other transgressions. God sees all these iniquities and transgressions in us.

We cannot hide anything from Him. He sees our outward devotion to Him but He can also see our hearts’ deep longing for this world and all the material things in it. He knows how we go through the motions of worship, even pretend to listen to His Word, but our minds are wondering somewhere else and our lips are filled with vile things and our lives with uncleanness.

If you and I are brutally honest, life in the holy presence of God is unbearable for sinners like us. Even the prophet Isaiah would confess, having seen the presence of God in a vision, he would admit that he is lost. He curses himself for being a man of unclean lips, dwelling among proud and ungrateful people, people with dirty tongues and thoughts. That’s us, people of God.

And so if God is going to judge us, we deserve nothing but His anger. We deserve His punishment. But thanks be to God that Someone has appeased God’s anger toward us! Somebody has satisfied the wrath of God for you and me. Even Isaiah himself could testify that although he deserved to die in the presence of God, yet God has touched his unclean lips and has taken away his guilt and has atoned for his sin.

Now the question is, “How can our holy God do that to a sinner like Isaiah, like you and me?” “How can a just God change His disposition toward us who are so idolatrous, ungrateful, and greedy?” Well, of course, the answer is in verse 1. The prophet testifies that although God was angry with him, yet in that day, God’s anger will be turned away once and for all.

God’s anger was turned away at the altar when Isaiah’s sin was atoned for. As a result Isaiah had comfort, and his fear of God’s wrath was gone when he believed the word of God. Trust, rather than fear, has overpowered Isaiah (8:17).

Ultimately, God’s anger against us His people was turned away only through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Matthew Henry says, “Though God may for a time be angry with his people, yet his anger shall at length be turned away; it endures but for a moment, nor will he contend for ever. By Jesus Christ, the root of Jesse, God's anger against mankind was turned away; for he is our peace.”

Salvation for sinners is a rescue from the wrath of the God Who is offended by our sin. But it is this same Lord God Who made a provision for our sin. God, in His great mercy and love, poured out His wrath against our sins upon Jesus as He suffered upon the cross so that God would not have to pour out that wrath upon us. The cross is the place where the fires of God's judgment consumed our sacrifice, even Christ Jesus our Lord. He bore the fires of God’s anger upon Himself because of our sin and transgressions so we don’t have to carry them anymore.

Boys and girls, Isaiah 53 gives us an awful picture of what Christ has suffered in bearing our iniquities upon Himself (see esp. vv.4-6). And so when God calls us to the cross in faith, He calls us to the one place of safety from His holy wrath against our sin. The cross is the place where God’s anger was satisfied. So when Christ first came, the day of salvation has dawned!

This is the gracious salvation that Isaiah is singing about in vv.1-2. Although God is angry with us because of sin (and let us not forget that), yet He does not treat us as our sins deserve because of the atoning work of Jesus on our behalf. When God is angry with His people, His anger is that of a father to a son. It’s going to be a temporary anger intended to correct and discipline but not to harm. This is the anger of chastisement and not the wrath of judgment. It’s for our good. It’s for our holiness, for without which we cannot see God.

In contrast, God's anger against the pagan Babylonians, against the unbelieving world of Isaiah’s time, was the wrath of judgment, and God permanently destroyed them as a people and culture. They were erased from the face of the earth. The same thing will happen to all the unbelievers who will persist in their rejection of God, who abuse the kindness of God as a license to their wickedness and sinful lifestyle. There will come a day when God’s anger will forever consume the unrepentant and the unbelieving world. So be warned, beloved congregation!

Israel’s exile to Babylon was a discipline for their idolatry and immorality. God used the hardships of the exile in pagan lands to cleanse Israel of their idolatry, to give them a sorrowful heart for their sins and to work faith in them. Then, when they repented as a people, God comforted them and restored them.

So don’t be discouraged when God chastises you. Don’t be dismayed when you feel the rod of God’s discipline. It’s for your good. He loves you with that rod. That’s why you and I could sing with Isaiah, “God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

What troubles you today? What hinders you to offer your sacrifices of praise to God? Are there any unconfessed sins, or troubled past, or unsettled relationships that bother you? Does it make you feel unworthy before God? Are there sins or failures that cause you to think that God is angry with you?

Be comforted! There is freedom and deliverance. In Christ you can find God’s gracious salvation. Though it’s costly for God, yet it’s free for you! God has promised that anyone who trusts in His Son, anyone who calls upon Him in faith, asking His forgiveness, He will turn away His wrath. He will comfort those who are sorrowful and seek refuge in Him.

Then as God’s comforting grace overwhelms you, sing His praises with all your heart. Join the chorus of God’s people in singing His gracious salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ!

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