Sermon November 24, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1421

November 24, 2019 Isaiah 12.1-6

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“Expressions of Thanksgiving”

 

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.

2 “Behold, 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.”

3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.

5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

 

  • Thanks for Comfort

 

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.

 

There will come a day...in Isaiah’s expression of “that day”, Isaiah is speaking of the day promised in Isaiah 11, the day when the spirit of the Lord rests upon the Savior. That day righteousness and faithfulness will be revealed. On that day it is said that the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, a little child shall lead, none shall be hurt, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God. Isaiah 12 is the song that will be sung upon that day of deliverance. It is the day that marks the deliverance that only God can bring. It is a day that remembers the song of Moses in Exodus 15 or the song of Mary in Luke 1. You might remember some of those words, Exodus 15 - “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.” Or from Mary in Luke - “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”

 

In Isaiah’s song as in the others, there is thanksgiving. “I will give thanks”...and what follows are all the reasons to give thanks. The first reason is that God turned away His anger and brought comfort instead. There was reason for anger as Israel had fallen away from God time and time again. Israel sinned and God’s anger was justified. But God showed mercy, God turned the anger away so that Israel could be comforted in her guilt and shame. The indictment is in places like Isaiah 5 - For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

 

God shows compassion to Israel and gives them comfort. It is not necessarily a comfort that is devoid of suffering, but a comfort deep within, in the midst of suffering that is assured that everything will one day be made right and there will be no more suffering. Israel suffers because of their sin, yet God comforts them.

Paul writes a similar thought about comfort in affliction – 2 Corinthians 1.3-7,

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

 

Or the Psalmist who writes that familiar verse, Psalm 23.4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

God leading is a comfort as is God’s word – Psalm 119.50 “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.”

 

Give thanks to God for the comfort He alone brings.

 

 

  • Thanks for Salvation

 

2 “Behold, 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.” 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

 

Behold! This is the God who saves. He delivered Israel from bondage and He has delivered us from our bondage to sin and death. Because God is our salvation, we need not fear, we gain strength, a song, and joy from the living waters. This is s great image in Scripture, to draw water from the wells of salvation. God’s salvation quenches our thirst. It cleanses us. It refreshes and sustains us. I believe this is the same well of which Jesus spoke when He offers living water. Recall when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well in John 4.10, Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Or consider Revelation 7.17, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

 

The gift of God from John 4 and the springs of living water from Revelation could certainly be understood as synonyms of the wells of salvation. God saves us through the waters of baptism as He saved Israel through the waters of the sea.

 

Give thanks to God for salvation that only He can give.

 

 

  • Thanks for Trust

 

2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid;

 

God gives us many reasons to trust Him. As we learned last Sunday, God keeps and fulfills all His promises. They have been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. In that trust we also have no cause for fear. You remember those days of youth at church camp when we would do a trust walk? We blindfold the campers and ask them to trust us as we lead them along a path. They are asked to trust that we will not lead them down a dangerous path or into the brier patch. The lesson sought is one of trust in the Lord, that God will never lead us anywhere apart from His salvation or anywhere there is reason to fear.

Along with many reasons to trust God, we can also give thanks for the gift of trust, or as we more commonly phrase it, the gift of faith. What is unique about all these elements for which to give thanks, is that we thank God for the all the things God had done, so that, we trust God, but we also give thanks for the trust itself. We thank God because He has comforted and for any kind of comfort. We thank God for thanksgiving itself. Lord, thank you that we can give thanks.

 

Give thanks to God for all the reasons we can trust in Him.

 

 

  • Thanks for the Name of the Lord

 

4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.

 

Isaiah 12.4 mentions God’s name twice. First is to call on His name and the second is to tell everyone that God’s name is lifted up. Paul expresses this in Philippians 2.9-11, speaking of Jesus,

 

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

 

This thanksgiving also speaks to the commandment about God’s name.

 

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20.7). I saw a Q & A session with Dennis Prager (Jewish theologian and radio host) and Ravi Zacharias (Christian apologist) that was moderated by Jeff Foxsworthy and one of the topics was on this verse about God’s name. Dennis Prager, I’ve shared this with you before, Prager said that the commandment to taking the Lord’s name in vain may also be translated to carry the Lord’s name in vain. And that means not just to say God’s name flippantly or as a cuss word but to do things that are evil in the name of the Lord. Don’t act like a devil when you claim to be a Christian. To take the name in vain may deal with speaking and to carry the name in vain may deal with acting, with what we actually do.

In response to that the best remark came from Jeff Foxworthy who said that people from the north will ask someone, “Can you take me to the store?” But a southerner will ask, “Can you carry me to the store?” So Jeff says we had it right all the time. Now, I know this could be argued as just a matter of semantics. It might be that to take it is to carry it. But, it is certainly something to think about!

Now, as an aside, I think this is why Christians are upset with Chick-fil-A, because they claim to be doing business in the name of God and yet have recently made moves that go against the name of God. They have failed to “carry” the name in a way that glorifies the name. Popeye’s or Bojangles chicken has never claimed to carry the name in their business and so we don’t concern ourselves much with who they give to or not. It is worse when you claim the name and do wrong than when you don’t carry the name and do wrong.

 

We are to claim the name and carry it or take it in ways that our words and our lives reflect its glory.

 

 

Give thanks for the name that is above all other names.

 

 

  • Thanks for Praises

 

5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

 

Thanks for my voice. Thanks for my hands. Thanks for my feet. Thanks for my mind. Thanks for my spirit. Thanks for life.

 

Thanksgiving is a part of praise because both activities focus, not on the self, but on the One being thanked and praised. When we praise God we are indirectly thanking God and when we thank God we are also praising Him. Praise and thanks can be held together so that we not think of self but only of God.

 

Give thanks for the ways we can praise God.

 

 

  • Thanks for Joy

 

3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

 

All that God has given us brings us great joy. As we look forward this time of year to the joy of Christmas, we think more about the things of joy. Songs that speak of joy, gifts that speak of joy, a child born that brings us joy. There is joy in the Lord and in His salvation and we are called to sing for joy because of the greatness of God in our midst. There is joy in holiness.

Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is more superficial. Not that there is anything wrong with happiness, but it does not and cannot go as deep as joy. They both bring a smile. They both warm our hearts. But happiness is fleeting while joy is more substantial and something God implants in our hearts.

 

Give thanks for the joy of this life and our life to come.

 

 

  • Expressions of Thanksgiving

 

Say thank you. Live in gratitude. Remember God’s works. Reflect God’s love. Stay obedient to His word. Sing. Worship. Proclaim. Tell others about Jesus. Be gentle and kind. Practice tough love when necessary.

We give thanks to the Lord for many things, perhaps most often for family, for material things, for health and well being. We tend to generalize these things. As we see in this particular passage, there are many things we might not have considered as much. This list, and we could probably squeeze out a few more things, includes what God has done for us that we may have taken for granted or we may have felt like we’ve thanked God enough for these things. But all these things require constant thanks to God.

 

The structure of our society tends to dismiss opportunities for giving thanks because of the push for self-reliance or, on another extreme, the push for entitlements and dependence upon those entitlements. When we either rely on ourselves for everything or feel that we are entitled to everything there is no one to thank. This produces a society that cares for no one but self. The opposite of that is a society and a people who give thanks because thanksgiving nurtures relationships. Giving thanks to God and to others demonstrates our dependence upon God and one another. We acknowledge that we cannot go it alone in this life. We need God; we need each other.

 

Perhaps one thing our text is calling for today is to be specific in our thanks. We tend to generalize and we forget the specifics. This is another reason it can be fruitful to keep a journal of prayers and thanksgivings. There are times when we remember specific stories of our past that bring back joy and we could write those stories down so that we never forget them. We could spend a few moments at the end of our days and offer thanks for specific reflections of that day. Amnesia is a problem for thankfulness. Amnesia is a problem for faithfulness to God. It is the problem Israel suffered many times, forgetting God and thus forgetting to thank God.

Most of the problems with failure to give thanks are related to respect and awe for God, to forgetting that God gives us all things, and taking for granted what we have been given. The Bible calls us back to thanksgiving and Isaiah calls us to give thanks for very specific things: comfort, salvation, trust, the name of God, praise, and joy. How often have we giving thanks for each of these? Lord, thank you for comforting us. Lord, thank you for saving us. Lord, thanks for the trust you instill in us. God, we give thanks for the power in Your name. Thank You, Lord, for praise. Thank You for joy. Thank You. Amen.

 
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