Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Sermon: Isaiah 12 A Song of Salvation

On this very day, sixty years ago, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second took place at Westminster Abbey. Did anyone see it on TV? On such a special day, there was the traditional music - the anthems we’re used to hearing, such as Parry’s ‘I was glad’ and Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ - but there were also some new musical items, specially composed for the occasion. According to Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge, Ralph Vaughan Williams composed a motet ‘O Taste and See’, William Walton a new setting of the Te Deum, and Healy Willan an anthem ‘O Lord our Governor.’ There were also new orchestral pieces from Arthur Bliss, William Walton and Arnold Bax.

Special occasions require special songs - both old and new. In Isaiah chapter 12, God gives us a new song to be sung on a special day. Twice in the chapter, we’re told ‘You will say in that day’ - but you might be wondering, well, what day is that? For that we need to go to the previous chapter - where we find that ‘that day’ is when the root of Jesse, the one empowered by the Spirit, achieves complete salvation. It’s a coronation anthem for us to sing when Jesus returns and ushers in the new creation.

Already, we have the words. I remember one of the first times that we took my wee brother to a Northern Ireland game. He was worried beforehand that he wouldn’t know the songs; he wanted me to teach them to him. It really wasn’t difficult - ‘Northern Ireland do do do do do’

Here, Isaiah gives us the words; it’s as if we’re in choir practice for the heavenly chorus. We praise now, but it will be so much bigger and better on that day. So what will we be singing on that day?

The first verse is a personal song - it’s all I and you. ‘I will give thank to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.’

It’s a song for everyone who has known the joy of sins forgiven, of wrath turned away through the cross of Jesus. God was angry with me, but his anger has been turned away by the blood of Jesus. Now we receive comfort. So we rejoice and sing of God our salvation.

I wonder can you sing that song? It’s easy, at a favourite hymns evening to be caught up in the music, and to sing some familiar old hymns. But can you sing these words? Have you come to know God as your saviour? Even tonight you can come and be assured of sins forgiven.

But we can’t stop there. You see, it’s never enough to simply say, well I’m saved, I’m all right. The second verse drives us to open up our focus, to look at the needy and lost world around us, and to declare God’s praise to a watching world.

‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.’

When we rejoice in our salvation, so we want others to know about the good news of the gospel as well. The risen Jesus sends out his disciples, and so he continues to send us out, as we make known the name of Jesus, the works of Jesus, so that everyone will come to praise him.

On that day, John tells us that there will be people from every nation and language and people. Together we’ll praise our great God and Saviour. The timetable of heaven will be ceaseless praise. Let’s get into practice here and now, as we praise the Lord in our thoughts and deeds, but also with our words.

This sermon was preached at the Favourite Hymns evening in Aghahvea Church on Sunday 2nd June 2013.

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