By Sam E. Stone
The apostle Paul told Christians, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This is undoubtedly good advice, but it is often difficult to do. When Isaiah warned the people of God’s coming judgment on the nation of Israel, he gave them a similar message.
In last week’s lesson we studied Isaiah’s call to the prophetic ministry (Isaiah 6). The chapters that follow (7-11) foretell the coming of Immanuel, the Messiah. This is good news! But along with these words of hope, Isaiah also described God’s coming punishment for his unbelieving people.
The Lord would use Assyria to conquer them. They would not get away with rebelling against God. But even with this warning, the prophet assured the people that still a remnant would be saved. From the Root of Jesse the Lord will bring a Redeemer. After this affirmation Isaiah included this psalm of worship.
That day suggests the period of time just mentioned in 11:10 (see also 10:20, 27). This first stanza of the psalm records what people would say after seeing how God delivers them from their enemies. After God has punished Israel, he will punish the other nations (like Assyria and Babylon).
This psalm shows first the response of a faithful individual who praises the Lord for all that he has done. That person can now praise God, not because God is angry with him, but because the anger he had shown against him is now ended. W. Fitch writes, “The nation itself, redeemed by great mercy and mighty acts, is heard singing the praises of her God . . . The Psalm is a counterpoint to the song in Exodus 15, sung by the children of Israel after their deliverance from Egypt.”
Many prophecies of Isaiah highlight the coming work of the Messiah. Later in the book, Isaiah introduces the coming Servant of the Lord. He is that one on whom the Lord will lay “the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
This brings about what the New Testament calls “reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). The prophet looks to the future. Henry Halley describes what he sees: ”a Warless World . . . under the reign of a righteous and benevolent King of Davidic descent formed of the redeemed of all nations together with the restored remnant of Judah.”
No wonder the prophet could proclaim, Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The apostle Paul said of Jesus, “He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). James Smith explains, “The redeemed . . .
would boldly and personally declare their trust in God. They would embrace Yahweh as their strength, song and salvation.”
This led to the use of another word picture, one filled with significance for the Hebrew people—With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Life-giving water is often used to describe God’s saving power (see Psalm 65:9; John 4:10; 7:38; 1 Peter 3:20; Revelation 21:6).
The second part of the psalm moves from the singular to the plural. It portrays the community of the Lord’s people offering praise together. In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name.” In our day, God’s children need not wait for a special Thursday in November to praise the Lord. One way in which we thank him is to make known among the nations what he has done. This is reminiscent of the exodus. After God delivered his children from slavery in Egypt, Moses led the people in a song (Exodus 15:1ff). The pagan world would see and acknowledge the Lord’s hand of power and deliverance (see Exodus 15:14ff). Everyone could be certain, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him” (Exodus 15:2). God worked through the exodus to see that his name is praised everywhere (Exodus 9:16).
When Isaiah was called to the prophetic ministry, the holiness of God was underscored in his vision (Isaiah 6:3). Now a similar message rings clear: Great is the Holy One of Israel among you. Fitch concludes, “The Great One is the Holy One. That separation from evil ensures victory in his warfare and guarantees the permanence of his kingdom. This is therefore the supreme note in the song which celebrates his reign.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.