Advent 3C: Isaiah 12 “It’s time to sing back the song”

You will say on that day:
“I thank you, Lord.
Though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away and you comforted me.
God is indeed my salvation;
I will trust and won’t be afraid.
Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my shield;
he has become my salvation.”
You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.
And you will say on that day:
“Thank the Lord; call on God’s name;
proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples;
declare that God’s name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, who has done glorious things;
proclaim this throughout all the earth.”
Shout and sing for joy, city of Zion,
because the holy one of Israel is great among you.
Isaiah 12 [CEB]

This future-looking post focuses on “that day” for the Jewish people. Their nation was getting picked at like crows on a carcass by surrounding countries. Raids and skirmishes poked holes in their faith. Surely, since they were God’s Chosen people, nothing bad would happen to them. Surely, since the Temple of Lord was God’s Dwelling, they were protected. Surely their enemies would never overcome them.

It was a misguided sense of security. The coming crush of armies from Assyria and Babylon in just a few years would divide a kingdom and put the people into exile. There would be dark days.

But in the darkness, a call to faith. A hymn of trust and celebration in God’s faithfulness, beyond circumstances. The people would praise God’s works among them. There is a refrain of confidence:

You will say on that day…
Though I deserve God’s anger, I rejoice in God’s rescue and salvation.

You will say on that day…
Though I am terrified, God will be my strength and shield.

You will say on that day…
Though I have been disobedient, God has shown me mercy and compassion.

You will say on that day…
Though circumstances deny it, God is great and has done glorious things.

You will say on that day…
Though I have lost everything, God is good.

For those of us who live after the Resurrection, these words have double-meaning. We distance ourselves from God, deserving punishment. Yet God draws us close, comforts, encourages, nourishes us. We live through events of trauma and terror, and God’s Presence is our place of refuge. We doubt, question and become complacent. God shows up. And we have cause to praise God in songs of joy.

For some, “salvation” should always have a capital “S”. It is solely a soteriological condition, based on doctrine, argumentation and a cause/effect or judicial exchange. While this passage does point to the coming Messiah, the import of it goes past a theological viewpoint.

There is a sense in the Jewish writings of salvation that take this to a higher plane. It speaks to a longing deep in our heart of hearts of completeness and wholeness, of rest and peace, of security (beyond the “eternal” kind). In a world of mass shootings, of cancer, of job losses, of sparring government factions, our hearts cry out for this.

God hears. And responds. Always. We may not see or feel it right away. Our human nature demands proof, demands change, demands anything but the struggles we live through.

The Promise rings through Isaiah’s words:
You WILL say on that day…

You will. You will. And so will I. So let’s help one another along. Sing back the song…

God is indeed my salvation;
I will trust and won’t be afraid. (Isaiah 12:2a)

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

– Edmund Sears, 1849

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