- Parallels with the Exodus
- The Command to Praise
- Related Verses
- Strength + Song + Salvation
- Modern Worship
- My Experiences
- Does the Genre Matter
- Living Water
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
Isaiah 12 is a very short chapter, having only 6 verses (Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, with only 2 verses). All 6 of these verses discuss praising God through song. I'm not sure why the editors who divided the Bible into chapters and verses chose to separate Isaiah 12 from Isaiah 11, but it's an extension. Isaiah 11 ends talking about the remnant that God will save and Isaiah 12 picks up with this remnant singing praises to God.
Parallels with the Exodus
If you remember, Isaiah 11:12 talks about Egypt specifically and then references parting a river, which naturally takes us back to the Exodus when the Israelites escaped Egypt and God parted the Red Sea. Isaiah 12:2 goes on to quote Moses directly (Exodus 15:2) for the song that the remnant should sing. Both Moses and his sister, Miriam, led the people in song to praise God for their deliverance from Egypt.
On this re-read of the Bible I fell in love with the story of the Exodus because I realized it was about so much more than the literal Exodus. The chain of events were a foretelling of Jesus' first and second coming; they also parallel our personal journeys with Christ. During the Exodus, the Israelites were fleeing a corrupt, pagan nation (Egypt) and God delivered them to the Promised Land. It was difficult for the people, but they rejoiced and sung praises to God for how far He had led them. I imagine there was similar rejoicing as Jews of the southern kingdom returned to the Promised Land after being set free in Babylon. When the final days come, the remnant of God's people will also be provided for and praise God in song.
The Command to Praise
The whole of Isaiah 12 is telling us that the remnant will praise God. Anyone who's ever been through a trial knows that when you come out unscathed, your instinct is to praise God. This praise includes calling out to God, worshipping Him, and testifying of His great works. This form of praise is mentioned throughout the Bible.
There are lots of songs for praising God, but when I read these verses, one song in particular came to mind: "High Praise" by The Anointed Pace Sisters. The song takes it's lyrics from Psalms 34:3, but expresses the concept of praising God through song.
Strength + Song + Salvation
Isaiah 12:2 gives us 3 S's that God is for us: our strength, song, and salvation. Each of these traits represents something much greater if you think about it.
Oh magnify the Lord with me
Let us exalt His name together
For He is good oh taste and see
that His mercy endures forever.
🎵 "High Praise" by The Anointed Pace Sisters
Strength goes hand in hand with might and power. When I say power, I don't mean worldly power which is usually corrupt and earned by doing the devil's bidding; I'm talking about Godly power. I'm talking about the power that enabled David to kill Goliath, the power that gave Sarah the ability to give birth in her old age, the power that gave Moses the strength to approach Pharaoh and declare God's people let go, the power that gave Joseph the strength to survive slavery and rise to power. We receive this power when we surrender to God and allow Him to be exalted in our lives.
Songs can be used to express a variety of emotions, but in the Bible, song is almost always an expression of joy. We already know that one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy, but in Isaiah 12:2, we learn that God is our song, or our joy. Surrendering all to Him brings us peace and joy, which we express in song. I can testify to this. After I got my first speeding ticket in college, I made a playlist of gospel songs to listen to when I drove home (a 4.5 hour drive). That playlist kept me upbeat and awake, but kept me from rushing. Classical was too slow, it put me to sleep; pop and hip-hop was too hype, it made me speed, but God's music was just right.
Salvation is our redemption; we're worthless without it. Because God gives us our salvation, He also gives us our worth and our purpose. I have a pencil that's actually an eraser on both sides, the body of the pencil says "Life with out Jesus is like this pencil, no point!" It's a great depiction of what our life is without salvation. Nothing we do can save us. With God we find purpose and hope for the future.
Interesting thought: Isaiah (the name) actually means God is salvation.
If you've spent time in the church, especially if you've attended multiple churches, you know there's controversy over how we praise God. Every church I've ever been to agreed that we should sing God's praises, just as Isaiah 12 instructs, but the genre of said song can often be an issue.
The church I grew up in did not allow contemporary Christian or gospel music to be sung in church. 99% of the songs we sang were from the hymnal and simply accompanied by piano. Since many of us played instruments, they would allow us to play those for special functions like Christmas or Easter plays. Still, there were never any drums and despite having a quite sophisticated keyboard, we were only allowed to use the piano and organ settings.
In college, I primarily attended a church that had the worst music I've ever heard. They tried, and I'm sure God appreciated the effort; I can't sing myself so it really wasn't my place to complain, either. This church used a guitar, a keyboard, and drums for accompaniment and usually sang contemporary songs for service. Unfortunately it was often off key or in a genre that didn't sit well with the audience (most of us showed up late specifically to miss the singing). I guess the genre leaned towards Indie Rock, maybe a touch of country and an attempt at R&B, but with a predominately black congregation who grew up in more traditional churches, Indie Rock wasn't cutting it. This was basically my introduction to contemporary Christian music (CCM) and the major thing I learned was that part of the reason churches in the US are still segregated is that music tastes tend to be cultural. Unfortunately a lot of people choose their church based on the music sung.
There was a mega church about 45 minutes away from the college I attended that drew a lot of people from my school. My friends and I went once or twice—some still attend that church actually. This church terrified me. Service at this church is like attending a concert for your favorite pop artist. They had strobe lights, surround sound with amps, praise dancers in the aisles, and a playlist that sounded like it was from the Billboard Top 40 list. The service reminded me so much of club life, I couldn't really focus on Godly lyrics in the songs.
The church I attend now is a mix of these things. Sometimes they play CCM but sometimes they sing hymns. I don't like every song they sing, but I enjoy most of them. Thanks to them my gospel collection has grown even larger.
Does the Genre Matter
I've written posts on this topic before, but now that we're at a Bible passage that specifically discusses singing, I want to point out a major observation. God simply says "sing." He doesn't say sing in baroque, or classical, or jazz, or traditional, etc. He doesn't prohibit any genres or reference a difference between secular songs. The difference comes from the lyrics and the spirit of the person creating the song. I've heard CCM songs that move me and I've heard CCM songs that scare me. We have to use discernment to know what is truly of God.
I can, however, agree with traditionalists that due to the focus on the music we can sometimes miss red flags in the lyric when it comes to CCM. I have two great examples:
Last Sabbath my church sang a song in which one of the lyrics was "I am constrained to follow God" (or something close to that). I was caught off guard because constrained isn't a positive word. The connotation of constrained makes it almost synonymous with trapped. Usually, when a person says they are constrained, it is because of something out of their control. I've only heard someone say "I am constrained by..." to mean "I would do that but I can't because..."; that's not how I feel about my relationship with God.
Another example is a song called "Lamb of God" by Nicole C. Mullen. The song is absolutely beautiful; I cried the first time I heard it. After about 100 listens, I realized that in the first verse she talks about a widow holding the baby Jesus. In the second verse it makes it obvious that the window is supposed to be the mother because she says "the lady's little baby." In an otherwise perfect song this lyric bothers me to no end. For one person to confuse virgin with widow is one thing but no one in the production team noticed this gaffe? I looked it up and there aren't even any articles addressing it. It's like I'm the only person who ever noticed! The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph were newlyweds and Joseph raised Jesus as his son. The implication of Mary being a widow at Jesus' birth is that she wouldn't have been a virgin and either Joseph was her second husband or Joseph was dead... See, it doesn't make sense. Yet, there it is in the song! I'm pretty sure God doesn't want us spreading false information in our songs about Him.
Did you catch that Isaiah 12:3 connects to Jesus offering living waters in the New Testament? God says that the remnant people will draw water from the wells of salvation with joy. In John 4:10-14, Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. He tells her that if she knew who she was speaking to, she would have asked Him for water because He could give her living waters. Jesus repeats this concept in John 7:37-38. He explains that when we drink regular water we thirst again, but if we drink the water of salvation we will never thirst again. You know that feeling when you're dehydrated and someone gives you cold water (or even lukewarm water). It tastes like the most delicious thing you've ever drank and you can't get enough of it. That's exactly how finding the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ feels.
References and Footnotes
- Mike Campbell. "Isaiah". Behind the Name; visited June 2018
Other Pages to View