Happy Homecoming

Text: Isaiah 12:1-6
Date: Lent IV + 3/6/16

You came back! Boy am I glad to see you! After last Sunday’s emphasis on repentance of sin, quizzing ourselves on only the first and sixth commandments, realizing how just the first command by itself lays us bare and helpless (though if you listened carefully there was of course the Gospel of the forgiveness of our sins) hopefully more than just a few of you caught how devastating is God’s Law, how serious is our constant need of contrition, repentance and renewed faith. Today we heard of a young man who learned repentance the hard way. It is always a hard way if indeed it is real true repentance of real true sin. But I am glad to see you came back. And like the return of the prodigal son today God through the prophet Isaiah gives us words of rejoicing and glad celebration over the fact that, as the psalm says of God our Father, “But with you there is forgiveness” (Ps 130:4). And that forgiveness and joy is totally a gift because of God’s only Son who has become your Lord and Savior in such repentance and faith.

The prophet Isaiah was inspired to put this into words. We hear the words of rejoicing from chapter twelve which is the end of that second section of Isaiah, what is called “the book of Immanuel.” That’s the way it was to be for the people of Israel to whom the prophet wrote and for the people of Israel in the future when the Messiah would come to deliver them, us and all nations from the condemnation of the Law and the power of sin, death and the devil.

So that you do not hear these joyous words with little more emotion, enthusiasm or understanding than as if it were just another stanza of the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” the rejoicing begins with words that escape the understanding of the unregenerate world. “In that day you will say, ‘I thank You, O Lord, that You were angry with me.’” We thank God that He was angry? That doesn’t make any sense from the world’s point-of-view.

Yet true repentance happens only when you perceive God’s anger and righteous wrath, His condemnation of all sin, and that you are in the bullseye of the target of God’s Word of Law. For only then can you hear, believe and rejoice in the Gospel that says, “Your anger is turned away, and You have comforted me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and will not be afraid.”

Notice how, after the prodigal’s planned litany of return and repentance, his father interrupted him; didn’t let him finish. How great is God’s love that He doesn’t wait for us to run to Him but, at the slightest hint of repentance, He rushes out to us and rejoices over us by throwing a great party! That’s what makes the Gospel the Gospel. God means to interrupt our deadly march of sin, rushing to save us like a fireman rushing into a burning house and delivering us to safety, the safety of His house.

We thank the Lord because He has rushed to deliver us from His righteous wrath. He turned away His anger, from us that is, and focused it all on His Son our Savior even to death on a cross. So it is because of the cross of Christ we can continue to sing, “Behold, God is my salvation; I trust, and am not afraid: for the Lord is my pride and song, and He became my salvation.”

There is an interesting detail that we miss, that we used to have in the old English King James Version of the Bible. It is the difference between translating the word for “you” with the words “thou” or “thee” and “ye.” “Thou” is singular meaning you alone. “Ye” is plural meaning “you all” or as we say in the south, “y’all.” The opening words, that confession of thanks for, of all things, God’s anger are for thee, each individual Christian. Repentance and faith is personal. No one can repent or believe for you. It is the gift of God given to each soul that hears God’s Word and that God, through His own powerful word, then “daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins, and works so as to render man truly pure and holy.”[1] There is nothing in true repentance that is the result of our own weak will or effort. It is totally and completely God’s act and gift.

But now in verse three the “thou” turns into “ye” meaning this is addressing everyone, the whole Church. “And with joy ye will draw water out of the wells of salvation.” All Israel was supplied with water in the wilderness. All Israel was delivered through the Red Sea. So, like water that covers about 71% of the earth’s surface, God’s salvation is all over the place, it is available and accessible to all. Is it not interesting that God chose water, “sanctifying and instituting all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin?” That is by the simple addition of God’s Word, Holy Baptism is “a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.”

But now the song of celebration is to be sung by the whole Church together, with one voice as one new person. The patient father in the parable called all together to rejoice over his son with music and dancing and a feast. So the prophet says, “Ye/You all will say, as with one voice, in that day, Praise the Lord, proclaim His name, make known His doings among the nations, boast that His name is exalted…. Shout and be jubilant…for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee” addressing the whole Church as one body. In other words, let God’s grace and salvation be made known to all nations as commanded our risen Lord the joyful task of , “making disciples of all nations.” This, after all, is the all-encompassing view of God. It is the knowledge of the Holy One of Israel, made known through the word of proclamation, that brings salvation to all. “God so loved the world.” As one writer put it, “How well may the church on Zion rejoice, to have such a God dwelling in the midst of it! He is great as the giver of promises, and great in fulfilling them; great in grace, and great in judgment; great in all His saving acts which spread from Israel to all mankind.”[2] All of this through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our great high priest, Jesus our Savior. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and will not be afraid.” Welcome home!

[1] FC Solid Declaration II. Of Free Will, 35.

[2] F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume VII, Isaiah, 294.