The Lord is My Strength and My Song

Text: Isaiah 12

Sing to the Lord a new song…for He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him…He has remembered His steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.” Such does the Psalm writer sing in Psalm 98. We didn’t speak that psalm today – we spoke Psalm 66 – but the words of Psalm 98 give us our theme for worship this week as we sing to the Lord a new song. The sermon text today is the reading we heard from the prophet Isaiah, particularly these words, “Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously,” and “the Lord God is my strength and my song.”[1]

These words were spoken by the prophet Isaiah during a time when the Lord’s victory felt to His people as if it were far from certain. In their time, the kingdom of Israel had been ruled by a line of kings for nearly 300 years, many of which were terrible. Those years were filled with war and hardship. Before that, they were ruled by what were called judges, governors more like. Those years were terrible, too. Before that, they were in slavery in Egypt. And yet, Isaiah said, “Sing praises to the Lord.”

Isaiah encouraged the people to sing praises to the Lord, for the day would come when the Lord would deal gloriously with His people, when He would finally put all their enemies and all the things which caused them distress to flight. The day that Isaiah spoke of has now come to pass; Isaiah spoke of Easter. On Easter morning, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. By His resurrection, He defeated for us all the powers of sin, death and hell. He secured for us rescue from this valley of the shadow of death. That Good News gave Isaiah’s audience hope, as we also now have. Through His death and resurrection for us, Jesus has become our strength for this life and our song.

I.

The prophet spoke in our text, “You will say in that day: ‘I will give thanks 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.’”[2] Isaiah spoke these words to the king and his officials in the palace courts and to the people in the temple about 700 years before Christ was born, but even he actually wasn’t the first to proclaim these words. They were first sung by Moses and the children of Israel after they had crossed the Red Sea. It says in Exodus 15, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”[3]

You might remember the story of the Exodus, how for over 400 years God’s children lived in slavery. The image of Charlton Heston in the movie The Ten Commandments will forever be ingrained in my mind. The slavery in Egypt was not pleasant; it was a rough life that continually became worse. From the Bible we know that, when the slaves began to outnumber the Egyptians, Pharaoh ordered that all the male children be thrown into the Nile. But then, after a little while, the Lord answered the cries of His people. He delivered them from their slavery, from their distress and fear, by leading them through the Red Sea on dry ground. No water touched their feet. When Pharaoh and his army tried to do the same, the sea swallowed them up.

It was with that in mind that Isaiah spoke to his people. In Isaiah’s time it wasn’t the Egyptians they feared, but a people called the Assyrians. The Assyrians were conquerors, they were bad guys. A good word to describe them would be, bloodthirsty. The people of Israel were afraid that the Assyrians would come and conquer them and place them in slavery again. And, well, they did. But not for long. The Scriptures tell us that God disciplines those He loves, just like a father disciplines his child. A father disciplines his child for his good. Assyria came and conquered Israel, but the Lord delivered them just as He always did. But, that’s not what Isaiah’s singing about in our text.

II.

Instead, this reading from Isaiah 12 works as both an Easter and a Christmas text. Isaiah said, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: ‘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’”[4] From the context, we know that the day of salvation that Isaiah spoke about was not the day of deliverance from Egypt nor the one from Assyria, but something bigger. The day Isaiah’s talking about is the day we hear about every Christmas season, where the shoot will come from the stump of Jesse, the day when the wolf and lamb shall dwell together and the cow and the bear both graze.[5]

Isaiah is talking about the day of Jesus Christ and, in particular, the day of His resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ, true God from all eternity, became also true man by His conception and birth of the virgin Mary. Though He was without sin and obeyed the Law of God to perfection, He suffered and died on the cross. He did this to pay for our sins. See, our actions – the bad things that we do which hurt others around us – aren’t just bad. They are sinful. A sin is something done against God’s holy will, and God punishes transgressions against His commandments with death. But the wrath and punishment that we deserve were removed from us by Christ. By His death, He took our place in death, so that we might share His place in eternal life. This is called forgiveness. Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins and He gives to you and me eternal life – not because we deserve it, but as a free gift.

III.

I will give thanks 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…Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously.’”[6] In our congregations, we use what’s called a lectionary. That means that the readings for each Sunday are selected for that Sunday. The readings we use here have been heard by Christians for generations. I selected this text to preach on today because, sometimes we need a reminder of the Lord’s goodness to us, and that He doesn’t leave us hanging.

Sometimes it feels like that. “Running on fumes,” is a good description for how we feel most days. We put on a good face for others because we don’t want to bother them with our troubles. Little by little, our strength grows weak. Illnesses and financial uncertainty, family and work troubles, seem to pound us into the ground until there’s nothing left. The Lord knows this. That’s why He became our strength. He died and rose for us, for the forgiveness of our sins and so that we might have hope. He died and rose so that we might have hope of a life to come, a life with Him and with those who’ve died in the Christian faith, a life without pain or suffering, a life with only joy and happiness – as God intended when He created man. This life that is in Christ, the forgiveness and joy of the life to come, He gives to all freely. In your Baptism and by faith in Jesus you have the forgiveness of sins and the hope of a joyful future. And this gives us strength now.

We have strength now not because of anything in us, but because of Christ. St. Paul said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”[7] St. Paul meant that, by faith in Christ – through hearing His Word and receiving His gifts in the Sacrament – he can endure and prosper in all things. And, so can we. We have been brought here together by the Holy Spirit, and He will continue to gather us until that day when we feast in heaven with all the saints of God. Though our days now be filled with sadness, we shall reap celestial joy, one hymn says. By His death and resurrection for us, Jesus has secured for us forgiveness and eternal life. He has become our strength in this life, and our song. Amen.


[1] Isaiah 12:5, 2. English Standard Version.

[2] Is. 12:1-2.

[3] Ex. 15:1-2.

[4] Is. 12:3-5.

[5] Is. 11:1, 6-7.

[6] Is. 12:1-2, 5.

[7] Phil. 4:13.

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