Isaiah Chapter 12

CHAPTER TWELVE

Israel's song when Jerusalem's walls become no longer
wailing-places, but resound with joyful praise.


It will be noted that, in these later chapters, the past deliverance of Israel from Egypt has provided a pattern of the future and final deliverance from every yoke; and as then, as soon as they had crossed the sea, they burst into song, so here again we hear the same outburst of joy That praise of old soon gave place to the unbelieving groan at the waters of Marah, but this song shall never cease, for its cause is everlasting, no "bitter waters" await restored Israel; that nation's trials will be then forever past.

Nor is it without added interest that again that significant number "three" is clearly impressed upon the song as upon all the book. For there are six verses (and we must remember that in Hebrew poetry the division into verses is not for human convenience, but of divine inspiration), unmistakably and intentionally divided into two parts of "three" each, by the words with which each begins, "And in that day." The first part (vers. 1-3) speaks of Israel's own abounding joy; then in the second (vers. 4-6), this joy runs over to all the nations of the earth.

We may well say that is ever both the natural and the divine order. The vessel that is placed beneath the flow of the spring must itself first be filled before the water can run over; but as soon as full, then every drop that falls in, inevitably forces a corresponding drop out. Israel's vessel is full in verses 1-3, and runs over in 4-6.

We may then interpret the numbers thus: the song, in its two parts, witnesses (for 2 is the number of sufficient testimony) that God has indeed manifested Himself, in His government of the earth, in the salvation of His people Israel. The song is a grand chant, and may be paraphrased, while still cleaving closely to the original, thus:

1: In that day shalt thou say: O Lord, I will praise Thee,
For though Thou wast angry, Thy anger is gone,
Thy comforts abound to me.
2: Behold, my salvation is God, the most mighty,1
In Him will I trust, and not be afraid.
For Jah, e'en Jehovah,2 my strength and my song,
Is now my salvation.
3: Therefore, with rapture shall ye draw water
From founts3 of salvation, never exhausted.
4: In that day shall ye say: Praise to Jehovah!
His glorious Nameproclaim it abroad!
His doings declare amid all the nations.
Boast4 that His Name be exalted!
5: Harp to Jehovah, for great are His doings;
Make it be known all over the earth.
6: Shout and be jubilant, dweller in Zion,
For He who of Isr'el is the One Holy
Is great in the midst of thee!
The poor scattered nation has never, up to this very day, sung that, or any other song. The great foundation-stones of the temple have only thrown back the echo of its groans. "Wailing-places," they have indeed needed, but not orchestras of joy. It has then either been fulfilled in the joy that follows the present Gospel of Christ, as in the city of Samaria (Acts 8:8) or it remains still to be fulfilled. But all the context forbids absolutely that our prophecy should refer primarily, far less solely, to the present time, of which Isaiah, Scripture assures us, knew nothing. It remains to be sung in the future, for "that day" has not yet come, nor can it possibly be sung while the Jew is a wanderer in strange lands.

To this very day Jehovah is unmistakably "angry" with that nation, not now on account of its idolatry, for which it was originally banished to Babylon for 70 years, but far more for the crucifixion by "lawless hands" of His beloved Son, the Messiah, that infinitely heavier sin of those who returned from that captivity, and have again been banished for 1900 years, and are so still: thus may the over-abounding sin be measured. But even that anger has a limit, as chapter 10:25 has already told us, and it shall be "turned away," for the Blood of that Messiah, which was shed for "that nation" (John 11:51, 52), and by which it has been "sanctified" (Heb. 13:12), shall yet speak for, not against, its afflicted and penitent remnant, which we may feel assured is the "treasure" that that precious Blood has purchased, and which has been so long hid in the field that He has also thus bought (Matt. 13:44).

I do not see that the song even permits any extended exposition, it is too perfectly simple. The returned, the renewed nation first quenches its own thirst at the fountain of salvation, and then, the waters still flowing in undiminished volume, they long for all the peoples of the earth to share in those never-to-be-exhausted springs of happiness. Thus shall the "receiving of them be life from the dead" for the world (Rom. 11:15). For now shall this ever-flowing fountain burst forth in missionary effort, as we shall see later. Blessed ministry! Striking it is to see that even our unfaithfulness in leaving, after 2,000 years, so large a proportion of the race ignorant of the Gospel, has been foreseen by the Spirit of God, and turned to His own purposes as thus providing a field for His restored people, Israel, to fill with their more faithful, but not happier service.

Ever blessed beyond all power of expression is it to see the "end of the Lord," whether with one single individual of His afflicted people, as Job (James 5:11), or with an elect nation as a whole, as here. Always that end is joy. Blessed be God that this is so happily confirmed in that book of Psalms that tells out those ways, through human sighs and tears and songs. But the songs always prevail at the end, and when we come to the last psalms, the sighs have ceased, the tears have been wiped away, and Hallelujahs ring without the discord of a groan through them all, and the very last word is "Hallelujah!"

So shall it be for the feeblest of us whose heart's confidence is in the Lord Jesus. Many a sigh and tear may come first, but even by these we shall not be losers. Even now we shall learn by them of our Lord, as is possible in no other way, and in the future they will give God Himself a happiness that angels cannot afford Him, of wiping tears away, and then songs shall take their place to end nevermore.

The second subdivision of our book ends here. It began at chapter 7 with the birth of Immanuel, and traces His path till He is seen reigning as King in chapter 9. Here the section ends, and the second begins with the Assyrian (representative of Violence as he is) heard digging his own grave in his boastings, then seen threatening Jerusalem, which he does not capture, but is instead brought very low. Then the remnant of Israel finds new life in the "Sprout" from the broken stem (chap. 6:12), and with His introduction as the "Branch," not Israel only, but creation resumes its primal harmony, and the section ends with a Hallelujah in which we may anticipatively share.

Footnotes:

1 "El," that is, "the mighty God."
 

2 "Jah" is assumed to be simply an abbreviated form of Jehovah, but when, as here, the two names come together it must have some special significance, and there would appear to be sound reason for Mr. Wm. Kelly's suggestion that as the name "Jehovah" always tells of God in relation to His people, so Jah expresses His essential Deity, and when together as here, adds in a human way of speaking, even to infinity.
 

3 There is much beauty in the Hebrew word rendered "well" in A.V., but much better "fountain." It is from a root meaning "to flow," having in it the idea of constancy. It is a perennial flow, and is the common word for the "eye," since that is the source of a never-ending flow. Alas, this flow now is in tears. But God intervenes with His salvation, and stops that sad flood by wiping away all tears of grief from every eye. The tears are then gone and the flow of the fountain is of joy alone, for the eye can shed tears of joy.
 

4 The word I have rendered "boast" is "to make mention," but in the sense of "taking as a confidence." As in Psalm 71:16, "I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only," that is, "I will not even speak of any other righteousness than Thine; this shall be all my confidence and boast." Compare Phil. 3:3.