Power Points from Proverbs: The Gift of Joy
The Gift of Joy
There is a cartoon of Charlie Brown pondering his plight in life: “Yesterday, for one brief moment I was happy. But just when I thought I was winning in the game of life, there was a flag thrown on the play and life dealt me a blow.”
Do you think we could go back in time to get a little perspective on what it takes to be happy? To find, to receive the gift of joy?
George Orwell wrote the famous novel 1984. The story centers on the risk of government overreach, totalitarianism, and the repressive regulation of everybody in society. If you have heard of the term “thought police,” it was coined by George Orwell in 1984. An interesting thing happens at the end of 1984. Contrary to literary convention, evil wins. Some have suggested that Orwell was pessimistic because he was dying while he wrote the novel (in 1949). But, listen to what Orwell wrote five years before he penned 1984:
“Since about 1930 the world has given no reason for optimism whatever. Nothing is in sight except a welter of lies, hatred, cruelty, and ignorance, and beyond our present troubles loom vaster ones which are only now entering into the European consciousness. It is quite possible that man’s major problems will ‘never’ be solved. . . The real problem is how to restore the religious attitude while accepting death as final. Men can be happy only when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.”
I ask again, Do you think we could go back in time to get a little perspective on what it takes to be happy? To receive joy in life?
Open your copy of God’s word to the prophet Isaiah - Isaiah 12.
As you are turning there, here’s what we know so far… Isaiah is preaching to God’s people during a time when they have recently experienced material prosperity but now they are in engaged in war or potential war - northern tribes of Israel have allied themselves with Syria (Damascus) against Assyria (Syro-Ephraimite War, 734-32 B. C.). Assyria is going to destroy Israel (Samaria) and come against Jerusalem. It’s not going to be pretty.
The reason why is because of sin. Jerusalem has revolted against her Father, against her husband. She is sinful, weighed down with iniquity, evildoers, and corrupt (1:4). Forgiveness will be possible; it will be made available (1:18) but Judah was to “consent and obey” (1:19).
Idol worship is their fundamental problem. They do not know God (1:3; that is, they do not have a relationship with Him) because they are worshiping under the terebinth (oaks) false gods (1:28-31).
The new, spiritual temple is going to be established in Jerusalem to which Gentiles will join and from which the law of God will be proclaimed (2:1-3).
In this new, spiritual temple peace will abound (2:4).
Israel needs to repent of her pride, abusing the poor, and trusting in man, in his gods, his business, or his military.
Israel’s leaders were not guiding men back to God. Subsequently, God would provide His own leader (4:2). To Him, the “survivors” would listen!
Israel’s problem is that they do not accept and follow the law of the Lord. They despise the word of the Holy One (5:24). That is why they are experiencing a lack of knowledge (5:13). They need a Teacher who will teach them but also give them the right motivation to learn and follow the Law of the Lord.
If/when Judah will be holy, it will take the God of heaven to make them holy. Their responsibility will be to open their eyes and ears and understand His expectations for them (6:9-10). We also saw in 6:13 that the “holy seed” from the stump will remain.
God is going to give a sign to Judah: a virgin will give birth to God-incarnate (Immanuel; 7:14). The land belongs to Him (8:8). He will not abandon it (8:10). He will separate the remnant from the unfaithful (8:14). He has the same nature as His children (8:18).
THE MESSIAH HIMSELF - 11:1-5:
God plans to begin a new kingdom, a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom that would incorporate both halves of Israel as well as the Gentiles. That kingdom will be ruled by the God-made-man, pictured in passages like 7:14 and 9:6-7. Here, in this chapter, Isaiah pictures the Messiah, His person (1-5), His peace (6-10), and His people (11-16).
First, His person…
Back in 6:13, God had said that He would preserve a remnant, “the holy seed is its stump.” There would be a remnant faithful to God and out of that remnant would come the Savior, the Messiah. This Messiah would come from the “stem of Jesse,” the father of King David. He will bear fruit (vs 1), in contrast to the nation of Israel, pictured in chapter 5, which did not bear (good) fruit.
The Hebrew word for “stem” here is netser which is related to the word for Nazareth (natseret), which may explain Matthew’s meaning in 2:23. Why does Isaiah mention David’s father, Jesse? It’s likely because Isaiah is not picturing the coming of another son of David in the likes of Ahaz. He is picturing the coming of David himself. Jeremiah (30:9) and Ezekiel (34:23-24; Hosea 3:5) all use the same imagery. This is a more graphic way of portraying Jesus as the heir to the throne of King David.
God would send His Spirit over the Messiah in a way that would give Him complete and perfect wisdom and knowledge to rule as God desired. He will rule in justice and righteousness, as we saw in 9:7. “Justice” is pictured in verse 3. “Righteousness” is pictured in verse 4. In fact, in verse 5, the Royal Messiah is pictured as being clothed with righteousness (as a belt) and with faithfulness.
Second, we have His peace…
Just as we saw in 2:4 - “He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.”
Here, we have another picture of the peace that will come to those who submit to the rule, the government, of the Prince of Peace. Death, itself, of course is conquered, in the Messiah (1 Cor. 15:55). This will happen when “the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord,” an idea reminiscent of 6:3 where Isaiah saw Jesus on His throne (see John 12:41). Observe, in the words of E. J. Young (392), “Before there can be peace there must be knowledge.”
In that day, in the day when the shoot from the stem of Jesse comes, the nations will flock to Him (vs 10). He will stand as a “signal” to the peoples. The Jews and Gentiles both will rally around this flag, the Messiah Himself. He gives a “glorious resting place,” a rest from the burden of sin and enmity with God. Paul quotes this verse in Romans 15:12 and applies it to the gospel age. If verses 1-5 refer to the Gospel age and verse 10 refers to the Gospel age, it seems natural to apply verses 6-9 also to the Gospel Age.
Third, we have His people - 11:11-16:
Again, in that day - the day of the Messiah - God will gather together His remnant, those who have been scattered throughout the world by various empires - even from the nation of Assyria (vs 16). “…there is no mention of any supposed ‘lost tribes of Israel’ in Isaiah’s teachings” (Smith, 276). This text pictures a unity among the northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes of Judah that had not been seen since the days of King David, and of course, being a spiritual unity, it is deeper than that under King David.
“Unity must be in the truth” (Young, 398).
THE SONG OF THANKSGIVING - 12:1-6:
What do you do when you reflect on the blessings of God? You worship. You sing. You give thanks. That is the substance of chapter 12. Chapter 12 is a fitting summary of the first 11 chapters of Isaiah. “If God is one’s salvation [vs 2], there is need only of trusting; no need of fearing” (Young, 403). Once you have praised God for His blessings and His goodness, you also turn and share that good news with the peoples and nations of the earth!
Do you want happiness? Joy? Consider these thoughts from Isaiah…
Vs 1 - Once salvation is made available through the Lord’s Messiah, it is time to give thanks. Israel is called to give thanks because, though at one time the Lord was angry, He has turned that anger away from Israel and offered them comfort instead. The anger of the Lord is mentioned 25 times in Isaiah; 84 times in all the prophets. “To comfort” is found 47 times; 16 times in Isaiah.
Vs 2 - Begins with the word “behold” which is like the preacher pounding the pulpit - it is to get the audience’s attention. Why should we give thanks to God? Because:
God is my salvation - This is a metaphor; it is a strong way of saying “God, and God alone offers salvation. It is only through Him that salvation can come.” Since God is “my salvation,” I will trust and I will not be afraid. There is no salvation in or through or by anyone else. That’s why it is so imperative that people know about God and His Servant, Jesus Christ.
The second metaphor is “strength” and it comes first in the clause for emphasis. God is my strength is the sense that all spiritual strength comes from God. And my “song” - God is my song. What a beautiful metaphor to emphasize that the motivation for singing songs of joy and praise is because of God. He is “my song,” my reasons for enjoying life. I live for Him.
The fourth metaphor at the end of the verse repeats the first metaphor - God is “my salvation.”
Vs 3 - If we recognize that God is everything to us - our strength, our song, our salvation, then we can joyfully go to the well and draw out water, from the springs of salvation. God is the One who puts the bounce in my step as I go about my daily activities. He will provide for my needs, especially my spiritual needs. Water is used as a picture of salvation extensively in the OT.
Vs 4 - Once we have understood Who God is and what He has done for us, then we go to worship God and give Him thanks, singing to God for the joy of His salvation. But that’s not where our lives end; it’s not where our responsibilities end. You share the good news, the gospel, with others. That’s the point here in verse 4. Verse 4 is the “great commission” of Isaiah. Look at what he calls us to do:
1. Call on others to praise Jehovah.
2. Call on His name - that is, find hope and salvation in Jehovah God.
3. Inform the peoples (here’s the idea of mission work) of His deeds. Evangelism is talking about God, not about ourselves. Remember in our study of the book of Acts (Acts 7) that God wants us to know His-tory - His story of His dealings with mankind. We need to talk about God’s deeds.
4. Help them remember / understand that His name is to be exalted.
Vs 5 - Why should we praise the Lord? Because He has done excellent things - He has offered and made available the gift of salvation. That is the message that needs to be spread throughout the earth. “For worship to become evangelism it has to be done outside of the four walls of a church, where non-believers can hear God’s praise” (Smith, 284).
Vs 6 - This is another call to sing with overtones of evangelism - Cry aloud! Shout for joy! Inhabitants of Zion because “great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” The designation for God, “Holy One of Israel,” is used 26 times in Isaiah out of 29 times in the OT.
THE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATION:
We have illustrated throughout the lesson that Jesus is the fulfillment of this hope for salvation. God is angry at sin; therefore, He is angry with us when we sin. But that anger is turned away from us when God turned His wrath on His Son on the cross. Therefore, it is through Jesus Christ that we are finally comforted from our sins.
Jesus is our salvation. It is in Jesus that we need to trust and Jesus whom we need to obey. Jesus is our strength against temptation. Jesus is our song. Jesus (John 4:13-14) is the one who gives us springs of water from which to drink. As Isaiah says here in Isaiah 12, it is also imperative for us to share that living water with others, those who are thirsty from the parched skin caused by sin, so that they can drink of the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).
Even in the fear of our children leaving the church and getting engulfed in our modern ungodly culture, we cannot turn loose of God’s commandments, water down the gospel, loosen God’s restrictions. Trust God and obey Him. If only a remnant survives, then so be it. We must stay faithful. Therein lies the secret to happiness, to joy, to peace of mind. It’s me and my relationship with God that counts, that puts a song on my lips.
“The earthly Zion may go, but the Zion of the people of God abides forever” (Young, 376).