I’ve been watching the MLB World Series this week. My sudden viewing commitment to the series began with the Houston Astros’ league championship win last weekend. It was a great game, and I was hooked. Unfortunately, the Astros haven’t done as well in the series as of today, losing two out of the first two games. Since I am unrelated to them, my life is unaffected by their losses, compared to theirs’, their families, and their friends’ lives. Jose Altuve won the league championship game for the Astros by his home run hit. He thanked God first when interviewed. I do hope that his faith is genuine and that it is helping him and others on the team after their losses. The author of Hebrews warned his brothers, “[Since] the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” (Hebrews 4:1) He wanted the congregation of believers to remain steadfast, giving witness to trusting in Christ, not looking as if they had failed to find their rest in Christ. I like to think that God deliberately puts a spotlight on Christian athletes for millions to take notice of their witness. I pray that Altuve and others’ faith in Christ is enabling them to persevere and continue to witness, especially when their teams lose. But do we hold fast, not “seeming to fail” when life throws us trials?
At a time when God’s people were “losing” their identity, because of their idolatry, under the Lord’s discipline, God sent the prophet Isaiah to them. He foresaw the coming of the Messiah when he wrote, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1) The rest of chapter 11 describes the coming Christ as wise, understanding, powerful, united with the Holy Spirit, having the fear of the Lord, just, compassionate, humble, righteous, faithful, and peaceful (Isaiah 11:2-8). God brought his people back from exile. In a passage from Isaiah 12, we find that trusting in God’s salvation results in comfort, reconciliation, peace, strength, and joy, which we can then demonstrate to others. 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.’ With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (12:1-3) God gave Israel comfort instead of anger, strength instead of fear, and joyful shalom instead of temporary relief. As always, the Lord’s dealings with Israel point to Christ’s ministry to us, through pictures and words.
The first picture in Isaiah 12 is that of an angry Father. Not just any father, but one who is omnipotent, sovereign, and omniscient. But this all-powerful ruling King and family leader turned away his anger to comfort his people. “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.” (12:1) “Only God can turn away the anger of God.” (1) Through Christ’s propitiation, God’s wrath for our sins is eternally satisfied. “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). (See 1 John 4:10.) Jesus took the punishment that brings us peace and healing—real comfort in a world that vainly tries to find relief from stress, fear, guilt, and anger in so many unsuccessful ways.
Not only does Christ’s saving propitiation bring comfort, but it supplies us with trust in God and his strength, instead of fearing his anger. “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.’ (Isaiah 12:2) Instead of fearing God’s judgment toward us, we have faith in Christ, given to us as a gift, to enjoy the strength of God, who becomes our song. Gods’ words in Scripture are particular and intentional. Dr. Dan Doriani taught about the different kinds of fear that the Bible speaks of when he lectured on Hebrews Chapter 4. There is servile fear—that fear of God’s authority, power, and judgment, like the fear a disobedient child has of his parent’s discipline or an inattentive worker has of his employer’s evaluation. When Scripture instructs the saints to “not be afraid” it is this type of fear that is in view. However, when the Bible commands us to have a “fear of the Lord” it is referring to loving, reverent, filial fear that is affectionate and thankful. This filial fear is the “beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10); is “a fountain of life” (Proverbs 14:27); and safety (Proverbs 29:25).
All regenerated believers have the “fountain of life,” from the Holy Spirit. We have deep, joyful shalom from God instead of a temporary accord or calmness. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3) Here is another beautiful picture of the salvation that Christ freely gives. “By ‘water’ is meant grace…softening, purifying, fructifying, cooling, and refreshing, and extinguishes thirst…and this is to be “drawn”, it is to be come at, though the well in which it is be deep, and not in the reach of everyone…the bucket is faith that it is drawn with, and this is the gift of God; (2) Unfortunately, we often forget or doubt the abundant grace we have in Christ, through God’s Spirit. But if we look to a few other biblical pictures, we notice that God’s grace is exceedingly bountiful. Jesus supplied more wine (from water) than the wedding party could consume (John 2). Jesus fed over five thousand men plus women and children with twelve baskets full of scraps leftover (Matthew 8). One day God will wipe every single tear from every believer’s eyes—that’s a lot of tears (Revelation 7). God’s well of salvation is bottomless because he is infinite. But it is deep, so we need the bucket of faith he gives us to draw from it. However, in the New Testament, Jesus says that the springs of living water are like a fountain flowing up in us, making it even easier for us, and others access his grace and mercy.
Why do we focus so much on what we don’t have or can’t get when we are so blessed by God’s grace? Will others be drawn to Christ by Christians who are devoid of joy, peace, faith, or comfort, being afraid, fearful, and feeling judged? Do you think God is angry with you even after you have confessed? How does your perception of God’s wrath hinder your comfort and your ability to comfort others? In what way do you fear God’s judgment, failure, or man’s approval? How can you develop more reverential, filial fear for the Lord instead of holding on to servile fear of Him? Have you drunk from the deep well of God’s salvation with joy today? How will others your encounter know that Christ has a source of life that satisfies their deepest thirst? “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; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 12:4-6)
(1) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Isaiah 12:1-3, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
(2) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Isaiah 12:3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-12.html
October 25, 2019