31 July 2023

Rivers of joy: Do we give glory to God?

Major Annette Allen

Major Annette Allen encourages us to give credit where it is due.

Key text

A man stayed overnight at a hotel. In the morning, as the hotelier was serving breakfast, the man was surprised to hear her singing the old hymn ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ in a soprano voice.

‘I haven’t heard that hymn for a while,’ said the man. ‘It was lovely but a lot faster than I remember.’

‘That’s because I wasn’t paying attention to the words,’ she replied. ‘My mother taught me that, if I want to make soft-boiled eggs, I need to sing the first verse through five times quickly and, if I wanted hard-boiled eggs, to sing it slowly eight times.’

I believe the woman may have missed the point of the song. Isn’t it sad when we miss the spiritual truths of a hymn because we take it for granted?

Pause and reflect

  • To what extent do we sing or recite songs or verses from Scripture and miss the truth of what God is saying to us?
  • What could we do differently to ensure that God can get through to us as we engage with spiritual songs and Scripture?

Our study passage focuses on a song of praise. Yet it is not a hymn about things going well but one steeped in adversity. I wonder how you respond and act in tough times.

When I am suffering or going through trouble, often the last thing I feel like doing is celebrating or expressing joy. It is far easier to absorb myself in a pit of self-pity and misery. Isaiah, however, reminds us that this is the very time that we should be joyful, not because of our problems but rather because we have a Saviour – a Rescuer – who will sustain us through those difficult times.

In this chapter, there are echoes of a throwback to Psalm 137, when the Israelite people, exiled and mourning for their homeland, asked: ‘How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’ (v4).

Photo shows a hand catching a natural stream of water.

Isaiah 12:3

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Read Isaiah 12

When things go adrift, it is easy to feel lost or thirsty for the things we know. Our thirst can be quenched only by God’s living water – water that brings lasting joy, despite our circumstances.

Verse 3 of our study passage gets to the heart of things by saying where this joy is sourced: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ The word ‘wells’ in this passage actually means ‘springs’. It implies a force – a pressure – that comes from deep within. In aquatic terms, spring waters naturally flow to the surface, whereas well water has to be pumped up to the surface through an aquifer.

In a similar way to a spring, our source is dependent solely on God undergirding us with his salvation and his works. It is not our present circumstances – or our striving to change them – that will bring the life-giving refreshing water. It is a work already completed by Jesus.

Pause and reflect

  • What things can cause us to stop singing the songs of the Lord in our everyday experiences?
  • What do we need to put in place to help us see joy in dark times?
  • Is the source of our joy coming from a well or a spring?

The second half of Isaiah 12 concentrates more on testifying to God’s salvation. ‘Make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted’ (v4). It’s about his works. It’s all about giving praise back to the Creator – the one who is far more worthy than us.

American President Harry S Truman once said: ‘It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.’ He was referring to getting things done in government, rather than promoting self-interest. With reference to the Christian faith, I suggest that it does significantly matter when it comes to giving the credit to God.

How easy is it to see great things happening in our fellowship or in our personal lives and, by failing to be witnesses to what God is doing, unwittingly ascribe all the credit to ourselves? Our good works alone are not enough. Our testimony is needed to give the honour to God.

It is from the depths of thankfulness that we express our love through praise, worship, service and witness, and by doing that we bring others to know God’s love too.

Pause and reflect

  • How easy do we find it to give praise to God through our testimony?
  • How do we ensure that the glory goes to God through what we do for him?

Isaiah not only reflects the sentiments of an Israelite people on a journey – wandering, lost and bereft of home comforts – but he also foreshadows a different time, as he paints a picture of people’s joy when Jesus comes to reign, in this life or the next.

When we recognise the victory we have because of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, we will be able to do nothing but lift our hands in praise and adoration. Let’s ensure we have brought along others on that journey through the strength of our testimony.

Pause and pray

  • Father God, I thank you that our salvation is found in you. You enable us to drink deeply of the life-giving water of life that you bring. Forgive us for the times when our problems seem bigger than your salvation and our testimony does not give you credit. May we live with hearts full of praise. Amen.

Bible study by

Annette Allen

Major Annette Allen

Corps Officer, Failsworth

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