“The Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this evening is the Old Testament lesson that we sang at the beginning of the service and read just a few moments ago, the twelfth chapter of the prophet Isaiah. Dear friends in Christ, the old song was sung by the Red Sea. It was a song of victory, of triumph over the enemies of God and His people. The people stood above the waters, gazing into the waves that swallowed up their foes: Pharaoh’s host, chariots, horses, officers and soldiers, all cast down in utter, humiliating defeat. Their song of triumph echoed out over the waters of destruction, the waters of victory: “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him, my father's God, and I will exalt Him.” But that was the old song; our Introit calls on us to sing anew. “Sing to the Lord a new song, Alleluia, for He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. Alleluia.” The new song is sung by the baptismal font. It is a song of victory, of final triumph over the enemies of God and His people. We stand above the waters, gazing into the waves that swallowed up our foes: sin, death, and the power of the devil, all cast down in utter, humiliating defeat. Our song of triumph echoes out over the waters of destruction, the waters of victory: “The Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”
Sing, dear friends, sing out the song of victory. Sing out, each and every one of you, for God has Himself become your Savior; He has come in salvation to you—you singular—delivering you from His just wrath over your sin. “You will say in that day,” the day of Easter, the day of your baptism, every day since that you celebrate His salvation, and then on the Last Day that endures forever, “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.’” God was angry with you, for you sinned; God was angry with you, for your rebelled against Him. God was your enemy because you were His enemy, you, along with all of humanity, turned against the One who gives every good gift. You were quite rightly condemned to death and hell. I am convinced that we do not take this nearly seriously enough. Yes, we say the words, “We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment,” but we don’t actually take them seriously. We don’t really think that our sins anger God, that a holy God must have wrath over sin, and that His wrath paints a bullseye on our chest. We don’t think about what it means to have the God of creation angry with us, or consider the eternal consequences of our sins. But that is reality. Our sins anger God, they anger and offend Him enough that death and hell is our only share. You deserve to spend eternity in hell; know it, believe it, confess it, sing it.
But don’t stop singing there. “Though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.” The wonderful miracle that inspires our song is quite simple, though it is the most profound mystery ever conceived: in an inconceivable act of mercy, the angry God has become our salvation. Our salvation came from no other place, no other source, than the very God who was angry with us. This angry God freely, in His overwhelming love for you, acted to bring you salvation. “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.”
In Isaiah chapter eleven, we see this plan unfold. A shoot will come forth from the barren stump of Jesse, the line of Israel’s kings that had been cut off by God’s wrath. A shoot will come forth, a Branch bearing fruit, true God in the flesh, and He will go forth to bring you righteousness and peace. He will restore Eden again, reconciling man and beast to each other and to their Creator, and He will bring forth the new Exodus that requires a new song, gathering the people of God from every place they have been scattered. He will bring us through the waters of baptism as He brought the people of Israel through the Red Sea waters, and we will see our enemies drowned behind us. How will He do this? To find the answer, we must look to Isaiah chapters fifty-two and fifty-three. There we see this Branch from the stump of Jesse placing Himself between us and God’s wrath over our sin. “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.” God was angry with the Branch, His Son, for our sins, He was angry with the Branch and so His wrath passed over us, and now He comforts us, the angry God has become our salvation for the sake of Christ. Sin can no longer enslave, Satan can no longer accuse, and death has no more victory. Know it, believe it, confess it, sing it!
Come singing to the waters of life, drink deeply of this salvation. “With joy will you draw waters from the wells of salvation.” This is the water flowing from the pierced side of Jesus, the living water that He promised the Samaritan woman, water that one drinks and is never thirsty again. This is the water bubbling up from what used to be desert; as God gave His people Israel water from the rock in the wilderness, so He gives you and me water from Christ, our crucified and risen Lord. The desert has become a garden, and on the Last Day we will dwell in the new Eden forevermore. On that day, the day of salvation, the day of Easter, the day of your baptism, and every day since until the Last Day, you will rejoice to sing, together with all the Church of every tribe, language, race, and century, “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His Name, make known His deeds among the peoples, proclaim that His Name is exalted.”
Call upon His Name, the Name of salvation, the Name above all other names, at which every knee shall bow. The salvation of the Branch, the salvation brought by God, is not just for you as an individual, it is not just for us in the Church, it is for the entire world. “Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.” That is what the song is for, to proclaim to the world that the angry God has become our salvation. He has done gloriously, He has acted, intervened in mercy, in grace, in love for a creation estranged from Him. He did Himself what we were unable to, He acted in compassion toward those who had only hatred for Him. He brought you through the waters; He destroyed your foes in the font, but his salvation doesn’t end with you, it doesn’t end with those currently in the Church; His salvation is for all, and the Church sings so that the world will know that God has acted in salvation for all people.
That is what the new song is all about. “Sing to the Lord a new song, Alleluia, for He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. Alleluia.” The old song was incomplete; the salvation it celebrated, though great, was not total. Pharaoh’s host was drowned in the Red Sea, but sin, death, and Satan still stalked God’s people, creation was still in the bonds of rebellion. The new song celebrates a salvation that fulfills the exodus because it is greater than the exodus; because the Branch stood between us and God’s wrath, an enemy nation has not been defeated, but the domain of death; the people have not just been freed from slavery, but from the shackles of sin. It isn’t a worldly ruler who is defeated, but the tempter and deceiver, Satan Himself. The Branch has triumphed over them by being nailed to a tree in our place and rising again in victory. “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” The angry God has become our salvation. The angry God, whose holiness meant our destruction, now dwells in our midst, God comes among us, in Word and Sacrament, not to destroy but to save. We are the inhabitants of Zion, the Church, which exists in this world wherever the gifts of Christ are given, and will be fully revealed as a bride for her husband on the Last Day. On that day, we will shout, on that day we will rejoice, on that day we will sing! “The Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” In the Name of Jesus, Amen.