I recently listened to a recent sermon on Psalm 90 by Sinclair Ferguson (for you other Ferguson fans you can now hear his weekly sermons from First Pres’, Columbia, SC). In it was a statement that still rings with Scottish brogue in my hears. It goes something like this in my redneck, Southern twang: to discover grace we must first discover our need for it (y’all). He stated it another way: grace means much to us because our sin means much to us.
This gave me a running start into Isaiah 12.2 this morning. I can deliver Isaiah 12.2 with eloquence and elocution (feigning a Scottish accent even), making many think I “joyously draw its water” (v3). There is heavenly language in the verse that fits well in songs and prayers. Yet, it has no power unless it is really experienced. It rings hollow for those unacquainted with lostness, distrust, fear, weakness and speechlessness.
For the LORD GOD (ya yahweh) to be my salvation (yeshua) I must first be in a place of lostness. For God to be fearlessly trusted I must first be in a place of poor-footed fearfulness. For God to be my strength and song I must first be in a place of weak-hearted songlessness. God was truly salvation because Babylon was truly horrible. God is truly comforting to us because He was truly angry with us (v1). Living water is for the morbidly thirsty. And to truly enjoy grace we must first stare down what makes it most necessary.
By no means does this does this happen only once. God will not let us grow content with the grace we already know. There is more Yeshua to enjoy and that means more impotence to endure. It is a sanctifying journey filled with steps that are both firm and fading. Like an northbound escalator, each step is firm enough to make the next one, but if we stand too long it will fade away. He will make a way to save us in Christ . . . again.
Isaiah 12.2 is not conquered by the skillful exegete. It is best taught by the redeemed sinner. And pastoral credibility comes not from third-person exposition, but from first-person exaltation (v4). “Little ones to Him belong; we are weak, but He is strong.”