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Isaiah 12:1-6 - Homiletics

Christian thanksgiving - its principal characteristics.

There is so much allusion in this thanksgiving song to the "song of Moses," that Isaiah cannot but be supposed to intend some comparison between the two. The occasion, however, of their utterance is so different, and their scale and method of construction so far apart, that it is difficult to draw out in detail any comparison between the two that would not appear forced and unnatural. Moses' song is a burst of gratitude for a particular temporal mercy; the Church's thanksgiving is a constant outpour of thanks and praise for continuous spiritual benefits. The song may, therefore, better be considered in itself, as a model to be borne in mind, and in its main points followed, by the Church in all ages. We may regard separately

I. THE FORM APPROPRIATE FOR THANKSGIVING . The form employed by Isaiah is poetical. His song consists of two stanzas—one of six, the other of seven lines. The lines are of nearly equal length, varying, however, between three and four feet. The predominant foot is the iambic; but there is an admixture of anapaests and trochees. The details of the form are unimportant, and not readily transferable from poetry so peculiar as the Hebrew to the poetry of modern times and countries. What is mainly important is the simple fact of the thanksgiving being a poem. It does not, of course, bind the Church to express thanksgiving in no other way, but it is a strong argument for the predominant use of poetry for such expression. And the instinct of the Church, has been in accordance. From the first she has made the Psalms of David her especial "book of praise." She has found in other parts of Scripture a number of canticles framed upon the same Hebrew model, and has adopted them into her services. She has accepted from one of her noblest saints the glorious poem of the "Te Deum." She has found one hymn of praise, worthy of frequent use, in the Apocrypha. And further, she has been prolific herself of hundreds and thousands of sacred songs, written in a score of languages, and in more varieties of meter than can be counted, with which her members delight to praise God in the congregation.

II. THE MATTER APPROPRIATE FOR THANKSGIVING . Thanksgiving is for blessings or benefits received; and the main matter for thanksgiving must always be a mention, more or less full, of the particular blessings or benefits for which the thankfulness is felt. Moses in his "song" dwells at some length on the passage of the Red Sea by Israel, and the destruction of Pharaoh's host which followed ( Exodus 15:1 , Exodus 15:4-10 , Exodus 15:12 ). The Church, according to Isaiah, commemorates her deliverance from the wrath of God (verse 1), her possession of salvation (verse 2), and the presence of the Holy One of Israel in her midst (verse 6). In her deliverance are included all the spiritual benefits of the past, in her salvation all the joys and blessings of the future; in the presence of the Holy One is her continual actual delight and happiness—a delight and happiness that words are feeble to paint. What is most remarkable in Isaiah's representation is the absence of all reference to temporal blessings. The spiritual benefits absorb all the thought and attention of the Church's members, and are alone celebrated in their song of rejoicing.

III. THE TONE AND SPIRIT REFER FOR THANKSGIVING . Thanksgiving may be formal, cold, and perfunctory, or it may be heartfelt, warm, and full of earnestness. Isaiah's thanksgiving song is a model of hearty, zealous, earnest praise. It expresses

The abruptness that characterizes it is a sign of vehemence; the repeated calls upon others to join in indicate a strong craving for sympathy. Altogether the tone resembles that of some of the later psalms, which were, perhaps, written about the same period (see Psalms 113:1-9 ; Psalms 117:1-2 ; Psalms 134:1-3 ; Psalms 149:1-9 ).

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