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Isaiah 12:2 - Homilies By R. Tuck

Holy joy in God.

In each national history there is some one surpassingly great event. A Thermopylae for Greece; a Leipsic for Germany; a Moscow for Russia; a Waterloo for England. The Jews had one great event, supreme in its influence on their national life. By his relation to that event God would even be known. "I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." All other deliverances, accomplished afterwards, were treated but as reminders of this. All songs of thanksgiving, sung over subsequent redemptions, were modeled after the "song of Moses," of which the chorus was sung by tens of thousands, led by the timbrels and dances of the women, on the further shores of the sea. And there was much in that event which fitted it to hold such a place in the thoughts of generations. It was the deliverance which, once and forever, assured the world of the fact that God—the One, living, and true God—was the God of the Jewish race. One can hardly imagine the excitement and the triumph of that time. The mightiest nation of that day roused itself, in a paroxysm of furious revenge, to pursue and to destroy what it regarded as a crowd of fleeing slaves. What hope could there be for such a multitude, when the king himself, a host of armed warriors, prancing horses, mighty chariots, pressed on after them; when the pathless waters of a great sea waved and rolled before them, and the mountains hemmed them in on the further side? If we were reading common human history, such a story could only have ended somewhat in this way: "And the frightened crowds of fugitives were pressed on and on into the pitiless waters, or were ruthlessly cut down and slain by the advancing hosts." But we are reading a page out of sacred history. There are the words, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God;" and, behold, those waters are arrested in their flowing; they roll back in swelling heaps; the ocean bed lies bare; and those "slaves" step steadily across the strangest pathway ever made for mortal feet to tread. Pharaoh's chariots and horsemen dash boldly forward into the way that was not made for them. The Red Sea was bright with the banners, and flashed with the shields of warriors; and then—dragging wheels, softening sands, hurrying waves, and the pride of Egypt is broken: "Pharaoh's chariots and horsemen hath he cast into the sea." God was magnified that day, magnified in deliverance, and magnified in judgment. He was that day the Salvation of his people, and they stood upon the shores of that flood, uniting in one triumphant shout, and saying, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously." The verses preceding the text allude to this scene. The spiritual blessings of Messiah's reign are described under the figure of this passage of the sea. From all spiritual scatterings and bondages and captivities, Messiah shall bring his people. The text is part of a song to be sung by the spiritually ransomed—a song formed, partly, upon the model of that older song of Moses. We gather from it that a spirit of humble and trustful joy in God is the proper spirit for redeemed souls to cherish.

I. REASONS FOR MAINTAINING A SPIRIT OF HOLY JOY IN GOD . Too often the somber sides of Christian experience are dwelt on, and young people take needlessly dark notions of the pious life. The model of the Christliness is not the calm sister of mercy, but the self-denying mother, the gentle, thoughtful, active elder sister, the strong man, whose bright face and cheery words and sinless laugh can kindle the gladness of those around him. The Bible is full of song. Its face can, indeed, settle into the severest gravity, into the sternness of righteous indignation, into a tenderness of sympathy; but the face of the Bible can also break into smiles. Ripples cross ripples, and waves leap over waves, on the surface of its sea; it can waken our faculty of song, it can fill our life with its joy in God. It is well, however, for us to distinguish between "happiness" and "joy." It would be true to say that religion does not promise happiness, it promises joy. It would even be true to say, that religion does not promise happiness because it promises joy. "Joy" is so much deeper, so much more satisfying and blessed, that he who has it will never ask for happiness. Observe the distinction in the meaning of the words. "Happiness" is pleasure in something that may "hap," or "happen;" pleasure in things outside us—in circumstances, in excitements-and so it cannot be abiding and unchanging. All days cannot be sunny. All lives cannot be painless and sorrowless. All circumstances cannot please. He who wants happiness has to depend on the variable conditions of a sin-stricken and, therefore, sorrow-filled earth. Mere happiness too often proves only "as the crackling of thorns under a pot." But "joy" means "leaping out," pleasure that gushes forth from a fountain within us, in streams ever refreshing the desert circumstances around us, and making them "blossom as a rose." Pleasure that beams out its holy rays, as from a central sun of bliss dwelling in our heart, and gilding everything about us, making the very light brighter, the clouds to scatter, or to be flushed with crimson glories, and turning even the night to day. The Christian man has no security of mere happiness. He must share the common mingled heritage of sunshine and shadow, health and sickness, friendship and loss, pleasures and disappointments, success and failure. But he may be secure of joy. "He that believeth on me," said the Lord Jesus, "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." And close by our text we read, "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." The one great reason for joy is stated to be that "God is become our Salvation." We joy in God

It is, we have seen, a memory of deliverances which calls forth into expression the trustful joy of our text. And what have we to say of gifts bestowed, sicknesses healed, broken hearts comforted, bondages of evil broken up? We keep the word "salvation" too exclusively for the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God; we want it to include all the multiplied and ever-repeated deliverances and rescuings and recoverings of God. Matthew Henry says, "God is my Salvation; not my Savior only, by whom I am saved, but my 'Salvation,' in whom I am safe. He shall have the glory of all the salvations which have been wrought in me, and from him only will I expect all the future salvations I may need." The salvation of God's ancient people was not the deliverance from Egypt only, but that together with a thousand other deliverances scattered over their history. And so we joy in God because he saves us from all our bondages. He saves us from pride, from inward lusts, from outward evils. He saves us from greed, and covetousness, and clinging to the world, and envyings, and backbitings, and unforgivings, and failing charity. Souls can never sing that have such fetters on them; but he proclaims "liberty to the captive, and opening of the prison to them that are bound."

II. THE HALLOWING INFLUENCE WHICH A SPIRIT OF HOLY JOY IN GOD WOULD EXERT ON OURSELVES , AND ON THOSE AROUND US . In ordinary life the men of sanguine, hopeful temperament are usually the successful men. Despondent, doubting men accomplish but little. The invigorating of hope makes men mightier than their difficulties. It is the same in Christian life. Doubt and fear hinder. Hope cheers. Joy puts song into work. Ought a Christian to live in a minor key? Songs pitched thus will never cheer himself, or any one about him. Joyful Christians are a joy to themselves, and to all around them. The homes are brightened by them; the children learn to watch their faces, and to listen for their words; our Churches rejoice in the sunny-souled members. Everybody is glad in the man whose very presence seems to say, "Sing unto the Lord a new song." Such Christians let us all seek to be.

"Ye pilgrims on the road

To Zion's city, sing;

Sing on, rejoicing every day

In Christ th' eternal King."


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