April 22, 2020 Ashley Steelman

Hymn Of Joy

Hymn Of Joy

I’ve been thinking about music and memory lately. Music makes me happy. It helps me think. I’ve actually got a pair of earbuds in my ears while I’m writing this. 


I come from a fairly musical family. My Mamaw played the organ and lead the church choir for years. There are cassette tapes of me somewhere out there when I was a little bitty girl singing while she played the organ. Later she taught me to play and sing “Rock of Ages” on a toy organ I got as a gift.  


 My Papaw had a beautiful voice and he is where I get my love of bluegrass music. He gave me a Mr. Microphone for Christmas (remember those?). 


I remember the first time I ever heard “The Little Brown Church In The Vale” was in my Aunt Peggy’s car as we were driving the five hour trip to my Mamaw’s house. My Aunt Peggy says music - the old songs- are in our DNA. That memory is genetic. I tend to think she is right.  


When I was in high school I was in chorus, Mr. Underwood’s class. We got to sing all these amazing pieces of music. Lots of them were old hymns or spirituals. Back then, it was just something fun to do, but now I see all this history and meaning woven into the fabric of those songs. 


 All that to say this. As you sing those old songs, those hymns in different contexts, you find layer upon layer of memory and imagination, of Christian experiences- from your past and other people's pasts stretching back hundreds of years to those great composers and thousands of years to the great prophets and you find out that you're part of something much bigger than yourself, much bigger than your immediate circumstance. I mean dude! That’s enormously reassuring as well as really challenging right? 


Isaiah 12 was where this idea started for me. It’s a song of praise to God that we take from the ancient Israelite tradition and we make our own. And so I have this idea rolling around in my head. When we sing songs as Christians, we find that we're stepping into a river that is way bigger and deeper and wider than we could have imagined. 


1 In that day you will sing: “I will praise you, O Lord! You were angry with me, but not anymore. Now you comfort me. 2 See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”


3 With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation! 4 In that wonderful day you will sing: “Thank the Lord! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is!

5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world. 6 Let all the people of Jerusalem shout his praise with joy! For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you.” Isaiah 12:1-6


We are joining in with multitudes of people and nations who have sung these songs and prayed these verses. That’s how music and poetry works.   


It’s Biblical


Singing is Biblical. It’s Worship that becomes witness. It is Jesus shaped, spirit-filled worship. Worship that celebrates the amazing undeserved forgiveness of God. Worship that flows out to witness in the world.


Isaiah 12 begins with “At that time…” or “on that day..”


Which day are we talking about? At what time? Read Isaiah chapters 1 to 11. There is this buildup of victory leading up to Isaiah 9. In Isaiah 11 you have this beautiful picture of a new creation and of everything being transformed, and then, at last, the whole world will be brought to victory through God.  


But to get here, to the point of praising, something has happened that makes them suddenly say “Oh -God really is in charge after all…”


We all have moments like this. We all have those moments of sudden realization that God has been in it all and through it all, and even though all sorts of things may have gone wrong- God is still the victor! 


That is the message of Isaiah 12. 


But how did they get here? What led them to this point? As you look back at the stories of the people, the history and memories shared in scripture. You can see so many of these songs and stories of joy and praise.  


That path to victory is paved with challenges and joy. The hills and hollers of life are clearly marked in the lives of the people we read about in the Bible. There ain’t no doubt that life has its struggles—professionally, economically, socially, politically, emotionally— the Lord knows this. But God has provided His grace and strength to give us joy in spite of difficulty and attack.


Pastor began a new sermon series from the book of 1 Peter, called “The Journey.” This week ‘s message was “Surprised By Joy.” We read from 1 Peter 1:3-9 and I can’t help but hear the song of praise from Isaiah 12 echoed in Peter’s words. 


3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. 


6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:3-7


Victory is Ours!


Our Heavenly Father, our Comforter, our Shepherd, our Warrior King- stands with us in the middle of trouble and turmoil. He doesn’t shy away from our challenges or wild emotions. God doesn’t panic, and He doesn’t scramble for solutions. 


The Bible calls those who have put their trust in Jesus as “more than conquerors,” ones who overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. We do not fear death. Our appointed end is victory. But add this to that fact: Jesus is very much present in our everyday lives to proclaim that our present reality is also one of victory.


Like one long beautiful sustained note, His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection reverberate throughout history—backwards into the past and forward into eternity — He has paid the ultimate price to win the ultimate victory. I read it somewhere like this, “His triumph was one that was complete in its totality, irrevocable in its authority, and unequivocal in its extravagance.” 


And He willingly shares it with us. If that doesn’t bring you joy, I don’t know what to do for you.


Our Song Is His Song


 He is not absent in this moment. He sustains us and keeps us. But more than that He gives us His song to sing.


Our songs of praise, the songs of joy and victory through Jesus, are our path to peace in this mess—It’s the key to staying strong in the battle. It fights back the questions I talked about last week… That little voice that tries to rise up to accuse God’s character. Where is God? What if He doesn’t come through? What if…


8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. 9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people… Isaiah 52:8-9


The instruction to sing truth is not some euphemism. It is our weapon against the pressures in life. The truth we sing breaks down the thoughts that fog up our judgment, obscure our view, and taint our perspective of God’s power and goodness and His love for us as His children!


3 We live in this world, but we don’t fight our battles in the same way the world does. 4 The weapons we use are not human ones. Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy’s strong places. We destroy people’s arguments, 5 and we tear down every proud idea that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We also capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5


When we lift our voices we find ourselves strengthened on the inside to believe God. We quit frettin’, find ourselves leaving fear behind, and instead becoming amused at the enemy’s pitiful tactics and predictable attempts to discourage us. 


We don't have to shout down the devil. Even a verse sung quietly to ourselves as we go about our daily work becomes worship when our hearts are pointed towards God.


Praise lets the truth rise higher than the accusations. What if He’s positioning us for His purpose? What if He’s using this moment to strengthen believers and proclaim truth to unbelievers? What if He’s drawing me closer so that I see once and for all who He really is?


In Isaiah’s song, in all our hymns of joy that have been passed down, is our family history. When we sing, we go home! To the place of confidence in our savior. We remember His faithfulness. We remember His promises. Victory is ours. Joy is ours. It is our inheritance. 


5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world. 6 Let all the people of Jerusalem shout his praise with joy! For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you.” Isaiah 12:5-6