Our scriptures for this Sunday are Isaiah 12 and Psalm 98.
Isaiah 12 is a hymn of trust. Psalm 98 is a hymn of praise. Neither of them were written in a vacuum. Isaiah 12 takes place after eleven chapters of doom and gloom relating to Israel’s eventual collapse and captivity to the Assyrians due to the people’s disobedience. Yet, in chapter 12 written in merely six verses are words of trust. Trust that the LORD’s anger will eventually turn and the Kingdom of Israel will be the envy of nations once again. Trust that the people “will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.” That salvation is not in any human or institution, but in God.
Psalm 98 is a hymn of praise. It is the basis for Isaac Watts’ text “Joy to the World”. Psalm 98 does not have the same context as Isaiah 12. Its context is grounded in a more stable and positive time for Israel’s history. The Psalm points to the work of the LORD throughout the world and that we are to sing a new song. A new song because God is constantly doing a new thing in the world. Our song, the Psalmist declares, is joined with the rivers, oceans, animals, and mountains to create a cosmic chorus!
Isaiah 12 and Psalm 98 are only two of many more examples of sung responses to God in certain situations in the Bible. Nothing sung in the Bible is coincidental. Each song has a purpose. The songs we sing in worship (regardless of how we worship) serve a purpose. The songs we sing in groups or by ourselves serve a purpose. The songs we sing are responses to God in particular circumstances.
I encourage each of you to meditate on the words sung during your own times of worship. What are repeating themes or phrases in the song sung by the congregation? What are the dates associated with the text and tune writers of each congregational song? What are the notes doing on certain phrases (even if you are not musically trained, you can still think about this one!).
Scripture wasn’t written in a vacuum nor are the hymns, Psalms, or spiritual songs we sing in worship written haphazardly. They serve a purpose. And when we sing, we join with those physically with us and those who are no longer with us in a grand cosmic chorus that transcends time and space.
Pastor T. Wes Moore