Isaiah 51:9-11 (NKJV)9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent? 10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea, The waters of the great deep; That made the depths of the sea a road For the redeemed to cross over? 11 So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
In our passage today Isaiah calls upon the Lord to fulfill the promises that He is making through Isaiah himself. The Lord has promised through the prophet Isaiah to rescue His people from exile; indeed, not only to rescue His people from exile but to rescue the entire earth. And so Isaiah, seeing the promise, longing for its fulfillment calls out to the Lord in the midst of writing these promises – Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!
Isaiah calls to the Lord’s mind His previous acts of deliverance and implores Him to act again. Was it not You, Lord, who acted to destroy Egypt, was it not You who dried up the Red Sea, who made the depths of the sea a road for Israel to cross upon? Yes it was You, Lord, who did this.
And so Isaiah calls upon this same Lord, the Lord who delivered Israel from Egypt and who was presently revealing His purposes to Isaiah – Awake! Awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!
And this brothers is the heart of true prayer. The heart of true prayer is to consider the promises of God and then ask Him, plead with Him, urge Him to do the very things that He has promised to do. Lord, act! Lord, save!
Today is the second Sunday of Advent – the beginning of the Church calendar. In this time we have the immense privilege of recalling the cries of our fathers – Lord awake! Lord act! Do that which you have promised.
But we too find ourselves in this position. For the Lord has yet to fulfill all His promises. The Lord has yet to fill the earth with the knowledge of His name, yet to spread justice to all the ends of the earth. And so we are instructed by our Lord Jesus to cry out, Lord awake! Lord act! Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven! Vindicate your Name, O Lord! Rescue your people!
One of the chief ways that we as the people of God issue these cries is in our singing – we praise the Lord who has acted and beseech Him yet to act! And this is what Isaiah tells us. “So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing.” For what was the response of Israel following the Exodus? Miriam and the daughters of Israel composed a song and praised the Lord for his deliverance. But now Isaiah is asking for more – deliver us yet again. Israel praised the Lord for His deliverance and looked forward to deliverances yet to come. And we, brothers and sisters, are in a similar position. Christ has come – Hallelujah! Christ has yet to extend His rule throughout the earth – Maranatha!
You’ll notice that the hymns and psalms we have chosen for Advent are endeavoring to give expression to this reality. We are endeavoring to be consistent with the thrust of the season. And so as you sing – consider. Why are we singing what we are singing? Is the song a song of praise for deliverance accomplished or is it one of deliverance desired or is it one of both? For we as the people of God have the immense privilege of celebrating the incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and of praying that His Kingdom would reach its full fruition. We are praying as we sing, Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
And so how ought we to sing? Well, what is the tone of Isaiah’s call? Awake! Awake, put on strength O arm of the Lord! Is it not one of passion, conviction, entreaty, hunger, robustness?
Reminded that we are yet in need of the Lord’s mercy, that the Lord has exhorted us to sing and pray for the full arrival of His Kingdom, let us kneel and confess our complacency to the Lord.