Isaiah 12 gives us a beautiful picture of God’s people on mission. Although Israel’s role in the Old Testament was primarily to a be a hub of worship that would attract other nations and give them a glimpse of what life under God’s rule looked like, what Isaiah foresees during the reign of the Messiah is a people who loudly proclaim God’s salvation to peoples all over the world. Isaiah says their exhortation to one another “in that day” will be to “make known his deeds among the peoples” and “proclaim that his name is exalted” (v.4). They will declare God’s glorious deeds “in all the earth” (v.5), and they will tell each other to “Shout, and sing for joy” (v.6) so other nations might know about the salvation God had given them. God would do a mighty work among his people, and their charge in response to the salvation they had received would be to proclaim his name to those who were still at enmity with him.
Notice, though, the verses that precede this call to proclamation. Before the people begin sharing the message of God’s salvation with others, Isaiah describes what their own response to God’s salvation will be. In fact, he doesn’t even begin by speaking to the group. The “you” he addresses in vv.1—2 is singular, and what he tells this individual is that when God becomes his salvation, he will be filled with gratitude, renewed trust, and praise. God will turn his own anger away and offer comfort in its place, and this man will respond with the faith and worship God desires from those he has saved.
Together, the individuals God saves will form the faithful remnant he had promised to keep from among Israel (Isaiah 10:20ff), and Isaiah says this group (the “you” in v.3 is plural) will “draw water from the wells of salvation.” Though the people had displayed nothing but doubt and fear at the threat of impending invasion, they would finally realize that God would supply all their needs, and they would drink deeply from the wells of God’s salvation.
What Isaiah describes in this chapter is the response God’s people will have when he saves them, but he starts with their own relationship with God before he mentions their ministry of proclaiming God’s name to the surrounding nations, and I don’t believe the order here is inconsequential. God saves people not merely as an end in itself, but so he might use them to spread his fame all over the earth. He blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:1—3) and share the hope of salvation with them. But God never calls us to mission or ministry where he does not first call us to a personal relationship with himself. Sadly, we often put all our energy into the former at the expense of the latter, and doing so not only robs God of our own praise but also undermines the effectiveness of the ministry we are doing in his name.
Isaiah’s placement of “the wells of salvation” just before what he says about public proclamation underscores the importance of drawing our strength for ministry from God. How long can a person last without drinking water? Three days? Maybe four? No matter what other resources we have at our disposal, we simply can’t survive without water. Yet how often do we try to minister while going days, maybe even weeks, without drawing from the “living water”? If we tell others about their need for God while neglecting our own need for God, then we are calling them to drink from a supply we’re not drinking from ourselves. We’re foolish to believe we can effectively minister to the spiritual needs of others if we are not first attending to our own spiritual needs. Maybe we’ve begun to believe we can do ministry without God, or maybe we’ve just gotten too busy trying to meet the demands of ministry and our relationship with God has suffered as a result. Whatever the reason, we do a great disservice to our spiritual health and the health of our ministry if we attempt to continue on in service to God without regularly speaking with him in prayer and hearing from him through his Word.
The encouragement from Isaiah is to go to God first—to spend time praising him, bolstering your faith in him, and drawing your strength from him. Then, after you have met with God, be a bold and loud proclaimer of who God is and what he has done. We all experience inconsistency in our relationship with God, and missing a few days of devotions shouldn’t keep you from sharing the Gospel with someone. But don’t get so busy doing ministry for God that you neglect spending time with God. Our first call as believers is to know him and worship him, to “draw water from the wells of salvation” by preaching the Gospel to ourselves and prioritizing our relationship with the One who saved us. And after we have drunk deeply from those wells, we have the duty and delight of proclaiming God’s salvation to those who have never heard and inviting them to join us in worship of him.
David McWhite graduated from SEBTS in 2013 with an MDiv in Missiology and has been living overseas with his family since 2015. He is married to his college sweetheart, April, and has three amazing kids: Micah, Lily, and Jack. They live in Roscommon, Ireland, and attend Grace Community Church, where David serves as associate pastor and worship leader.
You can find out more about the McWhites and their ministry by visiting their website, TheMcWhites.com.