We have spent time the last several days considering some of the common evidences of grace for which every Christian has reason to give thanks. Having considered the necessity of fighting for gratitude, we have outlined three broad causes for thanksgiving common to every Christian: God’s creation, God’s love, and God’s provision. Today, we turn to a fourth evidence of grace common to every Christian: God’s forgiveness.
Gratitude for forgiveness is a theme throughout the scriptural record, but it is perhaps nowhere plainer than in Isaiah 12. In this short chapter (a mere six verses), we can identify at least four reasons to be thankful for forgiveness.
First, we should be thankful for God’s forgiveness because it provides us with comfort. Isaiah writes, “You will say in that day: ‘I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me’” (v. 1).
In the prophetic books, in particular, the absence of comfort is tied to the sins of God’s people. This is perhaps most poignantly seen in the book of Lamentations (just read the first chapter slowly). Revelation 14 vividly portrays those who do not experience forgiveness as having no rest day or night (v. 11). Isaiah realised the same truth. Those who experienced God’s anger were utterly devoid of comfort. The only source of true, eternal comfort was divine forgiveness.
The desire for comfort is universal to humanity. Comfort invites security and happiness. Scripture recognises this universal human desire and promises comfort to those who embrace God’s forgiveness in Christ. Those who have received the comfort of forgiveness have every reason to give thanks to the God of comfort.
Second, we should be thankful for God’s forgiveness because it provides us with courage. Again, listen to Isaiah: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (v. 2).
Isaiah understood that, having received God’s forgiveness, he had no cause for fear. Fear might at times grip him, as it grips every Christian, but deliverance from sin’s eternal punishment delivers us from the ultimate fear: the fear of death (see Hebrews 2:14–15).
According to the writer of Hebrews, fear of death is common to humanity outside of Christ. But Christ died to destroy the devil, who had the power of death, and to thereby deliver his people from the fear of death. Forgiveness gives us courage in the face of death because it carries with it the promise of eternal life.
Third, we should be thankful for God’s forgiveness because it provides us with contentment: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted’” (vv. 3–4).
Humanity in the Western-influenced world is marked by nothing if not discontent. We are taught to always want more, to always be striving for greater affluence. Isaiah wrote of “the wells of salvation.” Jesus spoke similarly of the water that will eternally quench our thirst (see John 4).
When we receive Christ’s forgiveness, the Spirit of God produces supernatural contentment in us. No longer do we crave what is fading and fallen. Now, our greatest contentment comes in making God’s salvation known to the nations so that his name can be exalted. True contentment lies in knowing God and making him known—a gift that comes through forgiveness of sins.
Fourth, we should give thanks for God’s forgiveness because it provides us with confession: “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (vv. 5–6).
It might sound strange to say that forgiveness leads to confession. Ought it not to be the other way around? Does not confession lead to forgiveness?
In one sense, yes. Confession of sin leads to forgiveness. But forgiveness leads to another type of confession: confession of God’s greatness, glory, and grace. In reality, this brings us full circle. The chapter opens and closes with thanksgiving. Those who have experienced God’s gracious forgiveness cannot help but marvel in it and openly give thanks for it.
This morning, as you reflect on Isaiah 12, do so with thanksgiving. In particular, give thanks to God for his gracious gift of forgiveness, which provides comfort, courage, contentment, and confession.