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“And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:1-3 A.V.

Given that God is salvation here to those who trust and prise him as such discovering God to be their personal salvation, how could one discover God that way, and what does drawing water out of those wells (plural) entail?

I immediately thought of Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, as to asking him for living water (that clearly had nothing to do with literal water nor that literal well.)

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14 A.V.)

Isaiah speaks of something spiritual, not literal, and Jesus agrees with that, so how would those who know God to be their own salvation explain how to discover such deeply hidden waters of eternal life? It strikes me as obvious that it’s no use anyone answering who looks to a system of religion for salvation, or who believes that the refreshing reality of God as salvation in this life cannot be experienced – it’s only for the next life. So, I’m directing my question to those who take Isaiah 12:1-3 to be a present, experienced reality in this life.

2 Answers 2

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What is this ”water” in ”wells of salvation” that Isaiah speaks of here, and how is one to draw such water up?

The living water is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Cyril of Alexandria offers the following comments on this subject matter in Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Isaiah 12:1-6.

The salvation granted by God, that can make joy and trust flower even on the dark day of the trial, is portrayed by the classic image in the Bible of water: “You will draw water with joy at the fountain of salvation” (Is 12,3). It reminds us of the scene of the Samaritan woman, when Jesus offers her the possibility of having in herself a “spring of water that will well up to eternal life” (Jn 4,14).

Cyril of Alexandria commented in a marvelous way: “Jesus calls the life-giving gift of the Spirit living water, the only one through which humanity, even though it was completely abandoned, like the tree trunks on the mountains, and dry, and deprived of every kind of virtue by the deceit of the devil, is restored to the former beauty of its nature…. The Saviour calls the grace of the Holy Spirit water, and if one participates in him, he will have in himself the source of divine teachings, so that he will no longer need the advice of others, and will be able to exhort those who are thirsting for the Word of God. Such were the holy prophets and apostles of God and their successors in the ministry while they were alive on earth. Of them it is written: “You will draw water with joy at the fountain of salvation” (Commento al Vangelo di Giovanni [Comment on the Gospel of John], II, 4, Roma 1994, pp. 272,275).

Unfortunately, humanity often abandons this fountain that will quench the thirst of the entire being of the person, as the Prophet Jeremiah points out with sadness: “They have abandoned me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can not hold water” (Jer 2,13). Even Isaiah, a few pages before, exalted the “waters of Shiloah, that run slowly”, symbol of the Lord present in Zion, and threatened the chastisement of the flooding of the “waters of the river, namely, the Euphrates, great and mighty” (Is 8,6-7), symbol of the military and economic might and of idolatry, waters that then fascinated Judah, that would later submerge her.

Another invitation, “On that day you will say” the second stanza begins (cf. Is 12,4-6), that is a continual call to joyful praise in honour of the Lord. The commands to praise are multiplied: “Praise, invoke, manifest, proclaim, sing, shout, exult”.

At the centre of the praise there is a unique profession of faith in God the Saviour who works in history and is beside his creature, sharing his up’s and down’s: “The Lord has done great works … great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (vv. 5.6). This profession of faith also has a missionary function: “Among the nations make known his deeds … let this be known throughout all the earth” (vv. 4.5). The salvation that they have obtained must be witnessed to the world, so that all humanity may run to the fountain of peace, joy and freedom.

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To begin to answer the OP, one must determine which day Isaiah has in mind. The context is in the previous two chapters.

It is the day of visitation.

And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory? Isa 10:3

This is then qualified in chapter 11.

v1 "The day" begins with the growth out of David's line, which refers to Messiah.

v2 The seven-fold Spirit "rests" (does not come and go as in the OT prophets) on Him.

v3-9 This is unfulfilled prophecy.

v10 The Lord is salvation.

v11 He reaches out His hand a second time (the first was in 30-33 AD).

So, "the day" in 12:3 is a reference to the heir of the throne of David, which we know is Christ the Lord. But, there appears to be an interesting qualification that is brought out in Young's Literal Translation (YLT).

And ye have drawn waters with joy Out of the fountains of salvation, (YLT)

Other translations show a "future tense", Young's shows "have drawn" as an action already in action (from the first appearance) and continuing (second appearance).

Definition of "Sequential Perfect (weqatal)" A Sequential Perfect verb often expresses the same kinds of action as the Imperfect conjugation, but it also connects to an earlier verb to form either a sequence of time or a sequence of thought. However, in Biblical Hebrew a Sequential Perfect verb has an additional and unique potential to express the same kind of action as the verb immediately preceding it. -see Hebrew parsing-

Thus, we also see Christ the heir saying to come to Him the well from that day of His visitation.

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Jn 4:14

But what of "the wells", plural? Jesus is the well, believers are as wells.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Jn 7:37-38

OP: What is this ‘water’ in ‘wells of salvation’ that Isaiah speaks of here, and how is one to draw such water up?

The wells of salvation thus refers to firstly Jesus and then to believers. How does one draw up this water? Simple. Believe it.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. Jn 6:35

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  • Excellent answer. May your well continue to overflow. +1 Jun 23 at 12:34

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