January is named after the fictitious Roman god named Janus. An ancient Roman coin pictures Janus having to heads: one looks back toward yesterday, and the other looks forward to tomorrow.
Do you often look back towards things of the past? Many of us have good moments and memories in our history. We like to call to mind those memories, don’t we? We savor cherished moments, and rightfully so. Do you look back towards things that was embarrassing for you? We all have embarrassing moments and times we failed that we wish could be scrapped off from history. How often do you look back towards how the church we attend use to be in the past? I am sure we can recall former things about about our church that were just so wonderful and great that we have hope to see them here again, like unity and growth. We most likely can recall all the hurtful and destructive things that once happened here, divisions and oppression. Truth is, the past can be useful. We must learn from our past.
The Israelites of the Bible looked back towards former things, and things that were in the “Old days.” The Israelites had a history marked by things that were great and secure. A time where they conquered the land of Canaan and the city of Jerusalem, a time of a unified nation. But the Israelites also had a history marked by things that were terrible and threatening. They incredible ability to recall former things kept many from growing and moving on in life. So, the prophet Isaiah is sent by God give them a message of deliverance during their time being a divided nation, being a people oppressed by other nations.
We are going to see today that the message given to Isaiah for the Israelites, is also a message for us, the Church of Christ.
Go ahead and grab your Bibles, we are in the book of the Prophet Isaiah. We will being staying mainly in the 43rd chapter. One you find it, we can start at verse 18.
“Do not call to mind the
nor ponder things of the past.”
Isaiah 43:18 (NASB)
“Do not call to mind” what does that mean? I could mean “Do not remember.” We might think this passage it telling us not to thinking about the past, nor treasure our memories. But we have to understand that what is written before us is part of a psalm, a song or a poem of sorts. Songs are hyperbolic, meaning its exaggerated and symbolic. And in case you didn’t get what Isaiah means, he restates his first line in the second line of the 18th verse, “Or ponder things of the past.” This restatement helps us what Isaiah is really saying. “Don’t ponder old things.” What is to “ponder”? Its a practice of deep and diligent consideration that turns your entire attention to that one thing. It’s like meditation. It’s like a cow that remunerates. Chewing its cud over and over again.
What are we not to chew on over and over again? Isaiah says “the former things.”
It it really important for us to understand what the “former things” where for the original readers. For the Israelites, the “former things” refer to the spender and security of Solomon’s
temple but also to such events as the destruction of Solomon’s temple by Babylon. We have to understand that the temple represented the Lord’s earthly home, or His presence among the people of Israel, His holiness, and His creation. The temple played a central role in the ancient Israelite religious experience and their identity. The temple was used as a way of unifying the Israelite tribes. In Israel, the temple held a central, unifying role in society, both religiously and politically. The temple unified the Israelites before God in times of distress, offering a place for foreigners to come and pray, and providing a place for the Israelites to seek help against their enemies (1 Kgs 8:22–53; compare 2 Chr 6:12–42).
“Things of the past” or “Things of old” are events still more ancient, the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt and at the Red Sea, and their entry into Canaan. Although a wonderful event of change to be grateful for, deliverance from captivity and slavery, we are told that the Israelites complained and desired to be back in captivity as slaves!
“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat-pots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ ”
Exodus 16:2–3 (NIrV)
In hindsight, Isaiah most likely was telling his readers, do not be taken captive by your thoughts and feelings. Do not be a slave to your desires for the past prosperity and security you had experienced. But also do not be a slave to your feelings of the past hurt and destruction you had experienced.
No matter who you are, what you do, where you are, or what situation or season you find yourself in, you can be unsatisfied and be a slave to your past.
I have known many to get stuck on past events. Their bad childhood, the things their mother or father said or didn’t say, events where they were mistreated by others, the windfall (unexpected wealth) they never received, the lost of a loved one, or the life they never lived. They feel old, bad or hurtful feelings, over and over again. Many are like the wife of Abraham’s nephew of Lot who looked back to take a gaze at the sinful city she called home, and was made into a pillar of salt… Unfortunately, some Christians look back towards their past sins and addictions and what to revisit them, so they become unable to move forward.
Prophet Isaiah is telling us here, don’t be a “could of, should of, would have,” person. Don’t be “shadow boxer” that “shadow boxes,” (don't be should be, could be, would be, people). Those people wear themselves out, chasing shadows of the past, hitting nothing, and growing nothing.
Not only do these kind of people wish for the wrong things experienced to never have been experienced, but they also wish for the good things to always and forever be experience. As Isaiah says, don’t call to mind, or don’t be captivated, by former things. They have past, they can’t be stoped, or continued.
Prophet Isaiah reminded us: Stop living in the past. Because living in the past is dying in the present! A man not busy being born, is busy dying! Also, Prophet Isaiah tells us that God says to forget the past because we have something new to look forward to in the present and the future. Did you catch that, Let’s read together the 19th verse again.
I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?”
So, we are told here, Pay attention, old things have passed, and now God makes things new!
This reflects what Isaiah wrote the chapter before:
the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”
Isaiah 42:9 (NASB)
What does “new” mean here? — something never done or known before in its wonderful character and spender. Isaiah is telling us, so wonderful will be God’s future provisions that intervene in your behalf, that all past ones will be forgotten in comparison. Plainly the future restoration of Israel is the event ultimately meant by Isaiah.
In the book of Ezekiel, we are told of Ezekiel’s vision. He has a vision of the restoration of temple. In the vision, the temple building is approximately seven times larger than Solomon’s. That’s right, the entire temple complex in the vision is roughly 70 times larger that the old temple that everyone complained about not having anymore. Ezekiel’s vision of a new temple, holy, and prepared for God’s presence, represents a reversal of the bad things that had allowed the temple’s destruction. The temple vision provides assurance of future salvation. Just as Ezekiel witnessed Yahweh’s departure from the temple (Ezek 10), he witnesses Yahweh’s return (Ezek 43:1–5).
We can say from this, that the good that has left you, will return once again, yet as a better good. It will return to you 70x fold! The 25 year old body that has left you, will be returned, but as a better one. An eternal body made for us by God himself (2 Cor. 5:1-2), that will not be frail and grow weak with age. The loved ones who have left us on this earth, will be seen again in a much greater world. A heavenly home with no more sickness or death. More specific to this passage, we are told that we can expect growth to return to us. The hard times, financially, physically, emotionally, or spiritually, that has tested your faith, perhaps weakening it, that weak faith will grow under the events of God’s care for you. We discussed last week, that one of the things that will happen to us this year, is that your spirit will be lifted or encouraged by God revealing himself to you in a notable way.
When will this happen, you ask? Answer: “Now,” Right now! How will it happen right now? We are told “it will spring forth.” As a germinating herb or plant, it will spring forth. This a beautiful image of the silent but certain gradual growth of events in God’s protective care (Mk 4:26–28).
At this time, it will sprout and grow. As the text reads, Do you not perceive it?
This question is asked rhetorically. Meaning that you know the answer that is evident. It is a question that really doesn’t need to be asked, because it is already answered by a well known fact. It is a fact, rather than a question that is being posed so matter of factly. We can say this because as we discovered last week, we know that God listens and although we may not see the results now, God is always working on your behalf and only preparing the best for you.
God is telling us, you will absolutely NOT miss the growth that God is doing in your life. The promise of growth that God does in you, is not a half baked promise or a bank note given from a person with no money in his account.
There is assurance in this new growth that God promises to us. Isaiah is saying there is certainty or confidence about this belief. It is a belief because as Isaiah said in chapter 42 verse 8, “before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” The “assurance of hope” (Heb 6:11) and the assurance of faith” (Heb 10:22; 11:1) are mentioned as qualities of wholeness that lead believers to responsible living. A proper understanding of God’s control in this process of growth should encourage repentant sinners and faltering believers to call upon God for salvation and help and to walk secure in his love, despite the insecurity that is felt in the present. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out” (Jn 6:37).
Therefore, this question is a call of trust, that calls us to dig deep into our hearts to see to it that we place trust in God’s promise. Such an attitude of trust in God removes the assuming pride of the person who trusts his own good works for salvation (Mt 7:21–23; 1 Cor 10:12; Heb 3:12), or the agonizing doubt of the believer who is sensitive to his own sinfulness. Because salvation is by grace (Eph 2:8), the doubting believer may claim the finished and sufficient work of Christ and thus rest secure that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).
We should rest on this fact as we reflect the power and plans of God. As we revisit and read the second half of verse 19, look for the power and plans of God.
“I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:19b (NASB)
“A way in the wilderness,” by these words Isaiah is giving a Polaroid snapshot to give his readers to jog their minds to their memories of their experiences. Isaiah is relaying God’s word that says just as Israel in the wilderness, was guided, and supplied with water from a rock by Jehovah, Lord Provider, so it will be today in your season of exhaustion. But this “new” deliverance will be attended with the appearance of God’s power and love, eclipsing the old (see Isaiah 41:17).
“A way” often stands for the true and pure religion (Ac 9:2; 18:26). In the OT book of Proverbs (4:14) we are reminded not to “walk in the way of evil,” and in the NT we are reminded that Disciples of Christ are told be to belonging to the Way (Acts 9:2), the Way being Christ Jesus.
“Rivers in the desert.” Rivers express the influences of the Holy Spirit:
“Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.’
‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said,
“From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”’ But this He spoke of the Spirit…”
John 7:37-39 (NASB)
Looking at this from this way, we can say,
The Lord, will open a way, not merely in the Red Sea, but in the wilderness of the whole world; and not merely one river shall gush out of the rock, but many, which shall refresh, not the bodies as in the past, but the souls of the thirsty, so that the prophecy shall be fulfilled:
“Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.”
Isaiah 12:3 (NASB)
If we are disciples of Christ today, we have drunk from the well of salvation. What God promises from our Isaiah passage, is that we will again draw from springs of salvation today and grow.
In a world where Christians are slaughtered for their spiritual allegiance, in a spiritual reality where satan and his hoard of demons try their hardness to cut you off from the truth and from the moment of prayer so you fall in exhaustion, in a life where emotional and physical pain and death reigns, in a spiritual reality where we do the things that we don’t want to do and hate ourselves for doing them: We will draw from springs of salvation today, and will grow and be refreshed!
We opened this morning with what we are not to remember or call to our minds. We will end this morning with what we are to call to our minds. The book of Lamentations tells us plainly:
“This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:21–26 (NASB)
Very morning, God is giving you new gifts of his care and compassion. God is going to give you samples everyday of what is to come on the PROMISED day of Jesus Christ.
“‘and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’
And He who sits on the throne said,
‘Behold, I am making all things new.’
And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.’”
Revelation 21:4–5 (NASB)
Will we act according to these true and faithful words today?
Will we go home today, and realize you have a new start. Will you go home and list all the things your anxious about doing. The things that you fail to look at, the things that your afraid of are the very things that hold your potential.
Will you give your spouse affirmations when he or she so something good. If you do, more good will follow.
Will you lay before your children reasons for them to change and do something new?
Will you go to your enemy or those who you have strife with, and lay before them the preconditions for peace. Will you be the one who sets the example before them that change may occur and newness is discovered within your relationship?