‘16 Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18 Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
19 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.’
‘Do not remember the things of old,’ the Prophet says. I’m actually pretty good at that one; I have a hard time remembering what happened yesterday, let alone the things of old. Something comes in one ear and, unless I write it down, out the other. Anybody have that trouble?
But in this passage, Isaiah the Prophet isn’t asking the People of God to forget just the normal stuff. Look for the clues in the first two verses – a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, chariot and horse, army and warrior who cannot rise, who are extinguished and quenched like a wick. What story from salvation history is Isaiah talking about here?
The Exodus. One of the greatest miracles of the Hebrew Scriptures, a foundational story of God’s faithfulness passed down from generation to generation. The Exodus story was wrapped into the fabric of the Hebrew people’s being. This story from the past brought them hope for the future. It spoke of Gods might and God’s providential care for the people. Through Isaiah, the Lord is asking the people to let go of one of their most treasured memories.
But there’s a problem with stories of old. Cling too closely to them, and we remain stuck in the past, so enamored by what God did then that we miss what God is doing now.
And indeed, God is doing a new thing. Like us, the people of Isaiah’s time faced perilous circumstances, but God wasn’t just a character in an old story from the scriptures. God is a living God, doing a new thing, delivering us from peril into new life and new hope even today.
We don’t need to completely forget our history, but if we grasp too tightly onto it, we become trapped by it. Kind of like the proverbial monkey with his hand stuck in a coconut, unable to escape because he refuses to let go of the delicious fruit inside.
Centuries ago, the invention of the printing press was a momentous event in human history; it changed the world. I am wondering if Covid-19 is also a momentous event that is changing the world, whether we like it or not. How can we the Church grasp onto the new thing God is doing? What new ways of doing ministry do we need to discover in this time?
And if we’re honest, we’ll admit that we needed to change even before Covid-19. We’ve done things the same way for a long time, and for good reason – it worked for a long time, and the church grew and flourished. But that was then, and this is now. We cannot stay the same and survive.
We are called to be a courageous church that finds new ways to reach new people for Christ.
God is doing a new thing. Are we ready to perceive it?
Thanks for listening –