It Is like Spring: Isaiah 43:16-21
Don’t empower the things of old. The things that are in the past are a part of our story; that cannot be denied. But, the Lord says through the prophet, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (v 19)
With those words, all the past that chases us piles up in a surprised and forced stop. It’s like a scene in a cartoon. All that is chasing us stops on a dime, crashes into each other, and piles up high under the force of inertia. And there we are to leave it, a monument to God’s power to overcome anything and everything that seems to want to devour or destroy us. Then, with that work done, God speaks with the freshness of spring, “I am about to do a new thing.”
The new thing is this-God is going to make a way through the wilderness and tell the jackals that chase us to sit, “lie down.” You know the wilderness. You know the jackals. Consider the promise. God’s way is as fierce as the wilderness and the jackals. God’s way is the cross. It is God’s Son on the cross, the One who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Our wilderness, our jackals: they may hound us, but they are no match for God.
It’s hard to believe. We would like to believe it, but when we put this little book down, we step back into our world. In verse 19 God whispers a question into the reader’s ear. “Do you not perceive it?” Don’t you sense the little seed that wants to sprout? In the reading of the scripture passage, don’t you perceive the presence of the new thing deep in you? It’s not big yet. You can’t even describe it. But something in the scripture took root when you read the words, “I am about to do a new thing.” This is the gift of Lent. Old things are put in their place, piled up, and left behind. The process is not easy; the uprooting is a bit clumsy and messy. But ground is prepared for something new to spring up, and for a moment you sensed it. It was something like a glimpse or a whisper.
God likens it to a drink of water in the desert (v 20). The drink pushes the desert back, provides a bit of refreshing, and gives hope. Did you perceive it in the passage? “The things of old” (v 18) are “of old,” aren’t they, at least for the moment of refreshing? What if the moment could be expanded, then expanded again, then a bit more? What if the “former things” (v 18) were made to run back to their cartoon junk pile again and again until they started to stay there? It sounds like the beginning of something new. Read the passage again and pray that its promise will be applied to your life. Then read it again and pray. A way is being cut through the wilderness, one promise and prayer at a time. The junk pile shrinks on the horizon behind you with each refreshing drink.
God promises “,to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise” (vv 20b-21). Praise blossoms in the wilderness when given enough water a little bit at a time. When the jackals go away and the chase ends, there is time and breath for praise. When life is perceived to be a new thing, it is like spring.
Do you not perceive it?
God, I give the old things to you. Do a new thing in me.
A word about the series
The Lenten season has always inspired many people to create everything from poems, art and music to a completely new direction in their lives. This Lenten season Tabernacle will be exploring many of those creations in the hope of inspiring you to compose in a medium that is natural for you. The paintings in the Sanctuary are of the Biblical Stations of the Cross. The artist, Grieg Leach, completed them in 2010. They will help us to visualize the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. In addition to the paintings there is a Lenten devotional booklet, Return to Me, which is available in print or online. The Stations of the Cross also inspired these devotions, written by Terry York of Baylor University. Living with these two bodies of artistic expression based on the Biblical Stations of the Cross throughout the season of Lent should help us as we seek to return our lives to God by walking with Jesus though his final days.
Pray, read, think and return to God.
All scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible.
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