Thursday, June 13, 2013

Isaiah 42-43 Forget the Former Things

Isa 42:1-9 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.  He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;  he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope." This is what God the Lord says — he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people,and life to those who walk on it:  "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.  See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you." 

Isa 43:18-21 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.  The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Our God is a God of "new things"; He calls us many times to forget the "former things." There is nothing static about God's agenda for His people. While his eternal purpose remains unchanged--namely to exalt His Son to be the Lord of lords and King of kings, "so that in everything [Christ] might have the supremacy" (Col 1:18)--His ways are always changing. There is always a "new thing" God is doing. The problem with religious traditions is that we think we can put God's former glory into a box, believing that if we do what He has done in the past, we have captured His workings for the present and for the future. That is the reason the Jews rejected and crucified Jesus Christ, because they held on to their "former things" and became locked into their religion Judaism. Instead of looking to God and His Spirit for a new work of God, they were trapped by their traditions of former glory.

In the time of Isaiah, God has already announced that He is doing "new things": "See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you" (42:9). This new thing that God is doing concerns "my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations" (42:1). We know from hindsight that this was a prophecy concerning Jesus the Messiah. This passage (42:1-4) was quoted in Matthew 12:18-21 to refer to Jesus Christ. So, we know that God has announced the coming of His Son 700 years before He appeared on earth.

In view of this, God calls His people to "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland" (Isa 43:18-19). God does not do a new thing just for the sake of keeping Himself up-to-date and "modern". He is doing a new thing when the former things are no longer achieving the purpose for which He intended, viz., to bring life to nations. God is doing a new thing so that there may be "a way in the desert" to give direction and hope to the lost and "streams in the wasteland" to give life to those who are dying. 

If we hold on to the "former things" (old habits, mindsets and practices), and ignore God's "new thing" we may be ministering death rather than life. Paul says in 2 Cor 3:6 that God has called us to be "competent as ministers of a new covenant- — not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." The new things of God must be the ones that comes from the Spirit, not human traditions because only the Spirit can give life. Human traditions try to capture the "former glory" but God has since left that place and we have to be where He is today and doing the things He is doing in the world. God is still at work, seeking and saving the lost. If we are to be aligned with the divine purpose, we have to be doing the same too--giving hope where there is despair, and life where there is only death. 

The history of the church in the last 2,000 years has been the history of "new things"--i.e. revivals. God has stirred up revivals whenever the churches hung on to their "former glory" and began to lose their divine purpose. God's new things are always initiated by the Spirit, for that is the history of church revivals in the last 2,000 years, even up to the present days. Wherever God is at work, traditions are overturned because "new wine must be poured into new wineskins" (Luke 5:38). I've seen even in Alpha, that when God does a new thing of bring new converts into the churches, very often, if the church is not prepared  to forget their old wineskin to accommodate these new people, they end up losing them to the world or to other churches more willing and able to adjust their wineskins to hold this new wine.

Father, help us to align our lives with the "new things" You are now doing. Help us forget the "former things", no matter how successful they might have been, because You are not a static God but a creative One. Help us to plug into the "new things" You are doing today. Amen.

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