Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing 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.”
Isaiah 44:2-3, “Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants.”
There are a handful of approaches to interpreting and applying ancient prophesies like these.
One way is to read these words and seize upon them as if they were written freshly to the reader. The words are, or have become, God’s specific word to the reader at and for the time of their reading. It is not uncommon to hear that someone has read or remembered these words and re-presented them as the “right now” word of the Lord to the immediate audience and circumstance. One problem with this approach is that it requires a suspension of a great many other facts, including that these words were written to a specific people at a specific time and place and with a specific purpose. If these words were aimed at ancient Israel and their circumstances, did they miss? Have they hovered like Noah’s second dove only to finally descend on the contemporary reader? And if so, which reader? Who gains the right to claim the great promises from these passages?
Another approach is to view these prophetic passages through the long lens of history – and leave them there. It is to assert that Yahweh said this to them, and only them. This approach makes these words interesting, but only as inspiring as reading historical narratives. Having studied them, we might then just place these words on the appropriate shelf in the library – codified accordingly. Tidy, but empty.
I think a better option exists. The contemporary reader can read and re-read these words and find in them revelation and affirmation of the nature of God. We may draw from these passages fresh hope from the same God who breathed these words through His prophets. We can take courage and be inspired by the way God spoke to and about people like us who also blew it – sometimes big time. People who also found themselves thinking things used to better than now, or looking desperately for hope in troubling times. Or people that find themselves in places that seem dry. Or people whose concern for their children, for the next generation, weighs heavily upon them.
What did God say to these people? What does what He said affirm about Who He is and how we can trust Him? What hope can we draw from these words?
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing 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.
Hey friends, do not live in the past. It takes no faith to live there. Don’t daydream in the rear view mirror. God isn’t out of ideas; He’s the most creative and optimistic Being in the cosmos. He has more up His sleeve than left-overs. Anticipate something fresh, new and life-giving from Heaven. Even if there seems to be no natural way forward, nor any probable means of provision – what God will do will result in you and me declaring His praise. So, lean forward! Look up! Anticipate the goodness of God, right now.
Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant…whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants.
Listen carefully to the Lord who gave you life – He is the One who will give you help. Do not be afraid. Really: banish fear. Have no company with it. It is not an adviser, but an accuser. Don’t be overwhelmed by what appears to be desperate circumstances. God’s solution for dry and desert places isn’t incremental change, but rather an outpouring of His Spirit. His solution for your poverty is His generosity. In a moment He can change the landscape and climate of your circumstances. So, open up wide and stir your thirst – He will meet you there. But not only you. Know this: He has no interest in single-generation visitation. What God does in and for you and in your midst – He intends to continue. He promises to remain present and powerful with your descendants. What God starts, He sustains. So, have the same attitude as heaven and pray and plan in the same portion as He promises – with an eye on your descendants continuing to benefit from the blessing of the Lord.
There is fresh hope to be extracted from former promises. Indeed, every promise of God is “yes” in Jesus; He fulfills every good thing God has promised to us. And because of that, we may say “amen” to His promises – no matter when they were promised.
Thanks for reading; I hope you’re encouraged today