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From the Pastor’s Desk
A New Thing
Isaiah 43:15-21 (NRSV):
I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 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. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
This passage from Isaiah is one I go back to again and again, especially when I feel confused, frustrated, or worried about the way things are going in my personal life or in the world around me. It is a powerful vision, provided by the Israelite prophet Isaiah, of the way God works in the present world. In this passage, God informs a people shaken by the Babylonian exile that their core salvation story, the one that they refer to as foundational to their identity as a people, is past history. This is the story of the Exodus, of course, wherein God sent Moses to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt. In that story, the fleeing Israelites encountered a mighty river blocking their path, and God provided a path of dry land right through those waters to safety. The pursuing Egyptian chariots attempted to follow the escaping Israelites through the dry path, but the waters closed upon them and they were defeated. The Israelite people were saved.
But now, God is turning that story on its head. Everything the Israelite people understand about how salvation has happened in the past is no longer valid. God is doing a new thing. Where before God provided a dry path through the waters, now God will provide a life-sustaining rush of water in the dry desert. On top of that, this water will not only nourish the Israelite people, but will also give life to the wild animals that exemplify the enemy. The enemy will not be crushed, but will stand at the side of God’s people drinking up the life God has provided in excess. This is a beautiful vision of God’s Kingdom come.
Based on the words of Isaiah in this passage, “the way things have always been done” is no longer something we should be relying on. We cannot look to the old way of doing things to see an active God. We must shift our gaze to this new thing, to this flipped track of salvation. God is on the move! It is our task to discern where God is making strides and to run alongside!
Whenever I think about the task of perceiving God’s new thing, I am simultaneously filled with excitement and anxiety. Change is never easy. We are creatures of comfort, and change can leave us reeling. But the vision Isaiah provides of this new thing is also very enticing. It gives me a thrill to imagine taking part in God’s new thing. Salvation is at hand. I believe that joining God on the move in this new path will be the most worthwhile endeavor of my life. Won’t you join me in this new venture?
I offer this prayer for our church family: O God on the Move, we hear this vision of Isaiah and acknowledge that you are an active God. Grant us the eyes to perceive your New Thing. Give us willing legs to follow you on this new path. Comfort us as we let go of the old and embrace the new. Show us your saving presence in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us, especially those whom we may consider to be our enemies. Let your Kingdom come and your will be done. Amen.