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 wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
The New Year is upon us and resolutions are the talk of social media, friends and family, and the work-place. Diet and exercise alterations are mentioned most commonly. We are hopeful this will be the year of (fill in the blank)… change… finding a spouse… graduation… career advancement… the birth of children… Each new year brings promises of hope.
Isaiah 43:19 is a verse frequently quoted as a reminder of the hope we have in what the Lord is doing – See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. We may not always understand what He is doing. It may be within our hearts. It may be within our family. Our occupation. It may be something we believe is impossible. But just as a seed develops and grows roots before it is visible above the soil, the Lord is working even when we cannot see it.
I find great comfort and hope in knowing the Lord is always doing something on my behalf. Recently, I read the three verses preceding verse 19 and was struck by the personal relevance:
This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (V 16-18)
In Isaiah 43, the Israelites are reminded of what the Lord has done – He made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, drew out the chariots and horses, never to rise again. The Lord performed miracle after unexpected miracle to free His people from captivity in Egypt. He wants them to remember what has been done, but not to doubt the Lord’s ability to surpass previous miracles performed. He doesn’t want them to dwell on the past as if those were the “good ole days”; that God could not bring victory to them as He had in the past; that their circumstances were now far more dire than before.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. I personally find this very difficult to do. History has a way of repeating itself and the phrase, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” embodies the idea that we must learn from past mistakes and successes in order to progress. But for me, it held me back.
For many years, I perceived shame and condemnation when I opened up about my past regrets and mistakes. It was a horrible feeling, one I wanted to avoid at all costs. So, I learned to hide the parts of my life I thought were less than “Christian” and put on a facade of perfection to the best of my ability.
As you can probably imagine, that didn’t work out very well nor last very long. The Lord taught me the importance of being honest and transparent for the sake of my testimony, rather than receiving the approval of man. Hiding my sin and erroneous choices limited my ability to empathize and witness to others in similar circumstances. Forgetting the former things and not dwelling on the past was exactly what I needed to do in order to progress. Because He is doing something new and I want to perceive it to the best of my ability. Clearing my memory of what has already transpired allows me to become increasingly mindful of what He is doing in the present.
We can also be encouraged that history will not always repeat itself. Although the Lord delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians by a miraculous and unforeseen exodus, He delivered the Israelites again from the Babylonians by destroying Babylon, paving the way for His people. He may not do what we expect from past experiences, but we can be assured that His promises are always true. What He says will happen, will happen – in His time and in His way.
I’m excited for what 2018 will bring in my life and the life of others. Do you perceive a growth of new beginnings too?