“Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
‘For your sake I send to Babylon
and bring them all down as fugitives,
even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice.
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 forth chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
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.
The wild beasts 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
that they might declare my praise.”
— Isaiah 43:18-21
Anyone who’s talked to me in the last three weeks (er, 12 months) knows — Isaiah is my jam. I mean, even the title of the book proclaims that The Lord saves. It’s up front, realistic about sin, and impossibly, gloriously hopeful. Isaiah 43 provides a beautiful microcosm of the grand story happening throughout the book (and, arguably, our own Christian walk).
See, if I’m being honest, my life has felt like a desert-wilderness-wasteland lately. I work too many jobs, I am constantly confronted by broken homes and kids who need Jesus’ love (and mine), I am emotionally empty by Wednesday, and I am struggling to make it through each weekend without a fresh outburst of exhaustion-born tears. Now please understand: I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Sure, I’m pitiable enough when I start sniffling, but that’s not the end of the story. Despite the truth of this last paragraph, I’m inviting you into my business because I need you to know: The Lord is still doing his new thing.
My desert-wilderness-wasteland pales in comparison to Israel’s. Stranded in exile, what a freeing thing to be reminded that the same God of the Exodus is able to do a new thing: He is not leaving anyone alone, but He is quenching the thirst of His chosen people—and He is more than sufficient to do that.
In my haste to save the world, I too quickly become discouraged by all the things I could be doing differently, more, better. I forget that God is quietly providing waters in the wilderness for me, for His people. Rivers in the desert. Did you catch that? He mentions it twice. It’s that important.
Don’t forget: God led his people into exodus, he rescued them from Egypt, but that wasn’t the end. In Isaiah, He proclaims rescue for Israel from the wasteland, but that wasn’t the end. He sends the Rescuer of the world (as we just celebrated over Christmas and Epiphany and may have already forgotten), but even that wasn’t the end. No, like the Israelites, He is asking us to see the rescue of the past and remember that rescue is happening even now.
Isaiah cautions us from becoming too tripped up on the past—in hopes that the past can become a catalyst instead of a handicap. The Message translates verse 18: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?”
Holiness, Isaiah, says isn’t on us. It’s worked out by God. He’s doing a new thing. He’s rescuing us, redeeming us, reshaping, and reforming us and there is beauty in that. Don’t you see it? Submitting to God’s loving and lovely hand of rescue is not hopelessly consenting to the drudgery of doing the right thing. It is being made new. It is being called into a new way of life that is more beautiful and life-giving than we could even imagine.
He is calling us to lives of praise. If you’re like me, you hear that and think: Okay, time to join the worship team. And it’s this attitude of do-do-do (what Sarah Bessey rightly calls Evangelical Hero Complex) that ends with me falling asleep in the middle of dinner, shutting out the fellowship of others, and functioning past my capacity.
These lives of praise are so much about quiet, faithful presence, so much about being alert to the work God is inviting us into in the world. We—the praise-declarers—are bringing glory to the Kingdom simply by being truly present in the world: by engaging the hurts, by celebrating the joys, by letting our hearts be broken by the sad things we see, by praising the Creator.
Take it with you: Is there an area of your life where you have been too focused on the things of old? What is one area where God has provided rivers in the desert for you? What is one area of your life where you can be present to the life of praise-declaring that God is inviting you into?