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. 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 wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness 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. Isaiah 43:16-21
As this new year dawns fresh, it’s time to put away the past. We humans too often live in our thoughts. We rehash old hurts and wounds. We plot scenarios and think “If I’d only said this.” We want to redo the past and make it right. But that is not possible. We are time-bound creatures, not yet the immortal souls who live outside the bounds of time with The One who created time itself. This can weigh heavy on the minds of people filled with regrets. But there is also a freedom in having to let go of the past.
Here in Isaiah 43 the Lord tells His people, Israel, and also us, to forget the former things. Put them away. Quit dwelling on them. Do not let them take up precious thought time in your brain which in turn uses up precious energy and creativity God wants you to use to move forward this year in carrying out His will for you.
This morning as I read a Navigators’ devotional by Jerry Bridges called “Holiness Day by Day,” one that I read every day, this thought grabbed me. “I’m dismayed at how little we Christians pray for the success of the Gospel among the nations. If we honestly examine our prayers, we find that we give the greatest priority to our own earthly needs.” I was instantly convicted of how often I allow little hindrances, annoyances, hurts, or disappointments control my thought life, to keep me from praying for the Gospel to go forth with power. When I can’t, or won’t let go, those little things dominate me and I become self-focused rather than God-focused, my selfishness is evident even inn my praying. This morning I realized that if I can’t turn loose of these former things I will not be ready to see and understand and participate in the “New Thing” God is doing all around me to make His kingdom come here on earth – those things He is wanting me to be involved in.
How do we “forget the former things? Especially those things that seem like giants in our lives?
- We pray. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) When we are able to pray this way we give God access to convict us and change our hearts and our thinking patterns.
- We seek keep in step with the Spirit and allow Him to produce His fruit in our minds and souls. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:22-26)
- We control our thoughts. We make the choice to do our part to work at not allowing Satan to control our thought life. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
“Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ Isaiah 46:9-10
Just 3 short chapters after the Lord through Isaiah commanded the children of Israel to “Forget the former things,” He now tells them to “Remember the former things.” What?! Lord which is it? I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, that God is often paradoxical in the way He works, and frequently He says things to us that seem like opposites. Such is the case here.
While we are to forget past hindrances and let the emotions connected with them die, we are also to remember the former things God has done in our lives. What are we to remember? The answered prayer. The trials He brought us through. The miracles He performed in timing and answers and healing. Those “God moments.” The enemy of our souls will make us forget these things so that when we face difficulties we will doubt and worry and fret – all things the scriptures instructs us NOT to do. If we do not consciously keep ourselves aware of the mighty ways God has worked in our lives we will become despondent and lose hope.
So I encourage you this year to keep a journal. Write down God’s miracles and answers and perfect timing in black and white so that you can go back to it in the dark times and see the facts and be encouraged. Write down your doubts and fears and questions and prayer requests so you can go back and later and see how God has moved in your life. You may even find God answered with a “no,” but that now you are glad He did.
This year I challenge you to look for the “New Thing” God is doing in your life. Be patient. Go with the flow, even when it doesn’t seem the way you planned it. I challenge you, and myself, to forget the past as it weighs us down and to remember the past as it speaks of God’s mighty works. Let us join God in the things He is about and let our wishes move to the back burner.
Have a blessed and growing 2021!