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.
I’ve got some questions for you this morning. You can raise your hand or shout Amen if your answer to any of these are “yes.”
1 – Are you tired of hearing the term “social distancing”?
2 – Have you reached a point where – even though you know what we are doing is helping save lives – you are over “sheltering-in-place”?
3 – Are you an “essential worker” whose life hasn’t really changed much, but you are tired of not being able to see your family and friends?
If you answered “yes” to ANY of these questions, I have one more question for you…
Do you feel like you are being held captive? Do you feel like you have been “imprisoned, confined, or enslaved”?1
While we aren’t really being held captive, this past month has likely led us to feel that way at some point. And…we don’t have a date of when this will end which isn’t helping either.
But – even without knowing when it will end and even though we may have felt like trapped rats lately, we can still have hope for the same reason that the Israelites were able to have hope when they were held in captivity.
Isaiah was prophesying on behalf of God to the Israelites while they were being held in Babylonian captivity. While we may feel like we are being held captive, the Jews really were being held captive. They were working as slaves under Babylonian rule. The Temple had been destroyed and they were in despair.
Prior to Isaiah 40, focus has been placed on God’s judgment being delivered upon the Israelites. They had turned their backs on God, and he had allowed them to be taken prisoner by the Babylonians. Some of the Israelites had been taken to Babylon as slaves while the rest stayed in Israel under foreign rule. Isaiah was God’s messenger to make sure the Israelites understood why their captivity had taken place. God’s judgment had been rendered.
Then in Isaiah 40, the tone begins to shift. His message turns from one focused on judgment to one focused on forgiveness and love.
Isaiah 43:1-4 reads: “But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.’”
The Lord is explaining to the Israelites that he is taking care of the payment for their sins. He is going to sacrifice the lives of others in order to pay the penalty for the Jews which will lead to them being set free. And why is he doing this? The answer was in verse 4: “Since you (the Israelites) are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” The Lord was going to take care of the Israelites because he loved them. He tells them, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (v. 5). He tells the Jews that he is going to bring them all back together because they are his “sons” and “daughters” “whom [he] created for [his] glory, whom [he] formed and made” (v. 7).
Then in the verses we read this morning, verses 16-21, God promises the Israelites salvation from captivity – not by their own doing, but by God’s doing as he did in the past.
Verses 16-17: “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, snuffed out like a wick.”
Of course, Isaiah is referring to when the Israelites had been saved from Egyptian captivity. After the Pharaoh had set the Jews free, he had a change of heart and sent his army after the Israelites. In order to save the Israelites, God parted the Red Sea where the Jews crossed on dry land. The Egyptian army followed suit, but once the Jews were safely on the other side with the Egyptian army in the middle of the sea, God released the waters and the entire army was washed away. The army was defeated at the hands of God – not of Israel’s doing, but by God’s doing.
And now, God was reminding them of that event and telling them not to worry because he was going to take care of them now just as he had then.
The same God who had saved the Israelites from Egyptian captivity and destroyed the Egyptian army was preparing to save the Israelites from Babylonian captivity.
He told them to “‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (v. 18). Forget the judgment, forget the complaining, forget the harsh life of slavery. Let the past go and now look at what God has planned.
God says, “‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (v. 19).
The Israelites were in captivity. They couldn’t go anywhere. They couldn’t rise up against the Babylonians – they wouldn’t have stood a chance. But God could and God was making a way for the Israelites to be released.
God was already being honored by the wild animals – “the jackals and the owls” – because he provided for their needs (v 20). He provided “water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” so the wild animals could survive and even flourish (v. 20).
And now, he was telling the Israelites that he was planning to do the same thing for them.
“I am making a way the wilderness and streams in the wasteland…to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed” (v. 20-21). God made it clear to the Israelites that he was doing a new thing and he was providing a way for them to escape and be forgiven. A way to be healed and made whole. Basically, God was leading them to another exodus.
And why was he making a way in the wilderness? Of course, to save the people he loved, but ultimately for “the people [he] formed for [himself] that they may proclaim [praise to God]” (v. 21). God was saving the Jews because he loved them, but also so they could give testimony to God for saving them. They were being saved so they could tell others how richly blessed they were and what great things God had done for them. Remember it wasn’t their doing, but God’s doing. And once the captivity had ended, they were to tell everyone about the God who had brought that captivity to an end.
God was doing a new thing and their job was to tell everyone about that new thing.
Remember back to our questions at the beginning of this message. Do you feel like you are being held captive? Do you feel like you have been “imprisoned, confined, or enslaved”?2
Well, let me tell you this morning that God has the same message for you that he had for the Israelites…he is doing a new thing.
Just as God made a payment for the sins of the Israelites by providing others for their sacrifice, God provided Christ’s life as the payment for your sins. You are precious and honored in his sight and he loves you. And you are not to be afraid because he is with you just as he was with the Jews.
The same God who saved the Israelites from Egyptian captivity and destroyed the Egyptian army, the same God who saved the Israelites from Babylonian captivity is the same God who is preparing to save you from your COVID-19 captivity.
He is saying to forget the former things. Forget your feelings of depression, your concerns, your fears, and your worries. Do not dwell on the past. Do not dwell on what you would have been doing right now if we were not staying home. Do not dwell on the facts that school is different now. Do not dwell on the fact that your job may be furloughed. Do not dwell on the fact that you can’t shop at TJ Maxx or Hobby Lobby. Do not dwell on the fact that we can’t watch sports right now. Do not dwell on the former things.
Forget the feelings of captivity and look for what God is planning.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (v. 19).
God is doing a new thing in your life. Do you perceive it? It is springing forth! Do you perceive it?
It’s easy to become consumed by the thoughts of the “former things.” It’s easy to feel overwhelmed while walking back and forth from the living room to the fridge to the bathroom and then back to the living room. But that’s not where your focus should be.
Where do you need to put your focus? How about asking yourself this question…What new thing (or things) is God doing in my life? What new thing (or things) is God doing in my life?
God does not waste any opportunity to get your attention. God doesn’t waste an opportunity to work in your life. So in the midst of this pandemic, what is God doing in your life?
He is making a way in your own personal wilderness. He is preparing your very own exodus. What is your personal wilderness? What do you need to be saved from?
God is trying to open your eyes, heart, mind, and soul for what he has in store for you. He has things in store for you that will blow your mind. Are you getting ready? Are you getting ready for the new thing that God has in store for you?
In the words of Tasha Cobbs’ song, I’m Getting Ready, “Victory is here. Keep defeat out the door. God’s doing a new thing. Get ready for overflow.”3 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you perceive it?” (v. 19).
But don’t only look for the new thing. Tell others about this new thing that God is doing. Tell everyone how God is working in your life right now. Tell others how God is saving you from your own personal wilderness. Tell everyone how God is leading you on your very own exodus.
You are one of God’s “chosen,” one of “the people [he] formed for [himself] that [you] may proclaim [his] praise!” (v. 21). Shout it from the rooftops…God is doing a new thing!
- The Free Dictionary. “Captivity.” https://www.thefreedictionary.com/captivity.
- The Free Dictionary. “Captivity.” https://www.thefreedictionary.com/captivity.
- Google. “I’m Getting Ready.” https://www.google.com/search?channel=tus2&client=firefox-b-1-d&q=i%27m+getting+ready+lyrics.