Theme for this final week: In this final week, God’s new thing is reflected upon in passages that describe what God has done in us and also in passages focused on the birth of special people—Ruth’s son, Obed (the ancestor of Jesus), John the Baptizer and concluding with the birth of Jesus the Messiah.
Prepare to Listen. In this 4th week of Advent, the four colored candles are lit. As you light them, let these words prepare your heart: I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Prayerfully Read Isaiah 43:15-21
15I am the LORD, your Holy One,
the Creator of Israel, your King.
16Thus says the LORD,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
17who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
19I 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.
20The wild animals will honour me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Once upon a time I was at decision-making moment. I longed to see the new way clearly. As I read these words from Isaiah, instead of comforting me, they frustrated me. ‘No,’ I yelled at God, ‘I can’t perceive your new thing!’ Of course, I was missing the point.
The prophet had a good understanding of human nature and knew humans like to hold onto “former things.” We idealize the past as ‘the good old days’ and long to go back there, especially when the present and future frighten us. We need to hear the prophet’s warning, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.” ‘The good old days’ weren’t as good as we think, and we can’t go back to them. Israel wanted to go back to an idealized past. They needed, as one writer suggests, to be shaken out of a faith that was no longer open to learning new things about God’s activity and what is possible with God. The writer goes on to suggest that when faith becomes locked into set ways and dogmatism about beliefs and morals, it “has ceased to be able to expect anything really new from” God.
If we’re going to see God’s new thing, God’s transforming all creation into worshipping and praising God, we must let go of our attachment to the old. Even the wild animals get it, says Isaiah, and they honor God. How much more shouldn’t we?
What caught our attention in these verses? Live with that today.
Respond to Jesus
Lord, forgive me when I get stuck in a longing for ‘the good old days,’ and fail to step out into your new ways that seem unperceived to me until I make that step. Amen.
Live obediently. Step into the new, even though it’s unseen.
Clause Westermann in Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah 40-66. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 1998, p. 59.