the new thing
I'm hearing a lot about 'God doing a new thing' lately.
I'm finding that its not uncommon for us to open up to Isaiah 43:18&19 when we're seeking to lead an exit strategy out of hard times:
“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.
It feels good to identify new possibilities as 'God's new thing' -- a new year; new team members; new facilities; a new season -- but sometimes I wonder if what we're pointing to are just old things with a fresh coat of paint.
And announcing 'God's new thing' can play into the hands of a consumeristic mindset -- a new product promising new results without questioning the system it emerges from.
Distracting us, even, from that system.
It might be helpful to consider what Isaiah was pointing Israel to in this passage.
When the prophet penned the words "forget the former things", he wasn't talking about church practice and strategy, he was referring to God's previous deliverance from slavery -- and then to a new means and method of deliverance. A Messiah.
A way in the wilderness.
Streams in the wasteland.
The people's previous experience of deliverance was a path through the Red Sea; the new deliverance would come in the promised Messiah -- the eternally new thing superseding the legendary old.
Not a denial of the old, but a fulfilment of it.
Not an upgrade, a transformation.
From the destruction of horses and chariots in the Red Sea, to the submission to the horses and chariots on the cross -- then stripping them of any power through the resurrection.
From the deliverance of an oppressed people group, to the redemption of all people -- all creation.
These streams. This way.
They are of the nature of selflessness and sacrifice, not triumphalism and new logos.
Sometimes I wonder if quoting Isaiah 43 is us grappling to find a biblical mandate for our enthusiasm and expenses -- and in the same breath it silences any alternate narrative.
The new thing in Isaiah is a revelation to the power structures of our culture -- modern day horses and chariots -- 'because of Jesus, these structures are of no lasting consequence.'
Instead we dig the chariots up, wash them down, paint them -- and quote Isaiah 43:18&19.
God IS doing a new thing -- His name is JESUS -- and He is inviting us into a retelling of our story.