18th March 2020
“Behold I am doing a new thing---now it springs forth” !!! (Isaiah 42-9)
Readings: Isaiah 43: 1-7, 15-21 Hebrews 3:12 to 4:2
Through its history God’s ‘servant –nation’, Israel, had been depleted through corruption and idolatry. Israel repeatedly paid the price of being chastened and corrected by God. In 721BC the Assyrians had destroyed the Northern Kingdom. In 701BC The state of Judah had fallen and Isaiah would spend a life time being God’s mouth piece to his people. Isaiah predicted the fall of Jerusalem (Isaiah 39: 6-7) Here Isaiah assumes that the captivity to Babylon was already an accomplished fact and he speaks God’s word into the chaos of his time. “Behold I am doing a new thing.”
In a sceptical article written by Dr Desmond Ford (1977) he says, “We are told this is a Post-Christian age. We doubt however, whether the news will create a flurry among the angels or even act as a depressant upon the Lords “little flock’ below, in as much as there have been Post-Christian ages before.” Ford in his sceptical, flippant tone, scoffs at the idea of the cultural pain and trauma that occurs when a community or nation transitions away from God and underestimates the consequences of God’s chastening. However Ford is right to unintentionally reminded us that the God of history and time has never been passive in those periods.. Indeed there have been other post-Christian periods but history reminds us that God has never lost control, God has always been actional, dynamic. God has always revealed himself, He has always been at work in some way doing a NEW THING
God’s renewing hand through the ages
The Genesis Story begins with the words “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” But in a counter re-action Adam refuses the very one who he is dependent upon and who gives him the breathe of life.
The creation is spoilt, the intimate relationship with Creator is severed, our human wholeness is frustrated in rebellion against the purposes of God. Genesis 3:23 says, “Therefore the Lord god sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.”
In the words of Francis Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven,”. From that time God began to pursue human-kind down the corridors of time and history—to reclaim humanity and to redeem it from a hooch-potch condition. Like a hound that never gives up, from the very beginning God sets out to redeem and restore a beautiful, but spoilt creation.
This is the amazing thing---GOD BEGAN TO DO A NEW THING.
Genesis 12:1 says, “Now the Lord said to Abram, go forth from your country”--- and eventually God developed a nation out of a bunch of scruffy slaves, bound and suppressed in Egypt. Later, through a series of extraordinary events they settled in Canaan.
But in those days of the prophet Isaiah it is recorded that the ‘common ass knew his master’—but Israel did not know God, the one who gave birth to their nation. Amid idolatry, syncretism, and corruption, sadly the people failed the purposes of God. But God did not give up on them. god spoke through the prophets, “Give ear to the teaching of our God—you people of Gomorrah. What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices.”--- (Isaiah 1:1-10)
(V24) “Therefore the Lord says, the Lord of Hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: Ah, I will vent my wrath on my enemies and I will avenge myself and my foes.”
The enemy swept down, Jerusalem fell, there was captivity,---exile in Babylon and for year upon year the people sat by the rivers of Babylon remembering Zion.
But this is the amazing thing---GOD BEGAN TO DO A NEW THING
Israel was set free. God led the whole nation through the Persian desert. Jerusalem, the Holy city was restored.
But in those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism and Jesus came as the light in the darkness. “He came to his own”—“and his own refused to receive him” (John1:11)
There were the Scribes and Pharisees who were shaped by a strong pride in their distorted religious traditions. They failed the purposes of God. “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites—for you are like white-washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful but within they are full of deadmen’s bones and all uncleanness.”( Math 23:27.)
And there was darkness across the earth, and as it was foretold the Lord “ laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). God turned our terrible human moral darkness, its consequences and judgment in upon Himself and as John the Baptist predicted Jesus became ‘The Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.’
And the God of history began to do a NEW THING.
The words of the prophets were fulfilled. Death was swallowed up in victory when on the third day “Jesus rose in accordance with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time—Then he appeared to James then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (Paul). (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)
The early church was born of people transformed by contact with a Risen-Living-Saviour who was loose, in the world. The followers were empowered with the extra energy of the Holy Spirit. “And the Lord added to their number day after day those who were being saved.”(Acts 2:47).
But in those days of the 16th century, Rome had become the Holy City and the spiritual skies were black with gloom. In the words of Martin Luther, Rome was, “A filthy stinking puddle, full of the wickedest wretches in the world.” The eternal city was a money machine where the church sold indulgences and relics. The blasphemy and relaxation of the priests and clergy were chief examples of loose living. They failed the purposes of God and the chastening hand of God came.
But in an amazing way God began to do a NEW THING.
A shaft of light! “The just shall live by faith”—pierced the darkness. A spiritual springtime came to Europe. The scriptures were opened through Martin Luther the son of a miner, A mighty flame lit the world.
But in those days the English 18th century church---the ecclesiastical establishment forgot the common people. Materialism ate deeply into national life smothering spiritual values. Instead of being in the pulpit Parsons went hunting on Sunday. The country was gripped by a moral paralysis. Historians claim that open revolt against religion and churches existed among both the rich and poor.
They failed the purposes of God and the judgement came. BUT, God began a NEW THING.
The “church-man,” John Wesley, instead of trusting the institution, personally trusted in Christ and he “felt his heart strangely warmed.” He was converted. He left a room in Aldersgate Street and flung himself onto the back of a horse and rode out to save England. Thousands upon thousands claimed Jesus as Lord and England was saved from social disaster.
Now reflect with me.
What do we have in this seeming cycle through the corridors of history and time? Is it merely a matter of ongoing history or of a repeated self-regeneration?
No, I suggest that it is much more profound than that. The biblical historiography of Israel is different from other nations. Other nations never seek to remember, catalogue or record details of there failures. In the biblical record then we have a pattern,--- a dynamic, re-occurring principle and cycle of God’s judgment that always leads to renewal, --the birth of a new thing. It is a repeated principle that occurred time and time again. Every time we fail to respect creational purposes of God. Every time God’s witness is frustrated, abused or smothered. Every time the church is shackled by tradition, apostasy, apathy, material idolatry or coldness of heart, God has done a NEW THING and today is no different.
While Christians believe God reveals himself through history we must not be a slave to the past because God often moves in unexpected, mysterious ways. ‘God moves in his mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.’ In Isaiah 43 before he calls us to recognise the ‘NEW THING’ He says, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.” v18. Do not be stuck on the ‘good old days’ or pin your assurance on the way God has worked in the past. Don’t count on things always being the same when God is about to do a NEW THING.
The writer of Hebrews understood this. He knew the human spirit quickly forgets, distorts or entraps the Good-news entrusted to the church and to us. It is because we have actually become partners, joined to the Living Christ that the writer alerts us by saying , “Take care brothers/sisters.”!!! We are all prone to the deceitfulness of sin, to being seduced by the spirit of the world, so the calls on us to “stir each other up.”---To hold our first confidence,—to live in the full benefit and flow of the Good-news because God has always had a long-term plan.
Instead of finding our security by tightly hanging onto the past, of being disillusioned by distorted, unreal expectations of the present, ---instead of being overcome by the noise and pessimism of the world stage, be assured there never has been a time when God has been diverted from unpacking His final plan. Be assured that God the Creator, the Sustainer, the Alpha and Omega still speaks to His people, “Behold I am about to do a new thing, now it springs forth,--- do you not perceive it?
Rev E. A. (Ted) Curnow email@example.com