The prompting to renew at this time of year is a heart-full calling. Isaiah wrote with wisdom and insight about how to move ahead without the mire of the past burdening the present. He implores an unencumbered heart and mind to join The Spirit’s step to glorious freedom, the one chosen by God.
This is a pearl of wisdom for us each every day, every year.
Study Guide for Isaiah 43:18-21 by David Guzik
“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field will honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen. This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.” Isaiah 43:18-21
a. Do not remember the former things: As Isaiah writes prophetically to Israel, they were mired in the desperate circumstances of captivity and exile. God wants to put their eyes on the new work He will do, so it begins with a reminder to not remember the former things. If they are stuck in the failure and sin and discouragement of the past, they will never go forward to the new thing God has for them.
i. –It is a fascinating – and instructive – switch between Isaiah 43:16-17 and Isaiah 43:18. In Isaiah 43:16-17, Israel is told to look to the past by remembering the great things God did for them at the Red Sea. But in Isaiah 43:18, they are told, Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.
This shows us that there is a sense in which we must remember the past, in terms of God’s great work on our behalf. There is also a sense in which we must forsake and forget the past, with all its discouragement and defeat, and move on to what God has for us in the future.
b. Behold, I will do a new thing: Staying stuck in the past can keep us from the new thing God wants to do. If Israel stayed stuck in the discouragement and seduction of Babylon, they would never look for the new thing of release from exile.
i. —We can make an idol out of the “new.” We can error as the people of Athens did who spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing (Acts 17:21). We can be tossed about by every wind of doctrine. But we can also error on the other side of the balance, and work against the new thing God wants to do.
ii.– Shall you not know it? God asks the same question today. “Will you stay in step with My Spirit? When He leads into something new, shall you not know it?”
c. I will even make a road in the wilderness: Between the captivity in Babylon and the return to Israel lay hundreds of miles of wilderness. God’s people didn’t need to be afraid, because God would make a road in the wilderness, provide rivers in the desert, and even protect His people from animals, because the beast of the field will honor Me, the LORD says.
i. –Often, when God makes a promise, we worry about the details or the obstacles for the fulfillment of the promise. God replies to us, “Don’t worry about it at all. I will even make a road in the wilderness. I have resources and plans you don’t know about. Leave those problems to Me.”
d. They shall declare My praise: This is part of fulfilling the purpose God created us for, as mentioned in Isaiah 43:7 (Whom I created for My glory). When we declare our praise for God, we are giving Him glory, and fulfilling one of the purposes we were created for.