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.
We are living in times that ask that we deepen our ability to become Faith-Walkers. In 2 Corinthians 5:6-7, Paul describes that we are to live and walk forward in the Spirit of truth conducting ourselves so that God’s purposes are revealed in our hearts, lives and journeys. Hope and honor are placed in the eternal Kingdom of God. We strive without the need for assurance. We are not governed by what we see. We walk by faith.
2 Corinthians 5:6-7 “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
For We Walk by Faith by Albert Barnes
For we walk –
To walk, in the Scriptures often denotes to live, to act, to conduct in a certain way; see the notes on Romans 4:12; Romans 6:4. It has reference to the fact that life is a journey, or a pilgrimage, and that the Christian is traveling to another country. The sense here is, that we conduct ourselves in our course of life with reference to the things which are unseen, and not with reference to the things which are seen.
By faith –
In the belief of those things which we do not see. We believe in the existence of objects which are invisible, and we are influenced by them. To walk by faith, is to live in the confident expectation of things that are to come; in the belief of the existence of unseen realities; and suffering them to influence us as if they were seen.
The people of this world are influenced by the things that are seen. They live for wealth, honor, splendor, praise, for the objects which this world can furnish, and as if there were nothing which is unseen, or as if they ought not to be influenced by the things which are unseen.
The Christian, on the contrary, has a firm conviction of the reality of the glories of heaven; of the fact that the Redeemer is there; of the fact that there is a crown of glory; and he lives, and acts as if that were all real, and as if he saw it all. The simple account of faith, and of living by faith is, that we live and act as if these things were true, and suffer them to make an impression on our mind according to their real nature; see the note on Mark 16:16.
It is contradistinguished from living simply under the influence of things that are seen. God is unseen – but the Christian lives, and thinks, and acts as if there were a God, and as if he saw him. Christ is unseen now by the bodily eye; but the Christian lives and acts as if he were seen, that is, as if his eye were known to be upon us, and as if he was now exalted to heaven and was the only Saviour. The Holy Spirit is unseen; but he lives, and acts as if there were such a Spirit, and as if his influences were needful to renew, and purify the soul. Heaven is unseen; but the Christian lives, and thinks, and acts as if there were a heaven, and as if he now saw its glories. He has confidence in these, and in kindred truths, and he acts as if they were real. Could man see all these; were they visible to the naked eye as they are to the eye of faith, no one would doubt the propriety of living and acting with reference to them.
But if they exist, there is no more impropriety in acting with reference to them than if they were seen. Our seeing or not seeing them does not alter their nature or importance, and the fact that they are not seen does not make it improper to act with reference to them. There are many ways of being convinced of the existence and reality of objects besides seeing them; and it may be as rational to be influenced by the reason, the judgment, or by strong confidence, as it is to be influenced by sight.
Besides, all people are influenced by things which they have not seen. They hope for objects that are future. They aspire to happiness which they have not yet beheld. They strive for honor and wealth which are unseen, and which is in the distant future. They live, and act – influenced by strong faith and hope – as if these things were attainable; and they deny themselves, and labor, and cross oceans and deserts, and breathe in pestilential air to obtain those things which they have not seen, and which to them are in the distant future.
And why should not the Christian endure like labor, and be willing to suffer in like manner, to gain the unseen crown which is incorruptible, and to acquire the unseen wealth which the moth does not corrupt? And further still, the people of this world strive for those objects which they have not beheld, without any promise or any assurance that they shall obtain them. No being able to grant them has promised them; no one has assured them that their lives shall be lengthened out to obtain them. In a moment they may be cut off and all their plans frustrated; or they may be utterly disappointed and all their plans fail; or if they gain the object, it may be unsatisfactory, and may furnish no pleasure such as they had anticipated. But not so the Christian. He has:
(1) The promise of life.
(2) he has the assurance that sudden death cannot deprive him of it. It at once removes him to the object of pursuit, not from it.
(3) he has the assurance that when obtained, it shall not disgust, or satiate, or decay, but that it shall meet all the expectations of the soul, and shall be eternal.
Not by sight – This may mean either that we are not influenced by a sight of these future glories, or that we are not influenced by the things which we see. The main idea is, that we are not influenced and governed by the sight. We are not governed and controlled by the things which we see, and we do not see those things which actually influence and control us. In both it is faith that controls us, and not sight.
Throughout time God will guide us with His counsel, if we let Him, if we look to Him, and if we trust Him to do so. In Psalm 23. The Lord is the Counselor, The One who is the Wonderful Counselor is also the Good Shepherd. The One who wants to counsel us, look what He is and is able to do, as He counsels.
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
I’m glad the church of Jesus Christ has shown such great interest in giving attention to this psalm at the death and passing and funerals. Praise God, that’s a great time for it. But it was designed especially for the living. I mean it’s great at that time. I’ve taught out of that at moments like that too, and been comforted at moments like that. But this is a psalm for everyday living. We’re the sheep, He’s the shepherd. That day is now. The One who is our Wonderful Counselor, He’s also our shepherd, our guarder, our provider, our caretaker, our helper, our protector.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
And because the Lord is our shepherd we shall not want. We’ll have everything we need if we walk under His shepherding care. So many people out seeking counsel and do you know what they really need to be reconsidering? Who is their shepherd? Therefore where and how are they going to get everything they need? It’s right here in Psalm 23. Our Wonderful Counselor is also our shepherd, therefore we shall not want. We shall have what we need.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.”
He who is our Wonderful Counselor, if we let Him counsel us as He counsels, then He will shepherd, provide, and care for us. He’ll make us lie down in green pastures. A lot of people seeking counsel, you know what they really need?—just to lie down for a while, spiritually speaking, in green pastures. Just slow down, lie down, and let the Lord feed you for a while. A lot of people seeking counsel, they’re just in a frantic frenzy, undernourished, weak and on the edge of a panic. Now the Lord understands and He cares. And many of them can have the deepest of their needs met just slowing down, lying down as it were, just resting a while with the Lord in green pastures. I mean, spiritually speaking, here are the green pastures.
There are a lot of weed fields out there. Not wheat fields, weed fields. You know, with a lot of humanistic thinking, you know. Not fields of grain but just fields of weeds. You know, wild things, non-productive things. Not nurturing, just growing but not helping. The Lord loves us to lie down in green pastures. Just rest a while and get fed.
“He leads me beside the still waters.”
Our wonderful counselor who is also our shepherd, He leads us beside the still waters. A lot of people seeking counsel, they just need some quiet times of refreshment. They need quiet times of refreshment with the Lord or with another brother or sister, depending on the situation. Brother getting with brother, sister with sister, being refreshed with the still waters, the peaceful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; abiding in Christ, walking in the Spirit. Considering again what the Christian life is all about.
“He restores my soul.”
Verse three says, “He restores my soul.” Is it God’s restoration projects or man’s recovery programs? Oh, they’re popular these days. You know, restore my soul. Recover me. Put me back into what I should be. Hey, how about the Good Shepherd? He restores my soul. He can put our soul, our inner life back into the state it ought to be in. No one can do it like He can do it.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
And He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. How many people seeking counsel—are just driven with a passion or a panic, they’ve got to find the right path to take in life. Decisions. Choices. Options. I mean, here it is in the Bible. He leads me in the paths of righteousness, the right paths are the righteous paths. And not just for a feel-good experience for me or a, “Whew, that takes care of that decision!” It is much bigger than that, it is for His name’s sake. He’ll put us on the right paths and it will end up honoring His name. Boy, how’s that for counsel? We’re not talking about a quick fix here. We’re talking about a life path that the Shepherd is leading us on. This is the same One who is our wonderful counselor. How about just hanging out with
Him? You say, “Yeah, but I need help in that.” He knows that, that’s why we are to counsel one another, as we’ll see later down the road. He uses instruments of sheep ministering to sheep. But sheep only have to give what the Shepherd gives them. How can a sheep help another sheep? Here comes a wolf! Hey, no problem, I’ll take care of you. Bahh! Why am I not comforted? But the Good Shepherd, oh hey that’s another matter!
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Verse four says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Many people are in the deep valley of darkness, the shadow of death. It’s like death is casting a shadow over them. Many people live daily in what you could call the valley of the shadow of death. Just in a deep place of darkness, confusion, fear, apprehension. Here’s the great thing—“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”—and we all get our treks through there. I know that from the Word of God. I know that from watching Jesus in the Scriptures. I know that from watching great men of God like Moses and Paul and others. And I can bear witness by my own testimony. We all get our treks through the valley of the shadow of death. Where everything just looks like it’s dark and dying and impossible, with no way through. And fear threatens from every side. I’ve been there and I may be there again. But praise God, the more we walk with our Shepherd, we can say this—“Yea, though I walk through that valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I’m not going to dread all the evil that lies around me.
“I will fear no evil.”
Why? “For You are with me.” This is not whistling by the graveyard. This is not the “unpower” of positive thinking. This is faith based on fact. I will fear no evil. Why?—because “You are with me.” Because the Lord’s there! Not because we’re somebody. Not just because we just refuse to be afraid. All those things will run out sooner or later. Someone big enough, with a big enough “Boo” will just bring that to the end. No, I need more than that. I’ll fear no evil right in the valley of the shadow of death, when all looks like darkness and dying.
“For You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.”
Why?—“For You are with me.” And He is with us, as a Shepherd. “Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” The rod is to beat off the enemy, the wolf. The staff with the crook is to pull us out of the pits, out of the mess.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Verse five says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Yes, in this world we have a vicious enemy. Whipped at the cross and by the resurrection, but he won’t stop fighting until he’s thrown in the pit. But right in the presence of our enemies the enemy and all those who are cooperating with him, wittingly or unwittingly, the Lord prepares a table before us right there. All the way from food to eat to spiritual nourishment when all around is the enemy.
“You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.”
“You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.” Of course, this is the picture of a shepherd anointing the injured or needy sheep. But it is done in such a way that there’s just overflowing blessings. Apply this to New Testament believers who could walk in the fullness of the Spirit. The Lord anoints us, the Spirit upon us, until the cup of our life just overflows.
A lot of Christians that are seeking counsel, really need nothing other than just letting the Wonderful Counselor, who is also their Shepherd, just anoint their head with oil. That is, pour out the Spirit upon them until the cup of their life just overflows with His presence and His work. Boy, I’ll tell you, when the Lord is doing that, you can have a hundred counseling problems being dealt with simultaneously by one work of God, by the filling of the Holy Spirit.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all of days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
And look at the assurance we can walk in as we walk with our Shepherd. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” What a great assurance that all the way through this life, we have this assurance, that God’s goodness and God’s mercy will be right there with us. In His goodness to supply what’s needed, it is with a loving intention. And His mercy—to be sure we don’t get what we deserve! What a Shepherd.
And He’ll do it all the days of our lives. Yes, even today! He’ll also do it all those other dreaded days. Yesterday He was doing it, whether we saw it or not. And tomorrow He’ll do it. And then when that’s all done we’ll just live in God’s house forever. That’s the path of walking with the Good Shepherd. Who also is our Wonderful Counselor. If the sheep of God’s pasture would just, as it were, cuddle up close to their Wonderful Counselor and find out He is their Good Shepherd and walk with Him day by day, I think we would be blown away at what a Wonderful Counselor He truly is.