“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?” Isaiah 43:18-19
There is nothing worse than being in a rut, stuck in a pattern of life that keeps taking you places you don’t want to go. It may be a negative attitude, a destructive habit pattern, a toxic relationship, a dead end job, you name it. Bottom line, you know what a rut is? It is a grave with the ends kicked out. Or at least that is how it can feel.
The promise of a “new thing” quoted above is one of the greatest rutbuster verses in the Bible. Originally it was spoken by God to a sinful and rut-bound Israel promising their deliverance through the coming of the Messiah. But it continues to shine forth as a beacon of hope to all those whose lives are rut bound. And the promised deliverer is still that self-same Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The challenge is that those to whom God seeks to reveal His “new thing” often fail to recognize it. Sadly it is no different today than when God first sent His son Jesus to earth. We read of Jesus that “He came to His own, but His own people did not receive Him.” (John 1:11) Is that perplexing and frustrating or what? There was God, His new thing springing up right under their noses and yet they failed to recognize it. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe, just maybe, it is happening to you right now.
Isaiah 43:18-19 tells us there are two things a person must do to break free from an old rut and fully enter into something new. First we must relinquish our past. “Forget the former things,” Isaiah tells us. “Do not dwell on the past.” The key to forgetting the past is forgiving – forgiving oneself and also forgiving others. The past continually comes back to haunt us in two ways: with regrets for things we did or did not do; and with bitterness toward others for things they did or did not do. Being free not to “dwell on the past” can only be resolved by choosing to repeatedly forgive and then refuse to replay our own regrets and the offenses of others.
God is saying here. “Forget the past! It is time to leave that rut and move on!”
This Old Testament new thing promise heralds its New Testament fulfillment. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV) When a person finds newness of life through faith in Christ Jesus the past is history! So forget it! God has.
And that leads us to the second thing we must do to break out of our old ruts and enter something new. Did you notice what that verse said? “BEHOLD (or Look), the new has come!” That’s it. We must look for the new that God is doing!
Why do both the Isaiah passage and the Corinthian passage exhort us to look for something new? In fact Isaiah says it twice: “SEE, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; DO YOU NOT PERCEIVE IT?” The reason is that the new things that God does in our lives often go unnoticed. With our many preoccupations and preconceptions it is easy to miss them. We have to be intentional about looking for the new to perceive the new. Let me say it again. We have to make a point of actually looking for the new things God is doing to perceive them. You say, how can that be?
Well, most of the people who followed Jesus had exactly the same problem. In fact He told His disciples “Though seeing, they do not see, though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’” (Matthew 13:13-14 NIV)
If you are in a rut, what then? Simply follow Isaiah’s advice. First, forgive and forget – “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Then, sincerely ask God to help you see and recognize the new things He is bringing into your life as alternatives to your rut. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
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