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One of my favorite parts of scripture is Isaiah 43:16-19.

"Thus says the Lord, / who makes a way in the sea, / a path in the mighty waters,

who brings out chariot and horse, / army and warrior;

they lie down, they cannot rise, / they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

Do not remember the former things, / or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing; / now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness / and rivers in the desert."

I think it's kinda funny. It proves God has a sense of humor. God's extended name is "The Lord who . . .," who has done all these great things in the past. The references here are all from the exodus story when God parted the waters (you thought Moses parted the waters, right? but it was God who did the parting), when God made a way for the Hebrews to cross the sea on dry land, when God extinguished the Egyptian calvary and army like a wick (horse and rider thrown into the sea). God's extended name is "the Lord who" did all that. Remember?

The funny part is the next line. After planting all those vivid liberation images from the much beloved origin story of the Hebrew people, how could they not be thinking of those events? Surely, they've put on memorial plays with costumes and sets to help remember. They definitely are thinking about all those things, and then God says, "DO NOT REMEMBER the former things." How do you NOT think of a white horse when someone has just asked you to not think of a white horse?

"I am about to do a new thing," says the Lord. The thing God did before was make a path through the Red Sea: water to the right and water to the left and dry dirt in the middle. Now God is setting the exiles free from Babylon. The most direct path from Babylon to Jerusalem is through the desert. God is going to make a way through that barrier, too. God is going to make rivers in the desert. Dry dirt to the right and dry dirt to the left and water in the middle. God is not just doing a new thing; God is doing the opposite thing. I imagine the Hebrews taking canoes home or maybe flat rafts with punting poles.

Here's the thing: God is always doing a new thing. When there was nothing, God created something. When God had created the first man, God then made a garden for the man. When God saw that man needed a helper, God created animals--so many new animals! God called Abraham to go to a new place. God made a new nation. God kept solving the problem of human fallenness over and over again in new ways. God became incarnate and died for us. God sent God's Spirit upon the new community. God drove them out of Jerusalem into all the world. God appeared to Paul and called him to preach to new people. God promises in the end to make all things new. The New Jerusalem will come down. Beyond our comprehensions, we'll enjoy God's newness for all eternity. That's a pretty awe-inspiring aspect of God.

What's that mean for us? First, we are called by that question in the middle of this Isaiah passage to pay attention to what God is doing. "I am about to do a new thing; /now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" We should look with faith-eyes to see what new thing God is doing; we should choose to expect that there is something new to be seen. The Westminster Catechism, part of our Book of Confessions, asks "what is the chief end of man [sic]?" The answer is "to glorify God and enjoy Him [sic] forever." There's not a lot of effort there. In order to enjoy God's consistently new things, we just have to open our eyes and perceive them. In order to glorify God, we have to first perceive the new things God is doing and then tell other people how awesome that it.

Next, since we were made in the image of God, we can claim our own creative ability to do new things. Certainly, artists exercise their creative talents, but also engineers and tinkerers, poets and authors, songwriters and composers, all of these create things that were not. But also, accountants, lawyers, doctors, teachers, secretaries, sanitation workers, janitors, gardeners, whatever vocation you're called to, you can create things and information and processes as a part of that calling.

Finally, because we are creatures in service of our creator, we can be looking not only for the new things God is doing, and not only for new things we can do for ourselves, but also, we can be looking for new things God can do through us. God calls us to do God's will in the world. The Holy Spirit works through the church to accomplish God's will and show the world God's love. When the passage from Isaiah says, "I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" Take that not only as a call to be alert to see what God is doing so that you can appreciate it, take it as a call to be alert to see what God is doing so you can participate in it.

Happy New year, and blessings on the work of our hands as we participate in God's new plans,



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