A New Thing – Isaiah 43

I preached on Isaiah 43 at our New Year Communion Service five years ago. But this is such a wonderful passage that I have no reservations about visiting it again tonight! At the start of this new year I want us to think about this one word. “New”

“New” is an important word for us as Christians. We have new life through a new covenant. God gives us a new heart and puts a new spirit inside us. We have a new relationship with God our new Father. So we are called to live in newness of life and obey a new commandment, all in anticipation of the new creation God will make on Christ’s return of which we already have a foretaste.

When God makes something new, that isn’t just new in the sense of less old, a new car. It isn’t even just “new improved”, bigger and better. When God makes something new he transforms it. He doesn’t throw away the old but he does change it! So when He rescued His chosen people from slavery in Egypt He made that jumble of people into a NEW nation, with a covenant, new laws and a new land to call their own. And through Jesus, God replaced that Old Covenant with Israel with a New Covenant with all who put their faith in Jesus, a new heart and a new relationship. The Apostle Paul wrote, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV) The Living Bible translates this verse this way. When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same any more. A new life has begun! (Living Bible)

God gives us a new life and transforms us into new people. We may come to God through a new and living way!
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

We have already received a new life. But as Christians we also look forward to the great transformation of the universe which will take place when Christ returns.
Revelation 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

We serve a God who makes all things new. Continuity yet also transformation. This was the encouraging message to the Israelites in exile in Babylon in the time of Isaiah. The God who makes all things new and who keeps on doing new things.
Isaiah 43 16 This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,
17who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
19See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
20The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

God reminds Israel of the dramatic new thing He had done more than a thousand years before to create his chosen nation: parting the Red Sea so His people could escape. When God does a new thing it is always exciting but also challenging and even scary! Bringing Abraham’s descendants out of slavery but into the desert. And through Isaiah God promises to do a new thing in the lives of the Exiles – to take them back from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem. That will be scary!

When God does a new thing, he transforms the old to create the new. And those changes can be painful and even frightening. The message of John the Baptist was too radical for the Pharisees and the Saducees. Jesus’s life and ministry was too much of a threat to the Jewish and the Roman establishments – so they crucified Him. When God does a new thing people may have to lose many of the things they treasure, things which give them security and make them feel safe. When God does “a new thing” sometimes the old things have to go – and that can be terrifying.

When God is doing “a new thing” our only security lies in God Himself and in His unchangeable character. But here in Isaiah 43 God gives the Exiles who were facing hard times all the encouragement they need to put their trust in Him. The chapter reminds us of so many aspects of God’s character.
God’s power as Creator
1 But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
6 Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— 7everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
In the beginning God created everything! He can be trusted here and now in the process of re-creation.

God’s power as Saviour and Redeemer
1 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
3For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Whatever happens to us – God is with us in Saving Power. God has saved his people before – He can save them again now! Because God’s saving power is unstoppable!
11 I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.
13Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”

Indeed the God who parted the Red Sea and obliterated all the armies of the Egyptians can save His people even today. God can accomplish whatever he chooses!

God’s unfailing love
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,

God has set his love on His chosen people and his love will never let them go!
43 But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name,

10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.
20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
God loves us with a love which will never let us go. God’s unfailing love for His chosen people will reassure them when He does his next new thing, and so also will

God’s unfailing presence
1 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;

Here is God’s message to his chosen people in every place in every age – do not be afraid, because I am with you! We thought about this in Jesus’s words, “I am with you always.” The creative power of God and the saving power of God, the unfailing love of God and the unfailing presence of God! When God is doing something new, we do not need to be afraid.

Isaiah 43 definitely qualifies as my favourite Bible passage. Back in 1976 I was studying science and I was leading the College Christian Union, which was a small part of the University Christian Union. The first half of the chapter spoke to me very personally when I was discouraged and even overwhelmed by the challenges ahead.
1 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,

Then as now I was encouraged by the promise of a New Thing.
18“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
19See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

God is already doing new things here at North Springfield Baptist Church. Think of how many new folk have joined the church in the last five years. But I believe God wants to do new things which will not just be bigger and better, but things which are qualitatively new and different. I still don’t know what shape those new things will take – but it will be exciting to find out! Perhaps it will be in our worship. Perhaps it will be in the depth of our fellowship. Perhaps it will be with some folk exercising new gifts or engaging in new ministries or taking up new responsibilities. Perhaps it will be in the impact of our witness. How wonderful it would be if some of those who already worship regularly with us on Sunday mornings chose to be baptised or to join with us in church membership in 2018.

10“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God. 13Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”

God has called us to be His witnesses. If we are faithful in our witness, God will take care of the outcome! I am sure you noticed the wonderful number of guests who came to our Christingle service and to Carols and Cake. And the new families who have begun to worship regularly with us over the last couple of months. We haven’t chased after them. God has just brought them to us! Perhaps they are the beginning of the new thing God is going to do among us. But are we prepared for God to do whatever He wants among us? To do His new thing? Are we prepared for the hard work and the prayer and the change and the disruption? Are we prepared to pay the price in time and money and commitment? Do we really WANT God to do a new thing in North Springfield Baptist Church?

18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

Here’s an old hymn which is a lovely prayer as we start this new year.

Another year is dawning, Dear Father let it be,
In working or in waiting, Another year with thee.
Another year of progress, Another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies, Of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness, The glory of thy face.
Another year of leaning Upon thy loving breast,
Another year of trusting, Of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service, Of witness for thy love,
Another year of training For holier work above.
Another year is dawning, Dear Father, let it be,
On earth, or else in heaven, Another year for thee.
Frances R. Havergal

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