I am studying Isaiah at the moment and reading Isaiah 43:18-19 this morning; the following verses caught my eye and held my attention, particularly the phrase “forget the former things.”
‘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?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
It immediately felt like an instruction to my heart, mainly as I am in a season of change. I realise that I am one of those people who don’t like change; I would like to stay in the same place, with the same people, doing what I have always done. Change freaks me out! As I meditated on Isaiah and why this phrase was speaking to my heart, I realised the following:
As I am standing, waiting for instructions from the Lord (See previous blog post STAND), it is easy to become bored with the wait. Slowly the mind becomes occupied with what has happened before. The old roads you used to travel, the old people you used to hang out with, the old things you used to do. Without realising it, it is almost natural to migrate back to the old things… To turn your head and focus on how things used to be.
I think the Israelites felt like this in the desert while they waited for God to lead them to the Promise land (Numbers 11:4-10). While they were waiting and God was testing their hearts, God had given them manna to eat, which was sufficient to meet their needs while they were in the “waiting” land. The people, however, started to “think on former things”, to “dwell on the past.”
“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelite’s started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’ The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand-mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down. Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. “
When we allow our minds to dwell on how things were before, how our lives were “so good” back then, we lose perspective. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, yet here they were, longing for what they had before. It is easy to lose sight of all the good God has planned for us, our promised land, when we dwell on what we had before. The Israelites had it so bad in Numbers 14:3, that they longed to go back to Egypt!
“Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’”
Can you imagine wanting to go back?
And yet, I understand that the Israelites were distracted by the past; it is hard to wait for a future to unfold before you.
But, I have to ask myself, if God asks me to leave everything I have now, and move into a new land, with new people, new things etc. would I move on? If He ensured me that this new “Land” would be good for me, would I dawdle and look back to what I had before?
Standing and waiting for the Lord means I need to watch where my mind wanders AND ensure that my future is what I am looking at, not the past. The Lord says: “See, I am doing a new thing!” If I allow my mind to focus on the past, then I will be looking the wrong way when God reveals the new thing. If I am not looking forward, I will not perceive it with the help of the Spirit.
It means I need to trust Him: that the future He has planned for me is better than what I have now, even if I do not like change.
I cannot look back; I can only look forward.
The passage goes on to say that God is: “making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” God is putting resources, sustenance and provision into the “Land” that I am moving into. We cannot begin to imagine the good plans that God has prepared for us in the future, but we will see it if we would only believe and trust His heart. (Psalm 27:13)
Change is a reality for all of us.
I don’t want to be caught looking back at my old life (and have nothing but salt to show for it). I want the new life God has planned for me.
I resolve to look forward with expectation because I know the Lord I have entrusted my life to.
- If God asked you to “walk away” from wherever you are right now, for your own good, would you?
- What would be the hardest thing, person, place for you to walk away from to embrace a new future?
- How do you look back in your thought processes on a day to day basis?
Lord, I look forward to the new thing that you have planned for my life. Remind me that any future You have designed for me is far better than everything I leave behind. Help me to embrace change with an expectation that I will yet praise You for the goodness You will demonstrate in my life. Help me to guard my thoughts and attitudes about the future. While I wait for clarity on what is next in this waiting season, help me not to long for what I had before. I declare that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the new land of my life.