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MARCH 21, 2010

ISAIAH 43:16-21

Focus: Our reflections on God’s powerful deliverance in the past should set our hearts afire for
the final deliverance to come in Christ Jesus.

Introductory Comments

Lent is a time of remembering and reflecting in penitence, confessing our sins, reminding
ourselves of the great deeds of God in history, and of his promises to those whom he has called,
the elect, the church, you.

So this text is appropriate for Lent. It has a two-fold purpose. The first is to be a reminder of
what God is capable of. The second purpose is to reveal to us that his end purpose will totally
make everything He has accomplished in the past pale in comparison with what he will
accomplish in the future. For the elect, the church, the new thing will totally blow you away.


First, some context. Starting with chapter 40, the tone of Isaiah changes profoundly from a tone
of confrontation with a people and nation who have gone badly astray and who find themselves
in captivity in Babylon, having been forced there after the Babylonian destruction levied on
Jerusalem in 587 BC, to one of assurance and hope and restoration. In chapter 42, God
announces that he will be sending his Chosen Servant to “bring forth justice to the nations”
[42:1]. The Lord will deliver the people from their plight and restore them in ways that will be
profound, surprising, and even, to our eyes, unfathomable.

The first two verses declare the rescuing hand of God based on what God accomplished for his
people in the past, giving those who were in captivity a glowing reminder of what God did with
the people he has chosen:

Verses 16-17

[16] Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, [17]
who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

This is, of course, a direct allusion to the saving work of God in delivering his people from
slavery in Egypt into victory when he caused the Red Sea to part, demonstrating clearly the glory
of his might and power. God is saying to his people – Remember what I am capable of. I saved
you from your enemies before. Spoken to Jews in exile in Babylon, these words would have
been the source of tremendous hope in the face of the confusion and dismay they felt as a result
of their forcible relocation to a foreign land under the authority of a foreign king, without temple
or home.

Copyright © 2010 by Christopher Donald Drew
And this is a powerful word to those who are here today listening to this message. For those
whom God has called in baptism, temporal setbacks aren’t the final word. If you are here and
experiencing dislocation, physical disease, frailty, illness, pain, sorrows, remember the power of
the God who saves. Remember his unmerited grace which saved you from a fate worse than
death, remember that he is present with his people even during these times, as he was with his
people Israel, captive in the precincts of Babylon.

God is reminding the people – “I am still the God who saves. I still defeat my enemies and the
enemies of my people.”

He is the God who protects those who are obedient to his will and who follow him by faith into
the promised land, just as he provided the means of Israel’s escape when the Egyptians tried to
overtake them. God led them through the waters. God lead them into the desert and provided
for their needs. God led them into the Promised Land. It is by faith that Moses led them through
the parted seas into safety. We recall, by faith, these marvelous deeds because they tell of God’s
power and might.

Verse 18

Then we get to verse 18, which is a curious thing. After making a point of reminding the people
of how God had rescued them from sure destruction, he then says this through his prophet:

18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

What an odd thing to say to a people with whom God just made the point of bringing up the
things of old.

I think what God is saying here is this: If you thought that manifestation of my power was
something, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. He is saying, The things of the past, the manifestation of
my delivering power, while stunning, are nothing compared with the things I’m about to reveal
to you. He is a reorienting God. After he rescues us, he prepares us for a new reality by shifting
—reorienting—our perspective, replacing a lame nostalgia for the past with a glorious hope for a
certain, and radically renewed, future in Him.

And as we approach the darkness of Good Friday, we look expectantly ahead to the glory of the
following Sunday, the resurrection.

As I read this, I thought, “Do I view God’s promises in an expectant, reoriented way? Am I
excited about what is coming? Because I should be. Nothing that we perceive as normal now
will persist when God does his new thing. Instead, everything will be renewed in profound,
God-glorifying ways. And that’s the third thing we learn from this text. The God we praise is a
go who renews everything for his glory.

Verses 19-21

Copyright © 2010 by Christopher Donald Drew
[19] Behold, I am doing 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. [20] The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to
give drink to my chosen people, [21] the people whom I formed for myself that they
might declare my praise.

God is doing a new thing. Always pay close attention to the tenses of verbs in the Bible! The
tense here is present tense. It began with what God did to restore his people to the holy city of
Jerusalem, with the reinstitution of the law by Ezra and the rebuilding of the city walls by
Nehemiah. It is happening even now in the proclamation of His glorious Word, when by His
Holy Spirit he takes what is dead, sinful humanity, sinful and rebellious people and liberates
them the slavery of sin and death into new, eternal, life.

It is because of what God has done in the past that we ought to be expectant and hopeful and
exhilarated by the thought of what he is absolutely going to finish in us and in the universe. It
will be so profound, amazing, so God-magnifying and God-glorifying that even the animals will
honor and worship him.

And he will not, as he renews all of the creation, allow us to become parched. He will give drink
to his chosen people as they journey into this unfolding, fantastic, glorious present and future.
You will be given spiritual nourishment, the very Body of Christ, living bread and living water
which both give and sustain eternal life in this reborn, renewed, perfect creation that is coming.

He accomplishes this for the people whom he formed for himself, for the purpose of having
those people magnify and praise him and declare that praise to the universe. Indeed, our
salvation is linked to His glory and he is passionate about his own glory. Here are some
examples demonstrating God’s passion for His own glory:

Ephesians 1:4-6

[4] [E]ven as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be
holy and blameless before him. In love [5] he predestined us for adoption as sons through
Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace,
with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

1 Peter 2:9

[9] But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own
possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness
into his marvelous light.

God liberated the people from captivity in Babylon, delivers us from sin and death in Christ, and
will liberate us from the corruption of the present world by giving us new, spiritual bodies, all for
the sake and magnificent display of his glory.


Copyright © 2010 by Christopher Donald Drew
What does this text teach us?

The salvation and renewal given by God now and in the future certainly points to the saving
work of the Chosen Servant in Isaiah, who has been revealed to us as Jesus Christ, God’s only

In Christ, a new thing is happening.

Just as the Israelites were rescued from their captivity to return to Jerusalem, a new thing
happens when you are rescued from sin, are baptized, and your old, sinful self is put to death and
you put on Christ, a new, eternal, spirit-regenerated life characterized by compassionate hearts,
kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

A new thing happens when you are at worship, and your receive the gift of sanctification from
the Holy Sprit, sustained by the living bread and living water of his Word and his Sacraments,
and your perceptive is reoriented from one bounded by space and time to one that is geared for
eternal life in the kingdom of God.

But that is not all.

The text today points us also to am amazing renewal of life throughout the whole of creation, a
renewal so astounding that we cannot really fathom in our present condition, other than to
conclude, from the scriptures, that it will be so joyous for us that our eternal occupation of
glorifying God and enjoying him forever will be totally satisfying and joy-filled forever. Indeed,
the new thing started in Christ, who for us is the first fruits of the promised Easter resurrection,
will cause us to be so filled with joy that we will require a new spiritual body in order to have the
capacities to experience it. We will be so glorified that this new body will be necessary so that I
can see you and you can see me. Jesus said in Mathew 13:43: Then the righteous will shine like
the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Our present, meager, eyesight won’t be sufficient to see
our glory as those wrapped up in and reflecting the glories and excellencies of Christ.

The final message of this text then, is for us to be a people who are expectant, who are not
bogged down by the past, but released from it by Christ into an eternity of God’s joy and peace.

Revelation 21:5-6

[5] And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [6] And he said
to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the
thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

God’s message for you today is to come to Christ. To drink the living waters he gives to you
from the sprint of eternal life. Be rescued, reoriented, and renewed by Him and shout and praise
his glory. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Christopher Donald Drew