By Stuart Powell
A spirit of optimism permeates our culture at the beginning of every year. The idea of newness is everywhere. However, it seems the “newness” quickly fades. Our government is still in strife. Our boss still makes unreasonable demands. Most of our resolutions are quickly broken. The temptations and sins that plagued us last year haven’t vanished. The old stuff that caused us to long for last year to end looks amazingly similar to the new stuff in our New Year.
Israelites in Isaiah’s day faced similar struggles against the sinfulness of their age. They looked to God as the one who could cast off the weight of their dilemmas. The people looked back in longing at the wonderful ways God had protected their ancestors. They wondered why God wouldn’t rescue them in a similar way.
In answer to their complaints, God spoke this message to the people of Israel:
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 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.
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, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise (Isaiah 43:18-21, English Standard Version; emphasis added).
God explained through Isaiah that his actions in the past were reminders of new promises to come. God was ready to do new things.
We should ponder that same truth during Communion. We are gathered to remember an ugly day when the sinless Son of God was offered as a sacrifice for our sins. When we partake of the bread, we recall his body. When we drink from the cup, we remember the offering of his cleansing blood.
But we should also look forward to the new things God is prepared to do. We face enemies far worse than evil nations. There are greater riches to be shared than physical treasures. There are greater freedoms to be granted than release from human slavery. There is disease far worse than physical ailments.
God is preparing to do new things. He gives abundant life. He makes a way for us through the wilderness. Remember these promises as we partake of the emblems today.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.