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A Road Through the Desert: Part 2

“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 desert and streams in the wasteland.” —Isaiah 43:18-19

Last week we talked about the idea that when God says to forget the former things and not dwell on the past, what He is saying to us is that we must live in the present, not the past. But in seeming contrast to that instruction, He had also just recalled for the Israelites the history of His intervention with them during their exodus from Egypt:

“I am the Lord, your Holy One…He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and the reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again…” (Isaiah 43:15-17)

In telling His people to “forget the former things,” it seems like God is saying in essence that "all these amazing things I have done in the past are as nothing compared to what I am about to do now!"

In other words, God is using the history of the past in a way that helps His people live in the present with hopeful expectancy for the future.

“See, I am doing a new thing…”

The phrase "I am doing" means "to do or to make in the broadest sense and widest application." In other words, it's going to be big!  The word for "a new thing " means "fresh." It's not going to be old manna. It's not going to be God's leftovers. He is saying, "I'm about to do something FRESH in your life!" Our God may have done some pretty amazing things before, but He’s not done yet; and we can’t use past experience to put Him in a box of our own choosing.

Then there's the phrase, "Now it springs up!" The Hebrew word used here means to bud or to sprout; something living that's about to bear fruit. Matthew Henry describes it like a “surprise from God”! This is the kind of encouragement we need to hear when the reality of our circumstances seems like a desert. 

“Do you not perceive it?”

God then asks us a very penetrating question. How do we build our faith by looking back at what God has done in our lives in the correct a way that helps us to truly perceive what He is doing, and look forward with expectancy to His fresh manna? 

Watch for God at work…

One of the ways we can help tune our perception to the “new things” God may be doing in our lives is to recount His promises. Read them, listen to them, write them out (the Dwell app is a great tool for listening to Scripture). Recount them to your own heart, and recount them to one another…especially when you find yourself in a desert place.

Recording our history with God is another way we can look back at what God has done in our lives in a way that builds faith. I'm a big advocate of journaling, because God has used that tool many times in my life to remind me of how He has met my needs and spoken to me in ways that I had completely forgotten about!  As Henry Blackaby says, “When the God of the universe tells you something, you should write it down.”

But not everyone is a writer, and there are no hard and fast rules about journaling; so rather than feeling guilty about it, experiment instead with different methods until you find what fits you best. Here are some ideas:

Keep a “blessing book” that lists answers to prayer…

Write a few sentences in a gratitude journal each night before bed…

Use an app on your phone to record “God-moments” (like this one )

Try photo journaling or song writing...

Jot notes and dates in the margins of your Bible...

Create a piece of art...

Whatever works for you! The important thing is finding a way to record your history with God. Then when you are in a desert place, take some time to review those benchmarks and allow them to encourage anticipation of what He is going to do in the future.

Hang on to truth…

Most importantly, when you are in the darkness and dryness of the spiritual desert, it is critically important that you hold on with all your might to these unchanging and inescapable truths:

God is good, and He loves you.

“At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him.... and we are put into the shadow of God's hand until we learn to hear Him. Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet...when you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light.”  --Oswald Chambers


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