Isaiah 43:18 – Forget the former things … (NIV)
Isaiah 46:9 – Remember the former things … (NIV)
I enjoy challenges posed by seemingly contrary bits of Scripture like the ones above. They make me scratch my head. These Isaiah texts get me thinking about our own "former things" — items from past eras — like that 80s dress or that ornate mirror. How shall we view them? Old-fashioned or vintage? Useless or useful? Outdated clutter or treasures for future blessing? How we view our "former things" determines how we treat them: We'll ditch them, or we'll keep them. We'll forget about them, or we'll cherish them.
Such decisions require thought — and possibly some advice. That's so we won't mistakenly trash treasures and hoard junk or remember what should be forgotten and forget what should be remembered.
Isaiah could see that his people were trashing vintage treasure while hoarding useless junk. They were forgetting God and clinging to dead idols. God had become merely old-fashioned, so they saw no need to remember the vintage truths of God — like His promises, deeds, blessings, and judgments. The people preferred their religious icons which could do nothing that God could do. The time had come for serious reflection. So, through Isaiah, God called for a national review:
Isaiah 43:26a – Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together. (NIV)
Surely that invitation still applies. We, too, must evaluate our "former things". We, too, must choose what to forget and what to remember from our spiritual heritage. Former blessings may have become useless idols, if they now hold us in a nostalgic past while the living God becomes "old-fashioned".
Ancient Israel needed to leave behind former things like their humiliating history of idolatry and demise. God wasn't holding them there: "I am he who … remembers your sins no more" (Isaiah 43:25 NIV). He said, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past." (Isaiah 43:18 NIV)
However, they were to remember something else — the very "former things" that we ourselves must never forget:
Isaiah 46:9 – Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. (NIV)
In other words, cherish the living God in your hearts and lives! That same God who rose above the dead gods of ancient Babylon now rises above the dead gods of western civilization. Modern idols of material things and human achievement cannot do what God has done. Never forget the God of those "former things" recorded in Scripture. Remember that the God of yesterday is the God of today and tomorrow — the One who can carry us forward with fresh new blessings:
Isaiah 43:19a – See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (NIV)
Prayer: Dear God, empower us with courage to relinquish those useless "former things" so that we may wholeheartedly embrace the living and eternal God — for who You are and what You do — still today. Amen.
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