March 21, 2010
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Isaiah 43:16-23

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”(Isaiah 43:18-19).

A few days after the Fort Hood massacre, another man took a pistol and went into an Orlando, Fla., engineering firm that had fired him in 2007. He shot several employees, killing one before surrendering to police. As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter asked him, “Why?” He said, “Because they left me to rot.” He could not forget or forgive.

How strange that Isaiah, who so often calls us to remember God’s mighty deeds of yesterday, now tells us to forget the former things. Don’t dwell on the past. Why not? “See, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19)! If the exodus from Egypt was spectacular, how much more will be the deliverance from the Chaldeans. The wonders of the past will seem as a small matter compared to God’s new thing. Can’t you see it?

The mind is an amazing apparatus. It can call into view things that happened years ago. More amazing than that, it can see things that have not yet happened. Our text speaks of both types of visions.

We May Choose what We Remember or Forget
Clara Barton was reviewing her guest list with a friend who was surprised to see on the list the name of a person who had done a cruel thing to the hostess some years before. “I can’t believe you would invite her! Don’t you remember the wrong she did to you?” “No,” Clara answered, “I distinctly remember forgetting that.”

Gen. Robert E. Lee was a man who refused to bear a grudge. Even after Appomattox and the terrible days of Reconstruction, he worked for peace and reconciliation. Once in Lexington, Va., a lady pointed out to him the scarred remains of a great oak tree in her front yard. It was stripped it of every limb by Federal artillery. She thought the general would share her outrage. When Lee finally spoke, he said: “Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.” Are there things you, too, need to forget?

The Eyes of Faith Can See what Is Not Yet Visible
Isaiah 43:19 states: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” None could see or perceive this new thing except by faith. It was not yet visible to the unaided human eye. God already had a plan, however. His people were not left to rot. He would bring them home once more.

A writer named Josephine Jensen described a time when her life was dragged down by some great despondency. She walked at dawn along the beach among the debris of last night’s high tide. Seaweed, driftwood and even a lifeless egret were discarded by the waves. These things once living but now dead brought tears to her eyes. She slumped on a sand dune and closed her eyes while the sun came up. Then a child’s shout rang across the beach. Two children running down the beach had found the egret. For a moment they stood in silence. Then they dug a grave with a piece of driftwood and buried the bird, arranging sea shells in a pattern over the mound.

With a whoop, they then dashed to the seaweed and draped it around their hips like a hula skirt. A longer tendril became a jump rope. Clara said. “Every thing they looked at, I had looked at. Where I saw only death and decay, they saw wonder and excitement.” As she started for home, part of a verse of Scripture came to mind. “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…” (Philippians 3:13).

Share This On: