Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Do You Not Perceive It?

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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 wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18)
The Lord says through Isaiah, “Forget the former things.” These were not just the bad things that had happened to Israel, such as the bondage in Egypt or even the Babylonian exile Israel now found herself under. They included even God’s great saving act of the Old Testament, the deliverance of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.
This is what the LORD says — he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: Forget the former things. (Isaiah 43:16-17)
That was a wonderful redemption, and the basis of Israel’s relationship as the covenant people of God. But it was a past event, and what they needed now was a present-day deliverance. God would soon bring them out of Babylon and back home to Jerusalem. Yet even that would become a “former thing” because, historically, although Israel was restored to the land, they still remained under foreign dominion.

But all the Law and the Prophets are ultimately about Jesus the Messiah and are fulfilled in him. It is to him that all the former things point and in whom they find their true meaning. In the Lord Jesus, God brought forth the new thing he had long promised Israel. Jesus is not just another in a long series. He is God’s final word, the perfect expression of God and the one by whom everything in heaven and on earth is turned back to God.

Jesus is the “way in the wilderness” that God promised his people, the way who leads us back to the Father. But he does not just lead us on the way — Jesus is the way. There is no path to follow by which we may find our way home. There is only a person, Jesus the Messiah, the Shepherd who brings us safely back to God.

God also promised “streams in the wasteland,” and it is in Jesus that we discover these waters. To the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

On the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles, while priests performed the water-drawing ceremony that foreshadowed God’s promise of rivers of life-giving water flowing from the temple (see Ezekiel 47:1-23), Jesus stood up and announced, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-38). John tells us, in verse 39, that Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit.

The way in the wilderness. Streams in the wasteland. Do you not perceive it? It is not a matter of observation. It does not come to us by reason but by revelation. God’s ways are not our ways. Yet God has revealed his way — revealed himself — to us in Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

There are physical aspects to this revelation: The Virgin Birth, the miraculous ministry of Jesus, the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, and also the sacraments, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are historical, for in Christ, God has stepped into history in a singular way and joined himself to humanity — he became a human being and dwelt among us. But the meaning of it all must be imparted to us by the Holy Spirit, for it is mystery, and we should otherwise never be able to perceive it at all. Paul speaks of this in one of his letters to the Church at Corinth.
However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him — these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them?

In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:9-16)
In Jesus Christ, God has done a new thing and now it springs forth.

Do you not perceive it?

Father of Glory, give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that we may know you more and more. Open the eyes of our heart that we may know the joyful anticipation of what you have called us to, the wonderful inheritance you have placed in us, and the incomparable greatness of the power you are working for our sake ~ through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.