Fifth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Looking forward to the “new” thing

Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.“ (Isaiah 43:16 – 18)

In a recent shipment from a large brand-name department store I received a gift card for a food delivery service. It is one of those services that delivers the recipe and all the ingredients needed to make a meal. I have avoided them because it is much more economical to shop for the ingredients myself and our family’s tastes are diverse enough that one meal/menu would not satisfy all. But I thought there was no harm in checking out the site and finding out just how much the gift card would take off the total price – it was not enough. But because I was required to give some contact information in order to get to the point where I could see the price, I am now getting emails “encouraging” me to continue my order. At this point the gift card is not NEAR enough for the hassle I am going to have. This is NOT a good “new” thing!

“I am about to do 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.” (Verse 19)

We so often think the “new” thing is going to be better. That is not always the case. Sometimes the “new” is just the “old” wrapped up in disguise. You may wonder beloved reader, as I sometimes do, how one can know when the new thing is a good thing. In our modern world sometimes you cannot. I honestly thought (okay, maybe hoped) this gift card would be a way to make my life easier. No luck there!

I am forced to conclude, once again, that the most trustworthy source for “new” is the Divine. It is ironic however that the “new” thing is first talked about in the Old Testament. And only takes on the identity of “new” when it is seen in the light of Jesus Christ. One can debate (but I will not) that the writer of Isaiah might not have intended the “new” to be Jesus Christ but a new understanding of the Divine in Old Testament times.

“The wild animals 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 so that they might declare my praise.” (Verses 20 – 21)

Consider the names. Old and New Testament. We call it the “Old” Testament because it is based on understandings and stories that we told and recalled before Jesus the Christ was sent. The “New” Testament is the four gospels and the letters that came out of people coming to a “new” understanding of the Divine as presented by Jesus Christ. We use and refer back to the Old Testament but we use the understandings of the New Testament to re-interpret what the Old Testament was saying. And it is that crux point that sometimes agitates my sensibilities. How can we remain faithful to the Old Testament if we infuse it with understandings brought to bear by the New Testament without know if the writers of the Old Testament were cognizant of what the New Testament was going to say?! (Okay, stepping down from the soap box.)

What I prefer is to have the Spirit discern and reveal “new” understandings and yet remain true to the intentions of the Old Testament writers. Maybe that is not possible. If as Isaiah says, we allow the “old” to remain in the past, then it is only the “new” as found in the New Testament that should be a determinant for our lives . (Feeling myself climb aboard the soap box again!)

The Holy Spirit that comes from the Divine is active in the world. And that Holy Spirit continually reveals new things. Do you perceive it beloved reader? What was the norm one hundred years ago is no longer so. What was the norm ten years ago is also past history. Each day we are presented with a new day, and a new opportunity to live accountable lives. Each day is our fresh chance to do better than before. And each season of the church year is a chance to learn new spiritual disciplines. Take advantage of the season of Lent – an old concept that can be made new . . . . if you allow the Spirit to guide you! Selah!

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