God Wants to Do a “New Thing”

Leaving what’s behind I close the door
I’ll not dwell on what has gone before
I know God is doing a new thing
It’s springing up and I can see it
It’s all around and I can feel it
I know God is doing a new thing
God is doing a new thing
God is doing a new thing
God is doing a new thing in this place

CCLI Song # 3030684 Lara Martin © 2000 Thankyou Music

There is a tendency for preachers to take passages of Scripture out of their original context in order to satisfy the message they are trying to teach. The doctrine may be correct, but they use a verse or a passage that really does not fit properly into the context. One such passage comes from Isaiah 43:18-19a — “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 have heard many sermons using this passage suggesting that we put aside traditional ways of doing things in the church because the Holy Spirit is doing a new work in the lives of His believers. While I believe that the Holy Spirit is always working in our lives, and there comes a time to start new traditions, a closer examination of this passage will show us a more complete picture of what God is saying through Isaiah.

First, let’s look at this passage from a broader perspective:

This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I will send to Babylon
and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians,
in the ships in which they took pride.
I am the Lord, your Holy One,
Israel’s Creator, your King.”
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;
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.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

Isaiah was a prophet to Judah in the 8th century B.C. He foretold of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army, and the subsequent exile of the survivors to Babylon. However, Isaiah also prophesied how God would eventually release the exiled and allow them to return to Jerusalem. This is what this passage is about. Follow the steps:

  • God will defeat the Babylonians (vv. 14-15)
  • God reminds them of how He led Moses and defeated Pharaoh’s army hundreds of years ago (vv. 16-17)
  • God tells them not to keep looking back at what He has done, but look ahead on even greater things that He will do (vv. 18-21)

When God says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past”, He is not saying that we should erase the memory of what He has done. Instead, He is saying, “You think that was cool? That is nothing compared to what I am going to do next! I’m about to something even greater!” Yes, He was talking about delivering His people from Babylon and returning them to Jerusalem. But He was also talking about something even greater: the coming of His Son, the Messiah, who would deliver His people from sin, and death, and hell.

God has done great, new things in the lives of His people. God will do a great, new thing when Christ returns in His glory to bring His followers home to His Father’s kingdom, where we will reign with Him forever. Until then, God continues to do great, new things in His church and in our lives.

I believe the message for us today is this: we know the story of how First Church of God in San Francisco had the vision to begin a new work in So.S.F., and how that faithful church sacrificed and worked to make sure God’s vision came to reality. Today we are the beneficiaries for their faithful obedience.

So do we “forget” the past and erase their memory? Of course not! How can we forget John & Virginia Petrovitz, Betty Martin, and many, many others who gave much of their lives for this church? We can’t, and we won’t. Yet at the same time, those dear saints have gone to Glory, and First Church of God, S.F. no longer exists. So we remember, but we move forward at the same time.

That time has gone. Our time is now. We praise God for what was done, and we praise God for what He is doing now: “See I am doing a new thing! Now It springs up: do you not perceive it?” God is doing a new thing now, in our time. Let’s not miss it because we are too busy looking back, holding onto what was. Let’s not miss it because we are too busy looking inward, trying to hold onto what is. Let’s experience God’s “new thing” by looking ahead, discovering what God is doing now in order to move His church forward, paving the way for the next generation of believers at HCOG.

What does that mean exactly? I’m not sure. It may mean that we come together with Gracepoint Church to “forget the past” and form a brand new church together. We voted as a church body to continue this process, and see where it leads us. If the Holy Spirit builds this new church, praise God! If God leads us in another direction as we go through the process, then praise God! Wherever He leads us, let us continue to be united in our love for God, our love for HCOG, and our desire to see God glorified in us, and through us.

With all my heart, I believe God is doing a new thing in our midst. Let’s not miss it.

Your servant in Christ,

pastor mike