Embrace The New God Will Do
John D. Rockefeller, was very determined as a young person to become successful and rich. At age 33, he earned his first million. At age 43, he controlled the biggest company in the world. At age 53, he was the richest man on earth and the world’s only billionaire.
Then he developed a disease called "alopecia" that caused him to loose all his hair and his body lost most of its muscle tone. His weekly income was one million dollars, but he digested only milk and crackers. He was so hated in Pennsylvania that he had to have bodyguards day and night. He couldn't' sleep, stopped going out and there was nothing left he enjoyed in life. The doctors predicted he wouldn't live past another year. The newspapers had gleefully written his obituary in advance – for convenience in sudden use. Those sleepless nights made him thinking. He came to the realization that he couldn't take one dime with him from this life. Money wasn't everything to Rockefeller anymore. He felt convicted by the Holy Spirit and knew that God was displeased with his sinful life. In that moment, late at night, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ, repenting of his sins and pleading for God to change his heart. The next morning he woke as a new man. He began to help churches with his amassed wealth; the poor and needy were not overlooked. He established the Rockefeller Foundation whose funding of medical researches led to the discovery of penicillin and other effective medicines . Rockefeller began to sleep well, eat and again enjoy life. You could say he began to live life to the fullest! The doctors prediction was wrong. He lived past another year. In fact, he lived to be 98 years old. The life story of John D. Rockefeller is one of how God brought about a new person. We could say that 2 Corinthians 5: 17, was written over his life, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
On New Years Day, we think of changes we want to see in our lives. Like thousands around the world, we might think of New Years resolutions, but you see those resolutions are sometimes just made to be broken. We have to think of new things God wants to bring into reality in each of our lives.
The prophecy of Isaiah can be described as a book of complaints and murmuring. The children of Israel couldn't express their disappointment in God enough. They have been waiting so long for a change, but all they saw were ruins. Promises had been made to their generation for more than 40 years. Four kings had come and go, but still things haven't changed for them. It was a day after day struggle to try and make a living. “Where was God? Why has He broken His promises?”, were thoughts that went through the minds of the Israelites. It was no secret that they had issues with God; so much so that God Himself answered them through the prophet in chapter 40: 27: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?” But then God spoke words to His children that pierced their hearts. The truth was that they left God and not that God left them. They had turned to idols and became so disobedient to the God Who made an everlasting covenant to them. Never would God turn away from what He promised to them. And just as they thought, “This is our end; God is going to consume us in His wrath”, came words of affirmation and change – “I am going to do something new.” If we were one of those Israelites, when we heard those words, what would have gone through our minds? Something like – “God isn't done with me. He's not writing me off.” Just like the people in Isaiah's time there are thousands of people today who think that God is going to expel them. Their sins are so immense that judgment and punishment are the only realities. They have been weighed on God's scale and been found wanting. And just when they think that God wants to wipe them off the face of the earth, there are comforting words, “I am going to make changes; I want to keep you.” And with each life transformed over the centuries, the condition was, Embrace The New God Will Do.
How was God going to bring the new into reality for His people? First of all, He told them – 1 Do Not Live In The Past. Verse 18, “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past.” Do you know the setting of these words? They were delivered to people in exile, who were going to be taken to even a worse situation than what they were in. Things would get far worse before it was going to change. How would you feel if you were in a desperate situation and someone would say, “O don't think of what got you here.”? We would find it as insensitive. No, what we want to hear is, “I'm going to get you out of this situation. Here's how I'm going to do it.” How could these words, “Forget the former things” be of any comfort to people – not only the house of Israel, but people of all generations? What God wanted the people in Isaiah's time to understand was that they needed to break with their sinful past. You see, they looked back to the glorious days when they received the covenant and when they lived close to God, the days He provided for them in the wilderness. They looked back to all the places God brought them to. But then they looked back to their rebellion against Him. They got stuck at where they lost their place in God's heart. They had to put that behind them. If they couldn't, they could never walk towards the new horizon God was bringing before them. O my friends, the same is true of any person who lived on earth after Isaiah spoke these words. That includes our generation. It includes each one of us. Break with your past! I remember a member I ministered to in a previous ministry. She was in her high seventies and she told me that even with attending church every Sunday and having her devotions all the years, she never felt free. She took me back into her past when she was a young woman and already been married she had feelings for another man. I told her that she had to break with that sin in her past. I led her in prayer and after a few sessions she felt completely free.
Isaiah prophesied about 2 How God Makes Things New. We read in verse 19, “I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” God's people were trapped in a country that was surrounded by one of the most barren and deadliest deserts in the world. Even if they escaped from their captors, they never would have made it through the desert. But God was going to do the impossible – He was going to set up a highway for them to walk on. He was going to set up fountains of water for them as they journeyed back to the Promised Land. Listen how the abundance God was about to bring is described in verses 20 and 21, “The wild animals honour 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.” From these verses we see that God was going to restore His people physically before He would restore them spiritually. That was true, because if they hadn't been physically restored, they never would have returned with heart and soul to God. You see, water played a major role in people's lives in those days. We often have people in our time speak on water supplies in foreign countries to bring an awareness for all to preserve it. But nothing can compare to the shortage of water in desert lands in Biblical times. Miracles like in the time of Moses and Aaron were needed and here God was going to do it again. And how precious it is what we read in verse 21, “...to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” After God's people drank from His fountains, they were spiritually restored, so that they could sing His praises. You know, most people in our world don't live in desert lands, but spiritually they are in a desert and they need renewal; they need to be brought out of their desperate existence of spiritual anguish.
There is a last thought we identify from Isaiah 43 in verse 19 – 3 Be Sure Of Your Focus, “See, I am doing a new thing.” The emphasis is on the word “See.” The word in the Hebrew is jada and it literally means to behold. To behold is stronger than just to see. When you behold something it stays with you and you think about it. And that was the point the prophet Isaiah wanted to bring across – see and think; never forget about what God wants to do in your life. Your focus should be on God taking you beyond your own present existence to that place where you will feel, “The old has ceased, in God I am new and whole.”
Friends in Christ, what are your prospects for 2023? Perhaps that the war in Ukraine will stop sooner than later or that Covid-19 will become just a bad memory we want to move on from? Is it perhaps a personal goal you want to meet? None of those things I mentioned we can guarantee, but there is one thing we can focus on. And that is how God will transform us on a daily basis. We have to Embrace The New God Will Do.