“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 desert
and streams in the wasteland.”
~Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV).
It’s almost so worn in the psyches of the weathered Christian—these two verses. And yet, they’re as fresh and as new in their power today as any other day in history.
The prophet of the Lord, here, brings to us the notion that God’s doing the impossible.
This is a ‘new Exodus’—a thing the prophets often foresaw in their forth-telling of God’s graciousness to an obediently-humble Israel.
These verses above draw a sharp contrast from the preceding verses, which took the mind of the reader back to the Exodus; now they’re to “forget the former things.” Have we a God here who cannot make up his mind?
Not at all. God’s marking a quick transition and to transmute thought from the past to the immediately-held future; our most important foci.
The word, “see,” is more exclamatory than that. It is “behold!” It is incredible to the flailing people of the exile—the time to then come to those back then—that a “new thing” would be imminent. A new thing, certainly in the range of ‘new things’ of God, must have looked near-on impossible.
All things biblical can have their personal application, even passages that were originally written in the national context.
The Personal Application of this Passage
This is rich with nuances to the individual life unto the life in relationship—with God and with others. We gain an implicit sense of this when reading these two verses.
We must never forget to forget. Certainly we must remember, and often enough we forget those things we should never forget—the depth of Christ’s love on the cross, for instance; Holy Communion was installed by Jesus for this exact reason—to remember; “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24).
But we’re also to quickly forget the things of life that will interminably hold us back if we let them. Paul did this (Philippians 3:13f). We are also to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead. The nature of our humanity has us looking back in a cursory way anyway—we won’t lose sight of those good former things. God will remind us of these.
We can afford to strain toward what is ahead, and indeed, that which is right before us.
For people stuck in the past—and this has been all of us at our times—perhaps for many of us it’s even presently—there is the new thing. Always has been; always will be.
The new thing is there. Still, we do not often “perceive it.” We’re quite blind actually; a typical human state even for the saved person. When prophesying friends—those with the gift of discernment—see things ‘springing up’ for us and we don’t, we should take heart. God is doing a new thing in us all—all the time. The state of belief is what is needed.
A “way in the desert” and “streams in the wasteland” are allusions to a reality even hardly credible to believe—perhaps even to the breaking of serious bonds that have held us for so long now!
God can do anything in our lives he chooses. All that remains is our belief of same. Of course, we’re wise in confirming with trusted, discerning others that we’re not being deluded by the enemy—which is quite a prevalent phenomenon; something we’ve all tasted!
Do we now enter new life from the tunnel-of-whatever we’ve come from?
Most certainly; today we begin afresh... and tomorrow too!
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
 Allan Harman, Isaiah – A Covenant to be Kept for the Sake of the Church (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2005), p. 302.