The Israelites were in Babylonian captivity, and the prophet wrote, “Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: ‘Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing 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’” (Isa. 43:16-19 ESV).
Let me put this in my own words.
God blew your mind in the past. You watched as God split the Red Sea. You watched as God made a way where there was no way. You watched as Pharaoh, along with his chariots, drowned beneath the crashing waves. But forget about it. God is doing something new. It’s hard to forget. God worked in miraculous ways. But you can’t allow the way He worked then to keep you from the way He is working now.
God is at work… even now.
These verses in Isaiah remind me of the story of Lazarus. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, desperately asked Jesus to heal Lazarus of leprosy.
“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5-6 ESV).
Wait… what? That makes no sense. Then again, maybe it does. Jesus loved them enough to let their brother die. Still not clicking? That’s okay. It wasn’t clicking with Mary and Martha either.
“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you’” (v. 20-22 ESV).
“But even now…” Three small words of hope.
I don’t know what your past looks like. I don’t know your disappointments. I don’t know your regrets. But even now, God is working.
So, yeah. Jesus let Lazarus die. Why? Because Jesus didn’t want to heal Lazarus, He wanted to raise Lazarus from the dead. And by refusing to immediately act on Mary and Martha’s request, Jesus exceeded their wildest dreams. God let their expectations die in order to give them something better.
Interestingly, Jesus had visited Mary and Martha at least once before the healing of Lazarus.
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:38-39 ESV).
I wonder if this previous encounter with Jesus kept Mary and Martha from recognizing the new way God was working. The first time, Jesus came to their home as soon as He was invited. The second time, He came at least four days late. Nonetheless, Martha had the audacity to hope.
“But even now…”
So let’s go full circle and return to the verses in Isaiah 43.
God says, “‘Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing 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’” (v. 18-19 ESV).
There are times when you must let go of what God did in order to see what God wants to do. I’m currently learning this in my life. It’s difficult to forget the ways God previously worked in my life. But God is asking me to let go of the old things. If I’m an Israelite, I must forget the way He split the Red Sea. I must forget the way He drowned Pharaoh and the Egyptian army. If I’m Mary and Martha, I must forget the way God showed up on my time. I must give God space to work in a new way.
In the midst of your disappointments and fears, don’t lose hope. It may not look the way you thought it would look. Let God do something new. He is working… even now.