“Forget the former things” (Isaiah 43:18). There are so many things in my life that I want to forget. There are things that sadden my heart to think that I did what I did or said what I said. There are far too many unpleasant things that I would love to forget and I hope that everyone who knows me will forget. Do you have any of these things in your life?
Strangely enough though, when the Lord calls Israel to forget the former things, He is not talking about those things that embarrass us reminding us of our baseness and the darkness that exists alongside the Holy Spirit in us. You might think He would call us to forget our sin. You might think He would want us to release from our memories the most vile things we have done. But this is not the context of his command to forget the former things.
If fact, we are called to remember our sin. Paul commands, “Remember Lot’s wife.” You remember Lot’s wife, don’t you? When the Lord was about to destroy a city filled with rebellion, violence, and homosexuality, He gave her express to not even look back as she fled from the city. But what did she do? She turned back. Immediately the Lord turned her into a pillar of salt. And Paul says in the book of Luke, “Don’t forget that!”
We should not ever remember our sin with guilt. We remember our sin that the Lord might be praised in our heart.. There should be no guilt in us because the sin has been transferred out of our account as if we never did it. The debt has been paid and the punishment has been executed on the old rugged cross. We should remember our sin that we might never forget how much the Lord has forgiven and how far He has brought us. We are to remember how weak and foolish we used to be. We remember the habits we used to have. We remember the thoughts that used to run through our mind, but no more by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our memory of our sin establishes personal value on the crucifixion. When we forget our sin, the cross loses honor. When we remember our sin in this light, we shout His praise! We are grateful that these most lewd and evil acts things in our life have not and will not be held against us on the Day of Judgment. We shout for joy, celebrating the grace and mercy of our God. We remember His unfailing love and rejoice at His undying love for His children. No, when the Lord said to forget the former things, He was not talking about sin.
The Lord calls the Israelites to forget the former things as He reminds them of great miracles. He reminds them that He is the One who brought them out of Egypt, parting the rushing waters. He reminds them that He drew out Pharaoh and all of his men with their chariots and horses to be covered up by the waters. He says to them, “I am the God who delivered you from Egypt; from slavery; from the harsh treatment of the slave-masters. I did it miraculously dividing the waters with my breath, allowing you time to get across and then, as they chased you down the same dry path, I closed up the waters. I destroyed your captors and they will never rise again.”
Wooo! Hoooo! I love that miracle. It might be one of my most favorite things the Lord did in the Old Testament. I love to think of the power of God driving back the waters and I would have loved to have seen Pharaoh’s face when those walls of water came tumbling down. WOW! And yet as wonderful as this was, this is what the Lord was telling them to forget. It is one of the greatest acts of God on behalf of their people in all of history. And the Lord says, “Forget it.”
Then He goes on to say, “See, I am doing a new thing.” Streams in the wasteland, bringing life out of death, this is what I am about to do. He goes on to say, “I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring.” Whoa! The miracle of parting the sea was amazing, but the pouring out of the Spirit of God onto the people of Israel would far outweigh this miracle from the past. One is the work of God’s hand. The other is the manifestation of His presence. One has a beginning and an end. The other endures forever. In fact, we are beneficiaries of this miracle today. One released them from physical bondage. The other released them from mental, emotional, and spiritual bondage. One is a very, very bright light. The other, though, is a thousand suns. There is no comparison. He is saying to the Hebrews and to you and I today, “You think what I have done in the past is great. Wait til you see what I have planned for you future.”
The most wonderful miracles of the past will be overshadowed by the new things He is going to do. That is, if we live according to His direction in our life. His plan is not a specific job or occupation. His plan is not to marry a specific person or to have a certain number of children. These may all be included in His plan, but by it’s very nature, God’s plan for us is increase. With all that may happen in our life, His plan produces an ever-increasing fruitfulness. He is the God of ‘new things.’ Never tiring, never fatigued, never without creativity, He wants to create in us more peace, more strength, more assurance, more love, more mercy, more patience, more miracles, more. His plan is not for us to simply have peace, but ever-increasing peace. His plan is not for our marriage to be good, but always getting better and better. His plan is not one miracle that overwhelms us, but a lifetime of increase that cannot be explained. To turn our eyes to this good, pleasing, and perfect will for our life, He calls us to “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on past miracles. As wonderful as these might have been, don’t live in the past. I am doing a new thing that will surely overshadow the wonders of the past.” Seek Him with all your heart and let His plan for increase come alive in you today!