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Sermon: Isaiah 43:16-21
Lent 5 – April 7, 2019 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel

Do you like new things? I think we all do. When we were children we loved new things, especially new toys. That’s why Christmas Eve or Christmas morning were such wonderful times for us. When we got a little older new clothes were a real thrill for us. We had to have the newest and latest styles to impress everyone. When we got still older and into adulthood a new car was the greatest. And new cars and new vehicles or new homes still excite us.

But do you ever have a negative reaction to something new? Parents may not like a son or daughter’s new girlfriend or boyfriend. A father may not be too thrilled about a son’s new car. A mother may not be too happy about a daughter’s new outfit.

And a new thing doesn’t have to be anything bad, but it can be a challenge because it changes the circumstances. A new baby is wonderful, but it will change the relationship and interaction of a husband and wife. Adjustments will have to be made.

In our text today the LORD told the people of Israel, and he’s telling us, that he’s doing a new thing. What was that new thing? Was it a good thing? Or was it a bad thing? Would it change things for Israel? How would they react? More important – what’s the new thing that God has done for us? How will we and others react to this new thing?

Today we’re going to consider that new thing that God did for Israel and for us:

A NEW THING

Isaiah actually begins to write about the new thing that God is going to do for his people in chapter 40. In about 120 years Judah and its capital Jerusalem would be conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians and many of the people carried into captivity. And then in this 43rd chapter Isaiah more specifically writes about the new thing that God is going to do. He’s going to rescue a remnant of his people from Babylon and bring them home to Judah where they will rebuild Jerusalem, the temple, and their nation.

As a kind of proof to the people of Judah that he had the power to rescue them from Babylon God reminds them how he rescued their forefathers from the Egyptians. He divided the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to pass through on dry land. When the Egyptian army continued to pursue them, God allowed the waters to come back and drown them all. “[He] 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.”

The LORD God could have pointed to many wonderful miracles and rescues and provisions that he gave to the people of Israel as proof of his power and faithfulness to them. There was the manna from heaven, there was water from a rock, there were the walls of Jericho that fell, but the dividing of the Red Sea was one miracle that Israel, and even some of their enemies, remembered most of all. It was unquestionable proof of God’s saving power.

God divided the Red Sea and did all those amazing things for Israel, but now he actually says to them, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” God obviously wasn’t telling his people to completely erase their past from their minds. It would always be good to remember what God had done for them. There were good lessons to learn from their past.

But now God was telling them that something greater was coming, something new. And instead of just remembering the past they needed to look forward to this new thing. The immediate fulfillment of God’s promise here to Israel was that he would rescue them from Babylon and rebuild their nation. But there was a much larger, better, more important fulfillment that God had in mind in the new thing that he would do.

Those of you who have been attending Adult Bible Class and our study of the Minor Prophets know that many of the prophecies of these men were fulfilled in immediate ways in Israel and Judah. But most often there was another fulfillment they were speaking of. It was a fulfillment that reached farther into the future, into New Testament times, into our times and our lives.

For example, in the Minor Prophets, the LORD often prophesied that he would rebuild the nation of Israel and call back people to that nation from all over the world. Well, he did restore Judea and its capital Jerusalem. People did return from Babylon. But the bigger fulfillment, the really new thing, was that Jesus would one day come and build an eternal kingdom and call people, including you and me, from every nation on earth, from every generation of history.

When God says in these words of Isaiah, “See, I am doing a new thing!” he is talking about rescue from Babylon, but he’s also looking way into the future, into the New Testament, into our time, into our lives. He’s talking about sending the Messiah, the Savior. He’s talking about sending his Son Jesus Christ into the world to save his people from their sins.

And he talks about this new thing in terms that the people of Isaiah’s day would have certainly understood. “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself . . . .” Israelites who made the trip from Egypt through the wilderness to the Promised Land, people of Judah who would make the trip to Babylon and back along the rivers in the desert knew exactly what God was talking about. God had the power and love to create life and preserve life in the middle of a wilderness or desert.

In the spiritual desert of our world, in the spiritual desert of our lives, God did a new thing. In our world that was destroyed by the sin of Adam and Eve, in our lives that were ruined by sin, sin that would threaten us with God’s eternal judgment, God has done a new thing. He brought us through the desert. He sent his Son Jesus to be our Savior. He sent Jesus to atone for our sins. So don’t look back on the desert of sin, but look forward to Jesus and his mercy, the new thing that God has done for us.

So are we thrilled with this new thing like children are thrilled on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning; are we as happy as someone is with a new car? Well, we certainly are. As a matter of fact, we’re far more amazed and thankful for Jesus Christ, God’s “new thing,” than a Christmas present or new car or a new home.

But remember a new thing, even the best new thing, changes things. A new baby changes things for a married couple. New things, as good as they are, can create challenges. In psychology we say that something new, a new person in a family or a relationship, upsets the equilibrium, the balance that people have become used to.

Let’s take our own congregation for example. There are some changes happening in our church. We have to make significant changes in our school for next year. After 53 years of our school, changes don’t happen easily. They upset the equilibrium of our church, what we were used to and took for granted.

We have a new pastor who’s doing a whole new area of ministry for our congregation. This ministry is a privilege, a wonderful opportunity for us, a new thing that we’re enormously thankful for. We even got an article written about our congregation and this new thing, this new mission, in Forward in Christ.

But this new thing changes things. It upsets the equilibrium of our church. Now there’s another worship service we have to consider. Now we have to do some schedule changing. Now we have to learn how to join two cultures, two groups that speak different languages, into one congregation much like the early church struggled to join Jews and Gentiles into individual congregations. And we ask God to help us deal wisely and gracefully with these changes and new things.

In our gospel reading today the religious leaders of Judea didn’t do a very good job of receiving the new thing that God had for them. They did not receive Jesus by faith or with love. Jesus tells the parable of a man who planted a vineyard. He hired men to care for the vineyard. He sent three servants to get some of the fruit of the vineyard, but the workers mistreated them and sent them away empty-handed. Finally the man sent his own son to them, a son he loved. He figured they certainly wouldn’t mistreat his son. But they did. They did even worse. They killed his son with plans to take possession of the property.

Those who listened to Jesus’ parable were furious with him. They knew he was speaking of them. They knew that he was accusing them of rejecting him as the Son of God, the Messiah, the New Thing, whom God had sent to save them. Jesus upset their spiritual and political equilibrium too much. He challenged their impenitence, he challenged their self-satisfaction, their pride, their work-righteousness, what they considered to be their spiritual security. Jesus, the New Thing, upset their sinful, self-righteous equilibrium so much that they crucified him.

Jesus is the New Thing from God who gives us forgiveness, new life, and eternal life. In the desert of sin and the threat of eternal condemnation Jesus comes to give us refreshment and the water of life. He’s the new thing that changes everything for us, who upsets our equilibrium and for good reason.
Because of Jesus let’s repent of our sins every day. Because of Jesus let’s be glad that our sins are all forgiven. Because of Jesus let’s look forward to heaven. Because of Jesus let’s worship and praise God each day and especially on Sunday when we gather together.

In these words of Isaiah God says that we are “the people [he] formed for [him]self that [we] may proclaim [his] praise.” Jesus is the New Thing, the most wonderful New Thing, who changes our lives on earth and changes our lives for eternity. Amen.