It was really hard for the faithful Jews in exile. Many had died, some had changed and become so integrated in their new environment they were hardly Jews anymore. Only a few remembered their heritage and held on to the ancient history of how God had sustained and protected the nation in hard times in the past. There were prophets who had spoken strongly about the reasons why the nation was in captivity, and the faithful few had to agree they were right. There were others who reminded the people that God who had looked after them before couldn’t possibly let them down now. It was so long though, when would it get better?
Isaiah 43 then records the words of God who was agreeing that He’d done wonderful things for them in the past. He was their God who’d brought them through the sea, out of Egypt, and who’d rescued them. But God then says a strange thing: ‘Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past’. What is God saying here? Is He saying it’s no longer relevant what He did before?
One way of translating the word ‘forget’ is ‘don’t be marked by’. In other words, whilst it’s true that the past happened, both the good and the bad, His people shouldn’t be marked or scarred by the past. God seems to be saying here that although He’s unchanging, and although it’s wonderful the way He rescued Israel, and indeed us from the sins and wounds of the past, we shouldn’t be those who allow that past to scar us and mark us for the future. We may have to carry the consequences of sin with us but not the penalty.
God was to encourage His people in the next verse to look to the new thing He was to do for them, pointing indeed not just to restoration in Jerusalem, but to the Messianic restoration of relationship in Jesus for all believers. Rather than being marked by the damage of the past, we are now able to stand before the Father’s throne, washed and cleansed by the blood of Christ Jesus.
As we proceed through the process of healing there may be a time when we need to let go of the old identity of wounding, hurt, sin and shame that was once ours and allow our new identity as sons and daughters of the Lord Most High to become pre-eminent. We don’t deny our history, but we look forward to the newness of our life in Jesus and live as new creations in Jesus.
Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, that by Your death we have newness of life. We thank You so much for rescuing us from the darkness and pain of the past, but we want to be those who live in the light of the future and not continue to be marked by the past failures. Help us to live in Your reality of restoration. Amen.
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