Isaiah 43:16-18 “This is what the Lord says– he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who 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: ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.’”
From our perspective in history, it may difficult for us to appreciate how shocking these words of Isaiah were. They allude to the crossing of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army there. In our day God’s people have more or less followed this command, though not intentionally. We might watch The Ten Commandments on TV at Easter. We might study this part of Bible History in a Sunday School class. But we don’t dwell on it anymore. Our church and our faith revolves around Jesus and the events of his life, death, and resurrection.
But when God inspired Isaiah to write this, the Exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea were the most important things God had ever done for his people. This was how Old Testament people came to know the true God and what he is like. His justice, his love, his power, and his deliverance are all wrapped up in these events. How could he say, “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past”?
The Lord wasn’t saying this deliverance no longer held any importance. He was telling his people it would be overshadowed by the new thing he promised to do. That new thing culminated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. To an outsider, this may seem mistaken. How could Jesus’ simple life of love, telling people the good news about God, overshadow the power of God forging a path through the waters of the Red Sea? How could the criminal death of one man overshadow the destruction of an entire army on the floor of the Red Sea? How could one empty tomb overshadow the deliverance of an entire nation from the most powerful empire on earth at that time? The people of Israel simply had to trust God when he told them the future would hold greater things. We, too, must simply trust God when he tells us that the events of Jesus’ ministry are more significant than all the other wonders God has performed.
We aren’t always inclined to see it that way. God’s people have often found it difficult to keep their eyes focused on the main event, and the main event is Jesus. In an age that wants to dismiss God’s wonder-working power, some Christians react by making miracles the center of attention. In a society that denies God’s right to establish the standards of right and wrong, other Christians want Biblical morality to take the center ring. In a world where life is a struggle, relationships are prickly, and health is teetering on the edge, some want God’s principals for successful living or promises to provide to stand in the spotlight.
All these have their place. But sometimes we get so caught up in the peripherals we forget that the great issue of the day is not evidence for God’s supernatural power, or society’s lack of respect for life, or the success of my own life. The great issue of the day is still what I am going to do with my own sin. The always new thing that overshadows everything else God has said or done is freedom from sin and victory over death in the death and resurrection of his Son.