Forget The Past
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 08, Jan 2020
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43:1-4; 18-26
But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise. But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense. Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.
This portion of scripture reveals that God is not through with the Nation Israel. It is tantamount to unbelief to deny that God has a future purpose for the Nation of Israel. In the New Testament Paul also asks the question, ‘Hath God cast away His people?’ And the answer is ‘God forbid’. That is a very dogmatic answer. God is not through with us folks. And God makes it clear in the chapter before us. There are a few truths we can learn from this portion of scripture?
1. Truth Concerning Me
Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”
There are a few truths we have to understand concerning me:
YHWH formed me
I am not to give in to Fear
YHWH has redeemed me
YHWH has called me by my name
I am YHWH’s
The first verse clearly states that God is not through with us yet. The picture I get from all this statement is that I belonged to God. When YHWH says, ‘thou are mine’ it means He has a special and unique claim over me. YHWH has redeemed us even though we do not deserve it. YHWH acts because of Who He is and He acts for His purpose. We are a precious person in the hand of God for His universal redemption. Here I am reminded of the Song: My Redeemer lives. I am also reminded of Boaz who redeemed Ruth. In the Old Testament the redeemer bought an unfortunate relative out of their slavery and debt. He rescued them and paid the slave price or debt they could not pay. When God calls himself our Redeemer, it points to Jesus Christ who paid for our salvation. Therefore He comes to you and say, ‘Fear Not’. By outward circumstances we have all the reason to be fearful of the future. This is especially true for those people who consider themselves an outcast. But knowing that we belong to the LORD is a wonderful answer to fear. We can know that He holds us, protects us, guards us, and cares for us. We can know that He would not have created, redeemed, and called us unless He intended to finish His work in us. One of the great truth that God has revealed to me throughout my live is that He is the author and finisher of my life. How can we be afraid when we know this God is for us, is looking out for our interests?
2. Truth Concerning God
We have to take note of the various names of God used in Isaiah 43. It seems that in this chapter all the names of God comes out and it has its purpose; to show forth Who He is and His acts.
a. ‘the LORD’ – which means YHWH; the covenant name for God. It is the name that He revealed to Moses as ‘I AM’ from the Hebrew verb ‘to be’.
b. ‘God’ – which means ELOHIM. This is a plural word. The Rabbis say YHWH is God’s name for mercy while ELOHIM deals with the world in general. He is the creator and sustainer of this earth. YHWH and ELOHIM are the most common name in the Old Testament.
c. ‘The Holy One of Israel’ – a title which expresses God’s purity and transcendence. My Holy God is superior or supreme who goes beyond ordinary limits; surpassing and exceeding what we could ever think of Him.
d. ‘Savior’ – Yasha; this is from the same root word as Joshua and Jesus. The basic meaning is ‘to be wide’ or ‘spacious’. He will deliver us and put us in a wide and spacious place. Land is becoming more and more expensive in Iloilo City and we must thank God that God not only has given us a land but a wide and spacious land. That is God. When he saves he brings us to a wide and spacious place.
e. ‘Redeemer’ – This is from the same root as ‘Go’el’, the kinsman redeemer or avenger. This term depicts God as our near kinsman. He is not just our kinsman but our avenger. It is another example of God’s personal relationship with us.
f. ‘The Creator’- YHWH the creator is also the special covenant God of Israel.
g. ‘King’ – God is the true King of Israel. The earthly king is merely His representative.
Isaiah 43:2 says “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
This verse has reference to His dealings with us in the Past but also the future. ‘When you pass through the water YHWH will be with thee’ is an illusion of passing through the Red Sea. I think one of the most amazing miracles of God is the opening of the Red Sea, which has become the children’s favorite stories and also featured in movies because it is an awesome wonder. It just shows the power of God. I am reminded of another Scripture verse that I just read recently concerning YHWH’s power and his relationship with us through the example of the Red Sea opening. It says in Isaiah 50:2 ‘Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? When I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? Or have I not power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and died for thirst.’ It is declaring the YHWH’s hand is not shortened to redeem. YHWH has power to deliver. At the rebuke he dried up the Red Sea. I believe a big section of the Red Sea was divided at allow 3 million Jews to cross over. So definitely that big section was so dried up that a great number of fishes swimming there were left helpless on dry ground. Definitely it takes a while for 3 million Jews to cross. Actually It took too long until the fishes died and even stink. Even when God acts, he followed the natural order of life. The fishes that swam in that portion is affected and left to die and stink with no water. He did not tell all the fishes not to swim there at that moment. In the Signs and Wonders of God, most often than not, the natural order of thing is still adhered to. ‘And through the river they shall not overflow thee’ probably refers to the crossing of the Jordan River. ‘When thou walked through the fire, thou shalt not be burned’ has its reference to the three Hebrew children in Babylon who were thrown into the fire; the flame did not consume them. YHWH is proclaiming that when I go through the rivers of difficulty I will not drown. When I face financial difficulties I will not drown. When I walk through the water of oppression I will not be burned. The fire of oppression will not kindle upon me. It simply means YHWH will be present throughout the crisis of our lives. Reminiscent of His promise when we came to know Jesus, God assures us of His personal presence. Whether through waters that might overwhelm us, rivers that might sweep us away, fire that might consume us, or flames that might scorch us, God says, ‘I will be with you.’ We will not be immune to trial and tragedy as we passed through waters, rivers, fire and flames, but we would know that He is with us and that His love would go deeper than our hurt. That is what I felt in 2012. His love goes deeper than my hurt.
Several years ago a truckload of Campus Crusade staffers were swept away to their death in the flash flood of the Thompson River in Colorado. One of the staffers was Kathy Loomis, daughter of Charles Loomis who was Chairman of the Board of Loomis Armored Cars in Seattle, Washington. Two or three weeks after the tragedy David McKenna, President of Asbury Theological Seminary, friend of Charles Loomis met him in the lobby of a downtown hotel. Black circles ringed sad eyes stared at David McKenna when they met. When David expressed his grief and assured Charles of his prayers, Charles pulled words from his broken heart that will never be forgotten. ‘Dave’, he said, ‘the hurt goes deep, but God’s love goes deeper.’ Honestly, they are many things we don’t understand in life. I don’t understand why God took Rubnie and I think this is also true to all the family members. But I can only say one thing, ‘the hurt goes deep, but God’s love goes deeper.’
“For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.”
Isaiah 43:3 KJV
Here we are given at one time the various names of YHWH just in one verse. YHWH redeemed me at the expense of other nations; at the cost of other nations. In exchange for my freedom others died that I might live. I want you to think carefully this statement: others died that I might live. YHWH traded their lives for mine because I am precious to him and honored and He loves me. The term ‘ransom’ speaks of the high cost of redemption. Ethiopia is Cush; the region in North Africa and Seba is North Western Arabian Peninsula. Other men or other people were traded for my redemption. This verse is showing YHWH’s great love for Israel and His willingness for Cyrus’ military victories to assure Israel’s return to Palestine. God will even use war to make sure of our redemption. Mike Picone was telling me that they were especially careful recently when ministering in India because the present President Modi, a staunch Hindu is causing persecution to Christian. But recently a new Law was passed called the New Citizenship Law in India which created a lot of hoo-hah. But in that Law, certain religions; Christians included who are persecuted in neighboring countries can apply for citizenship in India and will be approved. God can cause political change and even war to redeem His people.
Isaiah 43:4 says, “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”
Again this seems to be a repeat of verse one to authenticate YHWH’s opinion of us. I am precious in His sight. I have been honorable. YHWH has loved me. Therefore will He give men for me and people for my life. Who are these people? They will come from the four corners of Earth.
Now we come to the most important part of the sermon which is the theme of my sharing this morning.
3. Truth Concerning the Future
Isaiah 43:18 says, “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.”
As Isaiah writes prophetically to Israel, they were mired in the desperate circumstances of captivity and exile. God wants to put their eyes on the new work He will do, so he begins with a reminder to not remember the former things. If they are stuck in the failure and sin and discouragement of the past, they will never go forward to the new thing God has for them. That is how important the New Year is. If you are stuck in your 2019 or prior to the year 2019 in failure, sin and discouragement you will never go forward to the new thing God has for you.
I am told to forget my former thing. Forget my life with my ex-church. 7 is the year of release. 8 is the year of New Thing. I hear God specifically telling me to forget my life with them. I have thought of them for the past 7 years. The reason I have been thinking of them is because it has been traumatic. God doesn’t want me to think of them anymore. I am even to forget my sins and don’t think of the things of old. Forgetting my former thing also means forgetting my failures. Maybe you have done things which has caused you to be in this present state. YHWH comes in and repeatedly mentions twice that He loves you and to trust him. But most important of all He wants you to forget the past. We must forget the past and its problems. We must surrender thoughts that YHWH was only the God of the good old days. We must look forward in this New Year to God’s new thing. Be ready to be surprised by God. God had a new exodus through a new wilderness across new streams that were ready for his people so the people be He formed might sing a new hymn to God.
Even Paul talks about forgetting those things that are behind. The term ‘forget’ as Paul used it means to not ‘regard the past as having any bearing or influence on your present spiritual outlook.’ How? God’s Spirit gives us the strength and power to move on no matter the failures of our past. His love brings us healing for past pains; His love grants total forgiveness from past sins, we are allowed the emotional freedom to begin again, fresh and whole – as though we have never sinned before. Everyone has past failures in their lives. If you dwell on the past you can get stuck there! We are to learn from the past, not live the past.
I am to stop thinking of the things of Old. Why?
Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
It is very interesting that God remined them of the great things He did for them at the Red Sea. But then He comes in and say to ‘remember not the former things’, neither consider the things of old.’ I mean the Red Sea experience is a past involvement. There is a sense that we must not only forsake and forget the past with all its discouragement and defeat and move on but we are even to forget the great things he has done for us because He is going to do greater things in the future ahead of us. This greater thing is included in the word ‘New’.
The term ‘New’ has always been frequently mentioned in God’s word and also a necessary cycle on earth. Take for instance a New Day. Especially during December and January it is so beautiful to wake up and feel the cold but specially to experience the Newness of the day. God works for 6 day and rested for one day but after the week, He starts again a New week. We have entered a New Year. It starts a New Season. When winter is over, spring comes and the leaves starts to grow again bringing newness to life again. It is said that our old cells dies and news cells are recreated and that is how we are able to rejuvenate lives. We have entered the New Year and YHWH wants a new start with you. The term ‘New’ also means we can start all over again.
Because YHWH is going to do a new thing. But most important of all, I have to stop dwelling on the past. The former things seems to refer to judgment from the past. I am to stop dwelling on my punishment. I am even not to yearn for the former days of my power. Rather I am to focus on YHWH and his miraculous redemption which He is about to do. While in my devotion one day, I heard an inaudible voice of YHWH telling me to stop thinking of the past, what my enemies had done to me but rather focus on what He is about to do. Recently I was honestly a little weary of the Promise of God to me and they are a long time coming. Then God says this to me. Often, when I make a promise, you worry about the details or the obstacles for the fulfillment of the promise. Don’t worry about it at all. I will even make a road in the wilderness. I have resources and plans you don’t know about. Leave those problems to Me.’
Do you know what is the problem with all of us?
4. The Truth About Us Not Calling God
“But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.”
Sometimes we regard serving and obeying YHWH as a weary thing. We feel it is such a burden to serve the LORD. We think we are so bad off following His ways and waiting for His promises and we feel so oppressed and afflicted. Sometimes people say, ‘I just need to take a break’ and that essentially mean they need to take a break from the LORD. When we feel like this, it is certain evidence that we are not in step with Jesus. If following God always seems like some great, weary burden – then you really aren’t following Him.
Jan’s boyfriend Daryl has a sister. She had a bad experience with God and even stop going to church because of the leadership and even her parents. Then when she heard that Jan had been living alone without her parents since she was 13 years old, because her parents are missionaries to the Philippines, the first word that came out of her mouth is, ‘Why the parents forsake Jan and left her in Singapore alone by herself without taking care of her.’ I mean her parents were leaders of the church and yet she couldn’t understand the meaning of the Cross. I would say that she is out of tune with God and serving and obeying YHWH is a weary thing; it is such a burden to serve the LORD. Many of us have that mindset. We are so far away from God, even though we are in church but our perspective in life is by sight, affected by circumstances and not by faith anymore. That is the meaning of not calling God anymore in our lives. When we are weary of the LORD like this, it often shows in our giving, and in immorality (you have burdened God with your sins). Isaiah is speaking to a people who felt ‘burnt out’, burdened and weary on the LORD. Why are we in such condition? I feel that one of the reasons is that we the church have turned YHWH into a servant (a Santa Claus) rather than recognize that He is the master. When YHWH says you burdened me, it literally means ‘You made a servant out of me’ or ‘You made me serve you.’ Instead of being the servant of YHWH, we tried to be the Master of YHWH. God became weary from trying to deal with us and our sins.
What will God do with such a hard-hearted people? He will forgive them at the earliest opportunity. He will forget their sins. Despite all the sin and disregard for God, He still loves His people, and longs for their humble return. Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son is a beautiful illustration of this principle. The Prodigal felt the father was a weary burden to be relieved, and he went his own way. But the father still loved him and was ready to forget all the sin as soon as the Prodigal humbly returned. He says, ‘I will not remember your sins’. How can God forget? By simply choosing to not remember. God has forgotten our sin as being fully paid for by what Jesus endured on the cross. We can forget our sin also and put it far from us.
Therefore today I have to start calling upon Him. I have to thank God for blotting out my transgression and thank Him for not remembering my sin anymore. YHWH forgives our sins out of His own grace. There is no merit or reason given apart from God’s decision forgive.
In fact YHWH will not rest until righteousness and salvation shines forth in my life. Righteousness and Salvation speak of the position and lifestyle of the people of God. It actually implies physical deliverance from the enemies. My position speaks of a place of honor and no more shame. My present state of life will become a place of honor and no more shame. Salvation always refers primary to physical deliverance in the Old Testament. In the New Testament it refers to spiritual forgiveness and a right standing with God. I am righteous because of YHW”s forgiveness, not because of my merit or ability to keep the covenant. YHWH will redeem me even though I do not deserve it. YHWH as my redeemer is the focus of this chapter. YHWH acts because of who He is and for His purposes. Israel is a precious tool in the hand of God for universal redemption. I am a precious tool in the hand of God for universal redemption. YHWH uses various terms in the bible concerning forgiveness and it relates to us. He use terms like ‘forgive’, ‘wipe away’ or ‘blot out’, ‘cover’ or ‘atone’, ‘heal’, ‘passing over’, ‘wash’, ‘cleanse’, ‘cast behind the back’, ‘purge’. Sin is like a stain and leaves a permanent upon one who commits them. But the power of YHWH is such that He is able to make us clean as snow; completely wash, cleanse, blot, purge and blot out. Only the power of YHWH can do it.
In conclusion, as you start a New Year, call him into your life and start a new chapter in Him. It will be an amazing chapter for 2020 filled with miracles and signs and wonders.