On Sunday morning we started a new series for the new year called Different with a talk entitled ‘Different Year.’ What follow is a brief summary of that talk and some questions to help you reflect either on your own or in your small group. You can also listen to the talk or download it from our Sunday Talks page (the talks are usually available a bit later in the week).
When you look back on 2017 what do you remember in terms of highs and lows from the year? What was good and what was bad? Maybe it was a year of the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. I expect that some of us are saying ‘please God, let 2018 be different to 2017.’ Maybe we have made resolutions to try to ensure 2018 is different to 2017. Do you hope for something different in 2018 and where does God fit into that? Is God ready to do a new thing in you, with you, for you in 2018? To find the answers to those kinds of questions we are going to take a look at a section from the Old Testament book of Isaiah.
About two thirds of the way through the book we find God speaking to his people - the people of Israel who were in captivity and slavery in Babylon. They would have been wondering if God was ready to do something new for them. You can read about what God says to them in Isaiah chapter 43 verses 14 to 19. You can read that here.
God is coming to rescue them (verses 14 to 15), but how is he going to do it? Firstly God reminds them of another time, many years previously, when they had been in captivity in Egypt and how he rescued them by parting the waters of the red sea (verses 16 to 17). This was a tremendous high in the story of the people of Israel and God is reminding them about the past and about what he has done for them. But then in verse 18 he seems to contradict that. He says forget the former things of the past. What is that all about?
The clue is in the word dwell used in the second part of verse 18. There is a difference between remembering the past and dwelling on it. God commands people throughout the Bible to remember. Remembering is good, it can build faith and encourage us. Dwelling however is different. The original Hebrew word for dwell meant to settle down in or camp out in. When we camp out in the past we start wallowing in it and it can mean we don’t press on into the new things that God has for us. Dwelling in the lows of the past can make us ill and dwelling on how things used to be can stop us from embracing what comes next.
And look at what God says next in verse 19 - he is ready to do a new thing.
As we enter in to a new year, are we ready to embrace all that God has in store for us? Are we ready to remember the past with all its highs and lows, but not to dwell on it and to move in to the future? God is doing a new thing, are we ready to receive it in our own lives and in the lives of our church? Embracing the new and different thing God wants to do requires daring, bravery, openness and flexibility. As we enter into a new year, let’s be people who embrace the new and different thing that God is doing.
Questions to reflect on (on your own or in your small group):
When you remember 2017 what were the highs and lows of the year?
Are you hoping for 2018 to be a different year from 2017? Why?
Where does God fit into your thinking about 2018?
Why do you think in verses 14 to 17 God reminds the people about what he did for them in the past?
Do you agree that there is a difference between remembering and dwelling? Why is remembering good? Why might dwelling be bad?
What happens to us if we camp out (dwell) in the past?
How does it make you feel to hear that God is ready to do a new and different thing?
As you reflect on God’s infinite creativity and ability to do a new thing, what stirs in you?
- What new and different thing might God be ready to do in you this year?