Playing with Legos
One of my favorite things as a kid – and as an adult – is Legos. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed sitting down and creating things from those little plastic blocks. Hours and hours of my life as a child and as father have been spent sitting in the floor or around a table and assembling everything from houses, to buildings, to castles, to spaceships, to cars, to any number of things.
These days, almost all Legos come in kits. My son has thousands of these things which, incidentally, are the absolute worst thing in the world to step on in the middle of the night when you’re checking out strange noises. Most of my son’s Legos are tied to movies or television shows or some line of other toys. Between the Star Wars line and the Jurassic Park line, and the Indiana Jones line, he has something on the order of thousands of Legos. When he gets a new set, usually Donovan follows all the instructions, puts on all the stickers, and makes whatever set you are supposed to make with those Legos.
After a few weeks, things get interesting. Donovan will decide he needs to build something to go along with the new Lego set, like a space station for the Star Wars ships or trucks for an Indian Jones scene and he starts ‘cannibalizing’ other sets. What this means is he takes pieces and parts from other sets that are no longer together and makes something new out of them. He will turn entire sets of one type of Legos into something totally different and new. These new things usually last until he needs another set of something he doesn’t have and then, he starts the process over again and creates something else from the pieces that we just part of the new creation.
From Broken Hearts to New Things
In our reading this morning, we find God addressing the people of Israel. This section of what we know as Isaiah, was written during a time period of around ten years before Cyrus until about twenty-five years after (550-515 BCE). As this first section of this part of Isaiah was being written, they sat among foreign peoples and foreign gods, an insecure time just before the Babylonians were defeated, and they longed for home . While Cyrus would eventually allow the Israelite captives to return to their homeland, it would be another few years or so before the Babylonians were defeated, and that proclamation was made.
They would have been a people longing for their homeland, “surrounded by worshipers of Marduk and Nebo and the other members of the Babylonian pantheon.” They would want to look on the Temple and all its glory, hear the choir of worshipers sing from its massive front steps, watch in awe and reverence at the sacrifices made during the festivals in their seasons. They would want to, but they could not. Instead, they found themselves dwelling “as captives and exiles along the banks of the Euphrates.”
It is here that the words of Isaiah 43 are spoken and heard. In a poem, God expresses divine sentiments, speaking to the people. The poem begins with a reminder from God, a common occurrence for the Israelites.
16 Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
These two verses refer to the Exodus and how God delivered the Israelites from Egypt by making a way for them through the Red Sea.
“Second Isaiah’s hearers would feel immediately at home with words bringing with them a very familiar ring: “way in the sea,” “chariot and horse,” “army and warrior.” We can even imagine that these words would have had a lulling effect, evoking the feelings of the “old-time religion” and giving comfort to a people battered on all sides by a threatening world filled with unfamiliar gods, rulers, languages, and customs.
This is the principal story of salvation for the Israelites and in many ways, for us as well. It is the story of a people in bondage who are delivered, something that Christians can related to having been delivered from broken lives to newness of life in the Way of Jesus. But God is not done with the Israelites in this poem.
18 Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old.
What? This seems like a strange thing to say here. God has just reminded them of the greatest story of deliverance, the story that defines salvation as the Jewish people understand it, and now he casually tosses his hand in the air and says, “Fuggidaboutit!” Don’t think about that stuff, don’t remember that stuff. It’s gone, poof, outta here. So, if they aren’t supposed to think about this epic expression of love, guidance, direction, salvation, restoration, redemption, what do they think about?
God answers in verse 19:
19 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
God says to his people, I will do something I haven’t done before, something like making roads in the desert and bringing water to the badlands. Even the animals will be grateful, and I will provide a way for my people to survive in the wastelands. I will make a way for you to get through the misery of being captives in a strange land, among strange gods. You will have your needs met and be taken care of even in this terrible place under these terrible circumstances.
For these people in their misery and depression, God will do a new thing, something different, something so wonderful even Creation itself sits up and recognizes. As we consider how God worked in the life of Israel to provide a new thing in their time of need and despair, I wonder where we are today? Some of us have been walking the same spiritual road, looking at the same sights along the way for years and years. We have become a complacent people who can’t see the possibility of what new things God may do because we don’t expect him to do anything new. If He did, it might scare some of us. Some of us are hurting, like the Israelites. Maybe we aren’t captives in a foreign land but maybe we are captive by something else in this life that keeps us from getting over the pain and past the circumstances that are causing. Some of us may actually be ready for a new thing. We have felt a stirring within us and hunger rumbling for new ways to live into the truth of our faith, new expressions of worship, new ministries to the community around us.
Odds are, you fit into one of these categories in some way. So, what is the new thing that God has for you? Do you really want it? Are you willing to accept it?
Giere, Samuel. Commentary on Isaiah 43:16-21. 03 03, 2019. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4008 (accessed 04 03, 2019).
Hanson, Paul. Isaiah 40–66 | Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.
Pick, Jennifer, and Todd Pick. With All Your Heart – Lent 2019 . 01 01, 2019. https://gbod-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/legacy/kintera-files/worship/With_All_Your_Heart_-_Lent_2019_Worship_Series_Year_C.pdf (accessed 02 27, 2019).
Plunket-Brewston, Callie. Commentary on Isaiah 43:16-21. 02 03, 2013. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1647 (accessed 04 03, 2019).
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