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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, January 3, 2021  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Isaiah 43:16–21

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 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. 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, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise. (NRSV)

This scripture foreshadows a new covenant that God is establishing with the chosen people. In the first two verses, the Israelites are reminded how God delivered them from Pharaoh’s army and continues to be their protector and fortress. 

What is surprising is that God then tells them to forget about their past. God will remain their redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, but directs their attention to a “new thing,” a new act of grace.

In verses 20–21, God says, “I will provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I have formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” 

How are we to understand what is meant by this “new thing”?

As I pondered this divine pivot to a “new thing,” I asked how this would be embodied not only in a communal religion but in an intimate, personal communion between my spirit and the Spirit of God. 

In our time we are buffeted by dark forces that threaten our union with God’s new thing. The raging pandemic, the deep divisive political environment, economic insecurity, fear, and alienation. 

Now is the time to intentionally set aside rancor, bitterness, and disillusionment and accept God’s invitation to join in creating a “new thing” in our world. We are called to be light bearers in this dark season. 

How do we reflect this light? As we see elsewhere in scripture, God has clearly revealed to us what is good and only asks us to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Strengthen our hearts, good Lord, to love with faith, courage, and compassion toward ourselves and others, as we are renewed by your Spirit. Amen.

Written by Susan Cornelius, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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