Remembering the Old, Embracing the New

Jan 7th 2022 – With the first day of the New Year already passed, many can choose to breathe a sigh of relief or clench their teeth and embrace for the impact of another long year. However, the people of God should hold a different attitude towards the year passed and the newness to come. As Christians, when looking at the cross of Christ, we don’t just see the cross of suffering and pain, but also we see the great resurrection after a harsh death.

This principle should be applied in the everyday lives of a believer, especially when it comes to the coming of a new year. We don’t hide away or sugar-coat the woes of the previous year. I’m sure for many of us, it was difficult in many creative sort of ways. However, looking in the Word we can see how God shows us we should regard the past and see the future. Looking at Isaiah 43:16-17, God says to His people :

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:

Here, God is speaking to the Israelites telling them the remember the past and how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Then let’s look at Isaiah 43:18-19 :

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Now He says to forget the former things. It may seem like a contradiction, but it is, in fact, instruction on how we too can look at the past, present and future things. This shows us that there is a sense in which we must remember the past, in terms of God’s great work on our behalf. Though the year could have been difficult, was there not hope and joy within the year as well. The Christian must be a person of cross and resurrection; a person of hope. If we can’t even find the simplest of joy within the previous year, then thankfulness is lost and we come to misunderstand or despise God.

There is also a sense in which we must forsake and forget the past, with all its discouragement and defeat, and move on to what God has for us in the future. As Isaiah wrote prophetically to Israel, they were mired in the desperate circumstances of captivity and exile. God wanted to put their eyes on the new work He would do, so He began with a reminder to not remember the former things. If they were stuck in the slavery and sin and discouragement of the past, they would never go forward to the new thing God had for them.

Staying stuck in the past can keep us from the new thing God wants to do. God asks us if this is something we can see, “do you perceive it?” When He leads us to this new thing, will we have the open eyes and hearts of perceive it?