Context; December 31, 2018


Isaiah 43:189 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.”

Context is essential when reading the Bible. God has just referenced when He divided the Red Sea, which was several hundred years in the past when He said this to Isaiah, so this isn’t a matter of forgetting history. There is a lot of truth to the modern proverb that says, “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” That is evident today in the young people who are enamored of socialism, because they have no historical context for the damage those nice-sounding words have done over the past Century and more. That’s all the more ironic when we have a contemporary example in what is going on in Venezuela right now. What God is saying to and through Isaiah is that we aren’t to be bound by the past. We have a natural inclination to feel that we will never rise above our past experiences, our past performance. We should acknowledge our weaknesses, but we must always remember that God is greater than those weaknesses, and indeed greater than everything else put together, because He is infinite. Right after this He reminds Isaiah of His provision even in difficult circumstances, specifically water in the desert, which is an image people in the Middle East could really relate to. This year our Scripture for the Year has been Jeremiah 32:27. “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” No circumstance is too difficult for God to overcome. Calendars are arbitrary, but we have used them for thousands of years, because the passage of time does make a difference in the human experience. On this last day of the year (as we currently calculate years) it is valuable and even important to learn from the past but not let it bind us in the future. We are to be looking forward to what God has in store, knowing that His plans for us are good, (Jeremiah 29:11) whatever things look like in the short term.

I have great assurance that it was God who led me to choose this passage for today when I was making up the Scripture list. It is certainly applicable to me and my circumstances! We have been in Omura for 37 years now, and I am currently 70 years old. However, Moses was 80 when God told him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, and His power has certainly not diminished. I have tried all sorts of things over the years, and none of them have been particularly effective in getting people to accept the Gospel as applying to them. However, yesterday as I was doing some organizing I found that we have a lot of manga tracts, and the idea came to me of distributing them to school children. We have a lot of children who go by here every day, from elementary through high school, because we are close to several schools. We haven’t had a specifically children’s ministry for over 10 years, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t God’s timing. I am not to disregard God’s leading just because “I’ve tried that.” It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, but God has seasons for everything and I am to be obedient to Him, whatever my past experience might say to me.

Father, thank You for this clear, encouraging Word. Thank You for the service yesterday, and that it was genuine worship even without a sermon. Help me indeed shift my focus to You in everything, so that I may be fully responsive to all that You want to do in and through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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