Tuesday, January 5, 2021

New Rivers From Old Deserts: Isaiah 43:18-26

New Rivers From Old Deserts: Isaiah 43:18-26

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Key Verse: 43:18-19 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Joke:  An elderly man lay in a hospital with his wife of 55 years sitting at his bedside. "Is that you, Ethel, at my side again?" he whispered.

"Yes, dear," she answered.

He softly said to her, "Remember years ago when I was in the Veteran's Hospital? You were with me then. You were with me when we lost everything in a fire. And Ethel, when we were poor--you were with me there, too."

The man sighed and said, "I tell you, Ethel, Maybe you're bad luck." - Our Daily Bread (1/18/00), Leadership, Vol. 21, no. 3.

I think, that man had lost perspective.  His circumstances had warped his ability to see the most important elements of his life and relationships. Now we just got through 2020, by all standards a really lousy year, and we may also suffer some loss of perspective. We can have a warped sense of what we are going through. We can amplify the negative and overlook the positive and worst of all we can lose the sense of our relationship with.

Turn to Isaiah 48 and on this first Sunday in 2020, let’s reaffirm one of the most wonderful promises of God, to bring blessing out of brokenness. As God tells Isaiah , I will make New Rivers out of Old Deserts.


This part of Isaiah, chapters 40-48 is a collect of 8 sermons, dealing with comforting God’s people during a time of war and the threat of invasion. In this sermon, the subject is The Redemption of Israel, God’s People of Witness.

The opening verses are powerful, and they set the tone for the rest of the sermon.

God’s Position: Isaiah 43:1-7

Isaiah 43:1-3 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: …  

So after God reaffirms His position as the savior, protector and creator of Israel, then in vss. 8-13 He reaffirms Israel purpose. Israel is His nation of witness.

Israel’s Purpose: Isaiah 43:8-13

Isaiah 43:10-12 10  Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. 11  I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. 12  I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

Then Isaiah’s sermon then we find a prophecy about Israel’s future especially as it pertains to the nations and events of their present time.

Isaiah’s Prophecy Isaiah 43:16-17

16  Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; 17  Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.

Now I want to look closer at the remaining verses beginning with vss. 18-19, The Promise.

The Promise - Isaiah 43:18-19

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

God Promises A New Thing

God through Isaiah, His people a promise. A promise of a new thing, something that would be sudden and spontaneous. Something so startling and new that it would supersede everything that had been done by God in the past. He had delivered them through the Red Sea when they were trapped by the Army of Egypt but now that would be eclipsed by his deliver Israel from Babylon, where they would be captives.

This deliverance would spring forth in such a way that they could not help but see it. “Shall ye not know it? He asks them. “I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Pushing Past The Past

It easy after the year we have just had, or after a series of personal set-backs and losses, to lose perspective, to only see more of the same difficulties coming right at you. You may feel like a person caught in the middle of a train trestle and yep, just what I though, there’s the train whistle.

Or like this Ogden Nash poem about the new year

“Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark, it’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year!” - Ogden Nash

In those kind of times we often retreat into our warfare trenches of duty, tighten our helmets of salvation and just hang on. Grin and bear it. Its easy, at times like that, times like this, to miss the promise of new, fresh, joyous blessings found in our relationship with God.

Its at times like that, we need to hear a passage like Isaiah 48, reminding us that  God is always working to bring new blessing, new hope, new joy to his people.

This new thing according to God’s word would be...

Spontaneous. "It shall spring forth." Not the same routine, not a rut, not another day of survival, but something fresh and new, something of joy and wonder.

This new thing will be Superior. "A way in the wilderness." Better than that old rut we’ve worn into our wanderings, but now God would pave a highway through the barren places. A highway for us to walk with Him.

This new thing would also be Satisfying, like a cool river in the hot, dry desert. God’s new thing brings refreshment to the soul for all who have become dry and parched walking those old ruts through the wilderness and drinking flat, stale water from an old bag.

I don’t know about you, actually, yes I do know about you, because we have all been through a tough time. We have been frightened, we have been locked down, we have been lied to, we have been robbed of time and then robbed of those we would have spent that time with. We need the promise of God’s new thing. We as God’s people need to hear that God hasn’t forgotten us, hasn’t abandoned us in the desert but is busy building a highway for us to walk on and new rivers of blessing for us to find refreshment for our souls.

With God there is always something spontaneous, ready to spring forth. Something superior, showing us God’s power and something so satisfying tha we will forget how hard life can be. If I can see it and believe it, then I will experience it, God making a new blessing that makes even the unbearable a victory.

I think Paul understood this in his life. He wrote in Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Illustration: Promises on Death March

Philip Crosby, in his book March Till They Die, tells of a forced march of American and European soldiers in Korea. In November of 1950, the North Koreans were being pushed north, and they were taking with them the Americans and Europeans they had captured as prisoners of war. It was a terrible march. They were forced to go sometimes twenty miles a day though they were emaciated, hungry, suffering. Soldiers who couldn't keep up would fall back, and shots rang out. They had been executed.

Philip Crosby and his friends, as they passed close to those GI's who were having a hard time keeping up, would say slowly in a whisper, so as not to be heard, "God is near us in this dark hour. His love is real. His mercy is real. His forgiveness is real. His reward is waiting for us." - Don McCullough, "Reasons to Fear Easter," Preaching Today, Tape No. 116.

Can you imagine what that must have been like? You’re trudging along, hungry, cold and not know where you are going and then you hear a voice whisper, “God is near us…” Today that’s what we need to hear from Isaiah, God is near us and He is bringing a blessing out of the dark, dry walk through the desert.


That promise of God, give us the strength to keep going and God is not through for he reinforces his promise by telling us His purpose in our deliverance.

 The Purpose - Isaiah 43:20-21

The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

God’s Two Purposes

When God’s promises springs forth with the new rivers then even the beasts of the wilderness will be blessed and honor God because he gave drink to his people, his chosen.

This is always true, that those around God’s people, especially Israel, will also be blessed by God’s overflowing gifts. The rulers and leaders around Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As Laban told Jacob, in Genesis 30:27, “I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.”

Its still true today and we as a country had better not forget the Covenant People of God.  

But God’s overflowing gifts are not the purpose for his bring forth new rivers. He tells Israel that he has two purposes in delivering them with the new blessing. First To Satisfy His People.  Vs. 20 "To give drink to my people my chosen."

And to To magnify His Person.  Vs. 21 "They shall shew forth my praise."

God’s promise of the new was even more sure because God’s purpose was unalterable. It was the same then as it was when He first called Abraham. He wanted to bless them because he loved them and he blessed them because they would be a Nation of Witness, that would sing forth his praise.

Pursuing Providence’s Purpose

Those are some of the same purposes that God is still bring new blessing in our lives today. If I can understand how will but pursue the purpose in God’s plans, then new blessing will spring up everyday, like rivers in the desert.

God’s Purpose In Us. 

Do you understand that God purposes for us to have a fulfilled life. Maybe that term has become so misused, abused and over used that we should restate it differently. Do you understand that one of God’s purposes for you is to fill your life, to give drink that you will no longer be thirsty and empty.

Remember what Jesus told the Woman at the Well in John 4:14, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

I think that God was hinting through Isaiah of something that would be more fully revealed by Ezekiel and Jeremiah, the blessing of the New Covenant and the gift of the Spirit of God to indwell His people. A covenant that we are now a part of and we can never be empty or thirsty, no matter what this world of sin deprives us of, because God’s Spirit is in us, springing up, constantly, day after day, an everlasting well of water, filling us with the ever and always new blessing of God.

Let me give you what I call my John’s Jesus Joy Verses. These always remind me that Jesus also came to give us a joyful life. I need to remember this was one of the reasons He came.

 John 10:10 I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

 John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

 John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

 John 16:24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

 John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

 John 17:13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

God’s Purpose Through Us

Fulfillment, peace, joy and the blessings that come from the Holy Spirit indwelling us, this is God’s purpose to us, but we must also remember that God has a purpose through us. Isaiah 43:21 This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

It is the same purpose we find in Ephesians 1:11-12, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will  That we should be to the praise of his glory”

You know what the Lord wants us to do with us during this and all other times of wading through the world’s wreckage? He wants us to show forth His praise.

Praise God in the middle of the darkest night. Praise God in the depths of the greatest sorrow. Praise God in the longest of unending troubles. Praise God because we know He will bring new blessings and praise God because that is what He made us for. As He purposes to fulfill us with new rivers of joy, let us fulfill our purpose by praising Him!

Illustration: The Lepers Sitting At the City Gates

You know what we should be during times like this? We should be like the lepers sitting outside the city gates of Samaria in 2 Kings 7. The army of the Syrians has besieged the city and the people inside Samaria were starving, outside the invading army was marauding through the country, killing and capturing. And here are these four lepers caught in the middle. Remember what conclusion they came to? “Why sit we here until we die?”

Isn’t that a moral for us? It can get very bad out there, but God did not call you as His people to just sit here, trapped by the evil around you, until you die.


Get up, go out, face the challenges and then you will see God’s new river flowing where there used to be only desert. Don’t sit there till you die, God has made a way in the wilderness for us to walk with Him. Get up, go out, walk in the way he has provided and drink from the river he has created. Then once you have done this, then come back to those who haven’t seen, haven’t heard and haven’t experienced that new river flowing in their old deserts. Come back to those people and praise God. Tell them God has brought me through, He has given me joy, He has given me peace, He has led me to that promised river right out there in the parched, empty desert. What else can I do but praise him?


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