Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 (NIV) – “This is what the Lord says – he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters… 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.”
It is the start of a New Year! This is the time when most people make resolutions and plan for the months ahead. As we reflect on the year behind us and start to make new goals for this year, let’s start off by seeking God about what His plans and purposes are for us. Prayer and fasting are ways we can seek the will of God. Praying to God allows us to open our hearts to Jesus, have an honest dialogue with him, and allow the Holy Spirit to explicate the will of God for our lives. In the Bible, fasting is a means of humbling oneself before God, worshiping, and pursuing a deeper relationship with Him (Ezra 8:21; Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23; Luke 2:37). Prayer and fasting go hand in hand as a spiritual discipline (Mark 9:29; 1 Chronicles 16:11; 1 John 5:14), and demonstrates our dependence on God, and our desire to seek and place His will above our own.
It is God’s desire to do a “new thing” in our hearts and in our lives! At Isaiah 43:16-19 we find the nation of Israel in exile in Babylon. God tells His people that despite their physical exile from the promised land and their spiritual separation from Him, he is going to show them mercy, release them from captivity in Babylon, and fully restore them. God was promising them a new Exodus. No longer would they be slaves to their Babylonian captors as they formerly were to their Egyptian masters, in the days of Moses. The past miracles of God, which he had performed to free his people from Egyptian subjugation, would pale in comparison to the miracles He had in store for them. No matter what our circumstances are, we are reminded that He is still the God who is able to make a way for us through every difficult situation, providing life giving “streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).
The Bible is filled with examples of God doing “new things” in the lives of his people. The book of Ruth introduces us to Naomi, a widow who had seemingly lost everything. Naomi and her family went to Moab to flee from famine, but they experienced one misfortune after another. Naomi’s husband Elimelek died in the land of Moab, and sometime afterward her two sons Mahlon and Kilion also died (Ruth 1:1-4). Naomi, whose name means “pleasantness”, had come to such a desolate place of grief and sorrow in her heart, that she told people to call her “Mara” meaning ‘bitter’ (Ruth 1:20, 21). At this point in her life, Naomi felt she had no prospects, was “empty” and that her story was essentially over. But, God gave Naomi a new beginning! Naomi was blessed and healed through her relationship with her beloved daughter-in-law Ruth, and the kindness and love that they showed each other. Ruth married Boaz, restoring Ruth as a wife while Naomi was restored as a mother. According to Ruth 4:14-17 “The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth. Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son!’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” God blessed both Ruth and Naomi with a new beginning, and Ruth and Boaz had the honor of being in the ancestral line of Christ, the kinsmen redeemer who saved the entire human family.
Naomi left behind Moab and the bitterness she carried with her, and was blessed with a new beginning. We should also consider what we are willing to leave behind in order to walk into the new beginning God has for us. Whether it is fear or a resistance to surrender control over our destiny to God, this is the time to leave behind every entanglement and seek God’s guidance regarding His will for our lives (Hebrews 12:1). Our plans apart from God are futile and destined to fall short of the immeasurable good that God has in store for us (Ephesians 3:20). When we seek God’s direction, insight, and help regarding all that we should do, we are charting a course for success.