Memory of God’s works takes different roles in our faith. Sometimes we recall the past to remind ourselves that God remains with us. I sat with a friend who was suffering greatly from the complications of a rare form of cancer. We talked about hope in the midst of a bleak outlook. She recalled times when she experienced God’s provision and faithfulness. It did not change her circumstances, but it encouraged her and renewed her awareness of God’s presence and faithfulness.
In this reading, memory plays another role. The people are not to recall the past so that they will be ready for God’s new work. The opening verses evoke the memory of the Exodus, specifically when God brought the people safely through the sea and into the wilderness—a place of struggle as well as a place of revelation. There they dealt with scarce resources and murmured against God. Now God promises to do a new thing by making a way in the wilderness where rivers will run and praise will resound.
Forgoing that Exodus memory is not a critique of the memory; rather, the focus shifts to awaiting the new thing that God will do for the people. As is true for every generation, our task is to remember the past but even more to ready ourselves for what God seeks to do now.
This readiness does not come easily—especially to those who “remember the former things.” The church has wrestled with many issues, such as slavery, style of worship, war, and the role of women. It has taken much prayer, conversation, and discernment. Needed change can take a long time, if ever. Still, God promises to do new things and calls us to follow on that new way.
O God, you continue to do new things for your creation. Help us to see and respond to your action. Amen.
The Isaiah text portrays the redemptive activity of God that is about to be introduced into Israel’s life. All paradigms lie shattered before the immensity of God’s grace! The joy of Psalm 126 is occasioned by the memory of God’s act of redemption in the past and also by the anticipation that a similar intervention is imminent. Paul’s autobiographical sketch directed to the Philippians confesses the change that has come into his life as a result of “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The story of Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet must be read in the context of Jesus’ looming passion. Jesus sets Mary’s actions in their proper perspective by linking them to his own death, even as he deflects Judas’s counterfeit compassion.
Read Isaiah 43:16-21. How do you respond to this God who insists on doing new things for the sake of the people?
Read Psalm 126. Pray this psalm three times: (1) pray all the verbs in the past tense in thanksgiving; (2) pray all the verbs in the future tense as a prayer for help; (3) pray verses 1-3 in the past tense, verses 5-6 in the future tense. Which was hardest to pray?
Read Philippians 3:4b-14. What props or credentials do you need to let go of?
Read John 12:1-8. What motivations does your discipleship reflect?
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