16 Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings forth chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18 “Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
God is doing a new thing (vs 19). Those who have spent a great deal of time thinking about temptation and ministering to people who are tempted (all of us!) have observed that Satan is not very creative. His temptations tend to follow a handful of patterns. He uses fear and lust and greed to lead us to stumble, but the script is very much the same all the time. God, on the other hand, is exceptionally creative. Isaiah sees that in today’s verses. He remembers the great day when God parted the waters of the Red Sea but tells the people that God won’t rescue them that way again. This time, instead of dry ground in the sea they should expect water in the desert.
How did that play out? God used Moses to rescue his people from a genocidal Pharaoh in Exodus. When the enemy of God’s people tried his same old genocidal tricks through Haman in the days of the Persian king Artaxerxes, God did not resurrect Moses. He sent them Esther. She did not save them with plagues and flight through the Red Sea. She threw dinner parties. I think this was so strange that the people of the time needed to be woken up to it. They were looking for a new Moses but got Martha Stewart instead! If you have extra time on your hands in these days of self-isolation, consider reading the story Esther in the Old Testament. It is a great account of God using regular people to work his Kingdom goals in difficult days.
What has God got in mind in these days? I am no prophet and I do not know. I do know, however, that we will need to be open to God’s strange ways. He is creative. He rarely does the same thing twice. The closure of public gatherings and schools will adversely affect the churches of our land. I am concerned that people who stop attending church for weeks on end will get in that habit. I am concerned that parochial schools which were already struggling and now have closed, may stay closed for lack of students. But that is fear and our foe having the better of me. Today, through his prophet Isaiah, God is calling us to hope and openness to God’s salvation freshly and creatively expressed.
Pray that God opens all our eyes to what He will make of this. It will be good.