If you were to see the letters QWERTY, what would you think of? Those are the letters on the top row of the left hand side of a keyboard and that keyboard arrangement is called the QWERTY keyboard. This keyboard was first designed by Christopher Sholes who invented the manual typewriter in the 1860’s. And he deliberately put the letters that are used closed together in words further apart on the keyboard so that the keys would not get jammed when they came up together. But now nobody is using a manual typewriter anymore but we are still using the QWERTY keyboard because with the changes that have happened in technology the keyboard from the manual typewriter was adapted to the computer. And so we are still using that same system even though we don’t have any keys that could jam anymore.
And what we have with the QWERTY keyboard is what’s called technological lock-in. In a recent edition of one of our local papers, there was an editorial by Matthew Claxton in which he referred to technological lock-in as the reason that we get going down a certain road with technology, and often it is the first one out of the gate that sets the standard. And then that becomes the standard forever and ever even though we may have forgotten why it is that we are doing things that particular way. So why do we drive on the right hand side of the road? Why is a facial tissue called a Kleenexes? Why is a vacuum bottles called a Thermos? Throughout our lives there is this technological lock-in. We are locked in to doing things in a certain way. There may be a better keyboard, but we are so locked-in to the QWERTY keyboard that it would cost too much and cause too much confusion to try and do something different.
And this locked-in approach happens not only with technology, it also happens with our way of thinking. Ever since the Garden of Eden, we human beings have been locked-in on ourselves. We continually let our own personal desires trump what God tells us to do. We get locked-in in terms of the past. We may be locked-in on something bad that has happened in our past. Maybe it is something bad that someone has done to us and we are unable to forgive them and let it go. Maybe it is something bad that we have done and the guilt never seems to go away. But it is not just bad things that we lock-in on. Sometimes we can get locked-in on a good thing that has happened in the past. Maybe we have been involved in something that was so wildly successful and is was so great to be a part of it that we keep trying to make it happen again and again and again. And maybe it is an idea whose time has passed and we need to let it go. And when we are locked-in in our thinking then we become locked-in beings. And if we are locked-in on a path that is separate from God we are headed to our own destruction.
But the Good News is this: God is never locked-in when it comes to ways of thinking about how he can save his people. In Isaiah, chapter 43, starting at verse 15, we read:
15 I am the LORD, your Holy One,
Israel’s Creator, your King.”
16 This is what the LORD says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: (Isaiah 43:15-17)
And so, here in this passage, God is reminding Isaiah’s listeners that he is the One who created Israel. It was his idea to gather for himself a group of people that he would make his own. And this group of people would then be a light to the rest of the world so that God, through this people, could draw the whole world to himself.
And God also reminds the people that he is the One who saved them. He is the One who brought them out of Egypt out of the land of slavery by parting the Red Sea. And then, it was God who led the Egyptian army into that divide and let the waters come upon them so that they were destroyed, laid down, never to rise again.
But the Good News for the future comes in the following verses:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the desert
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise. (Isaiah 43:18-21)
And so, as great and wonderful as those salvation events of the past were, God is saying “Forget about them!” Because he is going to be doing a new thing that is going to be even greater than those good things in the past. And Isaiah’s assurance to the people of Judah is that this new thing that God will be doing will be as dramatic an event as when storms dump rain on a parched desert and raging rivers rush through formerly dry creek beds. And in the same way that the animals of the desert give praise to their Creator for the new thing that has come, this life-giving water, so also will the new thing that God is going to do be for the people and when we give praise to our Creator in response, we will be doing what we were designed to do.
Our God is a faithful God and he keeps his promises. Isaiah had earlier warned Judah that because she was locked-in on disobeying God, as a consequence, God would allow that nation to be carried off into captivity. And that happened in 586 BC. But here now in these verses, God was saying through Isaiah to his people that he would bring them back, he was never locked-in in his thinking, he would be doing a new thing and he would bring them home. Earlier in the same chapter, Isaiah says on behalf of God to the people:
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life.
5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth-
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:4-7)
And God kept his promise and he brought the people back to the land he gave them in 537 BC.
But God was not done doing new things and in this same passage he is pointing ahead, further ahead, to another future promise. And 700 years after the time of Isaiah, God did another new and amazing thing: the God who created the universe became a human zygote. The same God who created us and all things, the omniscient, omnipresent Lord of the cosmos became a single-celled fertilized human egg. And as amazing as that was, there were more new things to come. For that single cell divided into two and divided further and became a baby boy. And that baby boy grew up to be a man, a human beings just like you and I in every way, except for one. And that is, if Jesus was locked-in on anything, he was locked-in on loving the world and on obeying his Father. And so he carried out the mission that his Father had given him of saving the world. And this single solitary man allowed himself to be beaten and whipped and led outside the gates of Jerusalem to be nailed to a cross. And there Jesus suffered and died for the sins of the whole world: for all of your sins and mine, for all the sins of all the people in your family, your co-workers, your boss and even that guy who recently cut you off in traffic. Jesus died for the sins of everyone. And three days later, again something amazing happened, something new happened that had never happened before: Jesus rose from the dead, never to die again.
This new thing that God in Christ has done will stand as the pivotal event in all of human history. But what God really, really, really wants is for it to be the pivotal event in your life. Because, as we look to Jesus in faith, something new happens in us. Whereas before was just the desert of our guilt and shame and the despair of death among us, we are now refreshed by the fresh water of Jesus’ forgiveness. And springs of eternal life have welled up within us for Jesus has also given us his Holy Spirit. And our thirst for life was satisfied when Jesus washed us in the waters of Holy Baptism.
And when Jesus returns and time is rolled up like a scroll, God will do another new amazing new thing. For we will experience the life we have with God right now in a newer and fuller way. We will be raised from the dead and our bodies will be transformed. No longer we will experience illness or suffering or death. The lame shall walk, the deaf will hear and the blind shall see. We will see Jesus face to face. He will live among us. He will be our God and we will be his people.
And so I encourage you to receive the new life that Jesus has for you today. Jesus freely gives it to all people everywhere. I invite you to ask him to come into your heart and be the Lord of your life, to trust in him for the forgiveness of your sins and you will have everlasting life with him.
But there is even more new stuff to come. Because when that happens, when we live life with Christ, he will give us new opportunities to bring some of his goodness into the world into the everyday situations of which we are a part.
And so I also encourage you to remember the new life that God the Father has given you through his Son, remember the new thing that Jesus did to save you on Calvary’s cross, remember the new things that the Holy Spirit does for you every day to turn away from sin and turn you back to the God who saves. And then watch for the new opportunities that God will give you to share his Good News with those around you. Maybe it will be with someone in your family who is struggling with big problems, maybe it will be with a neighbour who is hurting in a profound way, maybe it will be with someone you don’t even know in some other part of the Lower Mainland of BC or maybe even on the other side of the world. But whoever it is and wherever it happens, you can be God’s instrument for helping someone else get unlocked from their brokenness of sin and become a new person in Christ.
Matt Maher talks a little bit about these opportunities that God gives us in this video clip as he explains the story of how the song “Hold Us Together” came to be.
You are God’s people, dearly loved and holy and precious in his sight and dearly loved. And you have the privilege of going where many others cannot. You can go where your pastors cannot go. And in those times, those moments, you have the opportunity to share God’s transforming love with other people so that they too will know the new thing that God has done for them and so that they can do what God made them to do, which is praise him! Amen
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on 22 Aug 2010.)
 The Langley Advance, 13 Aug 2010 edition, p. A8.