Looking backwards… looking forwards

Dear friends,

Here and there, the Bible contains some tensions and – dare we say it – some
apparent contradictions. One such example is found in the familiar words of
Isaiah 43:18-19: – ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing
a new thing!’

Yet, despite telling his readers to forget the past, Isaiah has already ignored his
own advice, as the two verses immediately preceding this popular word of
encouragement remind his readers of what God has done for them in the past: –
‘This is what the Lord says – he who made a way through the sea, a path through
the mighty waters…’ (v.16)

Drivers amongst you will know the importance of using your rear-view mirrors,
not only when you are reversing but also to help you anticipate the actions of
those driving behind you. Your main focus is on the road ahead, but you are also
paying attention to what is behind you. Historians will tell us that if we approach
the future without paying attention to the lessons of the past, we are doomed to
repeat our mistakes.

The arrival of a New Year is a God-given opportunity both to look back on the past
year and to look forward to the year ahead. Those of us using the Lectio365
devotional have been doing just that this week, as we have had the chance to
thank God for all that has been good and for those who have encouraged us
during the year. We have also been able to give to God all that has challenged us,
and to reflect on the lessons that we have learnt for the future (without dwelling
unhealthily on the events that taught us those lessons – which is where Isaiah’s
advice not to dwell on the past comes in).

Seeing where God has been at work in our lives in the past, as we look in our
spiritual rear-view mirrors, enables us to look forward to the New Year with faith
that God can and will continue to build on his work in the year ahead. As the
apostle Paul puts it, in the verse that we have chosen as the church’s text for
2023, ‘…all of us… are being transformed into [Christ’s] image from one degree of
glory to another…’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). So let’s now keep our main focus on the
road ahead, as we look forward in eager anticipation of what God will do in 2023.

With our love and prayers for God’s blessing in the year ahead

Matthew and Pauline