In my experience, rarely are new things truly new. They have a way of being a repetition with slight variation from a former thing. In this passage, Isaiah calls to mind the former things: God’s having made a path in the sea, overthrowing of the army of the oppressive empire, and freeing God’s people. Isaiah also promises that God will be doing a new thing; but, note that the new thing is not entirely new. God will once again make a path, this time in the wilderness. God will once again overthrow an empire, this time the Babylonians. God will once again free God’s people. What are the former things God has done in your life? If God were to do a new thing in your life, how might it be the same and how might it be different?
The Psalmist considers in poetic form the return of captives. This poetry is evocative as fortunes are reversed. A mourning group of exiles will have their laughter return; those who sowed seed while crying will be laughing by the time of the harvest; and like the dry tributaries of running through the desert, water will again return and create an opportunity for life. What does it feel like when you experience God’s redeeming work? What poetic imagery might you use to describe it?
Next to the glory that comes from Christ, Paul counts everything else as rubbish. This is especially true of both his past prestige and his past sin. How often does your past, for better or worse, figure into your calculations of your present self-worth? Is there anything in your past that restrains you from pressing forward toward God’s future?
We don’t know enough about Mary of Bethany to know her circumstances, but by Judas’ estimations, she poured almost a year’s wages worth of perfume onto Jesus’ feet. That would have been a considerable sacrifice for even the wealthy among Jesus’ followers. What could have driven her to such a demonstration? Perhaps it was her time with Jesus before; perhaps it was the recent raising of Lazarus from the dead (see John 11). In either case, it was likely to be her gratitude that led her to prematurely anoint Jesus for his imminent death, burial, and resurrection. For Mary, as for Paul, there is nothing so valuable as the gifts (graces) given by God in Christ. For what are you most thankful? How have you demonstrated your gratitude this week? How will you demonstrate your gratitude in the week to come?