The start of a new year. There's nothing magical about the date January 1, but as the launch day of a calendar year, it's an opportunity to pause at a societal marker that signifies the end of something past and the threshold of new opportunities. Some set goals as the year commences. Others make resolutions. Whatever you do, I recommend including God in the exercise as you put your stakes in the ground that mark the path of His purposes for your life.
Thinking of something past and something new took me back to the exactness of the language that God used to describe how the Israelites were to approach the threshold of their entry into a new land. They had left a hostile environment in Egypt, and were on the verge of a new life in a new place. God knew they had old habits from the influences of where they had been and would face new temptations from the people and practices of the land they would enter. How true is this of us as we exit 2008 and enter a new year? How well did we handle the influences and circumstances of 2008, and what will be the challenges of 2009? What temptations have assailed us in the past and what temptations will we face amidst the unknown challenges of a new year? It is simply a change of times instead of place -- a question of chronology rather than geography.
God's advice to us? Put your foot down. Mark this day. Take a stand. God told Moses, "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'I am the Lord your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you... You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the Lord your God.'" (Leviticus 18:2-4).
Could God have made Himself any more clear? His emphasis is "I... My... My... I..."! In other words, whatever is going on around you, keep your eyes on Me -- My words -- My will -- My ways! Whatever the sinful ways of your past (in Egypt), stay away from them! Whatever the temptations of the future (in Canaan), do not succumb! "You shall not do... nor are you to do..." No negotiation. No rationalization. Just "no".
For those of us who have struggles or temptations in our hearts as 2008 fades behind us, God says to make a decision this day: "No" to what has hindered me in the past; "No" to future temptations that want to pull me down. But what is the alternative to such temptations? Simply put: God. He says, "You are to perform My judgments and live in accord with them". Why? According to this particular text, because the One who told me to is God: "I am the Lord your God." If I am His child, His servant and of His people, then that is reason enough. He is the God who created me, chose me and saved me. He's the God of the universe. Who am I to defy Him? And besides, we know that because He is God, His ways are always higher, wiser and more fruitful than ours.
And as clear as God is in giving His people direction for obedient lives, He is equally clear later on about how His people can expect to get through day 1 in a new land or a new year with any semblance of success: "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9). God goes with us and His grace works in us! Happy new year!
© 2009 by Ken Peters