So, recently my church celebrated Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year. I like celebrating the New Year’s twice in a year because it reminds me of all the resolutions I made last January and which by now, being in the middle of September, have slipped or been forgotten all together. This allows me to sit back and contemplate on the things that have happened to me during the last few months as well as what is going to happen this season. It brought to mind an email I had written several months ago. 🙂 I copied and pasted it down below…keep reading! 🙂
Ok, so, how many of you are planning to make New Year’s resolutions? I must confess that those I do make (which are not many) usually end up out the door by March or so. Anyway, here is a Bible passage which hopefully will encourage you throughout 2013 and it is found in Psalms. Psalm 121 to be precise and it says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.”
First off, some background, every year in the Jewish culture, for the Passover they would journey up from their homes to Jerusalem and as they journeyed, they would sing various songs along the way. Psalms 120-134 are called, Songs of Ascents and each one has a special meaning and would be sung at various stages of the journey. Psalm 121 would be sung at the beginning of their pilgrimage. It’s a song of new beginnings and a song of their faith in God which inspired their journey. The Christian walk is just that as well, a continuous movement along the road that leads to the knowledge of God. And so, in honor of the New Year, a time to begin anew and another opportunity to leave the past behind, I thought this passage was appropriate. Now, the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah is actually in Sept/Oct of our calendar and after that would follow what was called the 10 Days of Awe. The 10 Days of Awe were a period of days when the Jewish people would consider their wrong doings in the past year and repent. Very introspective. After that was Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. So, what is the point of this? I believe that even though we have been freed from the laws of the Old Testament, the wisdom is still there and even though it might seem depressing to spend New Year’s in introspection, I believe that when we fully repent, we open the doors of heaven for blessings to rain down. And what is better to start a new year fresh? But I am digressing…
In this passage, we find three things: There is Reflection towards repentance or change, Affirmation – that the road I am taking is the one He has set me upon, (His Grace is sufficient) and Confirmation of the walk of faith that together, affirm His faithfulness and His promises. So, we shall go through each of them quickly.
1) Reflection: “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?”
This is all about perspective. In order to see and assess things properly, you must look up, not down. Psalm 3:3-4 “But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah” Look up! Look up at what God made you to be! Look at what you have, not at what you don’t. Remember the things God has promised you and even when it seems like the vision of the future He has given you isn’t drawing any closer, wait for it. He is faithful and will bring it about in due season. We also need to see Jesus afresh. Seeing Him for who He is. That’s my challenge for you all this next year, to begin to shift your view of Jesus and finding out just WHO He really is. We are so used to having Jesus TOLD to us that we have lost our passion to know Him for ourselves. It’s not a bad thing to be told about Christ, but when we let that replace our initiative and our drive to experience Him for ourselves we become ordinary. Stuck in a rut. So, I pray 2013 is the year to get out of your rut. Looking back to the past doesn’t help, it is looking forward that counts. Phil. 3:13, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” We all have done things this past year we regret but this passage reminds us to forget what lies behind and push towards the future and the vision God planted in us when we were born. I am not saying to not learn from past mistakes but that we must CHOOSE to not remember our failures but instead focus on our calling as a body of Christ.
2) Affirmation: “My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”
When you position your heart and mind, you gain perspective. When you look at the mountains that we so often drive by without a second thought, let it instead serve to remind you of the permanence of God. It is only with the right perspective of God that we can chart our course. For example, if you are sailing a boat at sea or flying an airplane, without perspective, you will quickly loose your way. One degree off and you can end up hundreds of miles from your destination. See how easy it is to get off our course which is Christ? We can miss Jesus by only a little. So, pull out the charts in your life (which are the maps you have drawn for yourself based on your understanding of God’s will for your life) and ask yourselves these questions: Are you on course? Are you in the right place? Have you made progress on your journey? If not, make corrections. That is the basis for repentance: a course correction. That is all! And don’t worry if you don’t know God’s will for you. It doesn’t have to be your whole entire life planned out but the little (and yet so important) things. God has a will for us each day and all it takes is a little planning to find the will and get on course. Then take an inventory of what you do have. I.e. talents, gifts, resources and ask these questions: Is everything fresh? Do you need to discard some things? Is everything balanced? Are you using your resources, your gifts, and talents to their fullest? The journey of Faith always means RISK but you must continue to affirm your trust in God and His Word. It starts with you and no one else can do it for you. All it takes is a little trust to step out. Don’t worry if it’s God’s will. I think that the reason we so often get in ruts is because we are afraid that if we step out of them, we are stepping out of God’s will. But it is in my personal experience that God does not tell you to get out of the rut. He wants you to, but He won’t make us. If something is not God’s will, He will shut the doors. If God were to tell you everything that you should do then the basis for trust is gone. We won’t need to rely on Him to guide our steps. Confession, as well, is an important part of the walk of Faith. The Bible says, “My help comes from the Lord” – as you look at your map, you may not know how to get to where you are going but your confession will establish your faith in the power of God. And I mean confessions of who you are in Christ and just who God is. We already spent time in introspection, it is now time to focus on the Glory of God.
There are actually two parts to the verses 3-8, they are Assurance and Blessing.
I. Assurance “He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.” I don’t know about you, but the fact that God will not sleep in His watch over me is very comforting indeed. We find several promises here; that God will strengthen our walk. (Hab. 3:19), He will watch over us, (Psalm 34:15; Heb. 13:5), and the He will protect us in EXTREME times, such as when the sun is burning hot and the night fierce with cold. (Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 49:10). Now, that is very comforting especially in these difficult times when we don’t know what the future will bring, we can confidently say that the Lord will not slumber in His guarding of our lives.
II. Blessing “The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.” Once again, we have three blessings here. The Blessing of His Protection (Psalm 91:5-8), the Blessing of a Guarded Life (Psalm 121:7; 125:2), and the Blessings in Our Walk (Deut. 28:6; 28:7). Now, I like that it just says He will guard out going out and coming in forever. And forever literally means eternity! It doesn’t say where, when, or what but just that we are blessed when we go in and out. I like to think of it this way, I head OUT my front door, I get IN my car, I realize I forgot my keys, I get OUT of my car, I go IN my house, I get my keys, I go OUT my door, I get IN my car…ect…and each time I go in and out, I can say, “I am blessed, I am blessed.” It doesn’t matter what I have done, it doesn’t matter who I am, and it doesn’t matter what others think, I am blessed. Even when I get OUT of bed every morning! Now if that isn’t something to praise God for, I don’t know what is. And so, during this New Year, I pray that each of you will be blessed as you enter in and as you go out. I also pray that this year change will come and we, as the bride of Christ, continue to prepare ourselves for the wedding. Keep pushing on and Happy New Year!