New Year's Day: Crossing over...into a new year
New Year’s Day always brings an opportunity for a new beginning. For the children of Israel it had been a long journey. Moses had led them all the way from Egypt, through the Red Sea, to Kadesh Barnea, through the wilderness, and now they were encamped on the eastern bank of Jordan overlooking the Promised Land. The Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament records the sermons Moses preached to his people before he went up on Mount Nebo, viewed the Promised Land and died. In the aftermath of his death the children of Israel went on into the Promised Land and possessed it. Along the wilderness route there were often times when there were those who wrung their hands and doubted that they could go on and wished they were back in Egypt. Moses continued to remind them that God “brought us out from there that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He had swore to our fathers” (Deut. 6:23).
Thus, before the blessing of the Promised Land became a reality for his faithful followers, Moses challenges them with these words from Deut. 11:10-24. He reminds them as they cross over to their promised possession that they do so with God’s provision, God’s presence, God’s promise and God’s protection.
As we stand at the brink of a new year our hearts are filled with anticipation and challenge. Only God knows what the future holds but the possibilities are limitless. As we cross over into a new year we do so with the same challenges Moses gave his people so long ago. As we cross over into a new year we’re reminded of:
But the land you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven (Deut. 11:11).
What is Moses saying to Israel here? Better yet, what is God saying to us through their experience? He will meet our needs! He is our source. Like the land of Israel, our land will “drink water from the rain of heaven.” How many times have we seen this across the years…when it looked like hope was almost gone? In those times when we began to feel our source was running out, “God would rain from heaven the blessing upon us.” We cross over into a new year reminded that He is our source.
Moses reminded the people that the land that they were about to possess was a land of “hills and valleys.” God never promised us the way would always be easy. It is not a mountaintop experience all the time. Sometimes we too, like the Israelites, walk through the valley. And then, there are those times when we come face to face with a mountain along the journey which humanly speaking looks impossible to climb.
Yes, it is a land of “hills and valleys.” Anyone who’s ever traveled in the Promised Land knows the reality of this visual expression. There are deep valleys. I’ve walked through the Kidron Valley and through Wadi Kelt. There are high mountains like Mount Hermon and Masada. There are desert places in the Judean wilderness and then there’s the beautiful oasis of Jericho. It did not take the children of Israel long to discover that it was indeed a land of hills and valleys. They began their conquest of the Promised Land with the great victory at Jericho only to descend into the valley of defeat at Ai in the days that came afterwards.
The same is true for us along our own journeys. Ours too is a journey through “hills and valleys.” Thank God for the hills, the mountains. Often in the valleys we forget about the mountains. And, unfortunately, often when we’re on the mountain we forget about the valleys. Both are important! If there were no valleys there would be no mountain tops. We never learn spiritual lessons on the mountain. They are always learned in the valley where we’re trusting, depending on the living God to get us through. Mountains are there to enlarge our vision, to let us see our potential, to give us a spirit of conquest. But in the valleys, that’s where we become more like our Lord. We would not choose the valleys. But His ways are not our ways. He is in fact the God of the mountains. He is also the God of the valleys. Do you remember what Elijah said to Ahab when Ben-Hadad, the cruelest general to ever march an army, besieged the city of Samaria? Elijah said, “…‘Because the Syrians have said, the Lord is God of the hills but He is not God of the valleys,’ therefore, I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord” (I Kin. 20:28). Yes, it is a land of hills and valleys.
But look closely at Deut. 11:11. Note that we take with us into a new year the promise of God’s provision. “It is a land that drinks rain from heaven.” That is, He provides for us supernaturally.
For the children of Israel the land of Israel was quite a contrast from the past years of Egypt. Moses reminds them that the land which they were about to possess was “not like the land of Egypt ... where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot” (Deut. 11:10). What was the difference? The land of Egypt depended on human resources. There was not much rain. The Nile was their source and it overflowed once a year. Therefore hard work was involved. By hand and by foot they dug trenches, canals to irrigate the land. In Egypt it was all done by human effort. Work, work, work was the motto. In Egypt there was no need for God. Water was stored by artificial means and fields were irrigated by human sweat and toil. Egypt did not depend on God like Canaan did.
There are a lot of churches today that operate like the children of Israel in Egypt. That is, they have it all calculated with human ingenuity. They dig their own trenches. There’s no real need for God. They go right on operating without Him, with their own initiatives, plans and promotions. They do not do anything that cannot be explained by human means. Most everything happens by human effort and ingenuity.
But note the contrast of the Promised Land. It “drinks water from the rain of heaven.” Canaan was and is totally dependent on God. Rain was His gift. In fact, this land has always been solely dependent upon His provisions. Perhaps that’s why He chose this land and those people to train His church. I Cor. 10:6 reminds us that everything that happened to the children of Israel did so as an example to us in this dispensation of grace. How beautiful to know that He proves this with both autumn and spring rains (Deut 11:14). He sends the early rain for seed time and the latter rain at harvest. Both are important for growing a good crop.
As we cross over into a new year we do so with the assurance that the same God who sends us the autumn rains of the past will send us the spring rains in the future. It may be a land of hills and valleys but it is a land that “drinks rain from heaven.” As we cross over we’re dependent on the supernatural provision of God. God is our source and he has a way of using us to accomplish his purpose. As we cross over into a new year we do so with God’s provision. We also cross over with:
A land which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year (Deut. 11:12).
Remember, the Apostle Paul reminds us that everything that happened to the children of Israel happened as examples for us (1 Cor. 10:6). There were some who said to Moses that they doubted they could accomplish the task of taking the Promised Land. After all, the land was filled with giants and walled cities. But they had forgotten that they crossed over with God’s provision and God’s presence. It was “a land which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year” (Deut. 11:11).The year upon which we embark is a year that God cares for. He purposed it. He planned it. He knows the way through the wilderness and all we have to do is follow.
Some of the sweetest words in Deuteronomy 11:12 are often overlooked. Moses refers to the God of Israel as “your” God. He is a personal Lord and Savior. We are in covenant with Him. We are His and He is ours. Moses reminds his people that this is true “from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.” As we cross over into a new year we’re reminded that God is watching us, that His eyes are upon us.
New Year’s Day brings a fresh vision of new opportunities. What a blessing to cross over into a new year with the very presence of God Himself. The eyes of the Lord are upon us! He is watching the dear mother who faces the year raising children without a husband. He is watching the dad who’s under tremendous pressure to provide. He’s watching the teenager with all the pressures of adolescence. He’s watching each of us. Yes, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (II Chr. 16:8-10). Like the children of Israel, He did not bring us out except to take us in. We go into a new year with God’s provision and God’s presence. We also go with:
And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,
Then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.
And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled (Deut. 11: 13-15).
What was Moses saying to Israel? Better yet, what is God saying to us? Remember that all these things happened to the children of Israel who are examples to us in this dispensation of grace. The single most important thing we can do as we cross over into a new year is to love the Lord our God and to serve Him with all our hearts.
Note that this promise is conditional. Verse 13 begins with “if” and verse 14 begins with “then.” Thus, this promise is not for everyone. It is for whom? Those who love the Lord their God and serve Him with all their heart and soul. Think about it. What could be more simple? Israel only had to walk in obedience to God’s word and to love Him. All that kept them from the blessing of God was disobedience. It is the same with us. I often wonder what would happen to the church of Jesus Christ if all of the members began to truly love the Lord with all their heart and serve Him with all their soul.
Here we find the Israelites’ primary purpose. It was to love God! Everything in life has a primary purpose. The primary purpose of a pen is to write. I would rather have a cheap plastic pen that worked than an expensive one that didn’t. The primary purpose of an automobile is to transport us from place to place. I would rather have a 10-year-old automobile that always started than a shiny new one that did not work. When something ceases to fulfill its primary purpose it becomes useless. We’ve all seen wrecking yards with hundreds of cars lined up side by side that once were valuable. Could it be that so many Christians are defeated because so few are fulfilling their primary purpose? All of God’s commandments are pure but the Lord Jesus said one was the greatest. It was to love God with all of our hearts (Matt. 22:37). I might add that the reason we break most of the other commandments is because we do not obey this great commandment. Men and women would not defile their bodies in adultery or fornication if they loved God with all their hearts. No wonder Moses spoke this stern warning related to God’s promise in Deuteronomy 11:13-14.
Moses reminded the children of Israel, and us, what is of utmost importance — loving God. We’re to love God first and love man second. This is the fallacy of humanism that infiltrates so much of our culture. It says that the way to love God is to love man first. The Bible says the only way I can truly love others on the highest level of love is to love God supremely.
As we enter a new year we do so with God’s promise. What is our primary purpose? It is to love Him. It is to love God and serve Him with all of our hearts and souls.
Thus, we cross over into a new year with God’s provision. We are reminded that He is our source. We cross over with God’s presence. We are reminded that His eyes are upon us from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. We cross over with God’s promise. If we love Him and serve Him with all of our hearts then His blessing will be upon us. Finally, we cross over to a new year with:
Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them,
Lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.
Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,
That your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.
For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do — to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him—
Then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves.
Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the River Euphrates, even to the Western Sea, shall be your territory (Deut. 11:16-24).
What is Moses saying to Israel? Better yet, what is God saying to us since what happened to them was simply an example for us? He is reminding us that the Lord will go before us and drive out our enemies. His protection carries with it a warning. “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you” (Deut. 11:16-17). Again, note the repetition of the importance of loving our God. “For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do — to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to hold fast to Him” (Deut. 11:22). For any of us who wonder why we may be living outside the provision and protection of God the reason might be found in this verse.
Moses is tying his people to the word of God. Hear him as he challenges his people — “You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deut. 11:18-19). Moses knew the only way his people could love the Lord with all their heart was to saturate themselves with a conscious awareness of His word. As we cross over into a new year we do so with God’s protection. Moses goes on to tell them that “Then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the River Euphrates, even to the Western Sea, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand against you” (Deut. 11:23-25).
Yes, it was a long continuous journey for the children of Israel through the decades of wilderness wanderings. Moses led them all the way. And thus he comes to the end of his own life and says, “The land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year” (Deut. 11:11-12). As we cross over to this new year Moses stands to remind us that as we go, we too will need God’s provision. To depend on human effort is sheer folly. We will need God’s presence. There will be times when we, like the children of Israel, wonder where God is. But His eyes are upon us. We cross over with God’s promise. There may be times that this is all we have to hold. And, we go with His protection. There may be times when we’ll be without help or hope unless God supernaturally intervenes.
We, too, have been on a journey. Now we are crossover people ourselves. We are crossing over into a new year with new opportunities and new beginnings. Yes, He brought us out from there that He might bring us in to a land of blessing. As we enter a new year let us, like those who’ve gone before, love God…walk in His ways…and hold fast to Him.