Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you And earth has nothing I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:23-25)
“A NEW CHAPTER”
Today we turn a page…begin a new chapter. That’s true in a couple of ways…
First of all, it’s the first day after Christmas—or at least that’s true for most people (more on that later). As I drive to work today, the streets are already littered with Christmas trees. They’ve done what we asked them to—they gave up their life so we could dress them up and bring a little joy into our living room. And now that Christmas has passed they’ve literally been “kicked to the curb.” After all, the family have all said good-bye, the celebration is over, the gifts are gone…it’s time to get back to “normal,” right?
It’s true that Christmas is over for most people today, but traditionally the Feast of Christmas, or Christmastide, lasts until January 6. (Remember that “Twelve Days of Christmas” song?) Personally, I don’t know anyone who keeps the party going that long, although there are a few families who like to keep their tree a little longer; a few churches who will acknowledge the “First Sunday of Christmas” this coming week; and a few neighbors who will leave their lawn Santa up till Spring!
Another way we get to turn the page and begin a new chapter is in our weekly Thirsty Thursdays. As I open my Bible to Psalm 73, I am greeted with the heading, BOOK III (Psalms 73-89) at the top of the page. Apparently, the ancient editors of the psalms divided the 150 songs into five “books,” that roughly correspond to the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) in Hebrew scripture. “BOOK III” then, captures some of the same themes as the book of Leviticus. Under this heading, my study Bible adds:
“These psalms celebrate the sovereignty of God, God’s hand in history, God’s faithfulness, and God’s covenant with David. These psalms remind us that our worship of the almighty God should be continual.”
In contrast to the sad fate of our Christmas trees, I guess BOOK III of the psalms is going to remind us that God will not be kicked to the curb!
The writer of Psalm 73, identified as Asaph, begins this new “BOOK III” of songs with a profession of faith, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (vs. 1). Notice he doesn’t just say God “was good” (past tense), back in the heyday of Abraham & Jacob, or Moses & Joshua, or even David & Solomon. He doesn’t say that God “has been good” (present perfect), suggesting we’re not sure about what God’s going to be like next. He doesn’t even say that God “will be good” (future tense), as if our future hope is some sort of panacea for all of our current problems. No, Asaph brings Israel’s history together into one profound declaration—God “is good” (present tense)—no qualifiers, caveats or exceptions.
Asaph begins his song this way, we soon discover, because he has been navigating his own spiritual and theological crisis. Asaph’s faith has been challenged by the reality in Asaph’s world. He sees the wicked prosper (vs. 3-5). He watches arrogant, powerful leaders act with indifference and impunity (vs. 6-9). And he is horrified that so many of the people around him are eager to “drink up” whatever cool-aide their leaders are handing out to them (vs. 10-11).
Meanwhile, Asaph is trying to keep his heart pure and keep his hands innocent of all this, but his only “reward” for righteous living has been daily affliction and punishment (vs. 13-14). I think his crisis of belief isn’t all that different from ours today!
Asaph is deeply troubled by the evidence all around him (vs. 16), and he’s about ready to abandon hope…until he enters the sanctuary of God (vs. 17), until he remembers what he knows to be true…until he is reminded that our worship of the almighty God should be continual. In a place of hopelessness, Asaph remembers that his hope is found in the presence of God:
I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:23-25)
God is always with us—holding our hand when we are about to fall, gently guiding us when we can’t find our way, and lovingly waiting to take us home to be with Him in glory! Nothing on earth—not wealth or power, not prestige or pride, not even family and friends—amounts to anything apart from our eternal God.
Today is the day after Christmas for a lot of people, but the Christmas story continues! I pray that this “new chapter” of that old story will continue to remind us of Emmanuel…God with us…Christ in us. He is the One who will never leave, the One who holds and guides us, the One who is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-4). Just because it’s Dec. 26, don’t kick him to the curb! He came for you in love, for love, to love. Let that be your next chapter; let him make sense of it all. And always stay thirsty for Him!
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