How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth. (Psalm 74:10-12)
Happy New Year! And welcome to 2020!
Many folks I know have a practice of choosing a “word for the year.” My family has embraced this tradition for nearly a decade now. Each of the adults in our family carefully considers one word that is intended to help them think through, pray through and walk through the year ahead. For the past several years, my wife Heidi has then had her word and mine engraved into stones when the year is done (pictured above).
My word for 2019 was “PRESENT.” I felt God was calling me to be more present in relationships with family, friends and community and more present in my work, my witness, and my devotional life. Every time I thought of my word, it would remind me of what God was trying to teach me in 2019. Of course, I certainly wasn’t “present” in a perfect way last year, but I hope my word helped guide me to be more attentive to people and to God.
This year I am still trying to decide between two words…and I am asking for your help. The two words I am considering are “CONVERGE” and “ALIGN.” They suggest a similar idea—bringing things together (in my life and work)—and yet they are subtly different. I’d love to hear your impression of those two words—not a vote, but any helpful reflective insights you’d care to offer. If you have a comment, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This idea of reflecting on our past and looking toward our future lends itself well to all those resolutions, commitments, and plans we make for each New Year. And I think it might also give us some perspective on our text for this week in Psalm 74.
At first glance, this song of Asaph seems like a rather depressing song for our new year. After all, it begins with, “O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?” (vs. 1) Perhaps some context for the song would be helpful. Scholars assume this psalm (along with Psalm 79) was written in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Holy Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The author is distraught, angry, and confused. He is distraught because he has lost everything that is nearest and dearest to him. He is angry because the enemy is acting with total disregard and disrespect for the things of God. He is confused because the all-powerful and righteous God he serves seems to be unable…or unwilling…to do anything about it:
How long will the enemy mock you, God. Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them! (Psalm 74:10-11)
Everything Asaph had placed his trust in—his king, his country, his religion—is gone. Now God’s people are living in shame and God isn’t doing a single thing about it. Like I said, a rather depressing song for our new year!
But the psalmist continues: But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth. (vs. 12) He looks back in dismay at his tragic past; he looks ahead in despair toward an uncertain future. And yet, he knows the God to whom he prays is King of the past and Lord of the future, and that makes him a Savior for our here and now.
Eventually, the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt, only to be destroyed again—this time by the Romans in 70AD. But all this time God was at work, building a different sort of house for himself—a temple that could never be destroyed. And God was raising up a new sort of King—a King of kings from before time began, who will be Lord for all eternity (Revelation 11:15). This new King is Jesus—the Messiah, the Son of God—and he is the only Savior for our here and now (John 20:30-31).
And what about that new sort of temple? It’s you…and me…and everyone who belongs to Jesus. We are the “living stones” of God’s spiritual house, and God promises that anyone who trusts in King Jesus will never be put to shame (1 Peter 2:4-6).
“Trust…” maybe that’s a good word for our new year.
Today we have begun another new year. Maybe last year wasn’t what we wanted or expected…and maybe next year holds just as much uncertainty as it does hope. Remember, if you belong to the King of kings, you are part of a kingdom that cannot be defeated. If you give yourself to God, He will make you part of His Temple that cannot be destroyed. If you place your trust in Jesus, you will never be put to shame. He is the Word of Life. Let God continue to engrave that word…His Word…on your heart–this year and every year. And always stay thirsty for Him, my friends!