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.
Happy New Year! And welcome to 2023!
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 even had our words engraved into stones when the year is done!
My word last year was “APPRECIATE.” I felt that God was calling me to be more appreciative—more aware of the blessings in my life and more thankful in my response to those blessings. Every time I thought of my word, it reminded me of what God was trying to teach me in 2022. I was blessed to receive a sabbatical last summer, and I was continually reminded to “appreciate” that opportunity to slow down in my life and catch up with my family, friends, and faith.
This idea of reflecting on our past and looking toward our future lends itself well to all the 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 he trusted in—king, country, religion—is gone. 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 then the psalmist continues: But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth. (vs. 12) The psalmist 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).
This year, my word will be “REVEAL.” I believe the Holy Spirit has given me this word, and my prayer is that God would continue to “reveal” the way forward for me and for The Living Well. I am also praying that God will use me to “reveal” His good news to others. Ultimately, I want God to “reveal” Himself, so that I might know (and appreciate) the pleasure of His presence in my life.
This week we begin another new year. Maybe last year wasn’t what you wanted or expected. Maybe next year holds just as much uncertainty as it does hope. But we know the One who holds the past, present and future in His hands! So my prayer for you is this: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spiritof wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17)
God revealed Jesus, one Christmas long ago. Trust in him, and you will never be put to shame. He is the Word of Life. Let God engrave that Word on your heart. And always stay thirsty for Him!