The beginning of a new year is always something I relish, a chance to put a marker point in the sand, look back, take in the view and see just what I’ve come through in the last 12 months. I like the sense of saying, that was in the past and here is a new shiny page to write on this year. Just as I love the crisp pages of a brand new notebook and the thrill of what could be written there, I love the start of a new year. There is a problem though. It’s really just the promise of all to come that I love. Deep down I know that I am the same person as a few days ago and any number of fresh starts won’t produce in me the faithfulness I long for.
Where then is our hope this year? Where do we stand as we look towards the vista ahead? The path may be shrouded in fog or as clear as the blue sky on a sunny day but the path ahead is the one we must travel. What hope is there as we head on down the track? We are a people who seem to crave the fresh start, the new page, finally putting the past behind us and attempting to believe that we are more than the sum of our experiences up to this date. How then do we live when the fresh starts fade out to the same old failures or when the good intentions fade away?
The Israelites were experts at fresh starts. Like a never ending circle the same heart breaking pattern repeats itself over and over again throughout their history. Psalm 106 outlines the shocking nature of one of these circles. We start remembering how back in Egypt God’s people didn’t remember him, forgot how kind he’d been and generally ignored him. How does God respond? By saving them, by parting the Red Sea and rescuing them from the hands of their enemies. And so they respond to his grace, they believe his promises. All is well. Until the very next verse. “They soon forgot what he had done.” These have to be some of the most heart breaking words in the Bible. They soon forgot what he had done. They rejected him, they abandoned him, they didn’t believe in his promises. It’s staggering. I want to shout, ‘DUH, can’t you see how silly you are being Mr Isrealite?’ And yet I know in myheart that I am the same. Many times I forget where I have come from, who made me and who has saved me from the depths of darkness. But enough of me. How does God react to this rebellion? There is punishment, the Isrealites have messed up big time after all, but also something deeply surprising. It’s not the end of their story.
“Many times he delivered them but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin.” Many times he delivered them. This is a God of second chances, a God who doesn’t give up on his people, who holds on and remains committed to us. “Out of his great love he relented”.
Our hope this year lies in a God whose love is great. Who relents because of it. Who doesn’t expect us to make resolutions to follow him better this year, who wants our hands held up in need rather than in attempts to impress him. Our hope this year is in a God who doesn’t destroy people who forget him but who carries on providing and loving. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? That’s the kind of God we have, one who is at work in his people, who delights in showing us time and time again that it’s all about his love and faithfulness and not our resolutions to do better. I hold out my hand and want to walk into this year with this God, who is committed to showing me more of him so I may love and sing and rejoice because there is hope in this world.
Where are you forgetting the God who called you out of darkness?
Where are you in danger of not waiting for his counsel? (vs 13)
What does this Psalm remind you about the character of our God? (other than the fact that he seems to like doing miracles in the land of Ham…turning half of it to cheese for a good sandwich?)