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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

The following is from J.C. Philpot.

As thy days—so shall thy strength be. - Deuteronomy 33:25

"The year before our eyes may hold in its bosom,events which may deeply concern and affect us.We do not know what is to come. What personal trials, what family trials, what providential trials may await us—we do not know. Every year hitherto has brought its trials in its train; and how can we expect the coming year to be exempt?

Sickness may attack our bodies, death enter our families, difficulties beset our circumstances, trials and temptations exercise our minds, snares entangle our feet, and many dark and gloomy clouds, make our path one of heaviness and sorrow.

If, indeed, we are His, whatever our trials may be—His grace will be sufficient for us.

He who has delivered—can and will deliver.

And He who has brought us thus far on the road, who has so borne with our crooked manners in the wilderness and never yet forsaken us—though we have so often forsaken Him—will still lead us along; will still guide and guard us, and be our God, our Father and our Friend—not only to the end of the next year, if spared to see it, but the end of our life.

Blessed with His presence—we need fear no evil; favored with His smile—we need dread no foe;upheld by His power—we need shrink from no trial; strengthened by His grace—we need panic at no suffering.

Knowing what we are and have been when left to ourselves—the slips that we have made, the snares that we have been entangled in, the shame and sorrow that we have procured to ourselves—well may we dread to go forth in the coming year alone."

Well may we say, "If thy presence does not go with me, carry us not up hence. - Exodus 33:15

The following is from me:

Joshua 3:1-4 - And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host; And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.

The phrase, ". . . for ye have not passed this way heretofore", always comes to mind at the beginning of a new year. 2007 is in the books. It is done, over, gone for ever. There are no repeats. The only thing left to do is to look forward to 2008 and hopefully anticipate the new set of 365 (this year 366) opportunities. Yet as we have stepped into a new year we all realize we have no idea what the year holds. We have not passed this way heretofore. We don't get a practice run or a preview. It could be the source of much apprehension.

I think of the children of Israel. Here they were on the verge of crossing over Jordan. Of course the Lord would have them cross over at the time of year when the Jordan was at flood stage. They had just completed forty years of wandering in the wilderness. When they did cross over their very first obstacle was Jericho, a city with mighty walls. Moses was gone! There were plenty of reasons to be fearful, plenty of reasons to be a bit apprehensive about what faced them, to hesitate, to question. Probably one of the things that kept them from doing so was the realization that the carcasses of their parent were buried in the wilderness because of unbelief. The whole generation that came out of Egypt 40 years earlier had died in the wilderness because when given the opportunity to take the land 40 years earlier they had allowed the unfavorable report by 10 of the 12 spies to rob them of their faith and confidence in the promises of God.

Of all the people Joshua probably had the most reason to be apprehensive. He knew full well whose shoes he was being called on to fill. It was not he who had confronted Pharaoh and called the plagues down upon Egypt, it was Moses. It was not he who had lifted the rod over the Red Sea and watched it roll back so that they crossed on dry ground, it was Moses. It was not he who smote a rock and rivers of water came out, it was Moses. It was not under his leadership that manna had been provided for 40 years, but Moses. Would it be surprising if Joshua had been a bit hesitant? After all Jericho lay in their path. How would they ever take such a fortified city?

All of these difficulties and uncertainties provide the basis for God's communication to Joshua in the first chapter.

Joshua 1:1-9 - Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

I have highlighted what I believe to be two important aspects of the Lord's communication to Joshua at this momentous time. It is actually one thought repeated.

"As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee." That must have been encouraging words. God says, "I will not fail thee." "I will not forsake thee." So what should be Joshua's mindset facing the unknown and seemingly difficult. "Be strong and of a good courage." Armed with the promises of God he should accept the challenge of leading in a way they had not been before with courage and discipline.

Again, the Lord tells him at the end of verse nine. "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed." God never gives his people a command that he does not give them ability to perform. The command was given because the Lord had promised that he would be with him "whithersoever thou goest."

So, we have not passed this way before! But, we have the promise that he will be with us whithersoever thou goest. It is a new year but the same God. He who was faithful last year will be faithful this year. Remember it was just one year ago that we stood at the same place facing a year of uncertainty, facing the reality that we had not passed this way before and yet we only need look back to yesterday to realize that the Lord was with us whithersoever we went.

The one thought I am determined to carry with me this year is, "I will not fail thee." Can there be any greater promise? "I will not fail thee." He has not for 44 years and I am confident that he will not in the 45th.

Therefore I embrace the new year with optimism and courage and I am certain that I will not be disappointed.

"I will not fail thee!"
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