Our Great Need in the New Year
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The new year with all its opportunities and responsibilities lies before us. It will be a year of failure for some, while for others it will be a year of spiritual success.
For those who will succeed, there will be either of two different incentives to action. One will be fear (the fear of failure, fear of punishment, or the fear of criticism). The other incentive will be inspiration (the inspiration of goodness itself, the inspiration of worthy examples, and most of all, the inspiration of God's glorious presence).
Moses' great assignment after the tragic failure of the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:12-23) is illustrative of the Christian's assignment at the beginning of the year.
THE NEED OF GOD’S PRESENCE
Moses by God's enablement had brought the Children of Israel from Egypt to Sinai. Along the way they had seen the marvels of God's grace over and over again. The plagues made their escape from Egypt possible. They had seen the miraculous from the parting of the Red Sea to the defeat of the Amalekites. In spite of the tremendous recital of God's goodness, however, Israel failed. They worshipped a golden calf instead of Jehovah.
When God told Moses to lead the Children of Israel on, Moses felt the task was too great for him. The overwhelming sense of Israel's failure and his personal insufficiency caused Moses to stagger. He expressed his feeling to God by saying, “Thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me” (Exodus 33:12, KJV). Moses knew he needed help.
Living triumphantly in the new year seems as big an assignment to us as leading Israel through the wilderness. The enemies of doubt, fear, and tension, intensified by international uncertainties, will threaten every believer. Overwhelmed by the great challenges ahead, Christians may ask, “Who will go with me?” They know they cannot succeed without special assistance.
THE ADEQUACY OF GOD’S PRESENCE
Possibly Moses had leaned so heavily upon Aaron since the Exodus (Exodus 4:14) that he thought God should give him more human help. Aaron had failed God and Moses in allowing Israel to create a golden calf. Moses may now have been wondering if God would give him a more dependable lieutenant.
Moses was looking for human help, but God promised him divine help. He said, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest” (Exodus 33:14, KJV). Moses was not to put his confidence in another Aaron. He was to put his trust in the ever-present God. Only God' s presence would be adequate for the herculean task.
When Pharaoh hardened his heart, it was not Aaron, but God, who broke the king's stubborn resistance. When Israel stood on the shores of the Red Sea, it was not a man, but God, who miraculously parted the waters. When Israel thirsted, it was not human ingenuity, but divine, that provided water. When Israel hungered, it was not a human, but God, who opened the windows of heaven and showered manna about His people. When Amalek attacked, it was not military strategy learned in Egypt, but God's strategy, that brought victory for Israel. Moses didn't need another man — he needed a sense of the adequacy of God's presence.
The temptation to look at circumstances and seek human solutions is just as great today as it was in the days of Moses. But God wants His people to learn that their help comes not through the arm of flesh, but through His omnipresence and omnipotence. God would like to whisper into every Christian's heart, “My presence shall go with thee and I will give thee rest.” God’s presence will be adequate for every exigency of the new year.
THE DISTINCTION OF GOD’S PRESENCE
When Israel left Egypt, it was nothing but a young, struggling, and inexperienced nation in a world of antagonistic powers and influences. But the Israelites were different from every other nation on the earth. Different because they could say that God's presence was with them. Other nations had wealth, talented people, prestige, and political connections, but these heathen nations could not make their boast in the Lord. God's presence made Israel distinctive.
As in Moses’ day, so today it is advantageous to have many of the fine qualities and possessions available in the world. But, as in Moses' day, so today the finest that the world has to offer means nothing unless Christians can daily say, “God is with me now.” It is the practice of the abiding presence of the Almighty that makes believers distinctive.
Before the Holy Spirit left King Saul, he was able to lead Israel's small armies to victory over the enemy. After the Spirit departed from Saul, he took one downward step after another. His life ended in tragedy.
When the three Hebrew children were thrown into the fiery furnace, the thing that made them distinct was the presence of the fourth “like unto the son of God.” When Daniel was thrown into the lions' den, the thing that made him distinctive was not that the king tried preserve his life, but rather God's presence with him.
In the coming year, God's people may not be spared difficulties, but they can be distinctive people in every situation. They can claim the presence of God, for Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20, KJV).
THE GLORY OF GOD’S PRESENCE
It is amazing how theoretical God's presence can become to Christians when they set their eyes on circumstances. Moses was aware of this danger. He knew he needed a new vision of the glory of God’s presence, so he prayed, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory” (Exodus 33:18, KJV). This is a wonderful prayer for believers at the beginning of this new year. It is the prayer to pray whenever the luster of God's presence seems to fade from view.
As a result of his prayer, Moses was given a vision of the receding glory of God as he was hidden in the cleft of a rock. This vision so affected him that the Children of Israel asked him to put a veil over his face when he spoke to them. A new vision of the glory of God's presence will always revolutionize the Christian’s life and attitude.
When Isaiah saw the Lord (Isaiah 6), he was made aware of his own unworthiness. Then he responded to the call of God. When Saul of Tarsus saw the glory of God on the Damascus Road, his life was transformed (Acts 9). He became the dynamic missionary Paul of the Early Church instead of continuing in his religious pattern. After John had the transforming vision of the glory of God on the Isle of Patmos, he wrote the great prophecies of the Book of Revelation. Those who saw the glory of God's presence could not be ordinary. His glory inspired them to be extraordinary.
Not every Christian will have a vision of God's glory in the same way in which some Bible personalities did, yet all believers can and should have a sense of the glory of God. It may be acquired by maintaining a diligent devotional life. The daily reading of the Word and daily prayer can make the presence of God so real that this will be the greatest year of all. A sense of the glory of God's presence will not terrify people into spiritual victory; it will inspire them.