Genesis 37:10–11, NIV
“Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.”
Joshua was now the leader of God’s people. He had been with them throughout all their wanderings in the wilderness, and following the death of Moses he had taken up the reigns of leadership. By his own testimony he was able to say to the people, “The Lord . . . has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything” (Deuteronomy 2:7).
There are seasons in life when it is right to look back and remember with thanksgiving the lessons that we have learned in the past – and the turn of the year is one of those seasons. John Wesley always used this time of the year to renew his personal covenant with the Lord, and so he led his followers to mark the end of one year and the beginning of the next with a special covenant service – a service which was both a time of confession and repentance as well as rededication and commitment, in the context of a service of Holy Communion.
Some of those lessons of life we have learned the hard way – by going our own way and discovering that when we ignore what God has said, there is a consequence. Joshua could look back and see how God’s people were disobedient forty years previously and as a result they had missed out on God’s best and lost the opportunity to enter their Promised Land at that time. But Joshua could also look back and see that even though they had been obliged to wander through the wilderness all those years, God’s hand had still been upon them. There was so much to thank God for!
So, as you look back on the past, may I encourage you to look afresh at the journey you’ve been on this past year. And if there are obvious places where you have left the path that God laid before you, let this be a time of personal confession, repentance, receiving forgiveness and rededication. Even though there may have been mistakes, as there were with His own people, Israel, God has still been there for you and now’s the time to come before Him with an open and willing heart.
God gave Israel another opportunity to enter their promised land and through Joshua He reminded them that it’s still important to keep the commands of the Lord. And so it is for us as well! God has given us His Word – let’s choose to walk in His ways and enjoy His blessings in the new year that lies ahead.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that even though your people sinned, you still loved them and did not leave them. Help me to remember that you are always there and that you long for us to return to you so that we may enter the promised land that you have laid before each one of us for the years ahead. In Jesus’s Name. Amen.