In child's novel "A Christmas Carol", we see that the miser's heart was softened only after visitations by the three Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Seeing what his life had been, how the people around him were currently affected and what was to follow from his current choices brought him to his knees in repentance. He had learnt that the past can not be changed, and the future is not inevitable, so that what we do in the present can change that which is yet to come.
Humanity has many reasons to regret its past suffering caused by wars, greed and oppression. Our present tells us that if we do not repent we face an appalling future filled with violence, starvation, illness, ecological and economic disasters. Yet the choices we make in the present can improve our future prospects, and in making positive choices we help lay to rest the guilty ghosts of past mistakes.
It is a time for making New Years Resolutions.
Many are looking at the Millenium Goals and they are an excellent starting point. But behind all laws and resolutions, there needs to be an underpinning ethics that provides the rudder to steer the ships away from dangerous waters. So what would God give us a rudder? Maybe Zechariah 7:9-10 is good place to start: "This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’"
God threatens the unquenchable fire for the arrogant and unrepentant Jeremiah 21:12-14: "O house of David, this is what the LORD says: " ‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it. I am against you, Jerusalem, you who live above this valley on the rocky plateau, declares the LORD— you who say, "Who can come against us? Who can enter our refuge?" I will punish you as your deeds deserve, declares the LORD. I will kindle a fire in your forests that will consume everything around you.’ "
Jeremiah 30:10-24 explores this more fully, but it also promises compassion in the midst of rebuking to be followed by healing and renewal. At one point God comments: "I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’ ... But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’ "This is what the LORD says: " ‘I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place. From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. ...Their children will be as in days of old, and their community will be established before me; I will punish all who oppress them. Their leader will be one of their own; their ruler will arise from among them. I will bring him near and he will come close to me, for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?’ declares the LORD." ‘So you will be my people,and I will be your God.’ " See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a driving wind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand this.
God's promise to remarry his footstool continues further in Hosea 2:14-22 "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth,as in the day she came up out of Egypt. "In that day," declares the LORD, "you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground.Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD. "In that day I will respond," declares the LORD— "I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and oil,and they will respond to Jezreel."
Thus if we trust and repent, God promises a new covenant Isaiah 66:22-23 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD,... From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.
That this vision is intended for all humanity is also affirmed in Hosea 2:23 " I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ "
And this passage from Isaiah 65:17-25 is as good a New Years Vision as any other in the bible: "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.The former things will not be remembered,nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. "Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years;he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them,or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree,so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune;for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer;while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox,but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD.
Other useful passages include Psalms 49, Isaiah 40:21-31 Luke 16:1-15 where Jesus warns us not to be scrooges with the wealth of this world, his words include: "For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."
In John 9:39-41, Jesus cautions the arrogant and complacent " "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." "
Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 1:28-29 that Jesus "...chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."
First posted: 31 December 2006
Photo courtesy: NASA
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