Some "New" Thoughts for a New Year (or: Shofar, So Good!)
by Shane Scott
Happy New Year! The Lord has seen fit to bless us with a new year, and I hope that you had a wonderful time celebrating its arrival with family and friends. The promise of a new year leads many of us to make resolutions, like losing weight, eliminating debt, or getting more organized. And yet many of us find that after the excitement of the first few weeks (or maybe days!) of the new year wears off, those resolutions unravel. That’s because any meaningful changes we are going to make have to come from within us – from our will. External factors such as a different number on a calendar really have no power to transform us.
Nevertheless, I do think there is great value in contemplating what the new year brings. When the Lord arranged Israel’s calendar, one of the festivals He gave them came to be regarded as the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah – and was marked by the blast of the shofar (the ram’s horn), the basis of the horrible pun in the title of my article (see Leviticus 23:24). God gave Israel specific reminders through the year to keep the nation united in its spiritual focus, and I think we can make similar use of special days on our calendar as well.
So rather than making a list of all the things you resolve to change this year, why not take a moment to meditate on some “new” things God has done for us:
God has offered us a new covenant. In the dark period of Israel’s unfaithfulness to its covenant, God offered this comforting promise in Jeremiah 31:31: “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” This new covenant would be different than the one made at Sinai (Jeremiah 31:32). Instead of an “outside-in” covenant it would be an “inside-out” covenant. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). And according to the New Testament, this covenant was fulfilled in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:25). Through the death of Jesus our hearts can be transformed and we can truly be God’s people.
God can make us a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Just as surely as God could bring light from darkness and order from chaos in the physical creation, God can sweep away spiritual darkness and bring new life out of the chaos of sin. No wonder the Bible often compares conversion, and especially baptism, to a second birth (John 3:3-5) and to a resurrection from the dead (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). Filled with gratitude for God’s work of new creation, how can we not want to live like the new people that we are, to “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10)?
Finally, God has promised us a “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). The new life we experience now in Christ is just a “foretaste of glory divine.” There is much more to come. This old order will pass, and God’s work of new creation will be completed when His people enjoy the perfect glory of His presence in the “new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2). The highly visionary scenes of Revelation 21-22 offer us glimpses of what this new existence will be like. No more pain, sorrow, or curse. Just the peace, beauty, and glory of God’s dwelling place among us. A new heaven and earth for His new creatures to enjoy on the basis of the new covenant.
As it turns out, for this year’s writing schedule I am slated to write both the first and last articles of 2015 (if the Lord wills). If you intend to make some resolutions this year (as I do), I hope that by the time I write the final article of the year you will have followed through in your commitments and achieved the goals you have set. But most of all, I hope you will let the great “new” truths of God’s covenant, creation, and consummation stir you to greater spiritual resolve.