By the Rev. Dr. Clark Armstrong
Pastor of the Marshall Church of the Nazarene
The reason for our first devotional of the New Year is to shut one door and open another one. We do this every year. Sometimes we gently shut the first door and sometimes we slam it shut. I am not sure which is the most appropriate for this year! And sometimes we timidly open the door we enter, while other times we boldly or expectantly open it.
It is not like we have much choice in these matters. The door is more of a revolving door that sweeps us through it (like the old Hoosier Dome with the suction-held roof that swooped you inside once you opened the door). And we are traveling on an escalator called time that we cannot get off of and which is steadily moving only in a forward direction.
But we do have an array of choices related to our attitudes, our perspectives, our faith journey, and our paradigms for interpreting meaning of all of it. Recently I was watching the new movie “News of the World,” and I was impressed when little Joanna quotes to the Captain a saying from her Kiowa Indian upbringing — “to move forward, we must first remember.” That impacted me. I hope to gain from the lessons I learned in 2020 in order to more capably move forward into 2021.
Moses and Joshua had led the people to the edge of the Promised Land which God intended to give to them. They came to the River Jordan where they actually were 40 years earlier before they “wandered in the wilderness.” The great leader Moses will no longer be with them as they enter the future to conquer that territory. Joshua, his assistant, will lead them; and Deuteronomy 31:8 is a verse taken from the words of Moses, which he shared with the people as they came to this transition.
It says, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” We may not know where a path leads, but we take courage and lay aside fears when we walk with someone who has gone before and who will be with us all the way. Certainly, we should be reminded of the comforting thought that “We do not know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 can be our focal thought as we close the door of 2020 and open the one to 2021. There are six key parts in this one verse and they are given to us in three sets of two each. In the first set are two key ideas: that the Lord himself goes before us and that he will be with us. In the second set, there are two dependable promises: that he will never leave us and that he will never forsake us. In the third set, two simple commands are given: for us to not be afraid and for us not to be discouraged.
Therefore, we are also twice commanded in Deuteronomy 31:6-7 to “Be strong and courageous.” There is another verse in Deuteronomy 11:12 that I always like to read at the start of a new year. Moses speaks of the land that the Lord will be leading them into and says: “It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.” May God bless 2021 to be a land like that for us, also. He is the God of all our endings and of all our beginnings.