Sunday, December 20, 2015

New Beginnings In Scripture by Alfred Bouter

The beginning of a new year reminds us of the importance of a beginning with God. Did you start this New Year with God? We will briefly look at some examples for us to follow, but also one example not to follow. 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). This short and powerful statement of seven words in the Hebrew text sums up the beginning of all things. However, our Creator-God is rejected by many (what about you?). But we believers will always worship Him as Creator (Rev. 4:11). Yet for this to happen another beginning was absolutely needed, for the human race had rebelled against God, starting when Eve was seduced by the serpent and Adam transgressed God‟s commandment (Gen. 3). For that reason another beginning was needed and was made by God in redemption. 

A New Beginning in Redemption 
God‟s people found themselves in bondage, but God was going to fulfill His promises made to Abraham, and He confirmed this to Abraham‟s descendants. Introducing the “Lamb of God” into His people‟s lives, in the Passover lamb, God wanted them to be aware of the fact that without His sacrifice, death would enter into every family. Do you realize that a new beginning with God is only possible when you confess your sins and accept His provision for salvation, the Lamb of God and His sacrifice (John 1:29)? “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you” (Ex. 12:2). Further on in this chapter we see the perfections of the lamb and the sacrifice required and provided by God to protect His people against His righteous judgment. Also, it made them realize they were no better than the Egyptians. Furthermore, to be and stay in communion with God, they also needed to live holy lives, separated from evil in this world. “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening” (Ex. 12:2, 18). As believers we too need to feed on what is unleavened so we can continue in fellowship with God. Do you need a new beginning in this sense? Do we appreciate His provision for our redemption and for a holy walk under His watchful eye? 

A New Beginning in the Wilderness Journey
“On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting; it came to pass in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up” (Ex. 40:2, 17). Following their deliverance from Egypt‟s bondage, God wanted to dwell in the midst of His redeemed people. This was a new beginning, realized in the second year after the exodus from Egypt. The believers today are more closely linked with God than was the case for Israel because our God and Father (through His Spirit) is dwelling within the believers now and forever (1 Cor. 6:19; Eph. 2:20-22). Do you honour His presence? 

New Beginnings in the Promised Land 
“Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho” (Josh. 4:19). Here is a new beginning - to enter into the land of God‟s plans. But to do this they needed to cross the Jordan, enter into the land, and overcome the resident enemies. Similarly, God wants us to make a new beginning, that we may enter into the enjoyment of our spiritual possessions and bring fruit for God and keep these things in fellowship with Him (Eph. 1:3; 6:1-18). God‟s earthly people sadly failed (see Judges; and in fact later, the Church, God‟s heavenly people also failed) and wanted a king like the surrounding nations. Ultimately, God brought in the king after His own heart. In the first month of this new beginning, several joined David, but it took great efforts: “These are the ones who crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it had overflowed all its banks; and they put to flight all those in the valleys, to the east and to the west” (1 Chron 12:15). However, even this royal line began to be marked by failure through idolatry and so another new beginning was necessary! “In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them” (2 Chron. 29:3). What about us? “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21)! Thus, new beginnings are needed in every new generation: “Now they began to sanctify on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the LORD. Then they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished (2 Chron. 29:17). This new beginning is linked with the original “beginning” that God gave in redemption (see previous sections): “Now Josiah kept a Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the first month” (2 Chron. 35:1). “For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the moulded images” (2 Chron. 34:3). Finally, because of the ongoing idolatry (Ezek. 8), God had to take away the glory cloud of His presence and send judgment and captivity. 

A New Beginning after the Babylonian Captivity 
Still in God‟s grace another new beginning took place (Ezra 1-3), followed by some more revivals. “On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him” (Ezra 7:9). “Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road” (Ezra 8:31). Nevertheless, further issues arose because of the mixed condition of things. “By the first day of the first month they finished questioning all the men who had taken pagan wives” (Ezra 10:17). Application: although we are under grace and not under the Mosaic law, in our lives there may be a need for a new beginning, so we may “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6:33).
A Counterfeit Beginning 
The enemy also has new beginnings. “In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar” (Esther 3:7). “Then the king‟s scribes were called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and a decree was written according to all that Haman commanded -- to the king‟s satraps, to the governors who were over each province, to the officials of all people, to every province according to its script, and to every people in their language. In the name of King Ahasuerus it was written, and sealed with the king‟s signet ring” (Esther 3:12). Let us not underestimate the ongoing efforts by the enemy to eliminate God‟s people, whether it concerns His earthly chosen people Israel or God‟s heavenly people, the Church. Esther interceded for her people with Mordecai‟s encouragement. Her people prayed and they were saved despite the enemy‟s determination. May we follow their example! 

The Coming Millennial Reign of Peace 
Even during the coming public reign there will be new beginnings. These will remind the people of what God has done for them. “Thus says the Lord GOD: „In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a young bull without blemish and cleanse the sanctuary‟” (Ezek. 45:18). “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall observe the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten” (Ezek. 45:21). “Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you -- The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month” (Joel 2:23).

May these examples encourage us to be ready for God‟s new beginnings! If you have not made the most important one of these beginnings, I urge you to do this. Start with acknowledging God as your Creator, but also bow before Him in repentance to accept Him as Redeemer. Then, walk in His light. If not, you are and will remain under God‟s judgment: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:36).

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