"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6 - NKJ) I could not think of a better Scripture for the New Year! Since God is beyond understanding (Job 36:26) we may wonder why He acts the way He does. Have you ever said, "If I were in charge of running the world, things would be different."? As human beings, we want to see the immediate punishment of those with evil, selfish purposes. But the prophet Isaiah tells the children of Israel that the wicked "turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon." (Isaiah 55:7)
In Isaiah 55:8-13, the word of the Lord is spoken through the prophet: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper, and instead of the briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever."
When God looks at us, He sees our potential and the way He intended our lives to be. He has good plans for every human being on the face of the earth. In Matthew 18:10-14, Jesus is telling the story of the wandering sheep. He explains that the shepherd will leave the 99 to go look for the one that has wandered off. Then He says, "In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18:14) The disciple Peter reminds us that "...With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:8-9) Do you see the lengths that God goes to in order to save everyone?
In my opinion, there is no place in the Bible that makes God's long-suffering clearer than in Genesis 15. The Lord is establishing a covenant with Abram, later to be called Abraham. God says, "After four generations your descendants will return here to this land (Canaan) for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction." (NKJ = "for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.") The Amorites, mountaineers in the land of Canaan, were descendants of Ham. They were known as fierce warriors who worshiped false gods. They despised God's goodness and refused to repent. Despite this, the Lord told Abram that He would give them more than 400 years before judgment would fall. One must wonder how God waited so long to enact punishment. Leviticus 18:25 describes the land of Canaan. "The land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants." The bottom line is that God keeps track of the measure of our sin. Everyone is given time for the grace of God to prevail, but there will be a day of reckoning.
Here are some encouragements for our new year, 2022, based on the thoughts above: The God of Israel is the God of all the earth. "He does great things beyond our understanding." (Job 37:5) "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love." (Psalm 103:8) "The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made." (Psalm 145:9) "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, He will rise up and show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!" (Isaiah 30:18) As we launch into the New Year, we must remember that the God of Israel is our God who has a history of love and mercy and compassion for all people. If we trust in, acknowledge, and wait upon Him, we need not fear. He will direct our paths.
Joan E. Mathias