I have found that whatever my devotions are about on New Year’s Day typically sets the tone for my year. It ends up being what I ask God to work in me during the upcoming year. This New Year’s Day I happened to be reading back through the Psalms of Ascent and landed on Psalm 123:
A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy. Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant.
This passage is indelibly linked with 2 Chronicles 20:12 for me. I even have the two passages on a verse card together. In case you’re not familiar with 2 Chronicles 20, the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites unite to make war against Judah. King Jehoshaphat is afraid and turns to the Lord. He calls for a national fast and you can find his prayer in vs. 6-12. In verse 12, he concludes with: “O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
And God hears him. God tells them that they won’t have to fight, that He will fight the battle for them. However, He calls them to “station themselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD” (vs. 17) and so Jehoshaphat appoints singers to go out before the army. God causes the enemy to turn against each other so when Judah gets to the battlefield, they found a multitude of corpses. In fact, the armies were so large that it takes Judah three days to carry off the spoils.
I found myself reading over these two passages and asking what I ought to do this year to position myself for victory. Here’s what I came up with:
- be humble–this is such a huge issue. I feel like pride sneaks into my heart faster than anything else. Both the Psalmist and Jehoshaphat look to God for help. They don’t even bother to try on their own or to imagine they might be capable of fighting the battle alone.
- focus on God–“our eyes are on you” not on the “vast army.” Um, so circumstances are pretty overwhelming, like most of the time… health problems or financial stresses or relationship struggles or parenting quandaries, etc., etc., etc. But even in the overwhelming circumstances of having 3 armies band against him, King Jehoshaphat doesn’t focus on that. He focuses on God.
- be expectant–look for God to work in the now “till He shows us His mercy.” Have a wide open mouth.
- have a clear perspective–Jehoshaphat doesn’t minimize the size of the foe coming against him, but he knows God is bigger. As the Psalmist says, we lift our eyes to God “whose throne is in heaven.” God is fully capable of fighting any battle we’re in–even the daily grind. (Obviously, as God alone is transcendent, we’re dependent on Him for a clear perspective.)
- stay anchored in relationship with God–Both the Psalmist and Jehoshaphat fall back on God’s covenant with His people. They call on Him using His covenant name (Yahweh) and “our” God. If I’m not spending time with God regularly, I won’t be able to remember who He is. I won’t be anchored in His love. I don’t know about you, but the moment I forget God’s love for me, circumstances get huge and panic-worthy.
- stay anchored in God’s forgiveness–This came up as I was reading 2 Chronicles 19 and Psalm 130. Jehoshaphat is rebuked for helping the wicked Israelite king (which he does again in 2 Chronicles 20:35). But it doesn’t seem like that keeps him from running back to God. My own sin and shame often keep me from running to God the way I ought to. But, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 130:7, with God is “full redemption of sin.” Full washing away of each and every sin. Full payment of the debt I incur, both with God Himself and with anyone else involved.
- don’t be a control freak–I was meditating on a maidservant looking to her mistress. It seems like that involves a lot of waiting and following, rather than a lot of planning and trying to control circumstances. This past year of working on the following-exercise in my martial arts class has really changed how I view following God. Only as I’m relaxed and focused can I be open to whatever God has in store. It’s not my job to plan. It’s my job to follow and be obedient, like a slave to a master.
I’m sure there are lots of other applications one can make from these passages, but these are the things that came up in my study. I pray God uses this year to work victory in my life and in yours.