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A New Day, A New Year

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Our Scripture lesson this morning is taken from Isaiah 33:1-6:
Isaiah 33:1–6 ESV
Ah, you destroyer, who yourself have not been destroyed, you traitor, whom none has betrayed! When you have ceased to destroy, you will be destroyed; and when you have finished betraying, they will betray you. O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble. At the tumultuous noise peoples flee; when you lift yourself up, nations are scattered, and your spoil is gathered as the caterpillar gathers; as locusts leap, it is leapt upon. The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.
People face the New Year with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. There is excitement because of all the new possibilities and opportunities. There is anxiety because of all the uncertainties and dangers.
It is not just the New Year, but really it is each new day...

We Don’t Know What Each New Day Will Bring

Our memory verse of the years is Isaiah 33:2:
Isaiah 33:2 ESV
O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.
This verse is a cry to God to be there for us in times of trouble. It is a cry we must make each new morning because we don’t know what each new day will bring.
Think of those times when you or someone close to you had an accident. All across this nation thousands young people received the gift of a new bicycle, motorcycle or car for Christmas. On Christmas day there was great joy and excitement, but now one week later some of them are in a cast, some are in the hospital, some of them are in the grave! How quickly our joy can be turned to mourning and our mourning into joy! Life is so unpredictable!
This prophetic word from Isaiah begins with a warning to Assyria.
Isaiah 33:1 ESV
Ah, you destroyer, who yourself have not been destroyed, you traitor, whom none has betrayed! When you have ceased to destroy, you will be destroyed; and when you have finished betraying, they will betray you.
Assyria was the superpower of Isaiah’s day, but in less than one hundred years after Isaiah wrote these words Assyria was destroyed! If this could happen to Assyria it can happen to any nation or any individual person. No wonder verse 2 begins with the words, “O Lord, be gracious to us...”
In the midst of this unpredictability there is one thing we can count on—God!

We Can Know Who We Can Rely Upon Each New Day

What is the basis of the confident cry of verse 2? It is found in verse 5:
Isaiah 33:5 ESV
The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
The basis of our confidence is God’s sovereignty and transcendence on one hand, and His covenantal justice and righteousness on the other.
God’s sovereignty and transcendence are found in the first half of verse 5: God’s sovereignty is His power and rule. He is exalted above all other powers, because all other powers are created by Him. Nothing exists that was not created by Him. Nothing happens that He has not ordained. Nothing lays outside His control. God’s transcendence is His utter “otherness.” God is the creator, we are mere creatures. God is self-sufficient, we are totally dependent upon Him.
God’s covenantal justice and righteousness are found in the last half of verse 5: Israel is God’s covenantal people. There is much confusion about Israel and the word “church” today, as if they are two separate things or as if the “church” replaces Israel. The word “church” in the Greek simply means “assembly” and it is referring to the assembly of God’s people. According to Paul, gentiles are grafted into Israel (Rom 11:17-24), they don’t replace or exist independently of Israel. So when we read that “he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,” this is a description of how God treats every generation of believers.
God’s covenantal love and faithfulness is our assurance that God is using His sovereignty and transcendence for our benefit, not our harm. As Paul says:
Romans 8:31–32 ESV
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Notice the grounds for Paul’s confidence—it is the giving of His Son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins!
You see, the Old Covenant promises such as those found in Isaiah 33 are even more sure under the New Covenant! The Old Covenant Promises are never abolished by the New Covenant, rather, they are fulfilled and enlarged in Christ!
This great truth leads us to the final point...

Make the Fear of God Your Treasure Each New Day

In verse 6, we read these words:
Isaiah 33:6 ESV
and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.
Look carefully at these words; they describe God as a storehouse of provision for the unknown that each new day or year brings.
I remember back in 1999, all the anxiety caused by the fear of a new millennium. Th prophets of doom at that time were warning that we faced a computer apocalypse. Apparently programmers did not take into consideration the change in the millennium when they designed the internal clocks that run the world’s computers. They called this the Y2K bug. We were being told that all the world’s computers, especially the ones that ran our utilities and infrastructure would fail on the night of January 1st, 2000. As a consequent the world would be thrown into darkness, gas plumbs would not run, water would be shut off and millions would die of exposure and hunger.
There was a man in my church at the time who took all these warnings very seriously. He wanted our church to stockpile food, water and gasoline so we could minister to our community when the world was thrown into a new Dark Age. He was quite disappointed when our Session did not vote to turn our church into a warehouse!
Unlike those Y2K false prophets, Isaiah was a real prophet and he also predicted a coming “dark age” for Israel, but unlike those prophecies, Isaiah’s call came true. More importantly, Isaiah taught that we prepare for troubled times by stockpiling the fear of God. The fear of God, is not a terror of God that drives us away from Him, but rather a reverent trust in God that draws us closer to Him.
One of Martin Luther’s favorite and famous sayings was, “Let God be God.” By this he ment that rather than worrying and fretting about what God is like and what he will do, we need to focus on what he has revealed in His Word—especially upon Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God incarnate. He would love to quote John 14 where we have Philip asking on that worry filled night on which Jesus was betrayed, “Show us the Father” and Jesus replying, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” and “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” In other words, Jesus is the answer to all our worry filled questions.
Now look back at Isaiah 33:6; if you will keep your eyes upon Jesus, you will find an “abundance of salvation, wisdom and knowledge” to give you “stability” in each new day of this new year. It is very likely Paul had Isaiah 33:6 in mind when he wrote:
1 Corinthians 1:30–31 ESV
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Conclusion: You Can Face Tomorrow Because He Holds the Future

One of the church’s favorite Easter Hymns is “Because He Lives.” It is also a great New Year’s hymn. The refrain goes like this:
Because He lives I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living because He lives.
Once again, here is our verse of the year:
Isaiah 33:2 ESV
O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.
As this New Year dawns, make this verse your prayer each and every morning!
Let us pray:
O Lord, as we enter into a new year be gracious to us. We wait for you alone. Be our arm of strength each new day and our salvation in times of trouble. Amen.
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