The clock has strike 12 and fireworks have gone off. Welcome, 2018. All over the world, people ushered in the new year in their own way. Most gathered to watch fireworks, some gathered to watch a crystal ball drop in Times Square, and some prayed and feasted in temples. It was a time of mass celebration, mass anticipation, and mass reflection. And posting of resolutions.But how was 2017 for you: awesome, could be better, bad? And what can we do to make 2018 better?
- If 2017 was an absolute blast, we might find reasons for it. Perhaps we put in enough effort at work… perhaps we spent enough time with Jesus… perhaps we treated people the right way.
- If 2017 was an okay year, we might be drawing up a what-worked and what-didn’t table. If only we had done more for Jesus… if only we had devoted more time to work…
- If 2017 was a bust, we might be finding ways to make it better. Jesus, I have spent so much time on ministry, please bless my work in 2018… Jesus, I promise to give you the best 15 mins of my day – now shower me with blessings.
There is great temptation to manipulate God into giving us something better. But how does that make us different from those who sacrifice children, an act that God condemns (Deuteronomy 12:31)? Or those who made sacrifices to appease the fickle-minded, careless gods who have a quota to consume by fire, hailstorm or ocean waves? Or those who sweeten the tongues of smaller gods who give reports of our behaviour to the bigger gods?
But God is not capricious. He does not change His mind on a whim or fancy.
But God is not capricious. He does not change His mind on a whim or fancy. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)
God is not careless. He never forgets or forsakes us. “… I will not leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5c, Hebrews 13:5b (ESV)
God will not be manipulated, as Isaiah writes in 1:11-17. (The Message version does a hard-hitting application of the original text.)
““Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” God’s asking.
“Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices, rams and plump grain-fed calves?
Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats?
When you come before me, whoever gave you the idea of acting like this,
Running here and there, doing this and that—all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?
“Quit your worship charades.
I can’t stand your trivial religious games:
Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!
You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening.
And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up. Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong. Learn to do good.
Work for justice. Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.”
So is there ANYTHING we can do to paper over the faults of 2017 and make 2018 a better year? Not in the typical sense of “anything we can do”. God is a living, all-powerful, and good God. He does not need help from us or motivation from us to make things better. All that God wants is our broken and contrite hearts (Psalm 51:16-17), and He will continue to mould and perfect them until Jesus comes again (Philippians 1:6).
Because God is not a capricious God.