There is something about the arrival of a new year that gives us the feeling of a new beginning. New year resolutions are common among Christians and non-Christians alike. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian is determined to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he make?
The book of Deuteronomy contains the teachings of the law, which Moses had given to the Israelites before they entered the promised land. Israel has been set on a path that leads to the Saviour, Jesus Christ. For that reason, Israel needs to cling to the law of the LORD. The cohesive national authority was directly under the authority of God and carried out His commands. But, eventually His people shifted from the authority of the high priest or judge, to the king. Moses cast a vision that extends centuries down the road, and he foresees a time coming when they will be governed by a king, and he wants them to know what should the priorities of that king be, and what is prohibited for him to do. God does not here establish responsibilities for the king concerning the nation, but establishes boundaries and restrictions for the king.
He must not acquire many horses for himself or send the people back to Egypt to acquire many horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are never to go back that way again.’ He must not acquire many wives for himself so that his heart won’t go astray. He must not acquire very large amounts of silver and gold for himself. When he is seated on his royal throne, he is to write a copy of this instruction for himself on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It is to remain with him, and he is to read from it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to observe all the words of this instruction, and to do these statutes. Then his heart will not be exalted above his countrymen, he will not turn from this command to the right or the left, and he and his sons will continue reigning many years in Israel. – Deuteronomy 17:16-20
The first words of this passage are characteristic of Deuteronomy: “When you enter the land” (v14). The Law of Moses emphasizes this point. In one sense none of this applied to us directly today. Yet at the same time we can see that the same principle applies to His church today, especially the ministry leaders. The lifestyle of God’s people must be distinct from the Canaanites. The Church may not adopt worldly practices. As part of God’s household, the Church, what should our priorities be?
Taking instructions from this passage of scripture, here are FOUR things that we should not do as we seek to faithfully engage in gospel mission. These are four great ‘gods’ of our time. And, God says Don’t! In Scripture these four are regularly associated with idolatry.
Do not rely on your worldly Power (V16a)
God, speaking through Moses, warned people that their king shall not multiply horses for himself. Number of horses in the king’s army was reflective of his military power. Kings do not acquire horses for racing, they are war horses, and chariots with projected power both offensive and defensive. Here the king was told not to be overly concerned about strengthening his military powers. As Psalmist says, “The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness, To deliver their soul from death And to keep them alive in famine” (33:16-19), our hope must be in the strength and power of God.
Do not rely on your worldly Security (V16b)
If you recall the biblical history many times in the wilderness, when difficulties multiplied, the people wanted to go back to Egypt. ‘We had fish in Egypt; and we had cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and even garlic. And here we tired of manna… (Num 11).’ Instead of turning in for joyful confidence and gratitude to the Lord, they were ready to stone Moses and Aaron. They were ready to go back to Israel, appoint new leaders… (Num 14). Now, Moses says ‘You are not to go back again that kind of way; you shall not resort to outside help or assistance from your enemies.’ Our security is in the Lord. We cannot go back to our old ways. There are things that we have to sacrifice after coming to Christ. Security is strongly related with trust. Whom do we trust? Where is our security?
Do not seek after Social Approval (V17a)
Here God says, “do not take many wives”. This command is about more than pleasure, it is about more than marriage. Why did Solomon have 700 wives and 300 concubines? It is simply not because he was heavily sexually inclined. This was often the way establishing authority and building alliances with surrounding petty kings – a king in Moab is less likely to attack Solomon if his daughter is married to Solomon. So, it was a political strategy of spreading influence. This lead Solomon’s heart astray and brought ruin on himself and on the land. He started building pagan temples in Jerusalem so that he could keep his wives happy. Your intimate association with unbelievers can be detrimental to your Christian walk. There is nothing wrong with building quality friendships with unbelievers. We are called to evangelize the lost, but not be intimate with them.
Do not seek after Material Prosperity (V17b)
Great wealth and temporal prosperity tempt to forgetfulness of God, to self-confidence and practical unbelief in Divine providence. Like Pharaoh, the arrogant rich man asks with contempt, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” When it comes to earthly wealth, God never condemns it or the wealthy, but warns that sin will come into the picture when money becomes the ultimate goal and the main pursuit of life. Paul cautioned church leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and urged them to be “free from the love of money.” and that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
These are that you should NOT do when you launch into the new year. So, what should you do?
Set your priority on the Word (V18)
Basically God set forth One thing! Get a copy of the scripture for yourself, study it diligently, and use it for all the days of your life. All our life guiding principles must come from the Word of God.
God is giving THREE reasons for this priority:
You will learn to fear God and to keep all His commandments (V19)
A genuine reverence for God only comes through the genuine reverence of His word. We must build a reverence for scripture so that we may learn to revere God and all His commands. “I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).
You may not think yourself as superior to others (V20a)
The Bible doesn’t talk about low self-esteem; but the Bible warns us about high self-esteem or pride. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 4:5).
You may not fall in to errors (V20b)
If we are to avoid errors, we must continually engage in the reading of the scripture. Our theology must come from the Word of Gode.
The whole matter of making resolutions is not just goal setting so that we might have happier lives. We are called by God to live according to His will, for Christ’s sake, for ‘it is not to us but to Him that all glory belongs’ (Ps. 115:1).