Summary: God gives us opportunities for new choices in the new year,sustains us in circumstances, and promises never to change.
It isn’t very often that New Year’s day falls on a Sunday. It is significant that we start out the new year in church. There is no better place to face the new year than in church. With all due respect for those who like to greet the new year with lavish parties, frolicking get-togethers and celebrating occasions, I would rather greet the new year in church. With this in mind many churches have what is known as Watch Night services so the worshippers can greet the new year in the setting of the friendly confines of the church. That has not been the tradition at this church. But now we have an opportunity to celebrate the new year in church. Many of us face the new year with mixed emotions. For some of us 2005 might not have been a very good year. And so we might want to breathe a sigh of relief and say, “I’m glad that’s over.” Others of us may be glad to see the new year, yet we are still burdened with stuff left over from the old year. All of our problems do not magically disappear once we turn the calendar from 2005 to 2006. The same old problems and issues that surrounded us in the old year are still with us in the new year. Yet symbolically at least, there is something exciting and thrilling about entering into a new year. It is time for new resolutions, new hopes, new challenges, new paths, and new beginnings. No matter how we feel about entering a new year, here we are ready or not. Even though the year 2005 was extended for a second by the scientific world, here we are in a brand new spanking 2006. Time stood still for one second last night. But here we are ready or not in a brand new year.
We are in somewhat of a similar situation that was facing the people of Israel in our text for today found in Joshua 3. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness the people of Israel are finally ready to cross the Jordan into the promised land. This is a new generation of people. Their parents had been struck dead in the wilderness for their sin of unbelief. Only Joshua and Caleb remain of that band of oppressed people who fled the fleshpots of Egypt over 40 years ago. Now Joshua their new leader gives them instructions as they are about to cross Jordan’s chilly stream into the promised land. He tells them to keep their eyes on the ark of the covenant which will be carried by the priests. The ark was that box made of acacia wood covered with a lid of solid gold called the mercy seat. The ark was a box which contained the tables of stone, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. The ark was a box with the cherubim on each side of the mercy seat, over which God himself said that He would dwell. When the people saw the priests moving that box, they were to follow as Joshua said in verse 4, “since they had not been this way before.” They had not been this way before. This was a new experience for them. They were cutting a path through virgin territory. This was uncharted land for them. This is a great challenge facing them. They have not been this way before.