What does a new year mean to the One with whom “one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8)?

Peter uses that phrase answering critics who claim Jesus’ Second Coming is so long-delayed, who can believe he’s coming at all!  Peter’s phrase implies God doesn’t experience time as we do.  For him, then, it’s not New Year’s Eve.

But wait!  (Sounds like a $19.95 TV commercial.)  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia boggles our brain a bit more . . .

Eternity is best conceived, not in the merely negative form of the non-temporal, or immeasurable time, but positively, as the mode of the timeless self-existence of the Absolute Ground of the universe.  Eternity, one may surely hold, must span or include, for God’s eternal consciousness, the whole of what happens in time, with all of past, present or future, that lies within the temporal successiohttp://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/eternity/.

Got that?  In other words, God’s doesn’t merely experience time differently; he exists in timelessness.  Yet, he’s aware of all that happens in time—past, present and future.  I take that to mean God knows it’s 2017 eve, but it’s not a new year to him.

Disappointingly, we can’t know what, if anything, the new year means to the year-less God, because, as far as I know, Scripture nowhere addresses the question.

So we’re left to speculate.  Does God rejoice today knowing the sinners who will come to repentance and faith in 2017? Does he grieve over the evil we’ll do to one another in the new year?  If Jesus will come again in 2017, is the Father excited?  If Jesus won’t come in the new year, is the Father anticipating greeting his children who will come home to him through death?

For us, the new year means making resolutions (we’ll probably forget before the first month ends), looking at blank pages of a new chapter of life (which we’ll “mess up” with some things we’ll regret), or celebrating with a party or fireworks or time with family (leaving us heavy-headed the next day).

To that we’d be wise to add praying  Psalm 90.  It’s the only one written by Moses and the source for Peter’s phrase—“with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day”.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:  in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.  For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.  Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

A sobering psalm.  Moses sees himself—indeed all humans—in contrast to God.  This “from everlasting to everlasting” (a far more fascinating phrase than the word “eternal”!) God “return[s us] to dust”.  New Year’s Eve reminds us our bodies are a year nearer to “dust.”

It also reminds us we “are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:  in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.”  How can I be 73 when just last year I was dating my sweet-16 Lois?  The years of our life are “soon gone”.

Further, it reminds us of trouble.  We wish for the new year to be “better” than the old.  And it may well be.  But it won’t be trouble-free, not in this fallen world.

It’s also a staggering psalm.  Look what Moses writes about God contrasted with our frailty and transience.

God has been God since before creation and will be forever.  In other words, when man “showed up”, God already was.  And when we’re gone, God will still be. 

And he holds my life—and yours—in his hands.  He may choose to cut my life short (he hasn’t).  He sees my secret sins and could justly destroy me (instead he has mercifully saved me through his Son).  Happiness depends on him, though he sends misery too.  The new year will bring what the Sovereign Lord wants.

Instead of making resolutions (or at least in addition to), we’d be wise to pray this psalm.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:  in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.  For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.  Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Pray that and we’ll bow humbly before our “from everlasting to everlasting” God who holds our life in his hands.  Further, we’ll remember our transience and his mercy to us in Christ that turns his anger from us.

Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.

Pray that, and we’ll remember Jesus is coming again—maybe this new year.  Instead of languishing in the mire of our problems or seeking satisfaction in things that can never satisfy, we’ll be seeking his steadfast love to fill our soul, so we can rejoice and be glad in him.  And, asking for his powerful work, we’ll be reminded of Christ’s resurrection and the gift and gifts of the Spirit.  And we may see him finally answer a long-asked “impossible” prayer, especially for our children.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

We’ll work in the new year.  And while most of it will be important, it will also be passing.  Praying this prayer will call us to work that will be establishing, lasting, even eternal.  It will call us to speak and behave in ways that reveal and honor our Lord.  It will call us to lead our children to faith and disciple them in following Jesus.  It will call us to serve in our church and bear witness to our neighbors.

No, we really can’t know what the new year means to our “from everlasting to everlasting” Lord.  But we can begin 2017 with what we do know—that by going to him in prayer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can “taste” his eternal life that will one day be fully ours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please like & share: